I thought I would die if I turned 30 unmarried—perhaps literally at times. I vividly remember sitting in the waiting room of the law firm where I’d just started working at age 27 when I overheard a conversation that began, “Yes, well it’s a good time for them. He’s 36 and she’s 34, so it’s just the right age to get married.” I cringed—34?!? That poor girl. Something was horribly wrong. I could never, would never, ever be that girl.
I’d almost been married once before by then. I spent years dating the handsome actor I met at college, the one my father described as “a GAP model,” dizzy in a spell of musical theatre romance and inexpensive off-brand wine. After five years together, we went to Italy on vacation and I was sure he was going to propose. I shouldn’t have been—he told me he wasn’t ready and wasn’t going to. But that didn’t stop me from wishing and plotting and ending up spending the last night of our vacation crying heaving, hysterical tears, sick with self-inflicted disappointment and despair in a rundown twin-share room in Siena.
I left him shortly after our return to Los Angeles. If he wasn’t going to marry me, then I would find someone who would. He’d had his chance, and I was going to take mine with the smart and serious fellow I’d met the first day of law school. The law student and I were together four years—long enough to move in together, to travel the world together, and to spend our 30th birthdays together. On the eve of my last night in my twenties, I begged him to take me to The Little White Chapel, so that I wouldn’t turn 30 single. He declined, and I was thrust into a new decade feeling like an abject failure. He took me ring shopping the following month, but his heart wasn’t in it.
Two months later as we sat in our apartment, I asked him when he was going to marry me. In a soft voice filled with regret and compassion, he replied, “I don’t know that I’ll ever want to marry you.” I was devastated, and moved out the next month, once again crying hysterical tears, laced with the potent cocktail of bitterness and disappointment. My mother kept telling me that the right man was worth the wait and that when I met him, I’d be grateful. I hated her optimism as I hated myself. I felt unlovable because a man hadn’t chosen me. I went to therapy. It helped.
Three years later, I finally met J.D., a man who radiates kindness. We were looking for all the same things at the same time. Suddenly, the romantic best friend I’d been looking for my whole life was there by my side when I awoke. Last night he showed my childhood friend a picture of the ring he bought me, that is being sized before we officially announce our engagement. I’ve never been so happy in my life.
We went to Paris last month, a place I visited with the actor and the law student ten and six years before. I felt the ghosts of my former self walking with me. How badly I wanted to tell the younger me that it is OK—no it’s better than OK—waiting was the best thing that ever happened to me! He was worth the wait and the tears. I sent fervent prayers of thanks to my exes for not marrying me—for not stealing the happiness that I now have from me. I whispered gratitude to the law student who was brave enough to tell me the truth about his intentions. I confessed that the still-small voice in my head and my mother and sisters were right all along—my time came and it was worth every instant my teeth had gnashed in despair.
I’m 33 now, and will be 34 on our wedding day this December. He’ll have just turned 36, of course. Ironically, it turns out, for me, this really is just the right age to get married.