I have reached “that age” when lots of the people that I know are getting married. In the last two weeks alone, no fewer than six friends have tied the knot. Amongst all of the wedding photos and name-changes, there are also lots of engagements and babies. So many engagements and babies. Facebook can no longer keep up with people’s newly highly committed relationship status updates, so instead cycles through the newly engageds/marrieds at roughly hourly intervals.
It’s not that I have a problem with my friends getting married. If they’ve been together for ten years (like one couple I know, congratulations, guys! I haven’t stuck with anything for a full 43.5% of my 23-years of life, let alone one person!); or if they’re really, really sure; or if they’re moving somewhere exciting together and getting married makes everything logistically easier (all recent examples of marriages of my friends), I am so happy for them. They should do it. I’m slightly less supportive of the really religious couples – that I know and love dearly – who are getting married to have some sex. Sex is wonderful. Have it often. Is it really necessary to get married in order to have it, though? But whatever makes them happy.
The problem that I do have with these couples getting married is what happens to them afterwards. Bridget Jones was on to a good thing when she referred to the Smug Marrieds (thanks, Helen Fielding!). They get smug. Oh so very smug. They take to their newly-committed life with a zeal that I’ve not seen these women do anything with – except maybe get outrageously drunk in our first year of university. Suddenly they’re all about staying in for dinner, balancing the budget more carefully than they ever did as poverty-stricken-students and spending “quality time” as a couple – all the time. You see them less and less as more of their “grown up” responsibilities take up more of their time and, suddenly, you realize that it’s been months since you spoke when you get a phone call to excitedly inform you that “We’re pregnant!”
In my head, my reaction to this statement was as follows: “What? Oh, shit. What are you going to do about it?” In a rare display of thinking before I speak, I engaged my [limited] ability to separate what I thought and what I said – these people were at a stage in their life when there was an appropriate alternative reaction to this news! After a brief hesitation (during which I exercised my “avoid offending people” reflex) my real, considered reaction was “Oh my goodness! Congratulations!” [I am so glad that this happened over the phone, I’m not sure I would have seemed so convincingly happy if they could have seen the strained grimace on my face.]
And that was just the beginning of my problems with that conversation. Having safely navigated my reaction to the pregnancy bombshell, I was faced with something else that I wasn’t quite comfortable with – “We’re” pregnant. It’s not “I’m” anymore, and it’s not a disaster to be handled with as much diplomacy as possible. They’re suddenly no longer individual people but a unit, a package deal. You can’t see one without the other, and, on the rare occasion that you do, the other is always present in the background – texting, calling, ensuring that their significant other doesn’t do one single spontaneous thing (like drink 2 bottles of wine and fall asleep on your couch).
These things are a bit annoying, but I’ve taken them to be “something that happens when your friends get married”, kinda like joint bank accounts and married friends. The thing that I simply can’t be that accommodating of is the idea that they somehow have what all we single people are supposed to want – a lifetime of commitment, bills, children, mortgage payments, and the same sex with the same person over and over again. Like really good salespeople who truly believe in their product, they assure us that we’ll be able to have a piece of the delicious marriage pie, one day. One day, we will “meet the right man,” and, when we do, we will also become like them – smug in our domestic bliss. I could be jet-setting around the world, giving Ted talks and sleeping with outrageously attractive men, and I would still be the “poor single girl who hasn’t found the right man.”
Stop trying to set me up with your marriage-material friends. Maybe I’m not marriage material. For now, I’m happier making my own way, choosing what I want to eat for dinner, drinking tea in bed, leaving the toothpaste [lid on!] exactly the way I like it, flirting with any hot guy that takes my fancy and having my whole bed to myself.
Smug marrieds: stop feeling sorry for me. I definitely don’t!