What does being 22 mean to you? Starting a career, traveling, or just consuming a little too much alcohol (but having the stamina to match)? For me, 22 has meant all of those things. I’m a young graduate with the world at my feet, GSOH and not a single gray hair in sight. Oh, I got married a month after I turned 22.
Before writing this article, I sat and reviewed articles about “the perks of getting married at a young age” from other big websites (who shall remain anonymous, for the fear of starting an Internet snark-fest). They suggested things like there being “less baggage”, the fact we might have grown up together, and twee generalizations like, “you’re proof that maturity comes at any age.” None of these points are entirely true or untrue, but they don’t exactly strike a chord; trust me, when we’re both lying in bed with crippling hangovers on a Sunday morning, I certainly don’t feel “mature.”
I can’t prescribe a set of absolute norms that Couples Who Get Married Young will typically experience or adhere to. Sorry to let you down, ye clickers of clickbait, lovers of listicles, fillers of the curiosity gap. Because, honestly, I’m still curious as to how my dear husband and I ended up as we are right now, deliciously muddled as it may be. I could bore you for hours about the intricacies, starting with our fairytale-romance-turned-long-distance-hell-struggle, the “open relationship” phase, the discussions of the future, the proposal, the immigration, the budget wedding, the marriage. But all that stuff—the good, bad, ugly stuff—added up to a whole. It’s complicated, just like all relationships. It doesn’t fit into neat little boxes. So if you’re looking for someone to throw you a bone and say, “Hey, get married, it’ll look good on you” … I apologize, but I can’t pat you on the head and reassure you that your decision to get married under the age of 25 was a good one.
But I think mine was a good one.
Daily life as a Married Woman is … honestly, not all that different from daily life as an Unmarried Woman. Apart from the dark and foreboding prospect of a future committed to one person, life plods along just as before. Being married, in all honesty, isn’t all that different to being in a live-in relationship. I mean, there are minute differences, of course: I can no longer bail on social events that “we” are invited to just because I don’t feel like it, and sometimes I do forget that the “Amy Byrne” I see on paper is actually me. But really, all that being married means is that I get to hang out with my favorite person all the time, we get to make plans for grand adventures together, and there’s always someone who wants to get Chipotle with me.
Is that painfully naive of me to suggest? Of course. Because, on paper, I am Too Young, and therefore I have noticed that many people are automatically inclined to dismiss my marriage as the spontaneous decision of two over-eager young adults. Very often, I meet strangers at work who tell me I look too young to be married. I tell them I am 22. “Still too young,” they say, with a solemn shake of the head. I smile and ask if they have a rewards card. In my head, I’m throwing soft fruits at their car. And then there’s the folks who post viral articles written by hot-headed college seniors who still get their Mom to come and do their laundry once a week, the kind of articles about why smoking weed and eating pizza is lyf and getting married is for fusty, old-fashioned losers who clearly don’t know anything about feminism anyway.
Sigh. Without taking my age into account, it saddens me deeply to see so many pervasive misconceptions about marriage as an institution. It’s as if saying “I do” is followed by a small print that states a woman must give herself up to her dastardly, scheming male master, don an apron and resign herself to a lifetime of wilted dreams and soiled diapers. Changing my surname clearly makes me an un-feminist puppet of The Patriarchy. And, of course, spending a lifetime with one person sounds more like a death sentence than a cause for celebration.
And then we foray into the “age thing”. How dare I make light of such an Important Life Decision?! How dare I gloss over all the hard parts and tell people that I’m happily married, when I am Clearly Too Naive to know if marriage was the right choice? And, of course, how dare I tell other people about my nauseating coupled-up happiness? Don’t I realize that Being Single Is Awesome Too?!
For once, I want this to be my turn to speak without being fobbed off as a brainwashed domestic bimbo. Look, friends: I hate to burst the bubble, but marriage has actually been really awesome. We go on dates to children’s movies late at night when there are no kids about, my handbag bursting with Dollar Tree candy. We get too drunk and share boxes of takeaway fries in bed. We scare one another and play-fight and cry with laughter over ridiculous in-jokes. Being married is, ultimately, a ton of fun—more rom-com montage than funeral dirge.
In all seriousness, though, being married worked best for my husband and I in our very particular situation. We didn’t want to get married for the sake of getting married. We didn’t have a big, fancy wedding. We both were very happy being single. We both do silly things, and we both do responsible things. We both have grand plans for the future, and we’re working on them: individually, and together. We’re a team now, and we root for each other, and it’s awesome. We’re aware that there are many more years for things to shit the bed, so to speak, but we’re determined to be optimistic, to continue being delighted with one another. So, yes, it really cuts deep when people try and identify every single fault in the situation rather than just sitting back and saying, “Hey, you guys seem really happy, and I wish you the best of luck.”
And I won’t pretend that being married is all fun. God, no. I’m not that deluded (or a liar). I don’t love all of it. I don’t love all of his friends. I don’t love his PS4. I don’t always love his job. I don’t always love how our lives revolve around his job. I don’t love how far from home I am. I don’t love the residual bitterness of past mistakes. And, yes, between you and me, I do miss my last name.
But taking the bad with the good is the essence of life. And there is so much good. I love the perpetual pun war we’ve got going. I love having a very distinct, indecipherable language with another human. I love being with someone who happens to have very finely calibrated Amy antennae, and can swiftly deal with all of my social bungles before they’ve even happened. I love these aspects of our relationship, of course, but at the end of the day I am only in this situation because I love him. In many ways, he is my BFF and I love the fact that he’s always there. Ultimately, he is the best human being I’ve ever met. Together we’re more functional, we have more fun, and we bring out the best in each other.
He is exactly the person who I plan to spend the rest of my life with, and I am looking forward to it.
If I could leave anyone with one resonating moral of this story, it’s not that getting married at 22 is the right thing or the wrong thing to do. It’s just—to thwart the immortal words of T-Swizzle—the thing that we were feeling at 22. And the haters will probably continue to hate (hate, hate), but I hope the best for their relationships, so it makes perfect sense to me that they’d wish the best for me and mine. I’m 22 and married, and others might be 16 and pregnant, or 40 and a virgin … and I couldn’t give a hoot, as long as they’re happy. Which is exactly what being 22 and married has made me.