A dear colleague-turned-friend of mine is planning to head to the jewelry store this weekend to pick out her engagement ring. She already has the wedding dress, potentially the new home and the rest of her future planned out. She was just waiting for the right guy to turn up.
She’s an interesting case, I think. I love her to death and she’s one of my few close friends here in Portland. I’ve seen her go through a really shitty relationship with another guy who was too scared to commit, to now being on the verge of saying “I do” to someone she’s known for less than four months. Their relationship has been in existence for such a short amount of time that I know the entire history of it down to the dates of each big turning point. They met online through a dating site in late September. Went on their first date a week or two after. Became inseparable after a month. Moved a majority of her things into his apartment the next month. By December, they were already house hunting and talking explicitly about babies. I have been in a relationship for a little more than five and a half years, my partner and I have talked about the same things, yet I was still overwhelmed just listening to her explain her plans.
I suppose I shouldn’t be that surprised at the quick pace of her relationship. I saw the signs early on in our friendship, which started only two years ago when I started at my job. We’re both in our mid-twenties, the age group where society is expecting us to have somewhat of a concrete plan for the rest of our lives put together. My plan being that I knew what I wanted out of my career, hers being that life would start when she finally got married.
Despite my hesitance in fully supporting her decisions, I can see her obvious excitement and happiness. Then I think, of course she would be experiencing such strong euphoria — this is her fairy tale come true. This is what little girls grow up aspiring for, meeting the man of her dreams, having the perfect wedding and living happily ever after. She’s fallen in love! So why do I have a bad feeling about everything?
The hopeless romantic in me — the one that has been overloaded by cinematic images of rom-coms and Disney movies — wants to believe that this is what she truly wants. But it also makes me think of the movie Mona Lisa Smile, where Julia Stiles’ character, smartest in the class and only person who has her head on her shoulders right from the beginning of the film, ends up bypassing Yale Law School to become a housewife. This character is such an accurate depiction of my friend in many ways. We’re both currently in graduate school, educated about the world, knowledgeable in our specific fields of study and yet I think, at the end of the day, her aspiration has always been to get married after she graduated.
But just like Katherine Watson (Julia Roberts’ character), who am I to make a judgement on someone else’s dream? Who am I to say when is and is not the right time to take that step towards such a sacred commitment? And though I have been with my partner for a certain amount of time, what qualifies me as someone who knows anything about relationships?
Of course, I want her to be happy. That’s my only wish for her. But I can’t deny the fact that it also breaks my heart at the same time knowing that she is capable of so many more things in life other than being a housewife. Not that there’s anything wrong with being one, let me be clear. But just knowing that she has the potential of being a great number of things AND a housewife, makes me feel as though she is selling herself short. Why can’t she do both? It is possible, as long as we have committed partners who are willing and wanting to implement an equal partnership of support in childcare, for example. I’ve seen several couples following this model of partnership, contributing in different ways to the home and relationship. I believe we have arrived to a place in society where these models are possible and attainable.
She once told me that she deserves the love that comes her way. That she needs to be able to accommodate to the love that comes into her life because we never know when a great love will happen. And the great love that happens just once, in her opinion, is the love that we must do everything in our power to maintain. We do the things we do for our significant others because we love and care for them, and if in her case that means making him happy as a housewife — that’s the role she wants to play.
That is where we are different. I see much more in my future, with the addition of, hopefully, a long lasting partnership of love and mutual support. In that future, there will be heartbreak, love, success, family, friends, careers, and a life of meaning and value. I am building that future right now, for me. Because I believe, that the most important person in our lives is ourselves. And if we can’t love ourselves or if we don’t know who we are, then how would we know of the type of love that we deserve or what we want out of a loving relationship? Maybe my friend knows herself already, although I’m hard-pressed to believe this, because who knows themselves through and through in their twenties? But if she does, then I am truly envious of her well-adjusted status. Maybe everyone who marries in a rush is very sure of themselves and what they want out of life. I don’t know. The only thing I do know is that I am deserving of a love and life that is meaningful to me — and I’m OK with holding just that, for now.