I am on fairly intimate terms with a certain group of young people, ages 20 to 29. It is my continuing pleasure to see them growing up, getting educated, making friends, travelling the world, interacting with each other and beginning to settle into the world of work. They are in many different stages right now. But one thing they have in common: They are creatures of their generation.
Seems to me we all are. Many college kids in the 1950s, when I went to school, tended to pair up early, go through the dating, “pinning,” and engagement process and then marry shortly after graduation. Of course not everyone followed that scenario, but it was a common trend that I bought into without giving it a second thought.
I started dating my husband-to-be in October of my senior year, got pinned in January, engaged shortly after that and married in August, two months after graduation. I taught school for a year, then had my first child in July. By age 28 I had four children. It wasn’t until my husband died when I was 55 that I experienced real independence. That included holding down a job, buying a house, a car, having my own bank account and deciding for myself where I wanted to travel and how I wanted to live my life.
I see these young people I know doing things the other way around. After seven years as a partner with his wonderful girlfriend, the 29 year-old will marry this fall. The 27-year-old has found herself a challenging career and is moving up the ladder fast. No permanent relationship in sight. Age 25 has spent two extended periods abroad, worked in an office setting for a year and will soon set off for a Fulbright year before entering graduate school. No permanent relationship in sight. Age 25 #2 has one more year in law school. One past relationship. No permanent relationship in sight.
Age 24. Living the life of the young finance person in NYC. One past relationship. No permanent relationship in sight. Age 23. Living the same NYC life as age 24. In a very nice relationship. No future plans in sight. Age 23, still getting educated. No permanent relationship in sight. Age 22, still in school, in long-time relationship. Future plans unknown. Two 20 year-olds, in school, both playing the field. Age 20, still in school, in long-time relationship.
It is too soon to see if my theory will apply to those at the younger end of this group. Still, I think it is interesting to reflect on how times have changed. These young people will have a world of experience behind them if and when they decide to “settle down” with a permanent partner.