By Erin Hobday
Sunday, April 26, 2009
The cater-waiters were relentless. I was trying to decide whether the guests at my spring wedding would prefer lamb chops or shrimp skewers during cocktail hour, and they kept coming by with more options. This was not a decision I thought I'd be making at 25, especially not on a Tuesday night while the magazine I worked for was going to press. But it was one of the hundreds of decisions I had been asked to make in the last six months -- peonies or lilies, pink chiffon or green organza, printed envelopes or calligraphy -- to create a dream wedding I had never really dreamed about.
I didn't expect to get married early. In fact, marriage wasn't even really on my radar until it smacked me over the head. But now I am a happily hitched 27-year old, living in a postage-stamp-size East Village apartment with a ring on my finger and a roommate for life.
As a kid, I was far more focused on what I was going to be than on whom I was going to marry or when. And I don't think I was alone in that. My generation didn't just hope to have it all, we knew that we could have it all. The authority figures in my world seemed to agree. I remember my European History teacher sending me a postcard after I'd scored poorly on an Advanced Placement exam. It said, "Perhaps you'll do better next year, after a certain distraction goes off to college." That distraction, of course, was my high school sweetheart. And when I went off to college, my parents encouraged me to go unattached, because a boyfriend back home could prevent me from fully embracing campus life.
At first, I listened. I made close girlfriends, and we did embrace life at college -- though maybe not quite how my parents had hoped. A few boyfriends came and went, but most of our romantic encounters were more comical than meaningful. There was the guy who, mid-makeout at his frat house, told me that he thought the Lord had brought us together. He became "the boy who loves church." So when I met Greg, the guy who would eventually become my husband -- I avoided him for a while. I actually liked him . . . a lot. And despite my best efforts, I wouldn't be able to cast him off as a fling.
Greg was persistent and eventually I fell, hard. Our courtship was . . . college. We went on a few dates -- Thai food for dinner, a movie here and there -- but mostly we did the same things we'd done as singles, we just did them together. Still, I also worked internships, studied abroad in London and spent time with just my girls. I was scared of letting my relationship keep me from missing out on any of the college experience, so I made an extra effort to cross all my "to-dos" off my list.
After college, Greg went to grad school in Syracuse, and I moved to Pennsylvania for my first magazine job. We had talked about trying to move to the same city, but neither of us was willing to compromise on our professional paths. We saw each other on weekends, which, I always said, was actually a perfect arrangement. It allowed me to focus entirely on work and myself during the week and enjoy my relationship on the weekends.
Of course, it was also terrible. We talked on the phone, spent innumerable hours on buses and in cars for weekend visits and blew countless dollars doing so. But even after Greg graduated and got a job in New York, I didn't want to move without scoring a position as good as the one I'd held in Pennsylvania. It seemed so foolish and old-fashioned to make a big life decision, like moving, for the sake of a relationship. And I wasn't willing yet to make my personal life the priority.
We talked about marriage during the years we spent apart, but I was reluctant to take the plunge. It's not that I didn't love Greg; it was more that the idea of marriage freaked me out. My sister had walked down the aisle three months after graduating from college, and her marriage crumbled after two short, difficult years.
Then I thought about my mom and dad. Unlike a lot of people my age, I have parents who adore each other and have a lot of fun together. I also realized that I'd done what I'd set out to do -- I had established a career and built a solid, secure relationship at the same time. Greg and I hadn't grown apart over those years; we had grown up together.
So one month shy of my 25th birthday, we became engaged. I was happy, if a little embarrassed by the whole bride business. I wanted to elope; Greg wanted a big traditional wedding (he won). I remember arriving at a family vacation soon after our engagement and my aunt crooning, "Hello Bride-y!" as I walked through the door. My sister mumbled to her, "I wouldn't do that if I were you; she's not going to like it." She was right.
A few people commented on our ages as we planned the wedding. Things like: "You're so young and sweet, we never see that anymore!" or "You're just babies!" We exchanged vows two weeks after my 26th birthday. I'm not a marriage evangelizer; my choices aren't right for everyone. And I still feel like an anomaly. Most of my close friends are unmarried. The tide is starting to shift though, in that many of my single pals want more from their relationships than a few fun months.
"Nine times out of ten, the men I date don't want to get married because either they already were, or they make up some excuse as to why the institution of marriage is lame," my friend Becky told me in an e-mail. "I feel like most of the guys I meet, even though they have careers, are still college boys at heart." Over coffee recently, after recapping her latest first date, she reminded me of how lucky I am to have found Greg when I did.
She's right, of course. And I'm even luckier that I finally figured that out myself.
Erin Hobdayis an editor at Self magazine.