I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, ‘But, wait, Jenny, I thought this was a blog complaining about children, not marriage! You just got me going into one groove, and now you’ve U-turned and started on a whole over topic. I’m not sure I’m fully prepared for this change in pace!’
Well, ok, maybe that’s not what you’re thinking. Maybe you’re actually thinking, ‘Oh God, don’t let this be like another crappy rom-com inspired blog post, or a cheap imitation of a Bridget Jones-type book’ (to which I reply, its free! You can’t get mad at me when you’re not paying anything for it!) Or, maybe you’re actually thinking, ‘Hope she gets on with it soon, I’m really sick of these loopy detour things she does, in fact, I might just go improve my land holding on Farmville instead of reading this,’ or just, ‘I wonder if there’s any birthday cake left in the fridge, and whether chocolate cake lasts for upwards of 3 weeks if it doesn’t have a cream centre?’ (I’d say, go for it, by the way, as long as it doesn’t smell bad and there’s nothing growing on it – I think the sugar would pretty much keep away any bad boy germs)
Anyway, whatever you’re thinking, (I honestly don’t know what you’re thinking), the topic of today’s discussion is marriage.
Marriage is what brings us here today.
Why is today’s topic marriage? Well, the easy answer is that, whilst meditating yesterday evening, when I should have been chanting Buddhist mantras to myself, or concentrating on the nothingness, or attempting to achieve nirvana, or approach or nirvana or acknowledge nirvana, or whatever, my brain was instead contemplating all the people in my life who have recently gotten hitched, or decided to get hitched at some point in the near future (and exchanged great big rocks to seal the deal). And, once it started down that path, my brain started realising that, lately, when men start to talk to me, within the first 2-3 minutes of meeting them (if they’re an attractive, personable sort), I have inevitably glanced down to check their ring finger. More distressingly, most of the time, these days, that finger has a nice, manly gold band wrapped around it. My brain started to wonder when it was exactly that I had started looking for this mother-of-all ‘back off’ signals, because it certainly wasn’t a conscious or deliberate decision. It thought back nostalgically to lovely teenage days when most any boy you met could be a potential boyfriend, even ones that had girlfriends (because, let’s face it, they’d usually only been going out for a few weeks) or ones you met in musical theatre (because, even if they eventually turned out to be gay, they hadn’t actually worked this out yet, or, at least, hadn’t told anyone yet, so there was still reason to hope). My brain then jumped back to somewhere near the end of last year, when I had taken to wearing a fairly cheap, thin, silver band, that I had picked up somewhere along the line, on my wedding ring finger as the other ring finger is always occupied by a very sentimental silver ring that I never take it off (actually, these days, I CAN’T take it off without some serious hand cream action – that’s how much weight I’ve put on…). I wore this ring, confident that people would realise it couldn’t possibly be a wedding ring, as it was thin, and silver, and, well, CHEAP. However, after 3 or 4 men asking (in the same week) if I was married, I decided to stop wearing it (or only wear it around men who I was keen to avoid romantic overtures from). My ‘meditating’ brain very slowly started to piece all these things together (it might have been the incense in the room that was keeping it moving at such a slow and nostalgic pace), and gradually came to a conclusion.
I’m getting old.
I must be. Because only old people get married, right? That’s what I always thought as a kid. I can remember asking my Dad (inspired by the movie, ‘Father of the Bride’) what he would do if I told him I was engaged at the age of 21. His reaction was rather far removed from the description, ‘happy’. It got less icy as the conversation moved on, and I asked how he would react if I got engaged at 23, 24, 25, 26 and he visibly relaxed from the age of 30 onwards, and, ever since then, I’ve kept that number (both consciously and unconsciously) in my mind as the only appropriate age at which to get hitched (as a side note, Dad was probably around 30 – 31 when he and Mum got married, so he was only preaching what he practiced).
But, back to being old. I must be old if my friends are getting married, the men I’m interested in are married, and even other people are assuming I’m married. And it all seems to have happened all of a sudden. One minute, I was in my mid-twenties, newly single, with a few friends in long-term relationships. And then, without me even realising it, I was in my late twenties, ‘not-even-close-to-newly-single’ with a whole bunch of married or engaged friends. Every few weeks I look through another friend’s wedding photos on Facebook, ‘liking’ pictures of the bride and groom, judging the dresses, the marquees, the photos, the ‘event’. Now, I hope I’m not giving the impression of a desperately sad singleton here (I certainly can do one of those impressions, but its not the point of this post…yet…), I’m merely commenting that life seems to have (suddenly) stepped up a level. People are making commitments that are, to all intents and purposes (unless you are Kim Kardashian or a similar C-grade celebrity), meant to last the rest of their lives.
