• Charlotte Dallison

When am I Getting Married? Perhaps Never, and That’s OK.

When are you getting married, when are you getting married, when are you getting married?! I tallied it up and on my recent trip back to my hometown I was asked this question by over 20 people, no exaggeration. It’s unbelievable considering I’m only 28, and when you live in the inner-rim of a city like Melbourne, as I do, not to mention you’re an ex-Londoner and ex-Sydney-sider, big city girl, questions like this just don’t come up that often. However when you’re back in the sleepy suburbs of a place like Christchurch, where many of your school friends are married, potentially pregnant, or at least engaged, people can’t seem to get the fact that you live in a rented flat with a boyfriend and that you’re perfectly content with that.

My recent trip home was a godsend of course, after waiting over a year the opening of the trans-Tasman travel bubble was a huge relief and big moment for we kiwis based in Australia. During my trip home I had scheduled coffee date after coffee date, catch up after catch up, so I could ensure a proper one-on-one with all of my close friends and family members in Christchurch after 18 months apart. Whilst it was hugely enjoyable to reconnect with so many wonderful people I’m lucky to have in my life, I was a little shocked that at almost every meet up I was asked when I was getting married, amongst other conservative questions. And whilst people were vaguely interested in the other goings on in my life, post lockdown trauma and the running of my start-up business etc, they were overly focused on my relationship status and any potential progressions with it.

Me as a child, already plotting my escape from suburban life.

Undoubtedly one reason for this is the fact that my two years younger sister is recently engaged. I’m nothing but happy for her, of course, and in her defence she’s been with her partner for her entire 20s, plus her upcoming nuptials are extremely important to her. But it did bother me that during a recent phone-call to her she talked of the plans our parents had made with her and her husband-to-be, where they would celebrate her milestone when she and her fiancé made it back through the bubble too. I’m not saying they shouldn’t be able to celebrate this together, but our parents hadn’t planned anything to acknowledge my massive milestone during my recent trip, that being the fact that I had started a business during the second lockdown in Melbourne last year.

Perhaps I’m just far too cynical, too self-centred, a jealous sibling even! The thing is I am currently in a relationship in which I want to stay in forever, and it actually took me over two years to accept the fact that I was happy in said relationship. All of my prior flames had burnt hard and fast, and fizzled out quickly as a result. My current situation is nothing like that, it’s calm, stable and straightforward, and I had confused this with boring. That is until I realised drama does not equal passion, and that prior to my current relationship that had been my pattern.

When I met my divine, goodhearted Tassie boy, I was instantly enamoured. But our lack of fighting and lack of tumultuousness had made me question everything. And the fact our relationship has continued to last and last is astounding to me. In saying this though we have no plans to wed anytime soon. We have, however, spoken about our common goal to buy an apartment in Melbourne or a home in Hobart, and the fact we both want a baby eventually (and a cat and a dog…). But with my situation as a start-up owner and freelance writer, along with my boyfriend being near the beginning of his career after years of postgraduate studies, it means that none of these things are on the cards for us anytime soon, certainly not before the age of 30.

Whilst we won't be getting married anytime soon, we will be going out for dinner!

Besides, gals like me; ambitious, atheist, feminist, millennial, should’t get married on account of our strident morals, right? I don’t know if I feel inclined to embrace a tradition that’s foundations are steeped in religion and that is inherently sexist. No to mention the fact that a good chunk of my closest friends are LGBTQIA+ and I don’t really want to embrace an antiquated tradition that has excluded so many people who belong to these groups for so long. But is this at all what marriage symbolises now? Clearly you don’t have to have a wedding that’s associated with a church anymore, and we literally live in an age where certain people have literally tried to marry the Eiffel Tower! Weddings now are purely a symbol of commitment, whether you’ve been living in sin prior to your big day or not.

The fact is that my family and many other beloved people from my past simply don’t understand my life as it is now, and that is perfectly OK, why would they? My parents have only ever lived in Christchurch, my Dad hasn’t even really travelled. But rather than approaching these facts with judgement I’ve realised I must give them the empathy I feel they sometimes fail to give me. Because I don’t understand their lives either. I don’t know what it’s like to have worked full-time in a family business since age 20 with barely any breaks, which is my father’s reality. I don’t know what it’s like to have to provide for three daughters and a wife. I don’t know what it’s like to have to manage a reasonably large house, not to mention the washing and feeding and emotions of multiple other people for whom you’re responsible. I don’t know what it’s like to desperately want to be married to your partner! Just as they don’t know what it’s like to start your own business or to live in a rented flat in the inner-city of Melbourne, with a cool divorcee landlady living upstairs, and that’s OK too.

Perhaps the forced time apart during 2020 brought me even further away from my conservative hometown’s views on traditional things such as marriage. But it’s also allowed me much more insight and sensitivity to everyone’s situation. Everyone is vulnerable in a way, the same way everyone, for the most part, is just doing their best in life. And when friends from your hometown ask you when you’re getting married to your long term partner, they’re simply being kind and interested about the things in your life that they can relate to. And that is totally OK, in fact it’s pretty wonderful.

Words by Charlotte Dallison. Original image belonging to the author.

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