I recently read a follow-up article to a letter-to-the-editor of The Daily Princetonian encouraging female Princeton students to “[f]ind a husband on campus before you graduate,” because “[a]s Princeton women, we have almost priced ourselves out of the market … You will never again be surrounded by this concentration of men who are worthy of you.”
First, I would like to say that this woman seems a bit bitter, and that’s not really a good starting place if you want people to listen to your prescriptive advice about choosing a life mate. Aside from that, there isn’t a lot of data to back up her contention: it’s just incredibly unlikely that a Princeton graduate will never find another man “worthy” of her. Beyond these initial hurdles, the follow up article also rightly points out that the error in this way of thinking is that it assumes “that [female undergraduates] should have their life partners effectively picked out by the time they’re walking out of Fitzrandolph Gate at graduation,” but of course “[s]ome people are ready for lifelong commitment at 22. Many aren’t, and my hunch would be that most recent Princeton graduates fall into the latter camp.”
I would like to expand this last observation to basically all recent college graduates – you certainly don’t have to be a Princeton graduate to grasp that you may not be emotionally ready, at 22, to embark on a lifelong commitment to another 20-something who is similarly an emotional ball of dough awaiting formation into a masterpiece. The current “debate” over marrying young (whether you’re pro or con or indifferent), is just getting ridiculous. As if, as young women, we don’t have enough things to feel shame about already, the internets would also really like to drive home the point that you are incapable of making a good choice about a relationship or your emotional development (as though there aren’t already enough people just hanging out in relationships that they hate because it’s just too much work to get out of them.)
I graduated from two institutions of higher education while in separate, serious relationships, and I was blind-sided by the difficulties of transitioning out of my sheltered academic life and into the world of work. Both of these relationships ended (although the second picked back up and my contributions here are based on this new, exciting phase of the relationship). With the benefit of hindsight – I can see exactly why things happened the way they did: I graduated, hated my first job out of school which led to an existential crisis, and ultimately all of my navel gazing made it impossible to carry on a relationship with another person.
Luckily, I’m not 21 anymore, or for that matter, 25, which is hold I was at my graduations. Almost three years on, and unwilling to take on more debt to go back to the safety of school, I have finally found that inner peace that just comes with forming your emotional ball of clay into something that can – at least from the right angle – be recognized as human. It’s nowhere near complete, but it was enough to feel that I could now commit to someone and, fortunately, the person I wanted to be with was able to see that our history didn’t have to dictate the parameters of our future.
Now, it just so happens that this is someone that I met in school. But, it was grad school and I think that’s an important distinction. As I mentioned last week, he is older and had already spent some time in the “real world” to become something closer to an emotionally-developed human. I, clearly, still needed some extra time to develop a “robust inner life,” and a lot of that involved being on my own and working things out for myself. Once my emotional ball had a torso, though, it was much easier to understand the contours of the appendages and how they fit into the bigger picture. Good relationships help shape these other parts by providing the support and guidance that you need to understand that you may be flawed, but you still deserve to be loved by others. And, the weird thing is, once you accept that other people will love you despite your flaws, you learn to love yourself.
So, take whatever time you need to get comfortable in your own skin before you attempt the whole #oneflesh thing. 30 is approaching faster than I imagined, and even though there is still a lot to look forward to, it’s hard to not feel like I’ve somehow missed out given the ease of constantly comparing yourself to others that social media encourages. But, I am able to sleep at night because I know that I couldn’t have been the person that I am now even one second sooner, and, once I was ready, I found someone to help shape the person I will become in this life (and, assuming Larry David doesn’t have undue influence over the decision, for eternity).
Thank you WeHeartIt for the image!
Valarie is from Georgia. No, she doesn't have an accent. No one in metro-Atlanta really does. You can read her thoughts, using non-regional diction, at thinkingaboutdoing.tumblr.com.
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