For some reason, I've been thinking about being an "Old Maid" lately. In our family, I was an "Old Maid." Seriously, I was. I was 31 when I got married. In my family, and in the culture of my teeny tiny town, I was an old maid. A well educated Old Maid, but, still, an Old Maid.
My mother was 19 when she got married. Her mother was 19 when she got married. Her mother was 18 or 19 when she got married. I haven't checked farther back recently, no need to. And, to top it off, my Aunt Sandy, Mom's baby sister, was...yep, 19 when she got married.
On Dad's side...his oldest sister was 21 when she got married. The next brides were 18 and 19 (they married my Dad's brothers). Then 18, and 18 and then the last boy before Daddy got married. His bride was all of 16. My Grandma was 19 when she married Grandad. Her mother was also under 20 when she married.
Of all my cousins--who were older than I. All the girls were 18-21 when they got married. ALL of them. (and there's like...20 of them?) I had one cousin, my age, who also chose to get married one week after she turned 16. (and no, she wan't pregnant, they waited 10 years to have kids. She's still happily married to the same man today.)
So, I really was an Old Maid.
It was hard being 18, 19, 20, and not even having any prospects for marriage. Don't get me wrong, I was happy with my life. I wanted to get my education and make a good life for me. I didn't have to have a man to make me happy, but it was somewhat uncomfortable knowing that everyone was asking, and wondering if I'd ever get married. And, to be honest, I was too.
I got tired of the casual question, "So, is there someone special yet Shelly Jo?" And, I got tired of saying "Nope, not yet."
It was hard watching my cousins and friends find mates and start families. Some, I could see were happy. Other's, well, others shouldn't have gotten married, and most of them have divorced.
I fortunately, didn't feel that I had to be married to be "fulfilled." Don't get me wrong, I wanted to be married, I wanted to have someone think that I was special, I just wasn't finding it. My parents never never pushed me into finding someone just to get married. I'm sure, if I had felt that I just had to be married, I would have found someone. Lots of people do. But, I just didn't meet anyone who really interested me. I liked some guys, felt very attracted to a couple, took one home to meet the parents (who really disliked him) and felt lots of frustration trying to figure out this relationship stuff. But, I just didn't find someone who made me think they were worth marrying or even getting serious about, or trying to make "it" work.
Till Kev anyway. And believe me, I worked damn hard to keep him in my life! And, there were times I wondered if he was worth the effort.
But, back then...I remember wondering if I'd ever meet "Mr. Right." And I remember thinking there must be something wrong with me. Surely there must be someone who wanted me.
Hindsight is 20/20. And, looking back, I can see that the boys/men I dated just weren't right for me. And, instinctively, I must have felt that, just as instinctively I felt that Kev was right for me...even if he did take some convincing. (Ok, it wasn't necessarily convincing he needed, just re-assurance that he wouldn't get hurt again, and he needed to let go of his fears.)
So. I was an Old Maid. But, I learned how to take care of myself. I learned -- I really learned what I wanted in a man and what I didn't want. I learned how to be happy with myself, and that no man could make me be happy if I wasn't already happy. I learned that I didn't want a man who wanted me to change. He needed to like me--faults and strengths. I learned that I didn't want to change him. I watched married couples. I saw what made their relationships work, and what killed relationships. I learned that children didn't necessarily make you happier, and that they didn't keep a marriage together. And, I think that all I did and saw and experienced was good for me. And, I'm an OK person too...even if I was an Old Maid.