By Ada Zhang
All of us are familiar with the term “Ring by Spring.” A bright-eyed freshman girl enters Baylor with her pink linens and hopes of becoming a doctor; four years later, she graduates with a rock on her left hand. For the longest time, Ring by Spring was a big joke to me. It was something I laughed about, knowing I personally would never get engaged before finishing undergrad.
But when I heard the news at the end of summer that my best friend’s boyfriend proposed to her, Ring by Spring was suddenly not funny anymore. Even after seeing a close-up picture of her engagement ring, I still couldn’t believe it. My best friend had a diamond adorning her dainty fourth finger, and the fall semester of our senior year hadn’t even begun.
Obviously, my friend was making a terrible mistake. Here were my reasons why:
1. She said yes to marrying the guy when they hadn’t even been dating for very long. They’re obviously in the honeymoon phase where they both find every tiny detail about the other person adorable and not at all annoying. Do they expect to look into each other’s eyes with that same gooey admiration forever? Do they really think this puppy love can last?
2. She has her whole life ahead of her—why would she want to get married now?! Your twenties are supposed to be a time for self-exploration. When you’re not busy developing your career, you should be doing whatever you want, simply because you can. You can wake up on Saturdays at 2 p.m. to watch cartoons and eat Lucky Charms in your underwear; you can travel; you can make the spontaneous decision to buy a motorcycle.
3. Has she thought through all of the logistical stuff? After they graduate and get married, is she going to follow him wherever he finds a job? Or is he following her? They probably haven’t thought about the possibility of them finding work in different cities. Have either of them even begun searching for jobs yet? Do they have a plan for the future?
A few hours after hashing out these arguments against young marriage to my parents (who only ever half-listen to my monologues), I came to the profound conclusion that I am a huge jerk. My best friend was engaged and I couldn’t think of one positive thing to say.
In one of my writing classes, I was challenged to play what is called the “believing game.” In his book, Writing Without Teachers, English professor Peter Elbow challenges students to evaluate texts without immediately finding reasons to thwart the author’s ideas.
As beneficiaries of higher education, college students are trained to think critically. We’ve been taught to construct our own ideas and present our ideas eloquently to others who may or may not agree. This is certainly a valuable skill, our ability to not only think autonomously, but also to defend our thoughts with persuasive rhetoric. This game of logic we play is called the “doubting game,” and although it is a useful tool with which to sharpen our intellect, the doubting game in excess breeds arrogance.
In other words, it makes you a jerk.
The believing game, Elbow argues, is a humbling exercise in which we give up our preconceived notions in order to see the virtue in a concept espoused by someone else. By doing this, by really letting ourselves see things from someone else’s perspective, we just might find something worth believing in.
I decided it was a game I wanted to play.
The bottom line is this: my best friend is in love. It really doesn’t matter how long she’s been dating the dude because love isn’t a math formula. There’s no equation guaranteeing it’ll last forever, whether you date for two months, a year, or ten years. It’s sheer madness, then, that two people should willingly subject themselves to such uncertainty. But within that madness lies the core of our human condition: the fact that against all odds, we are willing to try.
Because without madness, there can be no passion and no romance.
I also don’t know what I was thinking, conforming to the narrative that marriage is somehow synonymous with prison. Who said you couldn’t enjoy your twenties with a ring on your finger?! (Well, I did just a moment ago, but that was when I was a doubter!) Marriage, career, and fun are not mutually exclusive. You can be 21, married, and still eat Lucky Charms in your underwear.
All the logistical complications I mentioned earlier? It’s all just part of the brilliant madness. Sure, my friend and her fiance might run into some obstacles—and they definitely have some big decisions to make—but this is the case with every marriage, not just young ones.
By the time I was asked to be a bridesmaid, my transformation from cynic to optimist was complete. I’m determined now to be the most supportive bridesmaid, and I’m beyond thrilled for my friend as she embarks on this new chapter of her life.
So, to all the other bridesmaids-to-be out there—let’s celebrate love on our friends’ wedding day! With full hearts, let’s cheer them on, giving them courage and our blessings. And let us realize how special it is, that we get to stand so close to our friends on one of the happiest days of their lives.
To Ring by Spring! To friendship! To dancing!