“Wait, you’re married? But you’re so young!”
This is a phrase I hear all the time. I’m actually quite tired of it, though I imagine that it will decrease with time (Because I will be getting older). The answer is yes. Yes, indeed, I am married. But I don’t feel that young. To everyone’s credit, I do look several years younger than I actually am, so the people saying this to me probably think I’m in my early 20s when in reality I’m in my mid twenties.
Men and women are waiting longer than ever to get married in America today. This is all over headlines all the time these days. Marketing firms and old people are freaking out about it.
The average age of marriage in America for the year 2017 was 27.4 years old for women and 29.5 for men. To give that context I made this graph of ages since 1970. In 1970 the average age of marriage was about 20 for a woman and 23 for man. Since then it has seemed to go have gone up roughly a year each decade. I found it interesting that in 1890 the average age was actually higher than in 1970 at 26 for men and 22 for women so this trend does go away if you go far enough back.
But anyway, this graph clearly shows that the age has been going up for around 50 years. But why? Why is it going up and what has led the world to asking me questions, demanding to know how I could possibly be married at the ripe old age of 25? I mostly get this reaction from Generation X and Millenials. If I talk to Boomers or even the Silent Generation (my Grandma) they seem to think that it was about time for me to get married at 25. In fact, my grandmother has been busy fretting about me not being married since I turned 21. When I turned 25 she called me an old maid even though I was engaged and was getting married in just a few months! (Thanks for the delightful compliment Grandma!)
When I was a teenager I noticed a strange trend in people getting married. I have no data to back this up but it seemed to me that everyone just serially dated and then married whoever they were with at age 28. They married whoever they were with at 28 even if they had in the past dated someone else who they were better suited for. I watched my older brother go through this, I watched my cousins go through this, I watched friends and friends of friends all do this. I decided I didn’t want to be like them. I wanted to marry the right person whenever they came along, if that meant getting married at 20 or never getting married. I kept that bit of information in the back of my mind as I went to college and encountered a culture that seemed simultaneously terrified and fascinated with marriage. Everyone seemed so worried about marriage as if it was some big scary topic. I noticed the same trend that I had noticed when I was younger, but it seemed like the age was creeping up towards 30 instead of 28 like I remembered when I was younger. I was taught not to talk about it. It was in the future, it wasn’t something to worry about right then.
And then I met my future husband and everything changed. I had been in relationships before but it was different with him. I instantly felt as if he had been what I was missing, like he was a home I had never had. I didn’t feel like I ever chose to marry him, I just knew I had met my future husband. It wasn’t scary, it just felt like it was the way it was supposed to be. I knew he was the one so I wasn’t going to wait around for years and years to be some “appropriate” age in order for people to approve of me putting on a white dress and saying “I do”.
I feel like people equate marriage these days with “settling down”. Our generation is bombarded by articles documenting how your 20s are supposed to be full of adventures and indecision. There are long lists of things you have to do before you’re married. But I don’t see it that way. To those lists I call BS. Marrying my husband was not the end of something. It was simply me meeting my life partner and wanting to start living my life with him at my side. And I would have done that, regardless of what age I met him.