#2. A Forcefield of Empathy
Being single can sometimes feel like treading water in a sea of assholes. Pretty much everything in life is always out to get you, and because you're alone, and you can't watch your back every minute of every day, it's only a matter of time before life slips in behind your peripherals and slits your damn throat. When you're single and feeling hurt, or depressed, or worried, you might have friends or family to turn to, but the important part is shut the fuck up.
We're all very impressed that you have a network of caring individuals around you, but some of us burned all of our bridges to see the pretty flames, OK? We don't need you in here flaunting your precious social circles in everybody's faces, dick.
YES YOU ARE SO LOVED. KINDLY SHUT ALL OF YOUR FUCKS UP. YOU'VE INADVERTENTLY LEFT THEM OPEN.
At any rate, even with that village of happy, shiny people at your beck and call, you still have to hope they have time for you, or have gone through something similar enough to understand and relate to your situation. Somebody probably will, but there's no guarantee of that. There's always that gnawing doubt right before you ask, isn't there? Being single means having to turn to people in times of need; being married means never having to turn at all. You're a duality now. Your spouse will always share a core block of experience with you -- they'll vividly remember the time teenagers stole your truck just to drive it a block and ditch it, and how paying to get it out of police impound almost ruined you; they'll know how shitty it feels being robbed with all of your stuff still a state away; they'll understand that cheese makes you poop -- like, a lot -- but goddammit it's delicious, what are you supposed to do?!
Marriage is like having a permanent buffer of empathy around you at all times. Some gullible chump signed a contract that means they have to care about the stupid stuff you're going through, and if they don't like it -- tough. A contract is a contract and if you don't want to sympathize with the cheese-poops then you can talk to my lawyer, Meagan.
#1. Leveling Up into Adulthood
I've often heard it lamented (usually by somebody who's just turned 21) that there's nothing left in adulthood to look forward to after you can legally drink. As far as they're concerned, that's the last big adult milestone left in American culture. But like everything else a 21-year-old says, that statement is a slurry of misconceptions, lies and probably also some recycled memes.
Adulthood is a series of levels, and not every level comes with a new perk, that's true. But the big ones -- driving, voting, drinking -- aren't the only ones you get. Sure, at 21 you get to drink, which is a dramatic and obvious benefit: It's like gaining the ability to shoot fireballs. But sometimes the less flashy perks are, in the long run, much more helpful: Somewhere around 26, for example, you might discover that you don't really give a crap about other people's beliefs anymore (and not in a cruel way). Now you can interact with others that may harbor different religious or political beliefs without turning every party into a tired, ill-informed debate about the nature of life. That's like getting dual wield: It ain't as showy as hurling fiery doom around, but in the long run, you'll end up using it way more often and getting a lot more out of it. That's just an example, mind you: Maybe that happens way earlier than 26 for you, or maybe it never happens at all. Maybe at 24 you learn that some friendships tie you down as much as help you, and that lesson takes a lot of unwanted stress and drama out of your life. Or maybe you realize at 29 that your dad was right and work is its own reward -- and that means you start doing things on your days off instead of just farting into the couch until the dog leaves.
"Turnabout is fair play, my canine friend, though I do not recommend you turn about just now, for I have farted behind you and I assure you: It is terrible."
The perks, lessons, and the ages you that learn them are all variable. But perhaps the biggest one is the realization that you might have enough love in you to share every element of your existence with another human being, and inexplicably not smother them with a pillow in the night because they know all of your secrets. I can't speak to having kids (that's hardcore mode, and I don't think I'm good enough at this game to play that), but marriage is a way bigger milestone than legal drinking. If 21 is shooting fireballs, marriage is an epic mount: If you pick the right one, it opens up whole new areas that were previously inaccessible. And if you ever have to go back to the way it was before, you'll wonder how the hell you got everywhere on foot in the first place.
You can buy Robert's book, Everything is Going to Kill Everybody: The Terrifyingly Real Ways the World Wants You Dead, or follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Or you can skip down to the comments to complain that marriage is a crock because you're 19 and don't know how to be wrong yet.