Like many little girls, I grew up dreaming about my wedding day. I had it all planned out. I’d wear a white dress with a lace bodice and matching fingerless gloves. You know, like Madonna in her “Like a Virgin” video, only I’d totally still be one. We’d be married in an elaborate cathedral as hundreds of our closest friends and family looked on. My husband would be rich, of course, and I would never have to work a day in my life. Besides, why would I want to when there were children to birth and raise?
Fast forward 15 years and I found myself being married in a chapel by a preacher with a glass eye, while 75 people wondered if we were serving alcohol at our reception. My husband’s career in law enforcement and my brand new degree in chemistry meant I was unlikely to opt out of the work force, and my white dress was not exactly indicative of my purity. The times and my ideas for my life? They had changed.
My decision to co-habitate before our wedding, to have premarital sex, to plan a quickie ceremony in a chapel — any and all of these would outrage my grandmother’s generation, but there is one choice I am slightly shocked to learn would outrage my own: the decision to get married in my early twenties.
According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, barely half of U.S. adults are married, a record low. If that figure doesn’t surprise you, let me put this in perspective. In 1960, nearly 70% of American adults were married. In that year, 45% of adults aged 18-24 were married, compared to today’s meager 9% in the same age range.
That is quite a drastic change to an institution many claim is at the heart of our values as a nation in only a couple of generations, don’t you think? You can’t turn on the evening news these days without coming across a soundbite of a politician vowing to protect our right to engage in holy matrimony, but is it a right that our generation even wants?
According to the study, yes. 61% of unmarried people want to be married in the future and even 47% of those who say that “marriage is obsolete” plan on tying the knot at some point just, you know, not right now.
There are those, like Belinda Luscombe, Time’s editor-at-large, who believe marriage is becoming a status symbol. Citing the fact that, in 2010, 64% of college graduates were married compared to 47% of those with high school degrees, Belinda says “marriage is now largely practiced among high-status, college-educated individuals, it may even be becoming more prestigious — the relationship equivalent of owning a luxury car.” I’m less convinced of this theory or, perhaps, if I’m being honest, I don’t like the sound of it.
There are those who might argue that people are putting off marriage simply because life is getting in the way. More and more women are entering college, securing high-paying jobs like their male counterparts, rendering them more independent than generations past, and not at all dependent on a man (with a marriage) to provide for them.
As a 27-year-old woman with a successful career in science, two children, and six years of marriage under my belt, I am having a hard time understanding this argument for putting off matrimony. I have never considered beginning my marriage and beginning a new career to be mutually exclusive. As a matter of fact, I believe my husband and I would both be less successful in our careers without the support of one another.
So, single ladies out there, tell me, what are you waiting for? Are there goals you must meet, places you must travel, milestones you must achieve before tying the knot? Your mother and I are all ears.
Amber Doty is the managing editor of Go Mighty, as well as a slightly eccentric wife and mother of two. Her interests include eating meals she had no hand in preparing, making formerly professional business meetings awkward, and perfecting the emotional outburst. One day she hopes to travel to all seven continents, but for now she lives in North Carolina happily equidistant from the mountains and the beach. You can read more from Amber on her blog, The Daily Doty.