Recently we published “My marriage and modernity” by Veronika Winkels who, at 20, is soon to be married. Here her 22-year-old fiance adds his perspective.
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“Hi, I’m Serge. I’m here for a good time.” His smooth, measured voice showed confidence in himself and his new environment. Given the circumstances, that was a very valuable gift to have.
It was day one of acting school in New York City. There were fifteen of us sitting in a circle in a small, blank, white room, introducing ourselves and talking about our backgrounds. Usually an exercise like this would be met with hesitation by those asked to participate, but not in acting school. There it’s the opposite. The circle is everyone’s time to shine, time to show you’re funny, quirky, flirty; a chance to prove you’re different from the person sitting next to you.
The introductions continued. “Hi, I’m Clara. I’m in America with my boyfriend and following my lifelong dream of acting.” “I’m Lucia. I’m from Brazil and I sort of have a boyfriend back home but not really.” Serge smirks and looked across the room at her. There were only a few people left before it was my turn. I began to feel hesitant, uncertain that I was going to fit in with this group. I listened to their stories, why they were there and what they were looking for. Clara was raised in Italy as a Catholic, but she didn’t see any relevance in her faith now. She just wanted to have fun.
The guy on my left spoke, “Hi, I’m Muriz. I’m from Germany, I’m here to pursue acting. Oh and maybe meet some nice American girls, but don’t tell my girlfriend at home I said that.” Everyone laughed, and the acting teacher gave him a wink of respect.
It was my turn. How was I going to get on side with the teacher if I wasn’t funny or loose like the others? Luckily I didn’t have time to think, fourteen pairs of eyes were trained on me, waiting for me to speak, so I did just that.
“Hi, I’m Tristan. I’m twenty-one, I’m from Australia and I got engaged the day before I flew here.” There was silence in the room, a stunned, unnerving pause. I resigned myself to the fact I was going to be the odd one out — that weird engaged guy. A few more anxious moments passed, and then something happened that was so unexpected that I sat there as stunned as they had been by my introduction. Everyone started clapping. They clapped and cheered and individually congratulated me. I don’t think anyone there had heard of someone in their generation getting engaged so young – and, come to think of it, nor had I.
Our class finished and a couple of students came up to me afterwards and asked me questions which got me thinking how it happened that I was engaged at twenty-one. “Dude, you’re twenty-one, why would you get married?” And, “Have you been friends since you were kids?”
The answer to the last question stunned them more than my initial announcement: “We met just under a month ago.”
For some that part was too much. “Wait up. You’re twenty-one, you met this girl a few weeks ago, proposed — and came to America without her?”
I knew the answer to these questions in myself, but how could I say it without them writing me off as crazy? Which made me think, “Maybe we are crazy! Yes, I think we are crazy in the eyes of the world.”
So, what do Veronika and I find so enticing about getting married, let alone getting married at this age?
I don’t think we are blindly entering into it. Sure, our understanding now of what we are getting ourselves into is limited, but as the youngest in a family of nine, with all my siblings married, I hope I’ve acquired some idea of the daily joys and sacrifices that this amazing sacrament and vocation involves, as I believe my fiancée –who’s third eldest of ten — does also. For most of society, marriage is seen as a lifestyle choice: “We’ve been together for five years and might get married but aren’t bothered either way.”
Marriage is, I believe, a supreme calling from God which will require our humbly saying “Yes!” to our particular vocation and to repeat that “yes” each and every day of our lives to make sure we are living it out as completely and truthfully as possible.
Pop culture tells us love is easy. The lyrics of McFly’s latest song show this so clearly: If this is love then love is easy. It’s the easiest thing to do. I’d have to wonder whether he’s singing about true love there.
Love is amazing. It’s invigorating, uplifting and euphoric; it makes you want to conquer the world… But — it takes commitment. It’s a decision, a conscious decision whose consequences have to be lived in difficult as well as easy times. And because it has to endure pain as well as joy, love is far from easy. So then, is it just “lovey” love that makes us want to get married?
I don’t think so. If only the romantic element of love was involved, it wouldn’t take long for the relationship to cool down. It’s impossible to sustain the level of euphoria often depicted in Hollywood films. But rather than being a disappointment this should be celebrated, because in the case of sincere love this indicates that romantic love is not the full story.
Marriage has been described as the ultimate friendship. This friendship should be founded upon a true and authentic love that wants, more than anything else, the good of the other. First and foremost it’s a team, a partnership, a union of two best friends.
I can say the eight months of our engagement have been the best and most exciting times of our lives, and I look forward to sharing the years and exhilarating road ahead with my fiancé, my best friend.
The last scene of the movie Into The Wild comes to mind. Chris McCandless spends his youth travelling across America searching for the meaning of happiness. Moments before this lonely search brings him to his last breath he scribbles down that ‘happiness is shared’.
I’m glad that my fiancé and I are so blessed as to be able to make this decision so early in our lives. We know we will only be able to fulfill this by God’s grace; but the excitement of the shared journey ahead definitely surpasses any fears of which, surprise, surprise, there are some.
Tristan McLindon worked in the Queensland Parliament for three years before completing a Diploma in Acting and Film in New York and Los Angeles in 2012. He has recently moved to Melbourne in preparation for his marriage in July.
Editor’s note: See also “The Case for Getting Married Young“, published in The Atlantic magazine this month.