A couple of years back, I made the grave mistake of following a jewellery maker on Instagram who specialises in unique, conflict-free, aesthetically pleasing engagement rings.
And because I happen to follow this account and tag my best mate in the designs that speak to my soul (just in case someone asks her, you know how it is), I get served aesthetically pleasing wedding dress ads too. Wedding photographers. Wedding venues. Wedding flowers. Suddenly I’m panging all over the place. I need this dress. I need this photographer. I need this florist. I need this venue.
Am I planning a wedding? No. Am I even engaged? No! And I’m usually fine with that. Until I’m not.
I’m lucky in a lot of ways that I don’t have the cliché mum; wringing her hands and tittering about why her 35-year-old only daughter isn’t married. Especially when you consider I have been living with my partner for the best part of 10 years, and have had a child (gasp) out of wedlock. Even my own family doesn’t pressure me to get married (perhaps they don’t have cause to, since they split up when I was five).
It’s not a social pressure, either. We’re supposedly living in a post-feminist society that forgives women for not just finishing school and immediately marrying the first suitable partner who comes knocking. Women are now completing secondary education, travelling (pre-pandemic anyway), chasing career dreams, and spending years of their lives dating. The average age for an Australian woman to get married is now 30.5 years old. But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel pressure to walk down the aisle anyway.
And that’s despite being a part of the millennial generation’s new attitude towards marriage. I’ve studied at uni twice. I’ve visited countries my parents won’t see in their lifetime. I’ve dated, had my heart broken, and dated some more. I’ve met a wonderful and supportive partner. We’ve bought a cute weatherboard house in Tasmania. I’ve kicked career goals, then moved the goalposts and worked towards scoring more. I’ve become a mum, and I think I’m doing a good job juggling that with everything else I have going on.
Marriage has always been a “nice to have” for me, but it’s never been my driving force. Not like the job or the baby. That’s why it frustrates me when these wedding thoughts creep in.
Let’s admit it. The pressure to get married is no longer a societal issue, but a social media one. And the hand-wringing no longer comes from external sources, it comes from within.
When I’m walking down the street with my partner of 12 years and my 18-month-old daughter, I feel content. Sure, sometimes I also feel somewhat harassed that there’s groceries to buy, immunisations to book, paint-stained toddler clothes to scrub and my own shit to take care of as well—but overall, I’d consider myself to be happy and settled.
It’s only when I’m in a deep scroll on Insta and see a divine one-of-a-kind conflict-free peach sapphire and diamond cluster engagement ring and those cleverly targeted wedding ads that I feel like something’s glaringly missing from my left hand.
That’s the comparison trap of simply being on Instagram. When I see my friends and casual acquaintances and people I’ve literally never met put up their well-manicured engagement ring pics, the worry creeps in; I wonder if I’m falling behind somehow. I consider that time may be ticking on my own big announcement post?
I start thinking unhinged thoughts like: do people look at my relationship and think, “well, the rock must be coming soon”? Or “where’s the ring?” Or “Why isn’t she engaged? They’ve been together for ages! What’s wrong with their relationship?” It would be a classic anxiety spiral if I didn’t take a deep, centring breath, and remind myself that, in fact, nobody is thinking that.
Like me, everyone’s most likely scrolling on Instagram in an insecurity world of their own, but instead of a ring they’re wondering why they don’t have that influencer’s shapely ass. Or why they don’t have an adorable baby playing in a chic, rust-toned rattan-filled nursery. Or why their poached eggs never look as casually artful as the one on the food blog.
Every scroll is a risk. Especially if you’re already feeling in the slightest bit vulnerable. Because that’s when your insecurity will hunt down and latch onto anything remotely triggering and send you into a comparison funk. There’s no winning. There’s always going to be something you don’t have, presented to you by an app that trades in insecurity.
For me, there’s clearly something under the surface that’s whispering “I want to get married to my partner one day,” and that’s okay. It will happen when it happens, and it will be perfect because it will be spontaneous.
It might not be aesthetic. I might not have a manicure. It might not be the perfect photo opportunity, or perfect caption, or the right ring from the right Instagram jewellery maker.
But I’ll do it on my own terms, not the algorithm’s.