The older my daughter gets, the more constant the flow of advice that marriage be delayed becomes. People seem absolutely consumed with constantly reminding her that she should not marry until she is at least 25. This advice usually comes peppered with assertions that she has education to accomplish first or that she won't know whom she is before then. I'm not at all concerned whether she marries before or after age 25; that's not the point. When her husband comes along, she'll marry him. What I am concerned with is the degree to which our society has sold out to the idea that marriage is all about the individual.
But then, upon consideration, it all makes sense. I mean, marriage is all about me, right? It shouldn't interfere with my efforts to secure for myself a career that will make me happy and the sowing of youthful oats that will make me happy and time living alone focusing entirely upon my own wants and needs that will make me happy. Marriage is okay, as an afterthought, as long as it doesn't get in the way of the full focus of my life: making myself happy. It shouldn't be inconvenient. It shouldn't require self-sacrifice like putting a spouse through school or staying home with children to actually raise them or getting up in the middle of the night to go to the market for cold medicine. It's okay as long as someone perfectly designed for me inserts himself into my life -- once that life is already completely formed to make me blissfully happy--, because life is all about me. Marriage is kind of like children--it's fine, as long as it doesn't inconvenience me, take away from the most important focus in my life (me), or include any sort of caveat indicating that I might have to accommodate, sacrifice for, or pour out my whole self for another.
Any sort of reminder to well meaning advisers that there was a time when people routinely married young and set about the business of creating families is met with responses such as, "yes, but that was grandparents. Times are different now." Well, yes--yes they are. Now folks routinely engage in sexual activity and the creation of children outside of marriage. We now have a divorce rate over 50%. We now regularly pay others to raise our children. We now have 43% of American children living without their father--which is fine, because only 71% of pregnant teenagers lack a father*, only 90% of homeless or runaway children are from fatherless homes**, and only 63% of youth suicides come from fatherless homes.** It's not like there are ill effects for this fatherless generation. It's working out well, this culture of me.
I mean, in the wake of the sexual revolution, that pesky marriage thing does not need to be tied to my own pursuit of sexual satisfaction. It's not like there's any merit to that old fashioned idea of giving of myself sexually only to one man with whom I share a lifelong commitment. I can have children who have one biological father and three temporary live-in fathers before age ten without doing much damage to them, right? I'm sure children can tell the different between legal divorce and the termination of a "live-in" father-child relationship with mom's "boyfriend" in which they have lived with a man for a year, had breakfast with him, seen him sitting in the bleachers at their soccer games, and watched their mother go to bed with him each night--and I'm sure they adjust their degree of resultant emotional pain appropriately.
I don't know. I used to think that marriage was a vocation -- something we were called to. I was sold out to the idea that marriage was about family and a about a lifetime of selfless giving to another. I used to think that this was ultimately what brought happiness, since if one was engaged in selfless lifelong service of the happiness and well being of another with the same values, then one was blessed with a partner who was doing the same for her too. I used to think that spending more than half of my life with a partner with whom I have grown up, shared common goals, and felt the security of unconditional love was something pretty wonderful--but no, now I'm convinced that I had it all wrong. Thanks folks, for straightening me out. I now see that you were right -- young people should live a little before they tie themselves down and give themselves over to the life-ending entrapment of marriage. I mean, it's not like marriage itself is the very stuff of life. Problem is, now it's far too late to turn back the clock, change my direction, and find true happiness. Besides, I've got this guy tied to me whose whole life is about serving me and our child. I think it would be tough to get rid of him in order to finally be blissfully happy.
Pax Christi dear ones,
I'm so terribly sorry that I've previously misled you,
*US Dept. of Health and Human Services 1999
**US Dept. of Health and Human Services Bureau of the Census
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