For as long as I can remember, I’ve disliked romantic movies. The whole boy-meets-girl, love-at-first-sight thing just wasn’t for me. At a young age, I watched The Notebook and cried because I felt like I was supposed to. Thinking about movies with plots like The Wedding Planner and While You Were Sleeping makes my skin crawl and my eyes roll. With such a dislike for anything too lovey dovey, you can imagine how surprised I was to find myself bawling at the end of Dirty Dancing (1987), a well-known film that celebrates its 30th anniversary this month.
This notion of finding a husband while in college has been so ingrained in my mind that I don’t even realize that it’s something I grow sad about.This classic 1980s film begins with Frances “Baby” Houseman (Jennifer Grey) and her wealthy family arriving at a summer resort for their vacation. Baby is a “save the world” type of girl who hopes to join the Peace Corps and serve those in need.
During her stay, she meets two entertainers, Penny Johnson (Cynthia Rhodes) and the handsome Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze), dance partners who work for the resort. When Penny becomes unable to dance due to a botched abortion, Baby is asked to learn the dances and become her replacement.
Because Baby is not a dancer, she is forced to spend most of her time with Johnny, learning to sway her hips properly and shimmy up her partner. Johnny is a little rough around the edges, and we quickly learn that his background is significantly different from Baby’s.
Now, I’m sure you can see where this is going. The two fall in love and face the problem of their being so different. Imagine Romeo and Juliet if they learned the foxtrot and subtracted all the bloodshed from their story.
If it’s so predictable, then why did I cry? And you should know that I didn’t just cry the one time. This overflow of emotion occurs every time I watch Dirty Dancing. It’s not even a remotely sad movie. In fact, this movie has a thrilling ending—the girl and guy get together, the dad approves of the guy, and it’s assumed that they live happily ever after.
So maybe my tears are those of bitterness rather than those of excitement for a happy ending.
At the Christian university I attended, the focus on marriage is a strong one. Although it may not be intentional, the pressure to find a true love and wed him is definitely prevalent among the young female students.
I remember that during my freshman orientation, the upperclassmen put on a skit that brought the “ring by spring” process to life. This was done by placing twelve or so girls on an imaginary dance floor. There were four rounds to their dancing. Each round represented the four years you were in college. As the girls danced, one by one, a boy would come up to a girl and drag her off the stage, implying that she had been married.
Soon, by the senior year, there was only one girl remaining. The crowd watched and pitied her as she danced completely alone. Eventually, the girl tired of dancing on her own and began to walk off stage.
As a young and impressionable freshman, the message I received from this skit was that marriage was a goal to reach, or an achievement to be made. In these skits, marriage was depicted as a prize that should be attained in the four years it takes to get a degree. But most importantly, these skits taught me that if I don’t find a guy by the end of my college career then I should just shrug and leave the dance floor, giving up on finding love.
Well, faithful readers, I am well past my college career and, you guessed it: I don’t have a guy. But why should that even matter to me? I’m only 22 years old; I should be worrying about other things besides finding a husband.
This notion of finding a husband while in college has been so ingrained in my mind that I don’t even realize that it’s something I grow sad about. Most of the time, I’m independent, carefree, and happy to be on my own. But then one day I’ll wake up, and it’s as if someone flipped a switch—I’m suddenly beyond bummed because of my relationship status, and I’m convinced that I’ll never meet anyone.
There have been times in my life where my prayers have consisted of the words, Dear God, everyone around me is getting engaged, and it sucks. I have had to learn how to trust God in the fact that His ultimate plan for my life is better than any plan I could come up with. Am I sad that I’m still reppin’ the single life? Sometimes. And that’s okay. But I’ve decided that I’m not ready to put all my focus on marriage and relationships.
So back to Baby and Johnny. At the end of the movie, when that ever-present Bill Medley song comes on, we see Baby and Johnny slowly dancing, euphoric after their big number. As the song also slows down, we see Johnny mouthing the final lyrics to Baby:
Now I’ve had the time of my life.
No, I never felt like this before.
Yes, I swear it’s the truth,
and I owe it all to you.
This scene is where I cry. Every single time.
I think deep in my subconscious, the tears stem from all that I’ve been told about being single. I cry because I don’t want to be the last girl dancing. I don’t want to be the girl who has no other option but to shrug and leave the dance floor. And it shouldn’t be like that. Society shouldn’t put that much focus and urgency on marriage, especially not for those my age.
Marriage should be something that we look forward to, but instead, because of the pressure to marry young, my views on marriage are surrounded by thoughts of loneliness and the desire to belong in the “married world.” Proverbs 18:22 states that “[h]e who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.” If marriage is good in the eyes of God, then why has it become such a burden? Marriage is and should be a treasure from God. It is a gift that should be opened in His time. Young women should be taught that it’s honestly okay if they aren’t married by age 22. College is a time for young students to grow into who they are as people and to learn more about themselves. The focus of marriage and relationships shouldn’t become a social pressure for those in their twenties. There will be plenty of time to worry about such concerns later.
Singles will have moments where they feel like they’re the only people without dates on Friday night—trust me, I’ve been there—but that’s okay. Marriage can be beautiful, but I don’t think God created it in order for twentysomethings to feel compelled to be in a relationship before they’re ready, if at all—so why have we added such pressure?
Anna Virginia Allen