Ryan Chartrand

Halloween is a week away, but I’m already spooked.

It’s not a soul-gripping fear, not an absolute terror instilled in my heart (but for some, the idea may be that frightening). It sends a chill down my spine, a shudder that makes my shoulders tense and teeth clench – and it has something to do with a figure in a white dress.

The figure being ME.

I’m not referring to a Bride-of-Frankenstein costume. Minus the electrocuted hair and bolts-in-neck bridal jewelry, the image of a wedding dress is scary enough.

Before you singles run screaming bloody murder in the other direction, and before the mobs of the affianced and married come after me with their pitchforks and torches, let me clarify myself.

I’m no ogre in my attitude toward marriage. I have my fantasies like every other conventionally-socialized female. My roommate and I love browsing the bridal magazine section at the Barnes & Noble downtown, gaping at the glossy pages of dresses and sleek washer and dryer sets. I have a place in my heart for the idea of a big, fussy wedding and a big, fussy wedding gown, “snow-beast” status á la Toula of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”

Of course I want to get married.

Someday.

But the pressure’s on like never before! As a college underclassman, I was mostly oblivious to the marriage phenomenon, except in the abstract, far-off future sense. For those two years I was still safely protected by the teen suffix.

But since July when I finally hit the two-decade mark, references to marriage have had a charged, more high-strung resonance in my ears.

For example, this line from a much-beloved movie (I can’t believe I’ve gone two whole columns without mentioning it!):

“I’m saying that the right man for you might be out there right now and if you don’t grab him, someone else will, and you’ll have to spend the rest of your life knowing that someone else is married to your husband.”

(Please tell me you know what movie that’s from!)

People are starting to tell us, “You’re getting to be that age.” THAT age? Which age? In this day and age, what age is THAT age?

The 2000-2003 survey by the U.S. Census Bureau reports that the median age at first marriage in the United States is 26.7 for men and 25.1 for women; in California, 27.2 for men and 25.2 for women.

That’s still older than the majority of the undergraduate population in general.

But should I start panicking? Atmospheric disturbances point to yes. A friend of mine has already been married for over a year – she’s 22. Several friends are engaged, and several more might as well say they are. Friends of friends spent their summers attending weddings of their friends, and of all these friends, nobody’s older than 30.

Is my clock ticking?

“No, the clock doesn’t really start to tick until you’re 36.” (The movie: “When Harry Met Sally.” New insight every time I watch. That’s a lot of insight.)

I’m not campaigning against marriage, by any means. I’m not even against young marriage, and I’m all for long engagements. If two people want to commit the rest of their lives to each other, and are willing to put in that kind of investment, why should anything deter them? Fellow twenty-somethings, get married all you want! Champagne all around! Sparkling cider for the underage newlyweds! (Sorry, kids.)

I’m positive lots of young marriages work out, and probably significantly better than a lot of marriages formed later in life.

All I’m saying is make sure you’re ready first.

Too many people (at any age) go into marriage thinking that the institution itself will change things, or fix something that wasn’t quite right before “I do’s” were exchanged. The happily-ever-after ideals we’re raised with are partially to blame. But the responsibility for the maintenance of a relationship falls on two sets of shoulders only.

Aside from marriage, just sustaining a romantic relationship is especially challenging in this 20s decade. There’s graduation (and post-graduation) to think about, and most importantly, most of us still have a lot of self-discovering left to do. How can you spend as-long-as-you-both-shall-live getting to know someone if you don’t know yourself that well?

OK, so I started off a bit dramatically. I’m not afraid of marriage at all, and let the record show that I’m certainly not afraid of commitment. What scares me is that people enter into this bond (which is supposed to last a lifetime) without thinking it through for more than, say, two minutes and 50 seconds.

As for me. for now, I’ll stick to bridal magazines. I’ll express my genuine happiness when another fellow collegian ties the knot (I can’t help but be girlishly giddy when I hear about it).

And I’ll comfort myself with the fact that I’m not yet 36, and I have plenty of time to get to the point in the movie when Harry puts it best:

“When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”

Sarah Carbonel is an English and psychology junior and Mustang Daily dating columnist.

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