On Thursday morning, Us Weekly reported that Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux got married in a secret ceremony at their home in Bel Air, Los Angeles. In light of the summer of celebrity divorce, most people around the Internet responded joyously. But in so many celebratory tweets and Facebook posts, one word kept coming up over and over again:
When unmarried is assumed to mean unhappy: Putting aside the inherent weirdness of people counting down the days to a total stranger's wedding, the "finally!" reaction was unwarranted based on how long Aniston and Theroux have been dating. The two got together in 2011 and got engaged in the summer of 2012. We're not math geniuses or anything, but that comes to about four years of boinking before deciding to tie the knot. Women have menstrual cups that are older than that relationship.
For what it's worth, that Jen and Justin waited a few years before getting married also bodes well for the future of their relationship: According to research from Emory University, couples who wait three or more years before marring are approximately 39% less likely to get divorced.
But as we all know, the "finally!" sentiment comes from our collective obsession with Aniston finding love after her very public divorce from Brad Pitt, which went down 10 years ago. Although the actor/producer/Emmy Award winner/philanthropist has repeatedly insisted that she's happy and maintains a deeply fulfilling personal life, the media has relentlessly painted Aniston as a spurned ex-lover, an angry old spinster with cat hair on her sweater who's desperate to find someone to put a ring on it.
So when Aniston started dating Theroux in 2011 and he proposed to her a year later, the media whipped itself into a frenzy counting down to the day he'd make an honest woman of her. Aniston herself commented on the media's fascination with her love life in InStyle earlier this year. "I realize they need to sell magazines, but it's really getting old," she told the magazine. "What kills me is when friends send me pictures they've taken at a newsstand. One magazine says, 'Desperate and alone,' and the other one says, 'She's eloped!'"
Crossing the societal finish line: The fixation on Aniston's supposed sad, unwed life is extreme. But it reflects a reality many women, not only celebrities, face themselves. As an unmarried, childless woman in her forties, Aniston fell short of cultural expectations that women of a certain age should settle down (aka get married) and have children. The fact that she refused to apologize for her lifestyle — and that she even mocked it to the tabloids — only made her more of a target.
Now that Aniston is married, any expressions of joy at her union are tempered with modifiers like "finally," or statements like "at last," or "it's about time." The language echoes the headlines spouted off back in 2011 when she got engaged: "Has Jennifer Finally Found Her Happy Ending?"
The "finally!" sentiment might be justified had she been engaged for, say, 27 years. (But honestly, why do you care how long celebrities wait to get married in the first place? Are you running a betting pool? Did they hire you to do the flower arrangements and they owe you a commission or something?)
But we know better: That sneaky f-word reflects our obsession with marriage as life's biggest achievement, particularly for women. With "finally," marriage is seen as the finish line: Missing it means you've lost, and getting there perpetuates the dangerous idea that everything thereafter will be shiny and happy.
There's nothing wrong with celebrating Rachel Green getting hitched. But it's possible to do so without acting like single women in their forties have empty, meaningless lives, and throwing a ticker tape parade when that void is filled by a man. Instead, let's celebrate Aniston's wedding because Aniston is in love — and after all, isn't that the only reason why people get married in the first place?