Marriage is not the bogeyman

January 29, 2009

My younger brother wishes he could have an arranged marriage. A few weeks ago, he met an Indian colleague of my dad’s who is looking, half sarcastically but half seriously, for an eligible wife for his twenty-something son. My brother, a college sophomore, was enamored by the possibility of so easily finding a life partner—especially one who shares his background and comes packaged with instant parental approval. If we had only lived a century earlier in the Pale of Settlement, he could have consulted a yenta and had the problem solved.
My mom thinks he’s joking about wanting a ready-made match, but I’m not entirely convinced. The thought of a 19-year-old speaking fondly about any kind of marriage, let alone an arranged one, might surprise many people who have long since left their dorm days behind them. But despite all the columns bemoaning our generation’s choice of low-commitment hookups over dating—although anyone who has eavesdropped on a weekend brunch conversation at Leo’s knows that hooking up involves nearly as much anxiety as a relationship—marriage has been popping up in conversations with my college-aged and recently graduated friends with frightening frequency recently.
Over the last year or two, as my friends and I have ascended to the status of upperclassmen, marriage has morphed from a far-off joke into a lived reality for at least a few of our peers. An acquaintance from one of my discussion sections last spring got married over the summer; I lost track of a friend from freshman year until I noticed that she changed her Facebook relationship status to “Engaged.” With happy hours replacing house parties, and career choices taking over from next semester’s course selection in our conversations with friends, relationships might be the last topic that we’ve talked about in the same way since freshman year. But now those are growing up, too.
I regularly hear people, only half-jokingly, talk about vying for the Best Man spot in their roommates’ weddings or argue with a friend’s visiting long-distance boyfriend about the best way to propose to her. Even more indicative of our changing realities, there’s a very good chance that our current friends will be the ones we invite to our weddings. I’m definitely not claiming that everyone I know is rushing to throw themselves into marriage-destined relationships, only that with certain couples I know, when we say things like “Oh, they’re totally going to get married,” there’s a good chance that they actually might.
Marriage may still be a scary institution that many of us aren’t quite ready for yet, but I think that for most people, it is certainly not a source of derision or scorn. Most people my age have begun to accept, if not welcome, marriage as an inevitability that will become a reality. It’s only a matter of time.
With the possible exception of my brother, we American college students seem to have come a long way from the matchmaker, marriage-as-fate mentality of “Fiddler on the Roof.” But the prevailing belief that marriage is a good thing, one that many of us, straight or gay, aspire to, is definitely still a reality. And that’s nothing to be ashamed of, even if it means preemptively worrying about the ugly Maid of Honor dress you might have to wear in a couple of years.

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