When you think of happily ever after, you think of meeting The One, giving them a kiss, and the credits fade to black. At least, that's what the movies say.
But real life happens, and you realize you carry a plethora of issues that need processing. Time passes, you're in your 20s, and suddenly relatives ask when you are bringing home a boyfriend. You realize you and your mom were the same age when she gave birth to you, and here you are: still deciding whether or not to text someone back.
It may seem like a personal issue, but it isn't so rare when you take a step back and look at the shifts through the years. Economic recessions, climate change, the pandemic, and a whole lot of option paralysis have made a lot of people in my generation sneer at the idea of going down the traditional route. I remember a friend not wanting to have kids because of the results of the national elections.
In her essay, I Thee Dread, Filipino New York Times essayist Jia Tolentino breaks down that capitalism and patriarchy are at the core of weddings, ultimately concluding that she will remain unmarried to her long-time boyfriend for the rest of her life.
It may seem like a turn for the worst—this inaction toward the norm—but I'd like to think that we've turned to a different kind of home-building: one made through community rather than the individual.
In the BBC article Are Gen Z more pragmatic about love and sex?, they found that Gen Z and millennials were both averse to long-term relationships—but for entirely different reasons.
Millennials (those born between 1981 to 1996) enjoyed the casual culture that playing the field provided, while Gen Zs (1997 to 2012) were more "introspective" about the connections they build.
Perhaps friendships in your twenties are all about being in the realm of love you choose. Not bound by blood or responsibilities, but by the simple fact that it's yours.
With this introspection in mind, it becomes clear that friendship may just be the way for us to build a life, without the societal issues getting in the way.
I'm a firm believer that finding your tribe, besties, girl gang, or whatever you call it, serves as a way to build a rich life at this age. It will make your world bigger and your heart possibly more open to love. Besides, if love is your default anyway, relationships won't seem like the final stage.
Important, yes, but not so urgent that you settle for less than what you want—or can handle right now.
Don't get me wrong, I have friends who are lucky enough to meet their forever partner at this age. But I've also noticed that their relationship isn't between just the two of them. More often than not, it works because they're invested in each other's interests and communities, and then their lives.
Author Milan Kundera said it best in the novel Identity: "Two people in love, alone. Isolated from the world, that's very beautiful. But what would they nourish their intimate talk with?"
Going back to Tolentino, did you know that she's now married? After 12 years together, she and her partner faced a health insurance policy that required them to get married after welcoming their first daughter.
She wrote about it on Instagram: "Avoiding this last corner of normative domesticity had been a useful standing private reminder that I didn’t want to locate aspiration or stability or well-being primarily in the individual or family, I wanted to locate it in the collective."
"I hated the idea of doing something in the realm of love that I hadn’t freely chosen."
And perhaps, friendships in your twenties are all about being in the realm of love you choose. Not bound by blood or responsibilities, but by the simple fact that it's yours. Woven together by choice and patterned with similar scars.
Then again, Tolentino continues with: "I suddenly understood again that because of one person’s specificity my life had taken a sweeter shape than anything I had ever imagined; in fact, I’d never imagined anything, and here was everything and more."
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One day, my friends and I will find a sweeter shape than this makeshift commitment we've built. We will rebuke our words like Tolentino and find comfort in a pair of arms, a ring, maybe a child, and ultimately ignore the call of others. We'll support each other from far away and the replies won't be as quick. Such is life. Everything and more awaits.
But until then, while we build homes out of cars and spontaneous trips to anywhere and everywhere, there's no shame in savoring the stability with the family we've chosen.