September 8, 2009

Taking the Long Route

Around the time that this post will go up, I will be celebrating another birthday as well as my first month as a newlywed. As one of the older bride bloggers in recent memory on Weddingbee, I figured that I would talk about being a slightly older bride. I've definitely appreciated Miss Star's posts about being a younger bride (here, here, here, and here). Since I've got a couple years on her (okay, like, a whole lot more), I thought I would also provide some perspective on the other end of the spectrum. I know that I am not the oldest bride/newlywed ever on Weddingbee, but I think being a bride marrying well after the national average of 26 years old for women in the U.S. has some specific joys and challenges. One of my primary motivations for writing this post is that I often feel like sometimes there is this sense that there is a self-destruct button when one turns 30, especially for unmarried women. Well, I am here to let you know that I been to the mountain top, and the view is fine. :)

How did I get to be slightly older bride? I don't know because I surely didn't plan it! I actually didn't meet Mr. Swan until I was 28. I spent most of my 20's without so much as a boyfriend. I definitely went on dates and had some significant romantic entanglements, but I had not had any long term committed relationships since my early 20's. Actually by the time I met Mr. Swan back in late 2005, I had not even had a date for about eleven months!! I was at the point in my life where I didn't think I was going to get married, and to be honest, I was pretty okay with it. I had definitely made my peace with the idea of not being married and was relishing a life of complete, adult freedom. None of my friends were married or engaged; my family is not full of married people; and so I did not have what I like to call a "culture of marriage" surrounding me.

Granted, I think when and how you get married is a product of a lot of different social forces. I think it's a function of where you live, your social groups, life choices; you name it. Based on my quick, unscientific sociological research, I am probably a pretty prime candidate/statistic for later marriage: (1) I have lived most of my life in the Northeast, which regionally has a later marriage rates; (2) I've lived in major cities almost all of my adult life; (3) Women with a college degrees (or more education) do marry but on average a few years later than those who do not; and (4) for what seems to be a variety of sociological reasons (someone can write a book on this topic, and I think they are) Black women are the least married group with only approximately 52% married by the time they are reach 30 (contrast that with apparently approximately 81% for white women and approximately 77% for Latinas). I was a stat, and I didn't even know it.

Being a slightly older brides has its joys and challenges. Here are some observations from this side of the age spectrum:

Pressure (or pity) from Family or Friends - I have been pretty lucky that Mommy Swan, my other family or friends have never really made me feel inadequate because I was single through most of my 20's. I can't say that's true for many women that I know. Whether through pressure or passive-aggressive comments from family (and perhaps some friends), many women have to deal with a society that subtly tells them often that they should be married preferably not too early but also not too later either.

Pressure from Within - I feel we all judge ourselves a lot. I know I am probably my worst critic. I think women especially give themselves a hard time about what they should be accomplishing by when and how (I do this constantly about my career), and I know that the "Oh no, I'm not married by 30!" conversation has happensed at some point for many women I know. Whenever I mentally start down this path, I try to remind myself that I am at the place where I'm supposed to be when I'm supposed to be there. It doesn't always help, but it stops my internal least for a little while.

Starting a Family - As you can tell by simply adding one to my age in my profile, I am now 32. I will be the first to say (especially since I have no choice) that there's nothing wrong with having kids in your 30's. While I agree that women shouldn't take their fertility for granted, children born to slightly older women can still be healthy and happy. This is all to say that I already know that I am going to be slightly older mother than the national average (although not here in NYC based on some trips to the park), but I am okay with that. Mr. Swan and I recognize the life shift that will happen once we have children, and we want to ease into it. We know we don't have the luxury of waiting for a very long time. Well, actually, we can wait, but we are well aware that there are some possible consequences for doing so. When I get worried about being an older mom, I just think about Michelle Obama.

She looks pretty good for having two kids when she was in her mid and late 30's.

A Little Bit of Experience Under the Belt - I am sure that anyone getting married is happy with the timing of their choice, but I do feel that getting married a little later has allowed me to have experiences that I am glad to have had. I've traveled a ton, lived alone (and loved it), worked hard and learned a lot about myself. I think you can definitely enjoy and grow from many of these same major life events while being married, but I think having done so on my own will bring a little sumthin' to my relationship with Mr. Swan.

Anyway, I just wanted to represent for the brides "gifted with a few extra years of life" out there in Bee Land. Regardless of our age, I think we should be happy that we've found people to share our life!

No comments: