It was the night I’d been expecting for quite some time; my sister—with her boyfriend of four and a half years listening in on speakerphone—made the proud announcement that as of just a few hours prior, they were engaged to be married. The following days were spent alerting every single person I knew, including some of my friends with siblings who had already tied the knot. Each one issued the same warning; once one sibling is engaged, everyone asks the other sibling when his or her time is coming.
At just twenty years of age, the only relationships I had ever even been a part of included a four-month relationshit with a ginger film snob, and a two and a half month tryst with a pre-med student whose idea of romance was serenading me with the ever-so charming love ballads of Eminem (in retrospect, when a guy performs an unsolicited version of “Stan,” that might qualify as a red flag.) Were I to be asked if I had plans to get married any time soon, I would laugh proudly as I retreated to my place in Singlesville.
But even as a young kid—way before my parents’ divorce and years before a series of drunken college decisions would leave me cynical about love—I seemed to miss out on the well-known phenomenon in which little girls plan their fairytale weddings. And as I got older, and TLC replaced When Dinosaurs Ruled with Four Weddings and Say Yes to the Dress, I found the constant bombardment of wedding-themed media messages to be no more convincing. While many of my female friends already had their first dance picked out, I’d get nausea at the sound of Pachebel’s Canon. At times, I felt like an outsider, looking into a world of nuptials of which I had no desire to join.
But the real problem arose when I voiced my aversion to marriage. Every single time I told someone that I didn’t see myself ever getting married, the response would always be the same: “What? Don’t say that! You’ll get married someday. You just haven’t found the right man yet.”
Well gee, thanks for the reassurance. I know you’re trying to boost my self-esteem, but I never gave any indication that it needed boosting. I didn’t say I was incapable of finding a partner suitable for holy matrimony. It’s the physical institution of marriage itself that makes my butthole clench like I’m on a roller coaster.
There are so many reasons for not wanting to get married. First of all, there’s the whole concept that your pledging your life to another person till death do you part. Could it get more finite than that? Sometimes I get crippling anxiety over what sandwich I’m about to order on the Subway line, let alone who I’m going to be stuck with until I keel over. Of course, we live in a world were lots of marriages end quicker than a Friends spin-off (not topical), but who wants to go through the expensive hassle of getting a divorce if you’re not certain you want to be married in the first place? And while where on the topic of expenses, I hope you have a rich uncle who really likes you, or a spare kidney to sell, because those ceremonies are pretty damn expensive. On Long Island, where even sweet 16’s and bar mitzvahs look like a Jay Gatsby party (slightly more topical), a venue tried to charge my sister $4,000 without catering, furniture or a DJ. Do you know how many Subway sandwiches you can buy for $4,000? (I swear I’m not their spokesperson, but I have a dangerous addiction to Italian herbs and cheeses.) And frankly, some of us aren’t thrilled with the idea of having hundreds of eyes glued to us for four-plus hours while we exchange vows, kiss and dance—all while trying to look happy and comfortable in a glorified corset responsible for months of crash dieting.
Despite all that, there are still those who will look down from their ivory tower and sneer at us gals who are skeptical about marriage, as if we’ll all one day have a glorious epiphany that marriage is the sole way to live happily ever after. And it’s certainly not without societal groundings; simply put, once a woman hits a certain age, she is devalued for being unmarried, and even more so for being single. Older men are single are seen as eligible bachelors, but older women in the same situation are seen as spinsters, cat ladies—old maids who must have some sort of inherent flaw that make them totally unloveable. So for women like me, who genuinely don’t see the appeal of marriage, we don’t fit the societal mold that equates unmarried women with romantic failure. And as a result, it confuses people. How could she willingly avoid getting married? Surely, there must be a way of showing her that marriage is meant for everyone!
This isn’t meant as a tale to disparage those who fantasize about the day they walk down the aisle. I’ve never believed that the path to feminism begins with tearing down women with opposing viewpoints. And for some—like my sister—marriage is honestly something that brings inner peace for which no one should be judged. But just as denying marriage to someone based on sex is discriminatory and unfair, so is expecting it from someone.
So my point is, it’s okay to want to get married, and it’s just as okay to not want to get married. There is nothing innately programmed into all women that says we must burst forth from the womb with a copy of Bridal Guide and a Netflix queue filled with Bridezillas. You’re not a loveless freak for not wanting to take part in the grand tradition, nor should you treat anyone else like marriage is a compulsory act that will automatically bring them happiness. At the end of the day, you gotta do you, no matter how many times grandma tells you you’re going to hell.