By Kelli Korducki
Before I left my parents’ house for university, my father made me sign a contract he’d written up himself. It included a list of conditions under which he’d help me pay off my student loans that I guarantee he’s since forgotten. I don’t remember all of them, but one was to graduate with above a certain GPA (which I did) and another was to abstain from moving in with a boyfriend before graduation (which I didn’t). A few years later the crash happened, and then Scott Walker, and my dad’s loan relief promise fell through the same empty well as my pledge to feigned premarital chastity. Such is adulthood.
There are plenty of reasons for committed, long-term partners not to marry, and they needn’t even involve questions of “right one” -ness. Many—maybe most—involve the wedding itself. Weddings are expensive. Weddings are stressful. Weddings are archaic. Weddings are fleeting. Wedding planning is a time suck.
I enjoy attending weddings. I cry at them, every time, wrinkly pink cries that slant my eyebrows into Muppetesque ramps toward the chandeliers, or Pinterest triangle banners, or Mason jar lighting fixtures, or ceiling Jesuses of whatever venue the happy couple have chosen. They’re powerful—a public declaration to stand by the same person forever, which is a long time to stand by anything and even just to stand. But they’re heavy with expectation, and I don’t know a lot of people who handle that well. Which might be why, as my friend R recently told me, “Our generation doesn’t get married.”
It’s not exactly true. Our generation does get married, as my Google calendar will attest. But the generation-mates I roll with live in sin at least as much as they half-step down aisles, even when that means going against the wishes of religious or immigrant parents. For some of my friends, just dating pushed parental comfort zones. It certainly did for me.
Unlike in the U.S., where I'm from, here in Canada common-law partnerships are federally recognized. It's easier to put off signing paper on your relationship when a year's cohabitation grants most of the same legal benefits. But that doesn't make it any easier on families for whom living together before marriage is seen as the social equivalent of prancing down the street in nothing but a scarlet letter and fuck me heels.
I will get married, eventually. I'm not above tradition, and I think it's important to make a grand gesture when you're uniting a pair of families—which, for me, is really what the whole ceremony is about. But I probably won't tell my Catholic, immigrant grandparents about the several years' old shared apartment and three communal cats. Telling my parents was headache enough.