08/24/2011 11:41 EDT | Updated 10/24/2011 05:12 EDT

Why I Bothered to Get Married at 40

"Why is she bothering at this point?" That was the response of my sister's mother-in-law to the news that, at the ripe old age of 40, I was planning to tie the knot. I laughed. Given this woman had just buried an alcoholic husband she'd spent her whole life looking after, I could understand her comment not as outdated, but as practical. Why would I get married if I, as a financially independent, child-free woman, didn't have to?

Given the fact that I've never been the marrying kind, I was equally surprised when my now-husband and I decided to get hitched. After all, it's just a piece of paper. And why do you need to be married to have your relationship taken seriously? It's not only goofy, it makes it suck for those who aren't, can't or simply don't want to get married. Besides, given that almost half of marriages end in divorce these days, who did we think we were kidding?

So why did we do it? "Just because" was about the best I could come up with. This wasn't good enough for one very analytical, once-divorced dear friend of mine. "No, but really, why?" she insisted. I racked my brain to come up with an adequately intellectual answer.

Because it feels right. Because the relationship is easy. Because I found a killer dress.

She was less than satisfied, but she backed off. "You look happy," she said.

But while I could handle and mostly understand the reactions of my friends and family, I was more boggled by strangers' reaction to the news. I got a kick out of telling people I'd just met that I was getting married. Not because the news should be of any interest to them, but in a way, for some reason, it was.

"Oh my God! Congratulations! I'm so happy for you!" they'd shout with such glee.

I'd think, heck, I could be marrying a wife-beater with a fondness for tripping old ladies on the street -- this person had no idea if my marrying was a good decision or not. But it's as if marriage, much like being pregnant, suddenly makes your life a public success. Whew, you made it girl! It was disturbing.

When I was telling this to the woman who helped plan our wedding and speculating out loud as to why people would want to spend the down payment on a house or the price of a trip around the world on a one-day celebration, she said, "There's still the attitude that this is forever. It's something that's always been there, that's steady, that's a rock. And even though we know the divorce statistics, for one day it lets us believe in fantasy land and in love and tradition."

Never having had the white-dress fantasy (I didn't wear white), I still wasn't sure. Still, it felt right somehow. And we threw a wicked party where we knew every guest and actually wanted them there. That alone felt great. Once we were married, I surprisingly felt different. Hubby said the same. It was a subtle change that wasn't about being married per se, but being married to him, I think. There was an odd comfort in knowing that we were officially in this together.

What do you think? Do you believe in marriage?