I’ve been thinking a lot about the teamification of women lately (post coming soon). I’ve been thinking about how single women are pitted against engaged women, who are pitted against married women. I’ve been thinking about it because of the intense way that it ramps up during pregnancy, with everyone (childless/childfree/infertile/trying/pregnant/new moms/experienced moms) on a different team. But the thing is? For me, as a woman having a hard pregnancy, some of my most solid support has come from my childfree and currently-experiencing-fertility-problems friends. I could write several essays trying to figure out why, but the simple fact is that it’s true. So reading Maddie’s ode to her friends that never want to marry (I have loads of friends like this too), I was struck with gratitude. We all hold each other up, and we shouldn’t listen to the narrative that tries to rip us apart.
Yesterday was my anniversary. It’s been four years since I took my first grown up day off from work so that Michael and I could sneak off to City Hall and get married “for the insurance benefits.” And three years since our wedding, where we solidified our legal commitment with a ceremony that was so joyful it literally felt like being inside love’s mouth.
It’s an interesting thing being the first of your friends to get married. We were so young when we did it that Michael and I never felt any of the cultural pressures surrounding marriage that we talk about here so often. If anything, we experienced a little of the opposite from those who thought we might be too young (though luckily we didn’t get too much of that). And for a while, we were the only ones we knew who were even entertaining the idea of marriage, so the institution felt a little like it belonged to us exclusively. (Ok, and billions of other people across the globe too, but who’s counting?)
But these days my Facebook wall is blowing up with announcements of my former classmates getting engaged, getting married, having babies, and now I don’t feel like so much of an anomaly. And it’s kind of weird. If marriage used to feel like it belonged to just me, now it’s part of the collective conscious of my social group. And with the presence of social media, I feel like we are all aware of each other’s weddings and marriages in a way that wasn’t so ten or twenty years ago.
Which isn’t to say that this bothers me. It’s just peculiar in the way that it’s peculiar going from being an only child to being part of a big blended family. My frame of reference is off, but not necessarily in a bad way.
But I can tell it’s getting to my friends. You see, I might have gotten married at twenty-two, but I was definitely the odd man out. Most of my very best friends are men and women who aren’t sure that marriage is ever going to be the right choice for them. And now that they are hitting their mid-to-late twenties, they’re starting to feel the push. The “doesn’t it seem like everyone around me is getting married” push. And while I’ve always supported their choice to not pursue marriage, I’m a little afraid that by the very nature of my being married, I might represent that push too.
And part of the problem is, of course, that I don’t have a way, socially, to show my support for these friends. (Other than perhaps not setting them up on dates they don’t want to go on, or ever giving them the “One day it’ll be your turn” face.) I mean, there’s no “Congratulations for doing what feels right for you” party that comes with penis straws and tiaras.
And yet, it was my non-marrying friends who were the most supportive of Michael and me when we got engaged. (I think I called one of them up immediately following our engagement and breathlessly asked, “I’m engaged! That’s ok, right?!”) They threw parties in our honor just because, and they asked the world to celebrate for us. They served as our witnesses, our maid of honor, our best man. And they cried harder than anyone else when we said our vows.
And while I’ve had countless opportunities to tell Michael how I feel about him these past four years, I haven’t had the chance (not publicly at least) to tell my non-marrying friends just how much their support means to me.
So today, the day after my anniversary, felt like an appropriate time to do so. And maybe, to return the favor.
Dear Friends Who Think They May Never Want To Get Married,
First, let me say thank you. Thank you for supporting Michael and me over the past ten years, when we first started dating in high school, then when we decided to try a long-distance relationship in college, and then when we decided to get married at the oh-so-mature ages of twenty-two and twenty-five. You never tried to convince us that we wouldn’t succeed together, because you don’t buy into the bullshit that love should follow a set of rules, or that everyone has to follow the same path to happiness. And I love that. In fact, Michael and I never would have made it this far without you there reminding us how important it is to do what feels authentic to us.
I’d also like thank you for the incredible support you showed us during the grueling process of planning our wedding. Thank you for not hesitating for even a second when we called you up and asked if you’d play witness at our impromptu secret elopement. Thank you for saying yes when we asked you to be our best man and maid of honor, even though you hate wearing ties. Thank you for staying up until the wee hours of the morning making invitations with me, for an event celebrating an institution you’re not even sure you believe in, because even though you don’t believe in the institution, you believe in what Michael and I have together.
In the next few years, you might come under some fire for not “settling down.” I want you to know that I’m ready to call bullshit when it happens. I need you to know that I don’t think you ever need to get married, if marriage is not what you want for yourself. I promise never to treat you like you’ve failed at some test, or like you’re an incomplete person, just because you haven’t succumbed to monogamy. And I promise to stand up for you if my family, or your family, ever suggests that marriage might be the next logical step in your life (because it’s not, unless you want it to be).
And in the next few years, if the world tries to make you feel less proud of your accomplishments, because you’re still “missing” part of the equation? I. Will. Shut. That. Shit. Down.
And if you do one day choose to get married, for whatever reason, I promise not to treat you like I knew it was going to happen all along. Because that’s just obnoxious.
In short, I promise to support you in all the ways that you’ve supported me, and to do it without question.
And if you ever call me at six o’clock in the evening on a Wednesday and ask me to buy up thirty pashmina scarves and take them on a flight to Maine for you, I won’t even bat an eyelash.
Photo by: Eve Event Photography