[BIG FAT DISCLAIMER…This doesn’t represent my currently happily married friends, family, and the like. Your weddings rocked. You did it for the right reasons. I’m just wondering about everyone else…]
In the world of fashion, as in life, trends come and go. Last season’s Burberry is this year’s overstated plaid. Yes, even Seven jeans will lose their appeal as the next overpriced denim-designer comes into his own. Yet the latest trend that I’m seeing doesn’t involve cotton, cashmere, or even leather. It centers around one little bauble that all the gals are dying to have…the engagement ring.
In our parents’ generation, couples tied the knot quite early — women at the ripe old age of 25 should have just given up and invested in some knitting needles and a rocking chair, as old maids they were destined to become. As times changed, however, the impending nuptials got pushed back a bit, and society lightened the stigma attached to an unmarried woman by quite a few years. The 80’s and 90’s beckoned in the new powerwomen, unmarried, unrelenting, and unwavering in their belief that they could get ahead — and even start a family — sans hubby. Murphy Brown, Ally McBeal and the like, we were motivated by role models who gently nudged us to wait a little longer before tying the knot. The inundation of divorce statistics only strengthened this belief, as some reports had over 60% of marriages ending in divorce. Suddenly, single was en vogue.
These days, however, I see a new pattern arising, with the new haute couture item of the moment not the Balenciaga bag or the Marc Jacobs coat, but a solitaire-y item of jewelry — namely, the engagement ring. Hotter than a Prada on the side streets of NYC, us twirties are vying for our ‘rock’ like never before. As we see our friends take the plunge to the “other” side and the adage of imitation and flattery, we’re putting a lot of feathers in a lot of caps by rushing to the alter ourselves. Apparently, “I Do” is the new MUST do.
Guilty myself of ogling the gal in the next cubicle’s shiny bauble o’ brightness, I am still somewhat surprised by the number of girls I find getting engaged. Gone, it seems, are the days of heeding at least my Mom’s advice to wait until we’re older, since couples who get married after age 30 have a lesser chance of divorce than those under that magical age. Trust in love, I do, but hesitant I am nonetheless. In a perfect world, Prince Charming will come into our lives when we’re ready, when he’s ready, willing to do his part in the 2.5 kids and SUV plan we’ve been envisioning for the last 10-ish years. Yet sadly, friends not much older than I are starting to divorce, and forever after is developing a sour ring to it.
I’m sure that society has a role in this new Feminine Mystique — unlike the book with the same name, the resurgance of women looking to marry young as a way of satisfaction seems to be on the upswing. Fulfillment is being reassociated with our personal lives and our families, not just our jobs. We’re overwhelmed by images of lavish weddings in nearly every publication — even your local newspaper carries notices about John and Jane Doe happily tying the knot, riding into the sunset with the well-wishes of their family and friends to follow. Yet I’m afraid too often, we’re so obsessed with the IDEA of marriage that the very concept itself — the FOREVER unity of two people — gets lost in the bustle of bows and the trains of satin. We’re so concerned with one-upping our closest of friends with tales of 12-piece orchestras, $75 a head meals that don’t begin to leave hunger at bay and open bars overflowing with fountains of only the finest champagne that we forget why we’re really here.
In our attempts to emulate the celebrity wedding of the day, we may be overlooking the fact that marriage is more than a wedding. It’s more than a perfect, emerald cut 1.5 ct. ring set in platinum with cut and clarity to boot. It’s more than the promise of a house and promise of the forever after. It’s more than a reception, full to the gills of people you know and many you don’t, all there to dance and delight in your happiness while they feast on your Colin Cowie-ized Caviar. When you say “For better or for worse,” you need to be prepared for the worse, and for the worst. There are fights. There are compromises. There are challenges that you can’t even begin to touch upon as a singleton or even in a committed relationship. Suddenly, the annoying habit that his Mom has of calling every day is now the annoying habit of your MOTHER-IN-LAW. When you’re taking the ring and perhaps even taking the name, don’t forget that you’re taking the family and all that comes with it.
This is not to put anyone off on marriage by any means…I, too, anxiously await the day when in glorious bliss, pomp and circumstance, satin and sanctimony, my own Prince Charming and I will take that leap into the land of coupledom. I want it all just like you do, but don’t think I’m ready nor, to quote U2, have I found what I’m looking for. Right now, when it comes down to it, I want the ring, the house, the man, and the wedding, and until I’m ready for all that marriage is and may be, I’ve got my house. Have a great ring too. The man? Hell, honey, I’ve got a couple. And the wedding? I can throw one hell of a party, and while there won’t be caviar, I’ll double up on the crudites and throw on Darren’s Dance Grooves. A better un-reception has never been…
Happy post-Labor day, nearly-mid-week Tuesdayness,