In the country that I belong to, most women who have blown or are about to blow twenty-five candles are used to being called someone of “Marriageable” age by concerned aunts and even strangers. And if you are an Indian female who has crossed the age of thirty and is still unmarried, someone in your family is most likely offering special prayers to a deity to perform a miracle and find a groom for you. I am sure that similar phrases and concerned well-wishers exist in other parts of the world too. So what is the real meaning of “marriageable age” and does the term still make sense in the 21st century? Here are my 2 cents on the subject.
As far as I can tell, in the olden days, “marriageable age” largely coincided with the child-bearing age for a woman. This made sense in a conservative society, where one of the most significant purposes of marriage was keeping the family tree alive. However, as is the case with every societal concept, the concept of marriage too has evolved and taken several different shapes over the years. While having kids is still an essential part of marriage for most couples, it is no longer the primary objective for many. What with the changing spousal roles, career aspirations reaching new heights, and science making it feasible to conceive at an age that was unheard of a few decades ago, many individuals, both men and women, are choosing to take things slow, and are opting to tie the knot when they are mentally and financially ready for the changes that marriage brings with it. Additionally, a significant number of couples these days decide not to have kids at all or to adopt, which throws the entire logic of “marriageable age”, as perceived by the generations past, out the window.
Another interesting phenomenon that is largely observed in the cosmopolitan parts of the country/world is people shaming and criticising those who get married “too young”. These individuals are labelled as orthodox and are often referred to as people who have settled too early in life. But what is so wrong with leading a settled life? Doesn’t an unmarried individual too want a comfortable, stress-free, and peaceful life? Or am I wrong in assuming that there is no such turbulence or thrill (other than casual dating, having multiple partners etc.) in the life of a single person that marriage can eliminate? If a couple feels that they are ready to commit to each other, and are of the legal age to get married, then why shouldn’t they? Getting married early comes with its own sets of pros, even in a modern world, such as making the financial and living situation for the couple more practical, giving them more time to enjoy each other’s company before having kids, and making bolder career choices which the parents would gasp over if their son or daughter was unmarried.
The crux of the matter is the freedom of choice. Whether someone wants to choose their own partner or wants to opt for an arranged marriage, whether they want to get married at 22 or 32, and whether or not they want to have kids should be the choice of the persons in question alone. While you can never prevent your friends or family members from questioning your choices, the stigma associated with “marriageable age” needs to go, because many are coerced into making a wrong decision simply based on the stigma, regardless of the reasoning behind it. It is high time that we decide what the right “marriageable age” is for us and stop letting a custom that has gone slightly stale decide it for us.