I was going to title this “Why Being Single in Your 20s is Not the End of the Goddamn World,” but that perhaps seemed a little too dramatic and perhaps like I’m attacking everyone who wants to get married right out of college. For the record, I’m not. But here’s the deal:
I have some beef with marriage.
Marriage can be great. In fact, in it’s purest form, marriage is one of the greatest things in the world. The idea that two people commit themselves to being each other’s best friends for the rest of their lives, regardless of all of life’s crazy twists and changes — that’s pure poetry. I personally would love to be married someday.
However, I don’t know if that’s going to happen for me. It’s not something I am necessarily pursuing, nor is it something that I personally take into consideration when thinking of my future plans. But that is not my beef.
My beef lies specifically in the complete normalization of marriage, and the idea that those who aren’t married or in a relationship aren’t living a full life because of it.
This is problematic for a couple of reasons:
The idea of getting married is engrained in the minds of young children (especially young girls) every single day. Not only this, but it is ingrained in their minds as the only natural course. It also normalizes a “traditional” marriage between a man and woman, which furthers the notion that a girl’s worth lies in how many men find her “marry-able.” We give girls Disney films about princesses to watch (all of which end with a wedding), we give them dolls like Barbie that come with male counterparts like Ken, and books that subject their female characters to sick love triangles, dooming them to the fate of blindly following men through life. Growing up, I was glad to take part in all of this. I enjoyed fantasizing about my wedding, what kind of dress I would wear, and who the lucky man would be. Only, I became uncomfortable when I realized that my life wouldn’t necessarily turn out that way. Every day I wasn’t in a relationship was another day I felt excluded from a norm I had always embraced.
More and more focus is being put on the wedding rather than the marriage. Upon graduating, it seemed like people were getting married left and right like it was the end of the world. I was invited to four weddings this summer alone. And while I love a good wedding just as much as the next person, I fear that some people are too focused in how well the wedding day turns out rather than the fate of the relationship of the two people being celebrated. A picture of your engagement ring coupled with a caption reading “I said yes!” is guaranteed to be the most-liked post on your Facebook ever. Any friends who don’t like and comment are frowned upon.
This pressure that we put on women to get married can lead to an unhealthy mindset. I have seen myself and so many of my friends fall into the trap of thinking about ourselves and our futures in terms of real or potential significant others. When my friend broke up with her boyfriend sophomore year, she was beside herself, crying about how she was scared to end up alone. And that’s probably the worst problem of all:
We equate being single with being alone.
But here is why being single in your 20s isn’t the end of the goddamn world, and can actually be really great:
You get to be selfish. Your twenties is an extremely turbulent time — you’re finally out in the real world figuring it all out. You have a lot of decisions to make. Being single at this time opens up a lot of options for you. You don’t have to take any other person into consideration when it comes to where you want to live or what you want to do. You have the freedom to find your own way.
You don’t have to feel the pressure of settling down. Not only is there a pressure on girls to get married, but there is also the pressure to have kids shortly after. And while not every married couple chooses to have kids right away (or at all), that pressure it still there. Being single, you can really focus on your career and wherever it may take you, you can date around and see who you’re compatible with in a real world setting, and you can really figure out what you want out of life and when you want it.
By the time you do want to get married, you will have saved up enough money to make it perfect. While I personally frown upon overly-garish weddings, I do believe that your own wedding day should be an unquestionably amazing and memorable. And if you wait, you can actually have enough money to make it the perfect day that you’ve always dreamed of.
You can figure out who you are as an individual, not as someone’s partner. This is perhaps has been the most important to me. I’ve been single for a long time. And while I don’t necessarily know where I want to go yet with my life, I have a strong sense of self. I’ve seen some friends of mine hold on to relationships they didn’t even want to be in for far too long simply because they didn’t want to be single. It’s like their relationships were simply marking time. Yes, I would like to be in a relationship, but only if it means something better and more fulfilling than being on my own.
So, if you’re single and in your 20s, don’t fret. You have so many opportunities and so much life ahead of you. This is the time to find yourself. This is the time to figure out your place and what you can contribute to the world. And if a relationship comes along, that’s great. But if it doesn’t, know that being single doesn’t mean going it alone. Surround yourself with friends and do the things that interest you most. Chances are, along the way, you’ll meet someone that will make your heart soar. And you’ll know they’re the one because you know exactly who you’re looking for.