One of the things that surprised me most when I came to college was meeting young couples around the area who met in college and are now married with children. For some reason, I’ve always had the impression that marriage was something to worry about after all the studying part of life is done (i.e. after I have the graduation certificate in hand with a job secured), but when I found out that people sitting in my classes could be married, I started to wonder if I should start thinking about marriage earlier on too.
Now, having entered my junior year of college, things are getting real. Some serious couples are starting to form around me (I’m secretly scared they might actually get married), and my parents are sneakily poking at me: “Do you have anyone you’re seeing?” I never have a problem with giving them a straight-up “no,” but the fact that they’re asking such questions doesn’t seem like a good sign. My dad, who has always been the type to tell me to stay away from boys, suddenly declared that he’s expecting me to get married within the next five years. That’s a scary thought indeed.
Apparently, I’m not the only one who started thinking about marriage. It is a topic that sometimes awkwardly finds its way into random conversations with my close friends. I often get pleasantly surprised to find that guys think about marriage too. But even as we talk about marriage among ourselves, there always seems to be a sense of fear — fear of the unknown, the unpredictable, what is to come, probably — that ends our conversations with ellipses.
As a college student myself, I can attest to how much the future stresses students out. It took me a whole year and half to settle on a major, only to realize that it wasn’t quite what I was looking for. Now, as a junior, I’m sitting on needles as I apply to and hear back from companies for summer internships. But marriage is a lot more serious than finding a major and a lot more complicated than applying for jobs. People are much more fragile, fickle and unpredictable than the economy, and a marriage is much more permanent than a career. Plus, you have to be in love with that person, whatever that means.
This is probably how the hookup culture got started. Since it’s too much stress to find that one person to be with “until death do (you) apart,” we find an alternative option that requires little to no responsibility whatsoever. It sure feeds the hormones with quick and noncommittal emotions and sex. It’s also the perfect option for this fast-paced 21st-century lifestyle, in which no one really wants to be too committed to anything, because everyone is committed to so many other things that are just as important.
So, what does marriage mean to those of us who live in the hookup generation?
We are so accustomed to single-use cups, bags, utensils, water bottles, price tags, makeup removers, contact lenses. Some of us don’t even wear our clothes and shoes for more than a few years. We’re obviously getting too used to the idea that we can conveniently throw out things that stop working and get new ones to replace them.
So my question for you, then, is this: Is marriage going out-of-date? I wouldn’t be surprised if 20 years down the road, people just stop getting married and live the hookup lifestyle for the rest of their lives — in fact, it’s already happening in some places.
There’s always that “awww” moment when you see an old couple, each member with white or no hair, who are celebrating their 70th anniversary — you know, those girls who were sitting behind you going “awww” when you were watching the animated movie “Up” in the theatre. “That’s so sweet,” people say. Nope, I’m sure the 70 years of living with each other wasn’t all butterflies, and I’m pretty sure there were more bitter days than sweet ones, as can be seen from my own parents’ celebration of 20 years of marriage a few years ago.
But the fact that they endured through the bitter times together, that they still chose to stick together in trust, that they saw each other mature through their own inhibitions and weaknesses — that’s romantic.
So you can see why I am hesitant about marriages. They are — or at least used to be — associated with a sense of permanence that is unusual in today’s world. But maybe that’s not so scary after all.
Editor’s Note: Sex on Tuesday will return Feb. 12.