"I wonder who will be the first one to get married?"
The question flitted through conversations with my friends throughout our adolescence. The answer changed as our relationship statuses did, but I knew it wasn't going to be me. A fifteen-year-old hopeless romantic, I figured I'd have to wait quite some time until I met "the one." But that didn't mean my friends would.
One November afternoon, my childhood friend Lyna struck up a conversation with me through text. It was nothing unusual. I'd seen her a few weeks ago as we explored downtown Lafayette, La., viewing local art. She said she liked doing these sorts of things with me, and I was glad to share this with her. This was the Lyna I knew: dynamic, passionate, artistic. My only Asian friend growing up, we shared a special bond- one of frustration in a small town and a desire for a cosmopolitan life. We had grown apart since I started college, but I wanted to know she was happy with her life. She assured me she was, and she was content in her serious relationship.
I had no idea how serious it was until she invited me to her engagement party via text. My shaking hands dropped the phone. Where was the formal invitation that came in my late twenties? Where was the wedding dress fitting and sips of champagne? Where was the warning, dammit?
After I tearfully let my friend go to her fiancée, I found out through Facebook that Lyna is five months pregnant. Four years ago, we giggled about our high school crushes like children. Now I am finding out (through social media, nonetheless) that one of my best friends is having one. How did she find certainty when I've spent the past few years searching for it?
When this happens, I usually look and think, "How can he/she get married? They are so young! How do they know they want to spend the rest of their lives together?"
I'm not the only one with these feelings. Friends joke about how they see so many engagements and us single girls are left to our own devices and jars of Nutella. We share articles like this and pat ourselves on the back for being adventurous. We conveniently forget that marriages are happening later, and college educated women are having less children. Rather than single college-women getting sideways glances, the young and betrothed are- and guess who is giving them?
Why are young single women applying the pressure marriage or motherhood to ourselves? Why are we understanding of our friends when they dump a guy but not when they commit to one?
It's because we are losing something familiar to unknown territory. I may know about the world across the pond, but I'm clueless in the one of a wife or mother. My friends are skipping into the land of Adulthood, leaving me alone with remnants of our friendship and questions of where my life is headed.
Lyna's purpose in life is not to be the person I call when a guy isn't interested. The days of midnight discussions of life and love over phở may be gone, but that doesn't mean Lyna is. She's just changing, and honestly, I'm unrecognizable to my high school friends with my bob and blazers. I know they will accept me no matter what I believe or how short I cut my hair. I want my friends to know themselves and what they want out of life. Though their lives differ from mine, I am satisfied in knowing they are genuinely happy. They need to be able to move on, and I need to be okay with that.
Lyna is an individual, and she wants to get married and have a child. And if I were as good of a friend as I was in high school, I would support her. She could still explore the world with me or become a photographer. But it would have to be at her pace, and I'd have to be considerate of that.
On my Facebook, several of my friends are engaged, married, or pregnant. And it does scare me. I still need to go soul-searching in New York, establish my career, build up my savings... I have a laundry list of goals before I feel ready for marriage. I can't imagine starting a new life with someone right now, let alone creating one. But no one has proposed to me, and I'm not pregnant. That's not my life, and no one is asking me if I'm ready. And just because I'm not ready doesn't mean my friends aren't.
Commitment doesn't necessitate limits on self-discovery. Married couples travel together. Young mothers learn from their children. Life does not become less exciting or insightful because of familial commitments.
Marriage is for adults, and it is immature for me to decide when other people are ready to take the next step in their lives. No one should be limited to any role they fulfill, whether it's friend, daughter, wife, or mother. Young college-aged women are more liberated than ever, and if they're choosing marriage or motherhood, they deserve our respect. Our childhood question is answered, but how each of us will navigate womanhood is one each of us is left to ponder.