Is it just me, or is my peer group suddenly deciding to throw freedom to the wind and tie the knot way sooner than I imagined?
Is getting married young like... the new "thing"?
True, I've been out of college three whole years. I know people used to get married as early as high school. But I thought our generation had the better part of a decade to travel the world, date lots of people and discover new ways to fix the world's problems, unburdened by the pragmatisms of married life. With longer life expectancy, birth control and fertility technology, I thought we decided to put that the next-generation stuff on hold?
Stupid millennial. What is this hippie nonsense? You should settle down and buy a house. This is no economy for rentals.
My sister is a year older than me. Six of her friends got married last year. I've been to some beautiful weddings lately myself. Two of my college roommates have gotten married and one is engaged. One of my high school friends already has a husband and two kids. I have a co-worker my age who sends me Snapchats from a different wedding almost every other weekend. I'd like to point out here that I'm not even 25 years old.
In addition to the swing towards settling down a couple of years out of college, the ceremonies are taking a turn towards the traditional, if not extravagant. These big nuptials laugh in the face of high divorce-rates.They are not our parent's hippie-dippy, under-a-tree, sun-as-our-witness weddings. Millennials are embracing the traditions our parents rejected in hopes it will legitimize their own experience. The brave, young couples who stand up at the altar despite daunting statistics do so in in formal dress and spend big bucks. I guess throwing money at something is one way to legitimize it. I'm no investor, but I can see how dropping a large amount of dough up front inspires confidence and promises big returns. I have not yet found any statistics that show having a wedding at the Harvard Club makes the marriage last longer, but I also haven't found proof that it doesn't. I won't deny big spending makes the big day fun.
In addition to dressing up and spending big on their own weddings, my peers have been fighting for the right for everyone to embrace the tradition, including gays and lesbians. Ignore all the statistics that focus on today's marriage rate being at an all time low: we kids-these-days are totally into it.
The first ones to drop were the people I knew in the military. In my junior year of college I went to the West Point formal, where cadets received their class rings. Many of the uniformed cuties I met slipped engagement rings on their fiancees soon after. That made sense. Anyone going to war would look for stability. I guess those brave enough to face death as a profession are not afraid of 'Till death do us part.'"
The next ones to go were my hometown friends. That was kind of weird, since I grew up in New York City. I always thought this island was dusted with a thin layer of marriage-repellent.
My sister and I went to a progressive, all-women's high-school on New York's Upper East Side. Back in the '50s our school was described in the book A Beautiful Mind as being "cosmopolitan and cultured," and "where girls being groomed to become wives of Catholic leaders" went to become properly socialized -- I mean, educated. But it's changed since then, I swear! Now we're groomed to be independent women, and leaders ourselves! But yeah, as I said before, six weddings in one year.
One of my parents' friends heard about all our friends' silly marriage plans and had one response: "Why?!" Well, Mr. Boomer, it's simple:
1. We are planning ahead for disaster : We grew up in the shadow of September 11th. There is a lingering sentiment that the only promise America has for our generation is instability. Despite all our SAT-prep and SAT II's and competitive, expensive colleges, we had a hard time finding jobs. Better be even more prepared for life's next hurdle, and get the wife on lock down sooner rather than later. If we mess it up this go around, there's always spouse round 2.
2. Recession: As mentioned above, we are unemployed and underpaid. It's financially smarter to live with someone.
3. Internet dating is making it easier to find a mate.
4. We watched way too many over sexualized, rated R movies at a young age. With open-minded parents and contraception, my generation became so promiscuous we scared ourselves.
Example: One of my most, erm, accomplished friends told me about his latest lady "twerking" in the middle of the street on their last date. He said "is this what my wife is going to be like? Someone who twerks in the middle of St. Marks?" So yeah, we got over the whole free love thing at an earlier age than your generation did -- I think.
I tried to tell Mr. Boomer that we Millennials are really just like the Lost Generation or Greatest Generation. We face war and recession. We even go to speakeasies, just like our grand-folks!
All of a sudden our conversation was interrupted by whispers about a moonlit farm wedding in the rain. It came to light that apparently the progressive member of my parents' generation who was so against young marriage hadn't felt the same way when he was 23, or 19 (depending on which whisper you were listening to.) So even the free-lovers were gung-ho about tying the knot -- when the moonshine and hippie-field were right.
Statistics do not show that my peers are getting married any younger than past generations. In fact, with the average first-marriage age hitting 30 for women and 32 for men in 2009, we might be getting married later than ever. What is shocking is realizing that even though we see ourselves as kids forever, we're actually grown ups -- and marriage confirms it. It's just happening faster than I expected, and faster than our parents expected. Maybe that's what happens to every generation. I think Chuck Berry had it about right in 1964 when he said "'C'est la vie,' said the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell**"
Young weddings seem like more of a "thing" because we post everything to Facebook. Everyday we see someone we met once at a dance in 2009 has gotten engaged. Or maybe it is so not a thing that the few people who settle down early are gawked at like Great White Sharks.
I am far from prepared for kids and a mortgage, so I'm glad to hear I've got at least a few years before the music turns off and the dating game of musical chairs comes to halt.
"*It was a teenage wedding and the old folks wished them well / You could see that Pierre did truly love the Mademoiselle / And now the young Monsieur and Madame have rung the chapel bell / C'est la vie said the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell"