BY TAMAR KEVONIAN
Mari begins by commenting on the current status of her former high school classmates, “Class of 2004, Glendale High School, 90 percent are married with kids,” she says.
“I can bet money on that,” Shahane concurs, familiar with the state of Mari’s classmates since many of her friends are in the same situation.
“When they see you and see that you are in a relationship and not married or engaged, they’ll say, inch mekhka (poor thing),” says Mari, commenting on the social pressure to marry.
“Do you get that kind of pressure as a guy?” I ask Manouk, the young man at our table.
“No,” he says, shaking his head.
“What do you think is the appropriate age for you to get married?” I ask him.
“It’s my decision. Whenever I feel the time is right, then so be it; whenever you’re financially stable to support a family. I am supporting and helping out with my parents now, so I would factor that into my decision as well. I will not be selfish and just think about myself,” he says
“At what age would this happen?”
“It’s not about age, it’s about finding the girl,” he insists. “There are two separate, yet very important elements to marriage: being financially stable to support a family and finding the right girl in order to complete that process. If I were to be financially stable at a young age – say nineteen, and have the feeling that my future wife is right beside me, then why delay the process and risk losing a great girl?” he reasons.
“What do you think?” I ask Khatchig. As the older and more experienced member of this round table, he has a different perspective on this topic.
“It has to be spontaneous. You do not have to prepare yourself,” he says
“How long have you been married?
“Twenty three years married, and six years before that I was with my wife, so twenty nine years monogamous,” he says proudly. “I was nineteen when I met my wife and twenty five when I married her and we have two kids.” That’s an impressive accomplishment in this day and age where the divorce rate is inching closer and to 60% of all marriages.
“According to your statement,” I say to Manouk, “is it okay for you to get married when you are financially stable but are you ready to get married at nineteen?”
“It’s about supporting a family on your own.”
“Is it about being mentally ready?”
“No. You can have the mentality but not have the means,” he says.
“This is how I look at it,” Mari interjects, “it’s about the quality. I’d rather be with someone at my level who doesn’t have anything and we work at it together. I don’t want to get married to somebody who’s going to take care of me.” Her statement, of true partnership and female financial independence, is perhaps the reason she feels the widening gap between her and her former classmates, now married and settled with children.
“I don’t want to go to the welfare office and say ‘please help me feed my baby,’” Manouk says in response.
“You don’t have to have children,” Mari counters.
“Stuff happens,” he says and shrugs with a sheepish smile.
“What about mental maturity as a prerequisite to marriage?” I ask Manouk.
“I’m mentally mature right now. I’m not going to marry the first girl that I come across,” Manouk says. “Even when I was younger, I have always been well beyond my years.” In fact he has the bearing of maturity born of life experiences.
“I don’t think any man should be married under 30,” states Shahane, reinforcing the idea that men and women, develop and change significantly throughout their 20’s as they explore life and establish their identity.
“I think Manouk is right. In Armenia, it was more spontaneous. With him born and raised here, he is more practical,” interject Khatchig.
“But don’t you need to be mentally and emotionally ready to take on a new life?” I ask.
“The fact that Khatchig is saying he has been monogamous after all these years, speaks volumes. That’s not happening nowadays,” Manouk says, voicing a common fear held by many of today’s single people: why marry when it will probably end in divorce.
“My brother and his girlfriend dated twelve years monogamously before getting married,” adds Mari. “My parents have been married for thirty two years. My dad, until this day, he is so in love with my mom, it’s ridiculous. At times, it’s like ‘come on Dad, you have three grown kids, you’re a grandfather, chill out a little bit,’” she says and laughs. “We grew up with that,” Mari says of the positive role models her parents have been to her and her siblings regarding marriage.
“You’re mom must be great. It depends on the woman,” adds Khatchig, speaking from personal experience.
“It also depends on the man,” I add. “Men can’t say, ‘oh, I cheated because I didn’t have a good woman.’ It takes two to tango.”
Everyone laughs at the cliché. We happily pay the bill and leave the restaurant.