A look of pity and concern appears in people’s eyes when I tell them.
Don’t worry; I don’t have a deadly disease.
I am not engaged, nor am I eager to get engaged, to my boyfriend of five years. Judging from some people’s reactions, my relationship status might as well be a terminal illness.
Because I am a woman, I am expected to desperately long for marriage – or more specifically, a diamond and a walk down the aisle. People refuse to believe I’m not obsessed with such trappings. I assure them I’m not getting impatient with my boyfriend. Naturally, it’s assumed that the decision to marry is the man’s to make; as the woman, I am supposed to hope and pray and issue ultimatums. How could I be satisfied with my relationship as it is?
People’s skepticism grows stronger as time progresses. They’ve been together long enough, so what is the issue?! He musn’t be committed to her (like I said, the woman’s desire to marry is a given). Some folks perceive our unmarried contentment as a personal affront. Just what do they think they’re doing? Both old friends and new acquaintances reassure me that it’ll happen soon. Gah! People treat me like I’m not being honest with myself; it’s incredibly frustrating.
When I get self-depracating about it, I promise you it’s not because I’m just jealous. I am sick and tired of the pressure and pity; I think I’m entitled to a little sarcasm. When I visited my hometown this past weekend, my mother and grandma told me my cousin had gotten engaged. The “finally!” was understood. She and her guy have a baby together, and have been planning to get engaged. But since he could not afford a ring until recently, they had not been officially engaged. Why a ring is necessary to begin wedding planning is a topic for another post.
“It’s about time; that baby needs a name.” (!!!)
“I’m glad he did the right thing.”
“Oh, if only a man would validate me with a shiny rock.”
Then came the tongue-clicking. “I detect some jealousy!” my mother exclaimed.
“Right, I wish I could have an unplanned baby and a financé who proposed out of obligation.”
It went downhill from there. Yes, I am defensive when people (hi mom) project their own ideals onto me despite my protests. I am not proud of letting my irritation spill into disrespect of my cousin’s situation. My real displeasure is with the notion that any set-up is preferable to my own.
The relationship hierarchy is rigid, with straight marrieds at the top, engaged straights right below them, and everyone else in a heap at the bottom. Gays are buried underneath the totem pole, natch. Getting married catapults couples to the top, no matter the duration or health of their relationship. I resent that my relationship (and the relationships between other committed unmarried couples, gay and straight alike) is deemed less legitimate and unworthy of respect.
This screed is not anti-marriage. I might get married in the future. But I know such a decision will be met with sighs of relief and increased status as a woman, and that pisses me off. For now, please withhold the pity and the assumptions and the concern for my future. We’re doing just fine!