G went to a stag do this weekend, and one of his fellow stags (who has never met me, but clearly considers my honour one of his priorities) was apparently insistent that G must propose to me immediately, without further ado. It seems he- and much of the rest of the world- think that at our age and length of relationship tenure (nine years- gulp!), it’s quite simply the done thing. I’m sure many of my older relatives are gnashing their teeth at my lack of fourth-finger sparkler. I believe I’ve even been described as a “lost cause”.
G relayed this conversation to me as I prepared dinner last night. Was this bloke right? Did I feel wounded that he hasn’t yet got down on bended knee? Do I yearn for a wedding?
I stopped still with kettle frozen above rice pan, brain struggling to compute. Oh G, I told him, if there’s one thing you should know about me after all this time is that I have never been one of those girls.
At the ripe old age of 28, in many cultures I’d be considered a shelf-dweller, an old maid. Twenty years ago my unmarried state would have been a shocker (a friend’s mother gave birth to a child in the 70s, at the age of 25, and was classed as an “older mother” by the hospital). But really, truly, I am just not that concerned with getting married.
It’s a miracle, really, given the level of social conditioning involved. From pop culture to organised religion to the people who chime “so, it’ll be you next!” as you celebrate a friend’s marriage (which, by the way, when did we all get so grown up?!) , the message is deafening: marriage is the thing to do.
A girl can’t watch Sex And The City, flick through the latest Grazia magazine (which tells me definitely NOT to move in with my man, if I ever want a proposal) or flip a middle finger to The Rules (which say ditch a relationship after 18 months if a proposal is not forthcoming), without encountering the idea that 20+ women are obsessed with getting a ring on their finger. Whilst I identify with Bridget Jones in a myriad ways, sometimes uncomfortably so, the wedding-lust she’s famed for- but is so much more than!- has passed me by entirely.
I don’t know why I missed the Wedding Gene. I’m terrified at the thought of being the centre of attention for a whole day; it wouldn’t be the same without my sister there; the costs involve ghast my flabber. These are all factors.. but not deciding ones. I just don’t long to get hitched. And I certainly don’t see marriage as a prerequisite to having children (and neither, any longer, does the law).
That’s not to say that I don’t want all the things that are tied up with marriage: commitment, security, a house, a family. I’ve got them all already- save the last one- and we’ve done the better/worse thing to the nth degree.
It’s not to say that I don’t revel in the marriages of others: my best friend is getting married to her long-term partner this September and I’ll be on the front row, bawling with happiness and fully supportive of this wonderful thing they are doing. I had the speech written in my head before she’d even popped the question.
It’s also, confusingly, not to say that I never want to get married. I believe that we will, one day. I don’t know when- in uncharacteristically traditional style I’ll leave that up to He Who’ll Do The Proposing. When we do get hitched, there will be cake and dancing and crying (of the good kind, I sincerely trust). It could happen next month- though I’d still be a bit fat from Christmas, so perhaps not- it could happen in five years time. Who knows?
I’m absolutely not opposed to marriage, and quite fancy it, some day. I’m even secretly quite keen, retchingly un-feminist moral messages aside, to see the latest rom-com offering, Bride Wars.
But I suppose my message to the world at large, who would have had me bundled into an ivory corseted number and charging down the aisle a good three years ago, is this: you can exhale, guys, if you’re holding your breath for my nuptials.