there are 11 sets of parentheses in this post about marriage.

This morning I painted a canvas yellow, in preparation for a project I’m about to start. I’ve been obsessed with drawing jars lately, which is both difficult and strange. Inspired by G, I decided to use my canvases by the end of the month when I leave for Israel. Stay tuned for developments.

Per usual, there has been a deluge of weddings, births and pregnancies around me. The baby avalanche, while exceedingly unattractive to me, makes sense, since the babies seem to be the products of my friends who are my age, in their early thirties. It’s the weddings that are causing some palpatations, because the ones sprinting towards the chuppah are my former students, who are all of 22 (sometimes 21) years old.

It’s strange and alarming to be that marrying young seems to be becoming a Jewish communal norm. I’m sure this exists in other communities, but I’m talking about the one in which I roll, for better or for worse-the one that’s theoretically egalitarian, where shomer negia (the prohibition on not touching members of the opposite sex if you aren’t married to them) isn’t an expectation, and people (male and female) are devoted to the opening of Jewish texts and the exploration of the role of Jewish law in the modern world.

It’s an insane kind of peer pressure, watching your friends proposing to and marrying each other during your third and fourth (sometimes second) years of college. I’m not a fan of marriage in concept or practice for many reasons, (except, you know, as a right for all people) but the fact that this seems to be not only idealized but deemed appropriate in the Jewish community should be worrisome to people who aren’t me. It’s concerning that people (women, mainly) who are in their early twenties and not married or partnered are starting to panic, and that people who are in committed relationships may see marriage as the only way of continuing that relationship and therefore marrying before they’re ready (in case anyone is ever really ready). I’ve argued consistently that two straight people and a ketubah (wedding contract) do not a family make, but the Jewish community overall has decided that it does, and so it seems my pleas fall on deaf ears most of the time.

My fear is less that these young married couples will not be married in ten years (seriously, chas v’shalom), but that they are moving quickly into a space that makes them Jewish adults before it’s really clear what that means. There’s a huge difference (I hear) between dating and being married, and yet the Jewish community seems to have successfully created a situation where it’s all or nothing. If you’re really serious, you get married, even if you just graduated college ten minutes ago. It seems like a resurgence of the retro, these young marrieds, none of the “waiting until we’re 30 and established in our careers” for them. You get married first, and then you build your lives. Except that a long term committed relationship requires that people either grow together or be able to celebrate and sometimes pretend to celebrate the changes and growings of their partner. It’s impossible, in spite of what De Beers, Hallmark and Jdate, would have us believe, to be sure that someone is “the one” (a term that makes me nauseous) and will remain so. The best you can do is suspend your disbelief…for about 50 years, if you’re lucky.

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One thought on “there are 11 sets of parentheses in this post about marriage.

  1. YO says:

    I like hearing you thoughts about marriage, especially the talk about moving into an ambiguously defined adulthood. One thing I disagreed with tho is what I understood as you saying a life-long mariage depends on a belief In “the one”. Personally marrying young is a big value for myself and I don’t think marriage should be based on bashert, but rather making safety, challenge, and comfort in the context of life-long and monogamous commitment. I guess I’m wondering if you ever think it’s legitimate for someone to have young marriage as a value, for themselves and/or everyone

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