Saturday, 28 August 2010

Twenty-Five is Young

My stats counter collects such information as the "key words" that people type into a search engine before landing on this site. A very popular set of keywords is "twenty five and no boyfriend." There are varations, too, like, "i twenty five no boyfriend," and "i am 25 and i have no boyfriend."

When I was 25 I had a husband I couldn't stand, and I thought my life was basically over. I took up boxing, and when I read about fatal accidents in the boxing ring, I didn't worry. I didn't care if I got killed in the ring. I didn't care if my nose was broken in some horrible way. I didn't care if my face was pulverized. I had completely messed up my future happiness, so bring on scarring and fatal accidents. Bring 'em on.

"Honey," said my parish priest, once I finally got up the courage to tell him about all this and worse, "get out while you're young."

He wasn't talking about boxing. So, yay, liberalized divorce laws and, yay, canon law plus ecclesiastical marriage tribunals! The idea of getting married again was not why I began to write out my annulment petition within weeks of running away. It was because I wanted to be free, free, FREE!

Twenty-five is such a terribly dangerous number because for some stupid reason we have arbitrarily decided that this is the age when we women start getting old. In 19th century Canada reaching your 25th birthday was called "turning the first corner." And that's ridiculous: our lives are not squares. They are straight lines beginning at conception and shooting off, out of time, into eternity. There are no corners.

I wrongly married Mr. Wrong at 25, and I sacramentally married Mr. McRight at 38. I dated various men in between, some of whom I had chased down. How nice it would have been if I had just lived in faith that God would send me the Perfect Man for Me if and when He thought it best.

The most sensible thing anyone can say is "Father, Thy will be done." We should say it every day, every hour, with perfect trust that our Father loves us, wants the best for us and will send us what or who we need. Men, well, men do have to get out there and seek a wife, even if that wife is the Church. That is usually what being a man is. Women have to get out there, find a way to make a living, and see who turns up, praying always "Thy will be done." That is usually what being a woman is. I almost break into beads of sweat writing such a politically incorrect thing, but I really don't think women should pursue a spouse the way men should pursue a spouse.

When you are 20, 21 and even 24, 25 may seem as old as the hills. But it is not. It is young. In Christian tradition, the perfect age, the age St. Thomas believed your body will look like at the General Resurrection, is 33. And, frankly, that sounds like a wonderful age for a woman to marry, if she can stay celibate that long. By 33 your formal education is usually done, you've got some money in the bank, you know who you are, and you've got two clear years to have babies and some murkier ones, fertility-wise, beyond. Thirty-eight is not, fertility-speaking, ideal, but I'm not complaining. I turned 38 four months after I met my husband in person, not to mention four months after he became a Catholic and thereby finished the long process of becoming the Perfect Man for Me.

Ah, twenty-five! What beautiful skin I had! Sigh! (Put on sunblock before you go out today.) I bet I glowed like a pearl; most twenty-something girls seem to now. I didn't have a fabulous figure, though--that came when I was twenty-six and had lost 20 pounds. Sigh! I still had great skin at 26, too. Also at 27. And 28. And 29. Really, the decay did not begin until about 35 when, quel horreur, I could no longer afford the gym and began to drown my sorrows in Ben & Jerry's. Let that be a lesson to you. I still wear sunblock though, so the skin is nae sae bad.

Twenty-five in the West today--and, indeed forty-five in the West today--does not mean what it does in rural Afghanistan or what it meant in the West in 1810. We are healthier and younger-looking than either modern hill women or our own ancestors at our age. If we keep off the smokes, keep on the veg, exercise and beauty sleep, and avoid the damage sexual promiscuity inevitably brings, we are physically young for decades. Today the ravages of late middle age are, to a certain extent, self-inflicted.

Therefore, although I understand why thousands of 24 year old women shiver in horror at the number 25, I must insist that 25 is not the beginning of the end. It may not even be the end of the beginning. Twenty-five is young. It doesn't matter that you don't have a boyfriend. Get out there, work, save money, make lots of friends. Trust in God, and for God's sake, don't settle!

P.S. Girls, don't ever give up your dream of a husband who shares your faith. If you fall sincerely and maturely in love with a friend of another sect who is sincerely and maturely in love with you, then that is another thing. But, please, never think you have to give up and flirt with secular humanists just because there are more of them around. You are a precious jewel to be won and cherished, not to be squandered on the roulette table of "relationship."

Update: Hmmm...I wrote about this in July, too.


Cordi said...

This post is much appreciated, Seraphic, as I am turning 25 on Monday. Thanks!

Seraphic Spouse said...

Happy birthday in advance! I love birthdays--a marvellous excuse for champagne and cake!

leonine said...

I think you're right about this, Seraphic, and it's refreshing.

