It seems like marriage is an event that announces to the world that you are ready and willing to grow up and assume adult responsibilities. Even more than that I think that having children forces you to grow up because someone has to care for this child who is dependent on you for everything from food to clothing and shelter to every emotional need.
So, what about when you don't get married? That is something I have wondered about especially during the last few years. In some ways being single allows you to stay in a state of "post-adolescent dithering and self-absorption" and not join the rest of the world. When it is just you, you only have to worry about one person and one person's happiness each and every day. Selfishness is the name of the game. I'm not saying that all singles are like this, but I am saying that it is much, much easier when you are not saddled with a marriage and children to skip blithely through the world not attending to anyone's needs, wishes, hopes or dreams but your very own.
This is why I liked these two articles so much. The first titled "It's Time for Adults to Grow Up Even if They Are Not Married" is from a Mormon Times blogger named Beth Palmer and she actually riffs off an article from the Tomato Nation blog called "25 and Over." Both articles deal with what it means to grow up and what grown-up behavior is actually expected of anyone in the over 25 crowd. Things like writing thank you notes, being on time, and courtesy.
Ms. Palmer though poses some great questions when she asks:
The thing is, absent a marriage to force us out of our naturally self-centered state, how do we get there? Without entering into the institution that throughout history has served as the threshold of adulthood, how do we know when we need to start acting like we've crossed it?
I think why all of this matters to me is I've watched myself and others in my single state descend into this oblivious post-adolescent life of pre-nascent adulthood where we just coast. Okay, I just coast. Constantly coast. Things like forgetting gifts and thank you notes and not getting my own hotel room when I'm traveling and not thinking it is really important if I go to this wedding event or that baby shower because my mom or sister is going and they can share my love for me. Mostly it seems that being single lets you hide on the periphery in good and bad ways. The good ways are you can sleep on a friend's couch when traveling and sign your name with your mom's name on that baby gift and catch a ride with another carload on the ride to the family reunion because you are "only one more." So, you never have to absorb the full costs of your presence in this world. At least not as often as someone with a spouse and 2.3 kids and a mortgage. It is just easier to coast.
Thus the dithering in the liminal space before arriving at full-fledged adulthood.
Sometimes when you don't have a marital partner or little ankle-biters to push you in that direction, you have to start doing the pushing yourself.
Consider this my tender little shove in the right direction.