Back in secondary school, my friend Sally used to say how she did not plan be to be married until she was around 27 years old. I always thought she was just trying to be outlandish on purpose. Who knows, maybe she was. But, I still used to think she was a bit weird for thinking that way – 27 is so dangerously close to 30…and we all knew what 30 meant! …Or at least, we knew what we had been taught it meant.
We learned that 30 meant going from “a maiden” to “an old maid.” 30 meant going from being referred to as “young woman” to “unmarried woman”. 30 meant, away with university-age and in with married-with-a-kid age (so, if you’re not there by that age, you’re malfunctioning somehow).
This is an idea that I think should be deprogrammed from our minds. I mean, if you’re a woman or man married with kid(s) by 30, good for you! Congrats! But no one should be put down, or made to feel like a failure, sitting on a time bomb just because they’re not there by that age.
I have been the unfortunate witness of this notion being expressed by one of my old Secondary School classmates who happened to be male. We were just having one of those casual, “where are you now?” and “what are your plans?” type of conversations. I told him I was going to pursue an MA/PhD, and his first reaction was, “so when will you get married?” At first, I wanted to tell him off, but I decided to be polite, and just make a joke so we can both laugh and move on from that kind of questioning.
But he was so bent on his intent, that even after I had laughed it off, he decided to end the conversation with this gem; “Well, just make sure you get married by 25, okay?” I wasn’t sure how to react to this, because I wasn’t entirely sure what I was feeling. The way he even phrased it as a helpful hint/advice was both rage-inducing and utterly amusing. I felt a weird combination of rage, shock, amusement, and disappointment in that instant, and I had to take a moment to breathe so that I wouldn’t say anything I would come to regret.
After taking a breather, I asked him if he was planning on getting married by 25 as well, to which he, without hesitation, replied that he would not be ready by then, and he still had to revel in not being tethered to a woman until he was about 30. I hoped he would see the hypocrisy of his outlook, but I don’t remember if I pointed it out to him or not. Honestly, the rest of that conversation is now a blur to me. I lost interest in anything else he had to say or ask, and did not invest in the conversation anymore.
Funny enough this notion does not apply to men in quite the same way – why should it, right?
We are indoctrinated into this idea that if men are like fine wine that gets better with age, then women are like egg salad (you really don’t want that aged).
I’m not saying we should also impose these same expectations on men, neither am I endorsing that George Clooney lifestyle for anyone – I’m simply saying, don’t put people down for not meeting your marriage-age expectation (especially if they’re not your children). And if you’re at that close-to-30 age and the pressure is piling on, just remember that desperation makes for some horrible decisions – stay calm, and stay happy!