However, I remember the summer I turned twenty-five, when my best friend got married and I realized that most of my friends were married. It was a strange thing to look around and be so aware of being in the minority. I had expected to look around at thirty-five and see the vast majority of my friends and colleagues married, but I didn't expect it at twenty-five, and was surprised by it, somehow.

Seraphic Spouse said...

Golly! I'm surprised, too! Were they older than you, or were you in the Grotto at Notre Dame, or what? The opposite was true at, ahem, both my weddings.

Meanwhile, when most of your friends are married, it's time to make some more fabulous single friends!

My mum had me when she was 25, and if you had asked her if she'd rather stay home with me or go to a snazzy early 1970s style party, she would have picked the party in a shot, if she could have A) convinced my dad to go and B) found a babysitter.

So not trad-Catholic to say this, but women who marry really young sometimes get kind of wistful about the parties and trips and fun they're missing. That's what my mother said, anyway.

Seraphic Spouse said...

Personally, though, by the time I was 35 going on 25, I thought I should be DONE with parties!

Ironically...married life means even more parties, only with less pop music and more Faber hymns, fewer Cosmos and more pinot grigio, fewer girlfriendss and more bachelor pals...hmm... Is this like being an Ambassador's wife?

Amy said...

Preach it, Seraphic! Can't ever hear it too often.

I have come to realize that EVERY state of life has it's challenges. It's so easy to think that the grass MUST be greener on the other side of the fence. I think that we ARE happier when we are doing God's will than when we're not, but that doesn't mean that we'll be without struggles, painful struggles even, when we're following Him. Your post on gratitude illustrated this point.

Still, we all have days when we long for something else, and we're tempted to take a road that we think must SURELY be the road that leads to happiness. It's good to be reminded in posts like this that if "my way" isn't the same as "God's way" then we'll surely be miserable. Far better to "trust in the Lord with all our hearts" (Prv 3:5) and enjoy the good things He is giving NOW.

The Sojourner said...

I'm just commenting to say that I wore sunblock today, because I knew I would be outside for 4 hours straight. Are you proud of me, Auntie Seraphic?

Nekeisha said...

At 25 Boys/Men were the last thing on my mind. I was working on finishing my education, working and saving money. I had dreams of my own home (still don't have it), buying my own car (have it), being free. I had two disastrous relations before my 25th birthday. I am now 30 with 31 fast approaching and I am definitely looking and praying for Mr. Right, he doesn't have to be perfect just right for me. I think 30 is old, I want lots of kids and I keep mentally tick away my fertile years. So I think 25 is young. Maybe it's just because I am on the other side.

Seraphic said...

From the perspective of 39, 30 is kinda young too. But what do you mean by "a lot." If you mean 3, I think 3 might still be doable. It ain't over till it's over.

Soujourner, I AM proud! Good lass! Sunblock forever.

Christine said...

I'm 25, and I'm fortunate enough (depending on how you look at it) that most of my girlfriends are unmarried, and most of them are completely single. I don't feel like I'm in the minority. However, a few years ago, my roomate became engaged (and recently got married and a year later a baby), and that just made me feel old and unsatisfied, especially because I wasn't engaged to my boyfriend (soooo glad that didn't work out, btw).

Anyway, I just wanted to say that at 23 I was feeling like I was missing out, but now at 25 I'm feeling (mostly) fine. Again, I still have my struggles and crosses to bear, but God is helping me handle it, with the help of great girlfriends and your amazing blog. :-)

Maria said...

I just discovered your blog and have been so inspired and encouraged by it! I recently featured it on my own blog and am excited to share it with others.

As I am 25, I definitely can relate to some of these sentiments. Thanks for your wise perspective!

Andrea said...

On sunblock: I am sorry, but possibly the only "vice" I have is enjoying the sun. I am Canadian and it's only out for approximately four minutes on July 17. I come from a fine family tradition of sun tanning; my mother complains when I look too white. I enjoy being 34 and single. But you will never convince me that I'd enjoy it more if I were pastier. :-)

theobromophile said...

My public service announcement for the day: Planet Fitness has $10/month gym memberships. Granted, the gyms are usually in the suburbs or overlooking rather unfortunate cityscapes, not in exotic locales, but they are clean, fun, and... ten dollars a month.

Twenty-five didn't feel old to me. A lot of my friends got married that year and during the next few years, so it felt weird that my friends were getting married, but not old.

It does, however, feel like a looong time ago... not sure why on that one.

As for marrying: yes, 33 is a fine age to marry. So is 38. So is 25. Up here in Boston, we have the opposite issue from other parts of the country: a lot of people think that any marriage before the age of 30 or 35 is just terrible. Heck, I know people - women! - who say they want to wait for their late 30s to have kids, which strikes me as a bit like driving through a rural desert and waiting until your gas light comes on to start looking for a station.

So maybe we should take these Boston and New York women, throw them into the South, and take all the Southern/Canadian/"I'm 25 and not married" women and throw them up here. Level everyone out, maybe?