[dropcap]B[/dropcap]ack in the days of flower children and easy living, the ‘in’ thing was to get married at age 20. And yet, despite the incredibly early marriage date, many of our grandparents are still happily bound 40, 50, even 60 years later.
Marriage has changed dramatically over the past half-century. The 1960s saw childbearing as part of what The Atlantic’s Peter Berkowitz calls “the core of marriage’s social meaning.” But fast-forward 50 years and twenty-somethings aren’t focussed on getting married. In fact, the notion of walking down the aisle usually sits at the very back of the millennial brain.
Of course, to relay to your grandparents every Christmas that you got a bigger office isn’t nearly as exciting as bringing home that special someone. Our grandparents would sigh and remind us that they aren’t getting any younger. Grandpa would say: “Back in the day, before all this Instabook and tweet-tagging, true love existed. Your Grandma would always walk by the farm at quarter past eight, and I would smile at her while I tended Father’s fields. . .”
They would get married at 21 and would still be together some 40 years later. At this point, Grandpa would turn to you and say, “See, it’s not so hard!”
Well, Grandpa, it is.
For one thing, marriage is nothing like The Notebook. We don’t live in black and white while working the fields. It’s obvious that our millennial priorities have shifted. Despite the advent of apps that make ‘dating’ as easy as swiping right, we have a serious case of cold feet.
Since we’re all a little bit selfish, marriage gets set back while we figure out what we want.
There are those in the older generation who said “I do” as early as 18 and still find themselves very much in love. After growing a successful family, these sixtysomethings are now jet-setting to different vacation spots to relive a honeymoon forgone for their early families.
Meanwhile, 18-year-olds of today are just receiving freedom from asking to go to the washroom, are driving the highways for the first time, and are choosing the life paths they want, instead of the ones the government demands of them. In addition to upholding a steady job and reputation, we have no time to start a family. The hunt for ‘the one’ is placed on the backburner until our mid-twenties — but a degree, a few jobs, and a couple dates later, we’re already 30.
It’s a classic chicken and egg argument: our grandparents put the family first before their teenage dreams of success, while millennials are focussed on discovering our passions and fulfilling our dreams to pay off the crippling student debt that will accumulate during of our soul-search.
Further, our generation is arguably afraid of the word “commitment.” Getting married and living with someone is asking a lot from both parties, and since we’re all a little bit selfish, marriage gets set back while we figure out what we want. No one gets into relationships thinking of divorce five years down the road, so we push it aside. Fear and pride in tow, we’re on a neverending search for ‘soulmates.’
Somehow, the world has shifted our focus from love of each other to love of things. What may have been easy for our grandparents is definitely not the case anymore. Back then, there was little debt, fewer career options and less distractions — all things that prominently plague us today.
Guess Again, Grandpa! is a new weekly column in The Peak, in which Rachel offers her millennial rebuttals to her grandpa’s perspectives. Check back next week for new content!