When one of my close friends from college told me she was getting engaged reality bitch-slapped me across the face. Married? Jesus, at 24, I’m lucky if the guy willingly springs for a draft beer. Increasingly, I see people around me pairing off, getting hitched, and inevitably creating a family soon after college. Within six months, I’ve heard of five different couples getting engaged. If that rate continues, 84 new couples will be taking the plunge over the next seven years. By then, I’ll be 32 and own five cats named after Kardashians. Wasn’t our generation looking to find jobs they didn’t hate and spend money they didn’t have for a couple years? Apparently not anymore.
Marriage was always the topic you giggled about while drunk. I certainly never earned the superlative “Most likely to get married first.” It more like, “Most likely to become a cougar” (my friends are kind). But at that age, to us, marriage was for when you were older. Our generation was supposed to spend these messy post-college years hungover at work and waking up next to last night’s bad decision (that is, if we can get jobs and out of our parents’ basement).
Two decades and a generation ago, it was the norm to get married young, start a family, and live the American Dream. But folks increasingly developed their personal lives, putting marriage on the back burner. The 1950s “two kids and a dog” concept died some time ago. Gender roles were shredded by women who decided that we have just as much right to want the corner office with a family to follow — if we so choose. Is our generation regressing or have we decided we can do it all and at any age?
An article in The Huffington Post by a Millennial like myself mapped out the reasoning behind this young marriage madness. The author related our generation to that of our Baby Boomer parents — both generations have grown up during “hard times” and so we are living realistically about what the dismal future may bring. Bad economy, Internet dating, oversexed, and scared to death: All valid points for the Debbie Downers of the world. Internet dating I can believe to be a culprit, but bad economy and too much sex on TV? What is this, “60 Minutes”?
Our digital generation feeds into the progress of others. We are constantly updating our online profiles to express our betterment, not our bereavement (unless we’re posting selfies at funerals, but that’s not bereavement either). But the Huffington Post piece suggests that because our generation is so digitally vocal that the few who take the plunge are getting gawked at like animals. Sure, I didn’t expect my faux boyfriend from third grade to get engaged so soon, but I guess we never really accept the fact that things change and the Facebook timelines get older just as we do. Marriage is just another milestone to add to the timeline of life — some sooner than others.
Upon hearing the engagement news, I had to ask my suddenly engaged friend the question, “Is this really what you want?” She responded, “When you know, you just know!” She’s an eternal optimist, and I envy her for it. Even in our divorce-ridden society where second and third marriages are becoming commonplace, she still believes she met Mr. Right. I might be struggling to find Mr. Right Now, but I won’t rule the idea of marriage out just yet. And I think we owe it to our friends who walk the plank to celebrate their happiness and, more specifically, to not hyperventilate when we hear the news (the hives were not intentional).
If they can find “the one” then there’s gotta be hope. Even for poor slobs like me who still occasionally drunk text exes and dream of meeting Ryan Gosling.