I’ve never wanted to get married. (I know, an awkward statement to make on BRIDES.com, right?) Or rather, I’ve never cared whether or not I’d get married until the option started to feel as though it might not be an option anymore. This shift from apathy to anxiety happened around my 35th birthday, when suddenly I felt flooded with fear that I might no longer be single by choice—more on that in a minute—and that this relationship status could actually be permanent.
Then, 33-three-year-old Prince Harry became betrothed to 36-year-old Meghan Markle, and this random-with-respect-to-my-life event unexpectedly transformed my perspective on what it means to be 35+ and single.
Allow me to explain. Relationship status has never had much of an impact on my sense of self-worth, and I’ve certainly never felt that finding “my person” was a life goal in the way that, say, selling a screenplay or positively impacting the lives of others would be. To me, relationships have always been more of a serendipitous thing than something to which one should aspire.
Then, a certain milestone birthday came to pass, and all the patriarchal messaging I’ve ingested over the years that prizes young brides (spoiler alert, dudes: aging is inevitable...for everyone!) coupled with the fact that I’ve been dating in Los Angeles, where the male obsession with 20-year-old Instagram models is next level, led me to question whether I was even still “worthy” of being a bride at this “late” stage. These feelings shook me since, after all, I’d never been closed off to the option of marriage—I just hadn’t prioritized it.
To make matters worse, my conservative family was making it clear they believed my goose was cooked. “Your mom and I are just sad we won’t have any more grandchildren,” said my dad, despite the fact that I often spoke of my future as a mother. “Your aunt never married, and she’s doing okay,” my mom mentioned every time I saw her, as if she needed to remind herself that her only daughter isn’t doomed (to what, exactly?) by her marital status.
I do, of course, know a few women who’ve married for the first time in their late thirties or early forties—Molly Sims’ Instagram feed has basically become my vision board–however, examples are scarce. Second marriages later in life? Sure. First marriages on the forty side of thirty-five? Not so much. I know logically that such stories exist, and that they’re likely far more plentiful than my experience has shown them to be; however, emotionally I've felt as though I'd have a better chance at immaculate conception now than I would at finding my forever after.
Discouraged by all of this, I began last fall to research the processes of egg freezing and even artificial insemination with a “who-needs-a-man?” attitude, all the while secretly berating myself for “ruining” my own life. Then, Harry proposed.
Obviously, this love story has been fascinating for more than a few reasons, 90% of which have to do simply with the fact that Harry is a part of the storied English royal family; however, what I found most intriguing about the impending union is that Ms. Markle is exactly my age. This closer-to-40-than-30 single woman has found for herself a far better romantic outcome than I assume she ever could have dreamed up in her twenties. There is, in other words, still hope for me!
In some respects, this scenario is exactly what my few remaining single friends and I have been telling ourselves would be the case for us (minus the crown)—that we would one day be rewarded for postponing the whole coupling thing with an above-average union. “Can you imagine getting married back when we were 25?” we’d say to each other. “We knew nothing about anything, least of all ourselves.” By the time we now marry, we’ve reasoned, we’ll be more secure in just about every aspect of our lives and therefore better equipped to pick a partner. Plus, we’ve thought, we’ll attract higher-quality individuals, too. (I often say that any guy who was into the twenty-five year-old version of me is not someone I have a particular amount of respect for at 35.)
I know nothing about Meghan Markle or what she was like five or ten years ago, but I don’t doubt that she’s grown stronger, wiser, and more graceful through the successes and failures she hadn’t yet had time to experience back in her twenties. The woman she is today might even be vastly different than the one who married the first time around (when she was 30).
To be clear, I’m not saying Meghan Markle couldn’t “get” a prince five or ten years ago, not least because I reject the premise that Harry is the catch in this situation. What I am saying is that her current reality is likely outpacing even her wildest of dreams, and she had to wait nearly 37 years—enduring all the while, if my experience is any indication, an incessant flood of wedded-bliss-and-baby Instagram posts—to find her happily ever after.
It’s unlikely the man I hope to meet will be a proper prince; however, I take comfort in Meghan’s story because it’s reminded me that despite the way I feel every time I log on to social media and see how far past mine the lives of my friends’ have evolved, my story is not yet ended (or, dead ended). Mine may just, as the future princess’ did, have a longer first act than most.