Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Marriage Shoes

Believe it or not (hint of sarcasm), I often get responses of shock and bewilderment when people discover that I'm married. This bewilderment often increases when they realize that I am not a "fresh" newlywed. (I know being married for 2 1/4 years doesn't exactly make me a seasoned pro, but most people assume that I just got married). Most commonly, I get these sorts of responses when I meet people at school. It's not that I am surprised to get such responses, I do realize that being 22 and married for over two years does serve to exclude me from the norm. But, what I do find interesting in these responses are the underlying beliefs about marriage that are sometimes revealed.

One thing I find interesting is that as soon as a classmate, student or professor realizes that I am married (and have been for two years) the first question they ask is, "do you mind if I ask how old you are?" Hmm, I thought that it was socially inappropriate to ask a woman how old she is? Apparently this rule is void when you come in contact with someone who looks far too young, yet still claims to be married. I think most people ask me this because I do not look old for my age. I have always looked a fair bit younger than I actually am. So then, when people find out that I am married and think I look too young, they sometimes think that I must be far older than I look. As well, in university you can never safely guess how old someone is based on their year of study because many people have taken time off school, come back for a second degree or switched programs part way through their academic career. I love the look of surprise when they discover that, no, I am not really that much older than I look but that I just got married young. One time, I actually told someone that I was 33 when they asked me this question just to make them feel uncomfortable for asking. :)

I also think it's amusing when people ask me what it's like to be married while I'm in school. I understand why people ask (like I said before, I know it's not the norm) but I think it's interesting because I don't really have an answer. I usually respond by saying, "I don't know. What's it like to not be married while you're in school?" Now that I am married, and have been for a few years, I only know my life in terms of my marriage. I can no longer separate myself from my marriage. My lived reality revolves around being married. That being said, I cannot say what it's like to be married and be a student because that is just how it is. I know nothing else now.

Once again, I am not suggesting that I find it peculiar that people are surprised that I am married. I spend most of my time with other university students, most of whom are not married or even thinking of marriage and many of whom are not Christians. What I do find surprising is the extent to which people feel like they can ask me quite strange questions just because I am married. For example, some of the most common ... How do you manage your finances being married so young? Did your parents get mad when you decided to get married? Were you pregnant when you got married? Why didn't you just live together for a while first? In my opinion, most of these questions are probably considered inappropriate to ask to someone who you barely know, however, you'd be surprised how many times I'm asked.

The reason for this post is a comment that was made to me by one of my student's in the course that I am a teaching assistant for. It happened a few weeks ago in class and has been on my mind since then. During class, one young woman must have caught a glimpse of my wedding ring. This is usually the way people come to find out I am married, since I stopped wearing a sign that says "I'm married" a few months ago when I got tired of the questioning :). During a small group exercise, when her group was finished discussing the issue that was assigned, she leaned over to me and said "Are you married?". "Yes, I am", I replied. And her response ... "Oh that's SO cute!" Cute? That's so cute? I'm married, and that's cute? She could have told me my new haircut was cute, or my shoes, or my purse. But, my marriage? Let me be honest, sometimes my marriage is anything but cute. Regardless of it's cuteness or lack thereof, the way she described my being married as SO cute it made it seem as though it was a new, trendy accessory that I was trying on.

This comment got me to thinking about how marriage is viewed and handled in popular culture and society today. For many, marriage is viewed as an accessory, if you will, that you can put on when it's in style and as soon as it's no longer trendy, you can leave it in the dust. You can try on marriage and if the shoe doesn't fit just right, hey, no big deal, you can get a new pair. We see this in "5 minute celebrity marriages" all the time. Marriage is no longer viewed as a sacred gift from God or a lifelong commitment.

Many people don't realize that I did not get married so I could wear a beautiful dress, get a load of gifts, and have a piece of nice looking insanely good looking eye candy on my arm. Rather, I got married because Evan and I made a decision to love, honour and commit to each other for life. Not until we get bored, not until something better comes along, not until the shoe no longer fits, but for life. We both highly value marriage and family and thus, getting married young was the right choice for us.

Marriage is not a cute new pair of shoes. It is not a style, a fashion, a trend or an accessory, it is a commitment that should be honoured.

Disclaimer: this post is not meant to be disrespectful to the young woman who made the comment. In fact, she is a very bright, kind young woman who also happens to be a Christian. I cannot say how much or little she values marriage. I am sure she meant no harm from the comment. Rather, I am using this comment as an example to demonstrate the way I think our culture devalues marriage.


Tereasa said...

L- This was a wonderful post! I love to hear you think. You're so good at it. ;) Really, though, even though you look young, you have always been more mature for your age.

I cannot tell you how much good it did my heart to read your words about your decision to marry young. You and Evan are like sister and brother to us. Your marriage commitment is very important to us.

Kristin said...

I hear ya Linz. It passes, generally when you're in your late 20's you don't get quite the same reaction...unless they probe further to find out how long you've been married :-)
Oh, did anyone ever tell you that you write like you're some kind of academic researcher or something?