I've never related to “They’re Just Like Us” photos of celebrities— the ones where paparazzi catch Hollywood’s elite sans makeup, dressed in sweatpants and pushing a supermarket cart. But when I woke up to news of Miley Cyrus’s engagement to actor Liam Hemsworth, I couldn’t help but think—she’s just like me!
I can’t relate to her fame and fortune, incredible set of pipes and Neil Lane engagement ring. But I do know what it’s like to get engaged at 19 years old to a 22-year-old man. (Err, boy.)
I met Irv at the engagement party of mutual friends just one week before I started college. I was 17 years old, dressed in a polka-dot dress from Zara and Jessica Simpson heels. I noticed his thick, jet-black hair and dentist-approved smile from across the room. I turned to my friend and asked, “Imagine waking up to that face in the morning?”
And for the last two years and seven months, I have. (That’s right, ladies. If you want something, just go for it.) It’s been wonderful, but I should warn Miley of the roadblocks that await her. It’s not easy getting married young. You'll be denied piña coladas on the honeymoon, endure bewildered looks from manicurists who notice your left hand and have to circle the “Mrs.” option on doctor’s forms. Yikes.
And now that I can legally enjoy a drink, I recognize the bigger issues that probably had the manicurists concerned. People stress the importance of finding yourself and knowing all of your hopes, dreams and aspirations before you utter, “Till death do us part.” How can you sign on for a lifelong partnership before having your own life in order first?
I would argue the opposite. When Irv and I got married, I was frustrated and bored with my psychology major. I worried about finding a job in the middle of the recession and was nervous about my future. He encouraged me to take a writing class, and I fell in love all over again. Irv let me publicly make fun of our marriage, our cockroach-infested apartment in Manhattan and how I hate his dog—anything to get a good story. He cheered me on at graduation, framed my diploma and pushed me to apply to graduate school. And being with him gave me the confidence and strength to do it.
When I’m in class late at night, Irv cooks up a baked ziti dinner. And when he needs to relax after work, I’ll watch three hours of hockey with him. Like any relationship, it’s all about give and take, support and commitment. As long as you remain a priority to each other, a marriage at 19 can be just as solid as a marriage at 40.
So my advice to Miley is this: Grow together with Liam. Age ain’t nothing but a number. At 22 years old, I’m not the same 17-year-old I was when Irv and I met. And I know the same will be true five, 10 and 20 years down the line. People might question your decisions or place the odds against you, but that’s because of the endless, failed Hollywood marriages—not your age.
And I’ve been bracing myself for the day I decide to sport a baby bump. But that’s when I think of 24-year-old wife Hilary Duff and her new baby boy. Stars, they’re just like us!
Tell us: Did you get married young? Did you face any challenges?
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