Friday, January 8, 2010

Marriage At This Merry Age?

I realized my surprising stance on marriage last night. Well, not in general, but more as in...well, I don't know.

My friend Keith visited his hometown in Texas over the holidays. I asked him how it was and he told me, "It's kind of weird. It seems like everyone's married or in the army."

"Jesus, which side do you join in that war?" I remarked.

Then I thought about it and realized that my response seemed awkward even to me.

When I was younger, I was generally excited to get married in my mid-twenties like my parents did. I thought all this when I was a know, at the time when I thought that everyone moved out of their parents house by 21 and should be millionaires by 30.

In my teens, I corrected this philosophy when I realized just how stupid it is to plan out your life. I remember sitting in high school classrooms and my peers telling me their play-by-play lives. Having goals is one thing but talking about 10 years down the line as facts and not aspirations was very much...a tool thing to do. I recall one particular awkward conversation when a girl couldn't believe that I didn't have ages set for goals.

"I want to be married by 26, have my first kid at 28 and own my own veterinary hospital by 30," she told me.

"Yeah? Well, enjoy disappointment," I replied.

Another girl stepped in to defend her.

"Well, what's your plan, Jake?" the girl said, mildly annoyed and bitter with my cynicism.

"I want to move out of my parents house, travel a bunch and graduate college in my twenties. I'd like to write a book at some point. But I really just kind of see my twenties as another decade of fucking up."

"Those aren't good goals," the girl told me.

"Yeah, but watch me actually achieve them," I said.

So far, I have succeeded.

I think after living in a house with man-children for years, and hearing marriage referred to as the "M-word" like a bad word, my head probably went through a stunning change. Even in my early twenties, I had a very traditional American ideal system. I didn't plan on doing anything at a certain age, as I thought that would lead to stress and silliness, but I think that I may have just assumed things would turn out that way (I fall in love, get engaged, buy a house, get married, have kids, drink heavily and quietly). I thought things would somehow kind of just end up happening how I assumed they would happen as a kid. I wasn't betting on it or counting on it, but just thinking that things just might fall into place when I least expected it.

Now, I can't even fathom getting married. Well, not right now, I can't. Not anytime soon. I feel like I still have a lot of wild adventures in me before I settle down (not just to a person, but to a place or a career). I'd like to get married one day, definitely, as I very much enjoy the idea of the institution of marriage. I like the idea of Sunday brunches, kids sports and, well, the obvious whole building a life with someone.

But, for right now, I feel like it's asking an elementary school student if he's excited to graduate high school one day. I feel like I would just stare blankly and say, "Well, yeah, one day and it'll be really cool when I do, but it's so far away."

Where the opinion ends and the jokes begins, I'm not sure. Maybe everything always seems five years away to me. When I was 20, I thought, "Yeah, I might be engaged or married by 25." Now, this year, I'll be turning 25 and I think, "Yeah, I might be engaged or married by 30."

And, now that I'm in my mid-twenties, I can't even understand young marriages. When I find out that two people in their late teens or early twenties are getting married, it hits my head like the most complex math problem. I stutter, "What...but...they...huh?" I think about how I could barely function as a human being then and being able to drink legally didn't help. It's a balance of "Why would they do that?" and "How are they so responsible?" It's a battle of confusion vs. respect.

On the eve of my 20th birthday, my father told me that my life would be changing soon and he mentioned it because he was excited for me and thought I would be excited. He said, "Who knows? In ten years, you may have a career. In five years, you may have a wife." I didn't fear marriage or finding a career at the time, but I had a general fear of adulthood. So, naturally, I laid on my bedroom floor and listened to records for the rest of the night, calming myself down.

Thankfully, among my friends, the married couples are still definitely and totally the minority. They seem happy and I love being around them, but I'm just thankful I'm not yet attending weddings where someone asks me why I'm not wearing a ring. At some point, if movies and television shows have taught me anything, it's that going to weddings as a single person because awkward at some point. Right now, it's a lot of fun and I'm excited for them and their happiness.

But I say all this as a sharpshooter from the back of the church.

1 comment:

James said...

Good points. In high school, I ran with a crew of four guys. Two are now married and one is probably close to getting engaged. I'm the last one standing. It's nice.