It's December, the month notorious for engagements, which means several things but mostly that I'm showing mild symptoms of the ever-looming F.O.N.G.E. What is F.O.N.G.E., you might ask? It's lurking in your Facebook feed, newspaper, J.Crew catalogue, favorite magazine and kitchen sink office chatter. It's the "fear of never getting engaged," and this month, it's coming at you with full force. Buckle up, because we're barely a week in.
If you're a woman in your late twenties to mid-thirties, it's safe to say that you have at least a half dozen friends with Facebook profile pictures from their wedding (that may or may not have happened five years ago) or can think of a number of engagements occurring in the past two months that have made you question the course your romantic life. Through the parade of celebrity weddings, baby buzz and montage of reality television shows dedicated to this matrimonial rite of passage, F.O.N.G.E. creeps in when we start to "should" ourselves into thinking certain things should be happening in our lives. It was only when I realized where this fear originates from that I gained a new perspective.
It's the fear of never being asked rather than the fear of never being married that women dread the most. If an engagement is the ultimate culmination of love leading up to marriage, then the possibility of never experiencing this next level of commitment somehow makes us feel less than good enough. In the words of Mark Nepo, "there is no substitute for genuine risk," but this isn't a singular endeavor. It makes us second-guess exes, that guy from college we haven't seen in years or old hook-ups that just "maybe" might turn into more if we give it a second chance. Is it me? Was I just not ready? Was he not ready? The questioning is the first symptom. Turn off "Say Yes to the Dress," throw out that old issue of New York Weddings and sign off from your Pinterest "dream wedding" page. What are we really seeking?
Now, I can't say F.O.N.G.E. is entirely a bad thing. Some fear (in small doses) can be healthy and keep us from getting too comfortable, but fear can also backfire on a woman who is in a serious relationship that's on a different timeframe from her peers. In fact, I think F.O.N.G.E. can be just as deadly to the woman in a serious relationship who isn't yet engaged as to the single woman slipping into her fourth bachelorette dress and answering questions on why she's still single. F.O.N.G.E. can also save the woman who's been waiting to get engaged to a person who might never ask the question. It works both ways.
The more we experience in love, the more we're able to realize the immense joy and responsibility that unfolds in a committed relationship. What is it about being happy that makes us cling to an outcome? While some of us may never get engaged, all of us seek the opportunity to meet the person that brings us closer to the sacredness of a new beginning. More often than not, we are our biggest obstacles to happiness and sometimes a little fear to keep us moving or that causes us to reflect on the commitments we already have isn't a bad thing.