A sad realisation this morning. Even if I were to somehow get a proposal before my 30th birthday (we’ve been together since I was 18; I’m 25 now), I’d probably still say no. You don’t take 12 years to decide to keep someone; a year of living together is plenty.
I know I have an attachment to the concept of marriage. We’re raised with it, with this ideal of sharing your life completely with someone else. What used to be an exchange of paternity and security has become an expression of shared commitment. What used to be the thing everyone aimed for has become optional, at least as far as men are concerned.*
This has a downside. No longer is the assumed future of a relationship a piece of paper stating union; it’s a mortgage and kids without that binding that cements the partnership. I, like many others, have had to resign myself to this. What do you do? For me, it was finding an acceptable alternative. Something that would make me feel as though I had grown up for real, instead of pretending like I do now.
My solution: a name change. When I reach the determined age, I will change my name. I will own a new self, complete with new middle name spelling.** My surname will no longer be my father’s; it will be mine. I’ll always regret not having my son’s name, but I’ve come to terms with never giving him a sibling as much as I have never sharing a name. He’s named for my maternal uncles and grandfather (they had the same name, not three different ones), and that’s good enough.
It makes me wonder, this dream we keep instilling in our children, whether we should. I’m not saying we should teach little girls (and boys; my own is a wee fairy princess) that no-one will choose them for life like in the stories. I’m saying we should maybe change the rules. Rules like ‘you have to have a diamond engagement ring’. Rules like ‘it’s the most important day of your life’. Rules like ‘you can’t call yourself ‘Mrs’ until you’re married’.
That last one is a particular bugbear of mine. I will forever be ‘Miss’ – no ambiguous ‘Ms’ for me – and it irks me that women can’t be addressed as women as a matter of age like we do men. We aren’t in the olden days, when women belonged to their fathers and then their husbands; we’re in an age where women can earn ‘Dr’, ‘Maj’, or ‘Cllr’ just as easily as men. Why, then, do we not start addressing grown women as such as soon as they attain adulthood? My other half (we need a new word that isn’t ‘boyfriend’ or ‘partner’) has been known as ‘Mr’ since he hit 18. My son will do the same (though when post arrives addressed to ‘Master’ it’s pretty fun). Why am I stuck with ‘Miss’? If I started calling myself ‘Mrs’, everyone (no, really) would assume I was married.*** We should really remove marriage as a rite of passage if it’s not going to be done by everyone.
Because a woman is just a girl until she gets a man. That’s what I really object to. Doesn’t stop me craving that piece of paper though.