I read this article today which implied that there’s an epidemic of women marrying in their 20s and divorcing soon after. The article interviewed women from America, mostly excerpts from a book called Trash the Dress: Celebrating Divorce in Your Twenties. There are no real citations or facts on the rates of divorce and marriage in your twenties, so it’s all purely anecdotal. I suspect the title was just to lure people in so that they could promote this book.
Why young women only? Do the men passively agree to get married and then speedily divorced as well? Or are they merely figures in this story, rather than an equal player? I’m also a bit baffled at this untested assumption that women in their twenties are all going to marry men, rather than perhaps, marrying women, or staying in long-term committed relationships without the slip of paper.
What interested me more than the terminally bland article were the comments on it. The common theme to the comments was that young women were doing this because they “have no respect” for the institution of marriage, that they are frivolous, think it will be a walk in the park, and have no idea that marriage equals commitment. They contend that these women collectively do not think through the importance of marriage.
I can’t speak for any woman other than myself, but I can tell you that I have a great deal of understanding of what marriage entails, considering that I worked my fingers to the bone fighting for people like me to be able to participate in it. I also grow weary of every single generation’s assertion that the one that came after them is frivolous and lacking in critical thinking and processing skills. There are even poems in the Carmina Burana which consist of hand-wringing about flighty young people. Nothing’s different about this generation, and certainly nothing is different about the one that came before them clucking their tongues and judging harshly. It’s as certain as the first blades of grass in spring.
Three anecdotes are not enough to form a conclusion about whether or not women are marrying and divorcing in the span of a decade. And there’s not enough evidence in the world to base conclusions on why they get married or why it didn’t last. But the most disturbing part of it to me isn’t whether or not it’s happening. The disturbing trend is this anxiety about divorce and thinking that a woman’s life is shamefully altered by a first marriage turned sour, and that we must root out the cause of these young marriages and see a stop to them.
I’m reminded of Marjane Satrapi’s grandmother in Persepolis, who, upon hearing that Marjane is divorcing from the husband she married at 21 because he casually said, “We should get married”, and a wish to avoid the morality police’s pestering, dismisses Marjane’s concerns and tells her not to fret. Being a three-time divorcee herself, she insists that the first marriage is merely practice for the second one.
I’m fairly young myself. I’m not yet getting married until I’ve got a bachelor’s and the promise of an M.A under my belt, am sure that I’m ready for it, and have the money necessary to throw an unforgettable wedding, which I estimate will mean marriage in my late twenties. If things down the road don’t work out though, and Jaime and I end up divorcing, I’m not going to be weeping inconsolably about what a dreadful mistake I made and how my future love life will forever be marred by this. I’m certainly not going to chalk up the theoretical failure of my theoretical marriage to my theoretical physicist girlfriend to some larger social trends at play. Neither should anyone else.