Breaking The Rules Of Engagement

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A lot of these engagements occurred over relatively short periods of time — after several months of dating — or roughly the same span it took to make up my mind about a cardigan I bought last year. 
 

To say I see a new engagement, marriage or baby announcement in my Facebook news feed almost every day is, amazingly enough, not hyperbole. 
 
I asked a friend about this, and by the time she responded to my message, I had already scrolled through two new postings — one for a new baby bump, the other displaying a diamond ring. 
 
I’m only 23 years old, but a fairly large majority of people I knew in high school and college are already engaged or married — and they did it fast.
 
And they did it contra established trendlines. Across the country, the median age of men marrying is 29.2; for women, it is 27.1, according to the United States Census Bureau — those numbers are the highest ever reported.
 
Maybe it’s a Southern thing, maybe it’s based on religions and traditions, or maybe the Florida heat just got to everybody’s heads one summer, but I think I missed the boat with this current craze. 
 
A lot of these engagements occurred over relatively short periods of time — after several months of dating — or roughly the same span it took to make up my mind about a cardigan I bought last year. 
 
I am currently single — happily and by choice, I might add — but should I be in more similar situations as my peers? 
 
I think comedian/actor Aziz Ansari says it best in his standup — hear me out, it’s really good — when he mocks how some people are willing to commit to another for the rest of their lives after knowing them for only a few months.
 
I honestly watch this standup special all the time because not only is it hysterical and easily accessible from my current boyfriend — he doesn’t want me to use his real name, but it kinda rhymes with “pet flicks” — but I truly believe in the meaning behind Ansari’s jokes. 
 
Even in the Jewish realm, dating and weddings come and go in a flash. This is more traditional, especially when it comes to Orthodox dating/courting, but scary fast nonetheless.
 
For most of my young life, as I’m sure many other young Jewish men and women can attest to, I have been the recipient of endless guilt — subliminal and otherwise — by my mother to marry a nice Jewish boy (i.e. doctor) and also eventually put her in a nice retirement home (irrelevant for this particular story but relevant to push the point of Jewish guilt). 
 
This doesn’t sound like a bad life to me, but what’s the rush? Is it really important to embed this idea into the psyche of a 6-year-old? 
 
Now this isn’t a dig at my mom — mostly because she’ll be reading this — but more of a question directed at Jewish society. 
 
According to the oft-cited 2013 survey from Pew Research Center, "A Portrait of Jewish Americans," 44 percent of married Jews who were surveyed — and 58 percent of those who have married since 2005 — said they have a non-Jewish spouse. "
 
I’ve dated my fair share of non-Jews, but I do believe in “marrying Jewish” for the purposes of strengthening and continuing Judaism for future generations. (Also, you can’t beat an NJB.) 
 
But is my success only determined by finding this nice Jewish doctor? I’ve joked a lot about Jewish dating before, but mostly with my personal, preconceived notion that I truly don’t need a significant other to be happy or successful. Sure, it’d be nice one day, but on a day when I’m old enough and ready and able to understand how to do my own taxes. 
 
I don’t want to sound pessimistic. I still love weddings. 
 
I follow wedding dress designers on Instagram. I love flipping through friends’ wedding pictures and seeing how happy and pretty everyone looks. I’ve probably seen every episode of Say Yes to the Dress, and I even got to brush by a Pnina Tornai gown when I bombarded the Kleinfeld Bridal store in New York City last year with friends (yes, this actually happened, and no, I didn’t meet Randy).
 
Marriage is a beautiful thing — for those who can commit to it. 
 
I don’t know where my negative view of marriage came from. My parents have been together for 39 years and both sets of grandparents for 56 and 62 years, respectively. No one else in my immediate family has been divorced. 
 
To those who got married right out of high school or college, I truly wish them happiness and hope it works for them. But the statistics don’t lie: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, of the more than 2 million people married in 2014, more than 800,000 got divorced. 
 
But honestly, I think my negative view comes from a fear of the unknown. Will I get married? Will I be successful? Will GrubHub ever deliver my food on time? All impossible questions to answer right now. 
 
In my core group of five friends, none of us are married, or even in relationships at the moment. That’s probably why we get along so well. We’re jet-setters who like to explore and live life — whatever that may mean — and don’t want the idea of marriage or commitment to hold us back from our current dreams or life goals.
 
So why is there so much pressure to get married in a time when the divorce rate has peaked in recent years?
 
Is my success only measured by finding another successful person to promise to put the toilet seat down and watch Gilmore Girls reruns with me for the rest of my life? 
 
Compared to a few other 23-year-olds I know, I think I’m doing pretty well. I have a new job, an apartment, tons of insurance paperwork that I was able to fill out by myself (which I consider a personal goal, of course with help from Dad), an active Dunkin’ Donuts membership card and my own Netflix account — just kidding, I’ll mooch off of that until the day I die. 
 
But I’ve gained even more independence than I thought possible in recent months, so why do I need a spouse to validate the status of that success?
 
Do I want to be married one day? Sure. Is it necessary? Only for tax purposes. 
 
Contact: [email protected]; 215-832-0737
 

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