I recently read an article chronicling the diary-style blog posts of a 12-year-old Norwegian girl named Thea. These posts followed her in the days leading up to her pending wedding to a man 25 years her senior. In the beginning of her blog, she seemed overjoyed to be getting married but as the time passed and her wedding to 37-year-old Geir inched closer, her spirit regarding what should be the happiest day of her life began to change. Her posts became darker as she gained clarity about exactly what this marriage would mean.
This story, both shocking and sad to the common North American, sparked thought within me as to how lucky many of us are to live in an area of the world where we not only get to choose our partners, but a world where the scope of our choices has been significantly broadened. With online dating, Skype, social media, and traditional forms of dating, we now have so many options to find love. Being so accustomed to these privileges, Thea’s story sickened me. As it turns out, the young girl’s blog was a publicity stunt to raise awareness for the 39, 000 girls forced into unsafe marriages worldwide each day. A comforting end to her story, no doubt, but despite the false nature of Thea’s case, many young girls aren’t as fortunate to avoid marriage or even fortunate enough to generate a media circus of helpful interference such as the #stopthewedding campaign as developed by Plan Norway.
In North American culture, we are used to those unlucky in love complaining about their bad dating experiences, their chronic lack of significant other, and the fact that dating is one of the most difficult things they have ever come across – of this I have been occasionally guilty myself. But while reading a story such as Thea’s, we are forced to look at our own lives from a different perspective.
We should all be rejoicing in the fact that we have the right to select our own partners. Sure, it’s rarely a simple route to true love but regardless of the many paths we may choose during our search for love, they are all exactly that: paths that we have chosen.
In helping us chose correctly, technology has proven a creative alternative in the dating world and with the online dating as an option, we are now opening lines of communication that had been inaccessible in the past. Not only can we filter through online profiles looking for Mr. or Mrs. Right, but we also have the capability to be reassured of their credibility with website programs such as matecheck.ca; a verification process which settles the minds of millions who click another’s online profile for the first time.
But Thea, a product of the media, was not given the privileges of the everyday Norwegian girl. Not only had she not been able to grow up and date at her own volition, but she – as a member of first world society – would never have been arranged to marry at 12 years old. Thea stands as a representation of real life child brides in underprivileged countries such as Bangladesh and Niger – countries where weddings often arrive sooner than a girl’s 18th birthday. Plan Norway gave Thea the ability to convey thoughts and feelings to the world at large and, though the situation was a ruse, the sentiments are very real. Several thousand girls are forced into marriage each day and don’t have access to the Internet to tell their stories – a truly disheartening statistic.
While it is not my intention to cause society guilt or to imply that the occasional dating frustration is not warranted, I urge all those in first world countries to consider Thea’s story. The difficult choices that we face in choosing a life partner are nothing when compared to the trials of the young girls Thea represents. Our ability to choose is a right; a right that many others our age and younger do not have.
So while you are searching for someone with whom to share your life, bear in mind that through all the profiles, dates, and break-ups, you are lucky to live in a part of the world where these foibles are a recognized part of everyday society. Embrace it and perhaps you will one-day use your privileges to help those in less fortunate situations than your own.
** To learn more about the Plan organization and the Global Child Marriage Report, visit: http://plan-international.org/girls/childmarriagereport/
Dana Simpson is a writer, musician, and university graduate. Not surprisingly, literature and music are her greatest passions in life alongside travel, human rights and art as a means to social change. Follow Dana on Twitter (@danasimpson) and read more of her work at danasimpson.pressfolios.com.