Today, while in the kitchen cooking dinner for my parents, my visiting sister-in-law and I were chatting. Randomly, while grating the carrots, she said she has to go and call her parents immediately.
“Something wrong?” I asked, concerned by the urgency on her face.
“Oh no,” she said, and smiled. “No, it’s their anniversary and because of the time difference I need to call them now because they’ll be asleep soon.”
“Oh! That’s really sweet,” I said, before it sunk in how many years we must be talking here.
“Wait, how long have they been married?”
“58 years. Since 1957,” she said, with a pride that made her face glow. “My mom was 20 and my dad was 27 when they got married”.
I dropped my onion knife.
58 YEARS OF MARRIAGE.
I felt what can only be described at this juncture as the physical manifestation of Aaaaaawwwwww.
“Congratulations to them!” I squealed, and then unexpectedly, my eyes filled with tears and a deep sorrow tugged at my belly.
It’s a familiar feeling, I call it Millennial Guilt. It comes and goes every now and then. The slightly apologetic feeling that comes with being born into the generation of quickness and convenience and the next-best thing; the inexplicable shared understanding of being a 90’s kid. In a world that’s largely given up quality for speed of access, meaning for money, sentiment for innovation – I was mourning my circumstance.
My own parents have been married for 23 years (and have been together for 35, a fact my father never hesitates to remind us of), so I’m no stranger to commitment. Their marriage is something I’ve grown up watching, it’s been my model of the future ever since I was old enough to know anything. But, I’m also a child of the Internet. And with that comes the never-ending onslaught of information, information that often shakes at my foundation and tugs at my roots.
Divorce is no longer news. It no longer comes with the sense of total upheaval that it used to, it’s a word as common as the word “marriage” itself now. Relationships have become fleeting things, designed to fulfill whims and plug gaps in people’s lives, and then once one party has had their fill, the other becomes dispensable. And the worst part is – people feel justified in doing so. The concepts of True Love, Unconditional Love, Forever, are almost laughable to most of our peers – we are way too easily bored, and way too spoilt for choice. The consensus is, when the opportunities for the new and the fresh are literally at your fingertips, why waste time investing in the long-term?
The tug in my belly was a kind of blanket grief. A sadness that stretches over everybody I know. An unspoken wish that we weren’t trapped in our generation of the new-new, a wordless prayer for better. It’s easy to forget what commitment looks like when you’re trolling through Instagram and Twitter every 5 minutes, but tonight I was reminded.
And it was kind of bittersweet.