Can you find your soul mate before you are old enough to legally drink?

IR.R.S. Stewart I now know eight people between their senior year in high school and senior year in college who are either engaged to be married or already married. It’s hard for me to imagine people I grew up or went to classes with are ready to settle down for the rest of their lives. What happened to college being the best years of our lives? Marriage seems somewhat incompatible with the lifestyles of most undergraduates.

According the U.S. Census Bureau, the average marriage age in 2000 was 26.8 for men and 25.1 for women, the highest average ages for marriage since 1890. The married and engaged people I know are younger than the national average. Some of them aren’t even old enough to drink, but they think they’ve found their soul mates. The average wedding costs $20,000. I can’t imagine how my friends will pay for a wedding, set up a household and finish their education. It will probably involve loans and heavy borrowing from their parents.

It’s a well known fact that 50 percent of all first marriages today end in divorce. Just the term “first marriage” is funny to me. It’s as if when some people are saying their vows they’re already thinking of their lives together as a “starter marriage” that is not meant to last. The divorce rate for those who marry between the ages of 15-24 is higher than the divorce rate for those who are 25 are older at the time of their marriage. Theoretically, if I check with the married and engaged couples I currently know 7.2 years from now – the median duration of marriage in this country – only four of them will still be married. In the face of such odds I don’t know whether to compliment my friends for their bravery or beg them to wait awhile to make sure they’re ready to get married.

I care about my friends, and I don’t want to see them hurt. I’m also worried about the effect their marriages will have upon our friendships. I wonder if I’ll be able to remain friends with both spouses if some of these marriages do end in divorce. I like to think that my friends will be the lucky ones, but I can’t help thinking that some of them are getting married simply because it will establish them as full-fledged adults.

At my cousin’s summer wedding, some relatives asked me if they’d have to prepare for my wedding soon. Although I’ve been proposed to (and that’s an entirely different story), I have yet to seriously consider marriage. I am a bridesmaid in another wedding. As I helped my friend pick out her wedding dress, her mother told me about how certain wedding dresses made her think of me. I am no where near marriage yet, because of all the marriage and engagements surrounding me, I’m starting to be associated with marriage. I don’t want that kind of pressure. I want to be young and free and independent.

The wedding of the friend I’m a bridesmaid for will be the most difficult. I don’t want to think of this wonderful woman I’ve known all my life changing her name and assuming a new identity. Although her wedding will be the start of life-long adventure, it will also be the end of a time in her life she’ll never be able to recapture.

R.R.S. Stewart is an architecture major minoring in journalism and women’s studies. R.R.S Stewart can be reached at [email protected]