I was talking with a friend recently about our respective views on marriage. His parents are still divorced. Mine are still together. (My Dad and my Mom were together 20 years when she passed. He remarried 3 years later and has been with my step-mom about 35 years.) 3 of my 4 older sisters are all married and have been 20+ years.
My family doesn’t do divorce.
When I was younger, I had decided that I would be married by 27. Which became 32. Which became 38. Which became…possibly never. I’m thankful for the fact that I never wanted children. I knew that at 17 and, except for the rare moments of “what if?”, never really had regrets. It’s just not something I wanted. I’m sure some of that has to do with losing my Mom so young and never developing that mother/daughter bond. Mostly, I’ve just never wanted such a huge responsibility.
A few weeks ago, I watched on Facebook as one of my friends announced her engagement. She’s late twenties. Her fiancee a couple years younger. He proposed the night before they flew home to London (where her family lives) for the holidays. They’ve been together about a year and a half. Of course, up went the photo of she and her fiancee in an embrace, the ring prominently on display.
I was telling my friend about this and he asked me if it bothered me. I said yes, and then qualified my response.
“I think I’m jealous that she’s having that moment. You know, the ring and the pics. I’m not jealous that she’s getting married because, well, it’s marriage. It’s a gamble. And they’re so young. But they look happy and I truly hope it works out.”
“Do you want to get married?” he asked. (Note: No, he was not proposing. )
10 years ago I would have immediately said yes. But now?
“I think maybe when I’m 50 or so. Maybe. But if I do it, I’m doing it once and that’s it. I can’t fail at marriage.”
The best thing about turning 40 was that people no longer looked to me and expected me to marry or get pregnant. Not that my family ever did that. There are 19 grandchildren. The pressure has never been on me to produce an heir. Nor did I ever have family members say things to me like, “You better hurry up! Time’s a wastin’!” Maybe if they had done that I’d have made marriage more of a priority. I don’t know.
I think I’d rather get married at 50 or older, after external life pressures and our respective sex drives have leveled and the relationship becomes primarily about companionship. To me, there’s a higher chance of success then. Between temptation and work and bills and kids, it seems like most marriages don’t stand a chance. So why not remove most of that from the equation before making such a commitment? And why not enter in to such a Union when making announcements and posting photos is no longer an expected (and craved) part of the whole experience? I really do get the feeling sometimes that many people just want to say they’re getting married. Just like they just want to say they have a boyfriend or girlfriend. It’s just another milestone, something to give people fodder for status updates and tweets. It no longer feels like an actual celebration of a commitment.
When I was responding to a post yesterday, I told the woman who submitted a letter that, at 42 and a divorce behind her, the Race for True Love was over. She had had the Big Day. Kids probably weren’t an option at this point. Therefore she had all kinds of time to really get to know someone and enjoy her life without feeling any pressure. That was another change that I think occurred over the last year. I stopped fearing the idea of being alone at 45, 50, 60. I hope to be with someone, of course. I want to be. But I don’t feel this overwhelming pressure to have every relationship I have follow a certain path.
I don’t feel like I’m being evaluated anymore. That is probably one of the biggest blessings of turning 40. Nobody expects anything from me any more. They’ve either assumed (and to some degree, they’re right) that I’m 43 and single for a reason and therefore not a quality candidate. Or they feel more relaxed because I don’t have a biological clock ticking. I feel like I get to enjoy things more. I no longer have to care so much. I don’t need to have everything figured out because I’m under a deadline. I can enjoy an open ended relationship without worrying where it’s going.
On Friday I was working with a woman and she showed me the profile of a guy that had emailed her through Ok Cupid. As we know, OKC has a whole section of questions that cover everything from politics to lifestyle choices to sex. One of the questions they ask is whether or not he could respect someone with whom he had sex with on the first date. This man answered yes. But then he fills in the explanation part and says that he is not the “first date sex” kind of guy and it usually takes him longer than one date. He said:
It would take such a respect in order for me to have sex with her in the first place. But feminine wiles are not enough to seduce me. I can say confidently it probably won’t happen.
I rolled my eyes and immediately thought aloud, “Ugh. Too much work.”
It felt like some kind of challenge to me. So, what, a woman is supposed to perform a song and dance for this guy while he determines if he respects her enough to sleep with her? Seriously? Next. It felt like a man trying to set himself apart from other men and presenting himself as “different.”
I guess I’ve just lost interest in trying to impress men. I man, more than necessary. I still make the effort. But the idea of this guy doing some kind of mental evaluation of me to determine if my vagina was worthy of his penis just turned me off. I’m not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing.
In my thirties, I never felt like I had this kind of freedom. In my thirties, I clung to men that weren’t interested. In my forties, I’ve walked away from situations that didn’t feel right. Now, I feel like I have all kinds of time. Now I feel like if I do find someone to marry, I have a better chance of it lasting. Forever. Like it’s supposed to.
For now, though, I’m quite happy to take it one day at a time.