This Christmas holiday, my mother and I visited some cousins who live near her in upstate New York. As we are apt to do when visiting this particular branch of extended family, we ended up gathered around the kitchen table, chatting amiably and gorging on various holiday desserts. At one point, the conversation turned to the Royal Wedding. My mother and I had decided to wear used gift bows on our heads as a sort of holiday fascinator (because, why not?), and she reminded everyone of the particularly creative headgear worn by Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie at Will and Kate's nuptial ceremony last Spring.
"Remember those hideous things those two princesses wore," she exclaimed. "Maybe, when Brooke gets married, I'll wear something like that to her wedding."
Now, I am currently single with absolutely no prospects to get married anytime soon. And, knowing that references to current events generally fade from the public consciousness with the passing of time (hence why I expect we'll see very few Amanda Knox costumes next Halloween), I assume that by the time I walk down the aisle, this joke will have lost its relevance.
"Mom," I said. "I think by the time I get married, people will have forgotten that reference."
I'm not sure what reaction I expected to this observation, but what I got from my mom and her cousins was a chorus of "Oh, sweetie, you have plenty of time. Don't rush into anything."
"No, that's not what I meant," I protested. "I'm not concerned about it -- I just know that I probably won't get married for at least a few more years."
But it continued: "You're only 26. You don't need to worry."
Worry? Who was worried? The only thing I was worried about was my mom potentially making a fool of herself at my wedding one day in the not-too-near-future. Since when does stating a fact about one's relationship status constitute a cry for help?
But my cousins aren't the only ones who seem concerned about my apparent concern. Just a few days before the above incident, I called my grandfather to thank him for his Christmas gift. "So, you married yet?" he asked with a chuckle.
My grandfather has posed this question to me since I was in middle school. Back then, he laughed it off, acknowledging the absurdity of such a comment. But some time after I graduated college, he started following up with "Oh well, you've got time," occasionally offering his unsolicited opinion about what type of man would make me a suitable husband.
I certainly prefer my family telling me I'm still young and shouldn't feel pressure to get married-right now-rather than starting to lecture me about my biological clock or giving me advice about what I may be doing wrong. Nevertheless, I'm struck by the assumption that I'm worried about my love life at all. It's like being a proud B-cup and finding only push-ups when you go bra shopping. If you have small boobs, you must want bigger ones; if you don't have a man, you must want one.
Then there's the implication that, since I'm in my mid-twenties, I'm still "young" and "have plenty of time." Does this mean that when I reach a certain age, panic should set in? If I'm still single when I'm 30, will I have to suffer through Bridget-Jones-esque dinners, fielding questions about my prospects while my family tries to assess what the hell is wrong with me and what they may do to help?
I'll admit, I have despaired about my single status on various occasions. Whenever a relationship ends, I'm usually miserable for a while and quickly become exhausted at the idea of having to date again. And in times of intense distress, I have worried. But recently, I've calmed down. I've reminded myself that I'm not a ticking time bomb (perhaps my ovaries are, but that's a separate issue). After all, more people are waiting longer to get married than they did in the past, with fewer people choosing to wed at all. And as more women work outside of the home, their need to marry has lessened. As Kate Bolick noted in her popular Atlantic article "All the Single Ladies," "Now that we can pursue our own status and security, [we] are therefore liberated from needing men the way we once did."
Of course, just because I don't need to marry, doesn't mean I don't want to. And just because I don't want to get married now, doesn't mean I won't want to when and if the right person comes along. The beauty of being an independent woman in a free society is that I can wait for what's right, for what makes my life better. Until then, I see no need to worry.