I always thought it would be quite nice to get married at the age I am now. I feel the need now to justify that statement.
It isn’t because I don’t aspire to much, or even because I aspire to be a wife. It’s the desperate romantic in me that makes me think it would be lovely to be that sure. 22 is still young. It is young. It’s the first ‘proper’ age I’ve ever been, but I’ve never felt younger. So when I consider this thought of mine, that an early marriage would have some kind of beauty to it, then my mind boggles.
I’m not there. No way in hell am I there. I mean, it’s not as though it’s impossible – all that’s necessary for a marriage are two willing people (motives undisclosed), a registrar and two witnesses. Job done. But, it’s not the ceremony I’m after. It’s not even the honeymoon, the cake, the married life. It’s that simple thought: that I was sure.
However, it seems lately that people are less and less sure. The National Office of Statistics tells me that the number of marriages registered in England in Wales in 2008 was a mere 232, 990. Yeah, didn’t seem that small to me either. But, they also reliably inform me that this is lowest number since 1985. Yet, the rest of their statistics appear confusing. In my search for some romance among these figures I read that 91% of marriages were first marriages for both partners. Aww. And that divorce is also at a 29 year low. (I also, through some quick clicking, discovered that civil partnerships have fallen 12% from 2008 to 2009.)
So, does this really mean that people are less sure? All it really seemed to tell me was that more people were staying together. And, oddly, that’s not the nature of my post. My feelings about marriage are vague, at best, at it is my attempt here to come to terms with what it is that I believe when I say it would be nice to get married at 22.
When I was 15, we studied Pride and Prejudice at school. I thought it was shit. I decided that my life was worth more than just waiting around for a nice man (especially the nice man everyone knew you were going to marry apart from you – although I now see the irony in the novel, it has to be said). I proudly told people that I disliked Jane Austen and had viable, socially relevant reasons for doing so. Then I read more literature. And, at the same time, met a couple of 21 and 22 who were getting married. Since then, since this mythical, one-encounter pair, I have found early marriage a lovely thing. I still hold onto that feeling that Mrs Bennet had it all wrong: life isn’t about wearing big dresses and piling your hair correctly and waiting to attract a Darcy or a Bingley, it’s about making choices. Oh, but wouldn’t it be lovely if that choice was to marry a nice, respectable, respectful man!
And therein lies my contradiction (one of many). I want it to happen unexpectedly, I don’t want to wait around for it. But in doing so, I kind of make it impossible for myself. While talking to a friend at work today, she said that she always wished that she had gone to uni when she was younger so that when she got to my age she would be considering how to start her life, but instead at 22 she was planning a wedding. “Stupid!” she trilled, happily, and we shared a laugh. So, there seems their ought to be some sort of sacrifice in place for marriage? And by going to uni, getting a job, not waiting around before I rented a home – I’ve scuppered it. My lovely, poetic, early marriage of security: gone. Well, at this age anyway.
It wasn’t my independence that ruined it, either. It was my determination to make my own way. Not to say that married women, and women in love, are not independent – but in my eagerness to make sure something was always on the horizon, this could never happen unexpectedly. Not the way things currently sit. A worrying man I met lately encouraged me to plan my life to the year in order to get what you want. But my plans are caught up in other things. The unconscious sacrifice I made was to go to university, and make a life right now, and that meant that I wasn’t ready.
So, although I don’t quite believe it, this early marriage still smacks of Jane Austen. 22 has snuck up on me, and I remain husbandless. Does this mean, then, that I’m unsure?