It was an out of the blue text message that I received one recent Sunday evening that got me thinking.
I’m on the prowl for your postal address, it read. Sorry if you’ve told me before. I promise I’ll store it somewhere safe this time!
That, in my experience, is the sort of text or email that people only send before birthdays and Christmases when they realise their address book (/spreadsheet. You know who you are) isn’t up to date. And, in my life, with both those events happening in December, there’s generally only one other reason for it.
“Wedding invitation, do we think?” I said conspiratorially to Best Mate later on.
“Oooh, could be,” she said. “Yikes. Another one.”
If the announcement of a wedding date is forthcoming from the sender of the message, I shall be over the moon. The pair has been together since we were all 15 and getting horribly drunk round the snooker table in her liberal parents’ basement.
But that doesn’t stop my reflex reaction to such announcements being: “Eh?! Really?! That’s a very grown-up thing to be doing. What’s the rush?”
I was exactly the same when I discovered last year that a primary school friend, now living in Mexico with her husband, was expecting Sprog 3. The mere thought of children terrifies me: when faced with a small child, most women coo. My first reaction is to shudder quietly and send up a quick prayer to the Gods of Contraception to keep things working as they have done so far.
Of course, my rather flustered reaction to people’s proclamations that they’re moving successfully through their lives aren’t really rational. Sure, they used to be. Way back when, it was fair enough to raise an eyebrow at the thought of contemporaries tying the knot. But now… Well, it’s not really a surprise: in one’s mid(ish) twenties, wanting to settle down with one’s partner and have a family isn’t really an unreasonable thing to do. After all, biologically speaking, you’re going to be looking down the barrel of the gun sooner rather than later.
Except, for me, getting married and having children are nice things for other people to do.
I don’t feel that I’m anywhere near the stage in my life where I could even contemplate doing it (we’ll leave out the fact there’d need to be someone else around, first, unless I was planning a Helen Archer, which I most certainly am not). I don’t even think too much about the fact there’s a mortgage with my name on it, because the thought leaves me cold.
In fact, I’d even go as far as to say that most days, not only do I not feel capable of parental responsibility, I actually feel like a total fraud. That, somehow, I’ve got this far by masquerading as an adult who’s capable of looking after herself, holding down a job and a house, and managing not to spend her entire paycheck on white mice. Because when I stop to think about it, I’m sure it’s not something I do on a cognisant level.
Which is why I’m happy to don a hat and throw confetti at people I shared a maths lesson with. Just don’t ask me to follow them down the aisle towards planned adulthood any time soon.