My little sister is getting married in Las Vegas next month. It's just a small affair, our family and the close relatives of the guy she’s been dating since her freshman year of in college.
He has a super-exciting, high-profile career, and they’re looking to start a family and give me the nieces and nephews I’ve been longing for my whole adult life. She's very young, and while I’m past the age where everyone I know is getting married or having babies, none of the weddings or babies I've politely "ahh"ed over have been kin.
My sister -- oh, let's call her "Fizzgig" (As is custom here on XOJane: cheers to the reader who gets that.) has been engaged since last Thanksgiving. I was with her when she picked out the dress at David’s Bridal with my Mom and youngest sister. We all wept because she looked like a tall, porcelain goddess out of a Titian painting. (Fizzgig has the most beautiful red gold hair in the universe. Fact.)
We wept because we’re so happy for her and my boyfriend-in-law (nickname for her fiancé…CLEVER, RIGHT?). We wept because she was the first of my siblings to get engaged.
Alas, Fizzgig is six years younger than me. She turns 25 in February. I'm over feeling bypassed by people my own age who are already married and kidded up, and it's a whole new level of strange that my sister, who I still think of as my baby sister, is taking this step so far ahead of me.
It would be one thing if I didn't want marriage and children, but I do. It's not a race, obviously, but I'd be lying if I said there wasn't a small nagging voice in my head that finds it weird that Fizzgig will marry before me when I am older -- it's possible that I've watched entirely too many miniseries and marriage-plot novels, but you know the old trope about getting the eldest married first. I'm from a large family, and oddly, that feeling of being left behind has survived the centuries.
It’s a small voice and I don’t pay it much attention, but it’s there because society (OK, and Jane Austen) put it there. I can't help but think of Scarlett O'Hara's sister Suellen, without the whole husband-stealing part. “AND I’LL BE AN OLD MAIDDDDD!”
Like a lot of people who fall in love and decide to settle down young, there's no compromise for my sister. She got lucky in finding a partner so early in her life, before professional and social and geographic complications.
I have a job and an apartment and a ton of friends, and while I don't necessarily agree with those articles about how women have outstripped men as good partners, there's no question that it gets harder as you get older.
Personally, I've never met a woman who's willing to settle in order to have the home life she wants, or who even goes on a second date with someone she couldn't see being invested in, emotionally somehow, some day.
A significant number of us who missed the first round of weddings, myself included, still cleave to the notion that we would rather be alone than compromise, but that doesn't mean we've given up the desire for companionship and kids. This isn’t bullshit I speak to the darkness; this is how I’m wired.
I’ve been in love before, and broken hearted, before. I try not to reek of the desperation of women who hit their 30s and try to make “fetch happen” with every boy they meet, just so they can have a boyfriend and are on the road to matrimony.
So, if I believe somebody is out there, why is there still that little nagging voice? Well, parents, for one thing. Families put a lot of pressure on women to settle down, probably out of biological imperative. It comes from a good and well-meaning place, but it can be draining.
Thankfully, my parents are pretty rad and good at examining all of their 4 children with very different expectations. Fizzgig has been ready to marry her squeeze basically since she was 19. At 19, I was far too concerned mastering all the lyrics to Shaggy’s opus “It Wasn’t Me” and being with my college posse to have ever had that type of aspiration.
Marriage is the logical next step for my sister and her intended. I have been too busy with career stuff and traveling and figuring out what I want; Fizzgig has always just wanted her fiance.
One of my favorite Austen adaptations is the Emma Thompson/Kate Winslet “Sense and Sensibility.” When it came out and I was in high school, I identified with the sensibilities of the character of Miss Marianne (Kate Winslet): emotional, headstrong, impetuous and kind of insane.
I don’t know if I’ve turned into the “sense” of Elinor Dashwood, just yet…but if Hugh Grant is patiently waiting for me, and I can get a proposal where I make a guttural sound like I’ve been pitchforked even if my sister walks down the aisle in a shower of dubloons first, I’m a-ok with that.