Over the past few years, my Facebook newsfeed has evolved rapidly into a catchall of my peers’ engagements, wedding announcements, babies, “My boyfriend will be the best husband,” anniversaries and kitschy seasonal couple photos.
Good for them.
It is sometimes difficult seeing all of this without having a nagging feeling of exclusion.
After all, what girl doesn’t have a wedding board on Pinterest or hasn’t at least thought about marriage and the ideal wedding when growing up?
It’s especially hard when marrying young is the norm, and almost considered the expectation passed on from the generation before.
My mother married when she was 21, and her mother married at the age of 18. I am creeping on 22 and single.
One evening, during my freshman year of college, I went to visit my grandmother at her house.
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I walked through the front door, greeted by her, I say, “Guess what.” She replies without skipping a beat, “You’re getting married?” “No, Mamaw.” I said, “I just wanted to tell you about my classes.”
I recently broke up with my boyfriend of three years to focus on my career. It wasn’t easy, even though I knew that’s what I wanted.
We had talked about getting married and starting a family after we both finished school. That is something that I wanted intensely for a long time, but I realized later it would interfere with my dreams and career goals I had set.
He told me after we broke up, that he was planning on proposing to me this coming summer. After hearing that, it felt like a punch in the stomach. I felt like I had let down my mother and my grandmother. But why?
My career is something I have always valued and is something I need and want to focus on now.
Was I only dating to marry to please my family? To follow tradition, to make them happy?
Did I make myself think that’s what I wanted, too, when clearly my mind wasn’t genuinely set on those goals right now?
Since the age of 16, finding a boyfriend as a potential suitor for marriage has lurked in the back of my mind because of the expectation set by tradition — comparing myself to others instead of thinking about me for me.
I have watched my friends suffer from the same pressures and expectations, listening to them complain about how they’re single and how they need to find husbands before they grow old.
Then watch them jump furiously into any relationship they can get a grip on, only to have that relationship fail from the lack of compatibility that was originally blinded by the desperation of my friends.
While getting married young and starting a family soon may be the goal for many girls here in the Bible Belt, there isn’t a need to do that now, and it’s OK if we don’t.
We are young, we have time and we shouldn’t allow an idea of tradition to keep us from being happy.
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