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The Marriage Divide

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Monica Hesse is a Washington Post staff writer. (Photo by Adam Cuthbert)
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By Monica Hesse
Sunday, September 6, 2009

The two responses I received last year when, at 26, I announced I had gotten engaged:

a) Oh, God, finally!

b) Oh, God, already?

Followed by:

a) Have you chosen your canape platter yet?

b) Is this because of a tax break or something?

And then possibly by:

a) Where are you registered?

b) Wait, are you sure you haven't been drinking?

Whether my friends answered a's or b's depended entirely on which time zone -- which side of the International Wedding Date Line -- they lived in. The IWDL is a complex concept that can be explained only by me (because I just made it up), but it comes down to this: On the East Coast where I live now, at least among most of my friends, getting married is something you do after college, after grad school, after your 30th birthday, after your second solo climb of Mount Everest, after you successfully balance your checkbook for 16 months straight, after, after, after. In other words, getting married at 26 is pretty much like getting married as a fetus.

In the Midwest, at least in the rural Illinois town where I grew up, getting married is something that you do before you begin to think of buying property, before your single-person routines make you stubborn and inflexible, before your metabolism slows enough that a white wedding dress would make you look like a rhinoceros. Optimal marriage age: 20 to 23. Getting married at 26 is like filing your tax returns on April 16.

So the Midwest friends were supportive, as if they were welcoming me into their club, while the D.C., Philadelphia and Boston friends were just dubious, as if the club I wanted to join was for insane people. When I broke the news to my New York buddy Jo, I sheepishly tried to hide it in casual conversation: " 'Real Housewives' was beyond ridiculous; Simon's pants are horri -- I'm-getting-married-do-you-want-to-be-a-bridesmaid -- fying, and did you see Alex's hair?" Then I called my Illinois friend Jeanne and went, "Eeeeeeeeeeee!"


CONTINUED     1        >

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