I’m happy to be getting married, but I’m worried about how it might change me. Specifically, I’m worried about becoming a Smug Married Girl.
I first heard this term, Smug Married Girl, while watching the film adaptation of Bridget Jones’ Diary with my family at age 15. In retrospect, that was a pretty raunchy movie to be watching with my parents and my younger sister on a Saturday afternoon, but hey, I guess I had a progressive family?
When Bridget spoke of her Smug Married Friends, I immediately knew that was something I never wanted to be. Smug Married People seemed determined to make all the single women around them feel small. They made rude comments about their clothes, their hangovers, and their fertility. In contrast, the single people in Bridget Jones were gloriously fun-loving and supportive. They were always grabbing after-work drinks, attending dinner parties, and cheering up sad friends by planning mini-breaks to Paris. Single people seemed awesome, and married people came off as the worst.
A decade and a half later, I am happy to report I have met many lovely married people. I no longer believe all married individuals are insufferable. I know lots of non-smug people who have tied the knot. But, the truth is, a judgmental smugness does sadly persist amongst a number of married individuals, and it’s always bloody annoying.
We all have that relative or family friend who shall remain nameless. You know, the one who years ago started with the needling, passive-aggressive relationship questions. “So, do you have a boyfriend?” they love to ask at any occasion, be it a baby shower or your grandfather’s wake. This person, for whatever reason, usually makes the heteronormative assumption that you date only people of the opposite sex, despite the fact you’ve never discussed your sexuality with them. If you say you’re not seeing anyone, they give you that look that says, “Hmm. You’d be more a valuable human if you were in a marriage track relationship.” Well, as far as I’m concerned, those people should be mandated to take courses on how not to be dicks.
As an engaged woman, I reject the notion that getting married is an accomplishment. Learning to swim was an accomplishment. Finishing my master’s degree was an accomplishment. Getting my first book deal was an accomplishment. Getting married is an honest-to-God lifestyle choice my partner and I are making because it suits us. Yes, I hope my family and friends are happy for me about getting married, but it’s nothing they should be impressed by. My partner and I decided to apply for a marriage license; it’s not like we cured cancer.
I am no more worthy a person today than I was four years ago, when the closest thing I had to a husband was my Netflix account. And remember, this was in the early days of Netflix, before it even had a particularly good selection. Having said that, the fact that an online streaming service was my life partner did not make me less awesome. I was still a smart girl with fabulous taste in restaurants and a badass floral dress collection. I was still me.
Singleness is not a state of imperfection. It is not a flaw. The idea that single women are to be pitied – which, by the way, probably breeds most of the smugness amongst Smug Married People – dates back to a time when women were only valued as wives and mothers. This was a dark age when women were bought and sold by men as chattel for the dual purposes of homemaking and babymaking. “Barren” and “old maid ” were the labels given to any woman who dared resist the patriarchal pressure to walk down the aisle and deliver 14 children.
After thousands of years’ worth of this patriarchal bullsh-t, the myth that women aren’t complete without male life partners sadly persists. It’s 2016; it’s time all Smug Married busybodies accept that matrimony and family life aren’t things we should pressure women into. The whole world must stop pretending women are pathetic if they stay single and childfree.
So yes, I’m getting married this October, but I am determined not to be smug about it. If you see me insinuating I’m a better or more lovable person because I’m getting married at a 1990s dance party-themed wedding, please kick my engaged ass. You have my permission.