When I was in middle school, I would daydream in class. My notebooks were filled with games of MASH and future children’s names—children I’d obviously have with Joseph Gordon-Levitt or my best friend, Ryan. I’d have these children after college, sometime by age 26, which was how old my mom was when she had me. The number of kids was optional, but as an only child, I often claimed I wanted four.

Yesterday, I turned 29. I’m childless and unmarried, but I did go to college. So there’s that.

I could write and write about the many dating mistakes I made in those years between those games of MASH and finally finding a stable relationship. After a particularly bad break up, I had a quarter-life crisis. I quit my job. I drank a lot of tequila. During that downward spiral, I met my current boyfriend, Dan, through a mutual friend. Our relationship progressed slowly by my standards and fairly quickly by his. We spent almost every weekend together until we finally decided to get an apartment. And after we had an apartment for a year and a half, we bought a house.

Why does all of this matter?

Because I turned 29. I turned 29, and that means I’m one year away from 30, and to some people what I have accomplished is not enough. Forget the home I’ve made with the man I love and the career that I’m pouring myself into—because I don’t have a ring on my left hand or a miniature version of myself, I have nothing.

In the weeks leading up to my birthday, this bothered me. By the time my mom was turning 29, she would have been planning my third birthday party. My Facebook feed is constantly filled with wedding and baby photos. What did I do wrong? Why am I not like them?

I know they mean well. Ahead of birthdays and holidays and vacations, friends and family ask if I’m expecting “something shiny.” If I mention the wedding I’m in next year, the conversation usually turns to my wedding, or the fact that I’m not planning one. They wonder aloud why Dan doesn’t commit, forcing me to nervously laugh and joke about being “house married” and “committed for 30 years with our mortgage.” Sometimes, I can see pity in their faces.

waffle makerI have a message for them:

I’m happy with the way things are. This is my life and it works.

The only reason I’d consider getting married right now is because I want a waffle iron, and I can’t really justify the purchase. Is this an acceptable reason to pressure my boyfriend into proposing? Definitely not.

Things are fine. I don’t need your pity. I don’t need you to speculate on why Dan hasn’t popped the question. I don’t need you to worry about my empty uterus. I need you to understand that we’re moving at our own pace, and what we have now is perfect for us. We like lazy weekends with Netflix marathons and Chinese food. We like going to the beach for a week to read and nap and drink craft beer.

We are happy, and our partnership is no less real than yours and your spouse’s.

We’re not that different. And although my life may not be the one I dreamt up in middle school, it’s still turned out pretty damn good so far.

—Lindsay Bergman

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