“You’re next,” she said as she pulled me in close for a hug.
Next for what I thought? To face the chop? To make a speech? In line to the throne? Of course I knew what she meant, she’d just celebrated her son marrying the love of his life and she expected that I would soon be doing the same.
I tried to sense her tone. Was it hopeful? Was it encouraging? It was well intending yes, but somewhere underneath it there lurked something else. Something I didn’t like. It was pity. I was the single girl at a wedding and this was my comforting, off the cuff remark to ease the apparent sadness I must be feeling at not having yet found a husband. I was the ‘poor girl’ without a date, sitting alone at a table somewhere, wondering why I wasn’t the one in the white dress…Except I wasn’t. I was happily toasting my freedom in between doing my best air guitar on the dance floor, still high on the success of a recent career triumph, happily shifting about in a tight dress, and hopefully oozing confidence with every step. Does this sound like something to pity?
You see dear Aunty, the problem is the assumption that I WANT to be next. Not every young woman’s dream is to rush down the aisle with her prince charming. Not every single twenty something is crying in to her pillow at night wondering where her proverbial knight in shining armor has got to. What’s right for one isn’t necessarily right for another. And I just don’t want to get married, not yet.
At the right time, with the right person marriage can be a wonderful thing and some day yes, I want to take the plunge and make that commitment but not tomorrow. Not next year. Right now I want to be standing behind a podium talking confidently about my passions, not at the top of an aisle taking vows. At the moment I’m just happy doing stuff for me, and only me. As corny as it may sound, for the time being I’m pretty full up on just being by myself.
To you those remarks were flippant, well meaning and I took them on the chin but to the less self-assured single girl they can be inflammatory, toxic. They may cause her to doubt her choices, to ask herself why she doesn’t want the thing society expects her to want. Isn’t it time we stopped telling women that the biggest thing they can do in life is get married? Isn’t it time we gave equal celebration to the women who just want to pursue a successful career?
Someone once told me that the way to deal with older relatives who say ‘You’re next’ at weddings is to start doing the same to them at funerals. You’ll know I’m not that much of a meanie Aunty but you must see the correlation that the way you likely feel about dying before your time is rather the same way I feel about getting married; I’m just not ready.
So Aunty if you’re reading this, next time, if we’re at a family occasion or out to dinner and some fierce female strides past- the kind of woman who’s blazing a trail through the corporate world, spearheading her own company or negotiating massive career success- that’s when a ‘You’re next’ will be much more appreciated.