What is it about women’s lives that seems so delicious and up for public consumption? Why does almost everyone I know think they have a free pass to ask me invasive questions about my relationship? Am I wearing a sign on my back that says, “Ask me when I’m getting engaged”? If so, can someone please remove the sign and throw it in a fire?
To back up a bit: My partner and I have been together for almost a decade. Together, we’ve lived in three states, four cities, and seven apartments. We’ve named our future dogs. We have medical power of attorney, share health insurance, and contribute to a savings account dedicated to buying our first home. I’ve never believed that there’s only one person for anyone out of the billions on earth, but being with him makes me think that maybe there is.
Sometime in our early twenties, people I’m not close to and wouldn’t volunteer details about my personal life with — extended family, former coworkers, acquaintances — started making googly eyes and asking me about marriage. They’d mention that Valentine’s Day/my birthday/Christmas was just around the corner, and ask whether I was expecting a special question. I’d deflect with a joke or just tell the truth: We both felt too young to be thinking about marriage.
The inquiries picked up a more urgent tone when I hit 25 — it was like everyone collectively agreed that 24 was the last acceptable age to be unmarried. “Are you hoping for a question?” became a concerned, “You must be going out of your mind waiting for him!” Or my least favorite: “Don’t worry. I just know he’ll ask you soon. You don’t need to feel sad.”
At first I tolerated these comments. But now I’m fed up.
The line of thinking that brings these unwelcome questions rests on three assumptions: my partner is the one who decides our future, we don’t communicate, and I want to get married. Frankly, these assumptions tell me more about the people making them than about my relationship.
They’re also incredibly gendered. Beyond the occasional playful ribbing to get moving on a proposal, nobody harangues my partner or makes him out to be the sad one waiting by the phone. Instead, people talk to him about his career, hobbies, friends, and the actual thoughts in his head. While he gets to be a person with interests and a future, I get to wait for someone to validate my existence by agreeing to marry me.
In reality, our relationship is built on a foundation of egalitarianism, which I cherish and would never compromise. If we do decide to get married at some point we would decide together, just as we’ve jointly decided the many other big changes in our lives.
I’ve simply never wanted a proposal in the down-on-one-knee sense — it rings false for who I am as a person. This is something my partner knows, because we’ve talked about it. We’ve also discussed our feelings about marriage, and thankfully we’re on the same page. No one is sitting around waiting for anyone else. In truth, neither of us is sure we want to get married.
I have no problem with the institution of marriage (and admittedly love weddings), but marriage hasn’t quite resonated with either of us. That’s not to say it won’t make sense down the road, but right now, what’s important to us is pretty simple: commitment, communication, and happiness. When I’m bombarded with engagement mania, I feel like I’m being told that our loving relationship is somehow invalid because we haven’t put on the suit and dress.
So to answer your question, Mom, Aunt Sue, old coworker, and weird person I met one time but still added me on Facebook, I’m not waiting for a freaking proposal. If I wanted to be married, I’d be married.
Oh, and one more thing. To the family friend who poked my uterus and said, “Not too much time left!” — keep your damn hands and dumb opinions to yourself.
Can we please talk about something, anything, else?