Growing up is weird. In a few short years, I have gained the ability to drive, vote, enlist, drink, and consent to horrible things like legal contracts and intercourse. I am frequently left befuddled by the notion that I am one of the "grown-ups" I used to see around town, visiting home after being away at college. They were so old! They knew so much! I'm still a kid, and I don't know much of anything.
But I've noticed that, given this newfound adulthood, my friends are... starting to use it. The people who not too long ago were cutting class and watching stupid movies with me in the middle of the night suddenly have jobs, and pay rent.
And have "serious relationships." Real ones! With real people! Oh, man.
I am now older than my parents were when they met. This has had a profound effect on my interactions with the people that I'm meeting now; people act differently when I wonder out loud whether I'll be marrying them. Jeremy, sorry for the awkward moments.
But marriage, to the people I'm growing up with, is suddenly not an entirely outrageous proposition. I don't know anyone my age having children (on purpose), but I have actual friends picking out actual wedding dresses and apartments and real people things with the people they want to be spending forever with, and it's scaring me. Are we so real so soon?
Maybe we shouldn't be.
What's a 21- or 22-year old doing getting married, anyway? It seems so risky — no matter how well you think you know the person or how much you care about them, you really haven't seen them in action. Wonderful College Sweetheart might hit the real world and suddenly realize he'd much rather just move back home and get a job at Starbucks, and then suddenly his wonderful sense of humor isn't really as appealing anymore. Is it responsible for someone, as their first act as a genuine, real-world adult, to decide to marry someone? Can it possibly be a good idea to pick out a husband or wife before you've ever had to pick out, say, a mattress?
And to the people who have been dating the same person since they were 8 — I get it. You're the exception to the rule, I guess. But what's weirder, picking your life mate in English class junior year, or picking her on the monkey bars in 1996?
I'm excited for my engaged and soon-to-be-engaged friends. I'm also excited for the random classmate with the engagement ring in my English class this semester, and for the guy I saw studying in the student union with a wedding ring on. I wish you all nothing but the best. But I can't help thinking that this marriage thing has the definite potential to be used by more wreckless folks as another way for hyper-smitten couples to go a little bit farther off the deep end when it comes to being really into each other. What used to be capped at "spending too much time together" or, even worse, "talking about the other person too damned much," is now limited only by how impulsively you can ask someone to get hitched.
Readers born before the first Bush administration might think this is stupid, but these couples are everywhere — two months together in the spring and suddenly they're head-over-heels for this person whom they didn't know existed in the winter. It's a dangerous place to be — I know; I'm there too. But now we've got all this grown-up power to make big stupid grown-up decisions that seem romantic in their sublimity but are really just foolish in their naivete.
It's cool to be in love. But maybe making it official is best left to the actual grown-ups. Whoever they are.