What’s the worst that could happen? It’s both a question and a moving target. An answer that is entirely subjective, changes with age, and is our mind’s most clever way of freaking us out for nothing. Once the “worst” happens to you, you typically realize it’s not all that bad, and here’s what’ll really toast your bagel: sometimes the worst is for the best.
“If we’re not married by the time we’re 40, we’ll marry each other.” Who didn’t make that pact at summer camp or an awkward eighth grade dance? Not being married by 40 was life’s little dead end, and rather than weather it alone, we might as well be with someone we’re not romantically attracted to but who at least likes the same movies. I’d love to meet two people who followed through with this, at some point.
I used to think not being married at 30 was a nightmare scenario. Forty? Are you kidding? Where will I summon the will to live? Can you imagine anything more indicative of a wasted life than a human being who hasn’t bound themselves to another human being via little imaginary handcuffs by the time the greeting card aisle at Target thinks they’re old? I really lived in that shallow reality for a good three decades or more. Today, I’m 41, I’ve never been married, and I’ve never been happier. Though I will say, summer camp was pretty fun.
I’m supposed to feel shame, right? We dress it up and call it failure, but in the end it’s just shame. It’s just embarrassment over the way we imagine other people view us, and talk about us when we’re not around. We can’t stand the idea of people looking at us with pity, thinking to themselves how glad they are that our lives didn’t happen to them. Not married by the time you’re 40? How humiliating. But let’s think about that.
Humiliating. That’s all it is. There’s no reality of not being married by 40 that spoils your life like forgotten vine veggies. What you’re actually experiencing when you’re single at 40 is a completely customized, compromise-free life. There’s no constant effort exerted toward another person, or toward relationship maintenance. There’s basically a good amount of free time and and an absence of bickering. I struggle to see what’s humiliating there.