A Young Feminist’s Thoughts on a Young Engagement

A couple weeks ago, a variety of articles regarding the topic of marriage at 23 surfaced the Internet. Sparking this trend was Vanessa Elizabeth’s article, “23 Things to Do Instead of Getting Engaged at 23,” where she condemns getting engaged at a young age.

“As 2013 wraps up, I’ve been noticing more and more people getting engaged and/or married under the age of 23,” Elizabeth said, “I can’t help but feel like a lot of these unions are a cop-out.”

Alternately, Elizabeth gives several suggestions on things to do instead. The activities range from “join the Peace Corps” to “hang out naked in front of a window” and “date two people at once and see how long it takes for it to blow up in your face.” Throughout my life I have declined opportunities to stand naked in front of a window. That just doesn’t appeal to me, nor does dating two people at once.

Likewise, Elizabeth’s article was met with a certain amount of backlash. Her use of a cop-out marriage angered many. And for a good reason. Yet, I still have thoughts to add. I can’t help but wonder, why so much emphasis on the age we marry? Or marrying at all?

1. You are not your relationship status.

People place a lot of worth in finding a girlfriend or boyfriend. In my Women's Studies 101 class, we discussed how a real man’s goal is to find and marry a real woman. Likewise, insults such as “you will never find a girlfriend,” are thrown around quite frequently. As proven from the article, getting married too young can result in being perceived as either old-fashioned, dependent, and less fun and spontaneous. On the other hand if you are single at an old age people perceive you as either undesirable or unlucky, and as an object of pity. I’m not saying everyone or even most people see it that way, but those are the stereotypes.

 

Elizabeth does not fail to make her attitude towards young couples clear.

“WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME AND WHY HAS NO ONE TOLD ME ABOUT IT FOR ALL THESE YEARS!?” asked Elizabeth, who then refutes her statement with, “it literally isn’t me, it’s them.”

Plenty of fun and spontaneous people marry young. Some people never marry and some people marry when they are older. The point is, we have time and we have options. Marrying young doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you, nor does being single at the age of 65 mean you have lived a sad, lonely life.

I don’t plan on marrying young, but if I am lucky enough to fall in love and feel that it is right, who’s to tell me that I’m wrong? I wouldn’t want someone to judge me. I’d want people to look and see how happy I am. I’d want people to know how much I loved my significant other. That marrying them didn’t sacrifice my bucket list, but rather enhances it.

2. Make your own bucket list; don’t follow others.

There is no right answer to life. What is a bad decision to you might be perfect for someone else. We are not standardized, but different, each with our own set of values.

So if I am not musical, why should I start a band? If I’m allergic to cats and dogs, why should I take one into my house? Sorry Elizabeth, but your bucket list just isn’t for me.

When I started college, I wanted to do everything and felt like I was wasting an opportunity if I didn’t. The truth is, having club meetings five days a week, while staying up Friday and Saturday nights partying isn’t the right pace of life for me. Sometimes I just want to go on reddit or something like that.

3. The things you enjoy are the most valuable part of your life.

People who don’t party aren’t missing out, if that’s not what they enjoy. It seems like people are constantly trying to dictate to others how to spend their time. An example of this is the Daily Tar Heel publishing kvetches making fun of the Quidditch team. For my roommate who has played Quidditch since high school, the sport not only represents a fun thing to do, but the memories and friendships that surround it.

For many people who loathe staying home while friends are out partying, understanding introverted preferences can be difficult. I had a friend who preferred reading books to partying, but had suitemates who felt sorry for her because she never went out. They couldn’t understand that she didn’t get the same enjoyment they did.

Elizabeth seems to think there are right and wrong ways to life your life. I am young. I know that I am going to hurt people, but I’d never write “be selfish” or “disappoint my parents” on my bucket list—although they are inevitable.

4.  Don’t forget to explore your options.

At nineteen, I can’t decide if I like going to parties. I want to be friends with everyone, yet they terrify me. I love reading, but have trouble getting through English classes. I’m full of contradictions, but if anything that makes me more like everyone else and because of that “finding” myself will never be as clear cut as I want it to be. So I explore.

Before I entered college, I had no idea I would pick up the ukulele or that I would love my Women’s Studies class and working for the school’s newspaper. Even as a sophomore, I am still finding new and exciting clubs. And although I have little desire to do everything, or even a lot, I don’t regret trying new things.

I hope to marry someday, but I know that my life isn’t a linear path. I’ve realized that I have a spectrum of options, beyond single and married. Whatever I do, I hope my friends will support me, or at least have the courtesy not to judge.