I first read this post: “Life Before Marriage: Why You’re Not an Adult Until You Tie the Knot.” (Full disclosure: I worked with Kristin Koch at the bridal magazine she speaks of.) Kristin writes about her blissful years with then-boyfriend (now-fiance) sans that itch
most some women get whereby they are hopeful, hint, ask, pressure or force boyfriends to put a ring on it. She says her life was transformed the minute she became engaged, citing that co-workers respected her more, wives of her soon-to-be groom’s friends suddenly liked her, and she felt more like an adult. And that’s when the comments section on the Huffington Post piece exploded, with comments like:
• “My brain hurts…”
• “Make no mistake about it, you are just as bad as anyone who judged you for not being married…”
• “I don’t know if you sold out or not, but you sure make it sound like you did. It sounds like you chose to get engaged to get the hounds off your back, which, in my opinion, isn’t a good reason to do anything…”
Then, I read the rebuttal on Cosmopolitan.com by Rose Surnow, who must be a comedian because she had me on the floor laughing. She titled her piece, “Spoiler Alert: Everyone Thinks You Should Be Married” and theorized Kristin must live in a small town without a mall.
Well, she doesn’t. And neither do I. So, which team am I on? While I do agree with Rose that “it’s totally cavalier to say that marriage is the marker of adulthood” — because, hell, you’re an adult the minute you start to face adult problems and pay adult bills — (and if you don’t, f*ck you), I am on Kristin’s side about this overnight transition that happens the minute you become engaged. I was proposed to last summer by my two-year-strong boyfriend who I adore, and I felt the change too. I am not going to say that people respected or liked me more, but the tides turned.
Now, I have a theory that it’s not merely about the fact that you’re engaged — that’s not why people all of a sudden realize you’re an adult. I’d like to think that people around you, especially those who have hired you to do a job and trusted you with responsibilities, have always seen you as a grownup. Plain and simple, the reason your colleagues and acquaintances suddenly have a new interest in you has to do with familiarity, vulnerability and confidence.
The people that gravitate towards you after you announce your engagement are those who have been there, done that. Suddenly, they have something to talk to you about, from wedding vendors they used to wedding planning tricks they can pass along. Finally, there’s something you can discuss! People love to hear themselves talk; they love to give advice. Now they know something you didn’t and they can offer up their wisdom.
And by the same token, you’ve opened yourself up. When you were single, you weren’t going around telling people about your dating escapades, no. You weren’t announcing things like, “Oh, I am single and loving it, how about that…” Getting engaged, getting married, becoming parents — these are the most personal and yet very public announcements you can share with people. When you start revealing personal things about yourself to strangers, they tend to just gravitate towards you more and feel more comfortable to tell you things.
As for the notion that your co-workers and bosses start to take you more seriously when you get engaged or married, there might be something there. It might have to do with that ring on your finger, sure. But there is another factor at play — you. If you feel more like a grownup because you’re engaged, you likely are acting like it, too. If you start to take yourself seriously, others will also. It’s not a one-way street. You didn’t, all of a sudden, get more respect because a man asked you to marry him. A strong sense of self is really powerful, and for some women — not all — having a man who truly loves you gives you confidence.