The University of Maine student newspaper since 1875
Wednesday, Oct. 7, 3:46 p.m.

Op-ed: Walking down the aisle about much more than just amore

On the Shore Path overlooking the rocky, rugged Bar Harbor coastline with the early-afternoon horizon in the distance, I asked her to marry me. She said yes.

I promise it wasn’t as corny as it sounds.

But since proposing and making the obligatory round of announcements to those I know, saying “I’m engaged,” I really began to notice the disconnect our generation has with marriage.

Although I’m a young 21 years of age, those who know my fiancee and me well weren’t terribly surprised. My fiancee and I were childhood friends and high school sweethearts. We even went to eighth-grade promotion together.

Later this month, we’ll have reached our five-year mark as a couple. Still, a few people I told wondered why, at such a young age, we would get married, regardless of the length or depth of our relationship.

Around campus you’ll hear it, among friends or even just casually: “I’ll never get married.”

I can understand this. Marriage is a commitment and commitment is risky. If it were to come crashing down around me, we’d have to split assets and time with the children who may come along. That’s a scary thought and one everyone should ponder.

But society’s knee-jerk reaction to this has been to just not get married, or at least wait.

U.S. Census Bureau statistics say in 2008, the number of American marriages per thousand in population fell to its all-time low since the census has measured the statistics — adding up to just over 2.1 million. The same year, there were more than 844,000 divorces. That made for America’s lowest per-thousand total since 1971.

There’s a strange mystique about marriage. Nobody hates it and everyone gets excited about it, but few want it immediately.

I don’t know how I feel about marriage on a large scale, the same way I don’t know how I feel about war: It’s not for everybody, good and bad come from it and it’s not going away. About my imminent marriage, I’m utterly confident. I don’t know about anyone else’s.

But simply put, marriage is no holy grail. It can solve or aggravate relationship issues and each year, if you divide America’s number of marriages in half, you’ll get approximately the number of divorces.

Through the rhetoric and the romance, the Nicholas Sparks novels and “The Bachelor” getting jammed down our throats, we miss that marriage is about more than love. It’s about security. If you don’t feel in love and secure, you’ll want out.

And the class of 2012 needs all the security it can get.

Nothing’s sure for us. The nation’s job outlook for 2012 graduates is improving as our economic situation improves — depending on who you ask. U.S. News and World Report said late last year that 2012 college graduates would make 6 percent more than the class of 2011 at $51,000.

I won’t be so lucky. I’m a journalist.

But coming from Maine, I’ll be lucky to have any job.

The Maine Campus reported in January that the Maine Department of Labor has only projected 1,884 job openings for those graduating from Maine schools with bachelor’s degrees for each year from 2008 to 2018.

We’re not growing up like our parents, man. Many of them filed into good jobs early. Now they’re scared. Social Security looks possibly unsustainable and Medicare and Medicaid are the subjects of transformative plans by Congressional Republicans as the cost for both is expected to double by 2021, according to USA Today.

They’re worried about retiring. I’m worried about living. But I’ll have a pal the whole way.

If I get a job with benefits, I’ll be ecstatic. And my fiancee will be too. It’ll take some of the pressure off her in her job search and if I can hold it, give us a base to start our married lives together.

That’s why I’m getting married. Well, that and she’s adorable.


Michael Shepherd is a fourth-year journalism and political science student. He is the editor in chief for The Maine Campus.