Dear Newlyweds

Couples are tying the knot much later in life - only to risk strangling themselves. Marriage should carry a health warning, says a thirtysomething sceptic
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The Independent Online
The confetti has fallen, the clink of raised glasses has long faded and smugness envelops you like an eiderdown around a sleeping child. When you finally emerge from the stupor of your newly wedded state, you may be surprised to discover that you are not only Mr and Mrs Typical Smug. You are also Mr and Mrs Average Crinkly.

I am not trying to dampen your Promethean passion, to belittle the uniqueness of your union. I'm just letting you know that, at 28.2 and 26.2 years old respectively - the average marrying age for 1993, according to the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys - you are much older than the average newlyweds of a decade ago.

And let me tell you something else. Swanning down the aisle like a mobile meringue may have been plain-sailing, but walking up the briar-laden marital path is a prickly business. The chances are that you are going to swell the ranks of the 165,000 divorcees of 1993 - the highest divorce rate yet - by the time you are 37 and 35.

So I would suggest you keep your smugness to yourself. Don't try to make me, one of the 30,000 unmarried early thirtysomething women in England and Wales, feel like a social pariah just because I haven't engaged in the wilful self-strangulation that is the nuptial knot. And don't patronise me with statistics. I am entirely unmoved by the fact that men and women are on average three years older when they get spliced than they were a decade ago. The later the better is what I say.

It's prying families that make one feel old and single. No Christmas gathering is complete without Aunt Mildred popping the question: so when are you going to get married, dear?

This Christmas, I am planning to ditch the festive frock in favour of a sandwich board reading: SINGLE. 31. WILL TRY TO GET HITCHED SOONEST. I may even slip a flyer into my Christmas cards, alerting revellers to the fact that just as my own love life is not on the rocks, thank you very much, neither is the state of holy matrimony. People are just thinking twice about saying "I do", which gives them a fighting chance of their marriage actually surviving.

The fact that you two are hitched up does not, of course, mean that Auntie's ammunition is exhausted. She's still got the baby question up her sleeve. When? How many?

The answer, if you've got any sense at all, is never. Babies mean only two things: fatigue and penury. As for husbands, they bring high blood pressure, according to a recent study. And, mythical New Man notwithstanding, the excitement of being young (or old, depending on how you look at it) and newly wed does not, according to a recent Mintel survey, give way to a quiet life in later years. While beslippered hubbies aged 45-54 enjoy 41 hours' leisure time a week, wifey has just 34 hours.

Boxes of confetti should carry a government health warning. Marriage, dear newlyweds, is bad for your health.