Meanwhile, I’m still struggling to commit, from one day to the next, whether or not I am a dog person or a cat person (see, the problem is, that I love how friendly and happy dogs are, but I don’t like their barking – big, barking dogs are scary, and little, barking dogs are annoying. I always loved cats, they’re so cuddly and conveniently sized, but they’re kind of snooty, really, and they eat little birdies and things… and, oh, I don’t know, maybe I’m more of a dog/cat person… or a cat/dog person…). So, anyway, to have friends that, whatever their views on divorce may be, are, at this point in their life, able to state, absolutely, unequivocally, ‘I think I can spend the rest of my life with this person,’ and, further, ‘I want to spend the rest of my life with this person,’ is, to me, a pretty amazing thing. It’s a pretty astoundingly wonderful and exceedingly terrifying, mortality-confronting thing, they’ve got going on there.
And the strange thing is, that with all of these ’til death do us part’ vows going up and out into the atmosphere, I guess it starts you thinking, ‘And what do I have to look forward to til death does me part from this world?’ That is to say… it seems to me, that… (and here comes the desperate, sad singleton side of me coming out), the more of my friends that get engaged, the more lovely men I meet who wave their gold band in my face; the more I become aware of a slightly uncomfortable feeling, encouraged by a tiny, but determined voice (which will presumably grow louder and more desperate as the years pass me by), that ‘all the good ones are getting snapped up! If you don’t get someone now, you’ll never get married!’
When I’m not listening to it emotionally, when I’m not allowing its pathetic pleas to make me ever-so-slightly anxious, I find this desperate little voice very interesting. Firstly, I don’t know when or where or who I got the idea from that I ‘had’ to get married. That marriage was something that I ‘had’ to ‘achieve’ or my life would be worthless, pointless, incomplete. This voice makes marriage seem like another box to tick, another thing to cross off the white, middle-class life ‘To-Do’ list: ‘Tertiary Education: Tick. Mortgage: Tick. Marriage: Tick.’ Certainly no-one ever said this to me outright (maybe it was all those years spent playing, ‘The Game of Life’ where it wasn’t possible to move through the game without getting a qualification, a partner and a house?). I mean, I consider myself a feminist, whatever that means – a romantic, sure, but still, also, a feminist – and it disturbs me that, even with my belief that I don’t need a man to complete me, even with my belief that I’m perfectly capable of living happily on my own and being an eccentric grand aunt in the style of Jane Austen or Miss Marple, that I should still be hounded by this determined little voice, yelling, ‘You’re not getting any younger, you know! If you don’t find someone, chop, chop, you’re NEVER going to find someone! Tick, tock, tick, tock!’ In fact, so determined is this little voice, that I have, recently, under its influence, begun to get the determined feeling that I ‘won’t ever get married’, and that I should just ‘give up now.’ When I caught up with another (single) friend recently, we commented that we were both ‘coming to terms’ with the fact that we may never get married, we may never have kids, and that we’re ‘ok with that’. There’s plenty of other things that we could do. Become Prime Minister of Australia, for one.
But this brings me to the second thing that I find really intriguing about this voice, and this feeling, which is that, in all honesty, I don’t actually feel that old. When I think about it rationally, 27 seems to be an awfully young age to be giving up on love, companionship (maybe marriage) as a lost cause. I mean, sure, at 27, Anne Elliot in ‘Persuasion’ was considered by Austen to be completely over the hill. But, its now the 21st century! I thought women weren’t supposed to feel that way at 27 anymore! Isn’t that what ‘Sex and the City’ was supposed to give us? The freedom to be ‘single and fabulous(?)’ well into our 30’s and 40’s if we so desired? Isn’t that why we clung so desperately to the series, forgave the appalling movies, ignored the women’s slavish idolatry of wealth and fashion, because, underneath it all, at its heart, this was a series that told us women we were now allowed to do what we want? Get married if want, not get married if we want, live with a partner, have sex with many people? That it captured some sort of changing social mores, some Zeitgeist? But, here I am, talking sadly with my other 27 year old friend about what other possibilities there potentially might be ahead for us, if we don’t get married, commenting that we’re ‘ok with that’, that we can ‘deal with it’.
Maybe the fact that we are ‘ok with that’ is a step in the right direction. I certainly don’t feel like I would be bringing shame or unnecessary financial burden onto my family by remaining a spinster aunt for the rest of my life, as so many Austen heroines were threatened with however many years ago. Of course, the fact that I can name other possibilities in life that would fulfill me aside from getting married is also a right that Austen’s heroines wouldn’t have enjoyed. So, you have to admit those are improvements. And, in all honesty, I often look at all the destructive things that happen between two people within a marriage, and think, ‘is it really worth it? Is it really all its cracked up to be?’ So many divorces, affairs, separations, estrangements, lies, abuses: does anyone actually end up staying together happily for the rest of their lives? Is it in anyway possible to predict at the age of 30, what you’ll be like in 20, 30, 40 years time and whether or not you’ll still be in love with the person you’re in love with now? In which case, why bother pledging that you will be? But, still, the reigning expectation is that you want to get married, so if this looks like it might not be on the cards, you are required to state, bravely and heroically, that you’re ‘ok’ with this possibility. You need to assert it, to reassure people you’re not sad, that you’ll be ok, that it actually might be a life choice, not an unhappy circumstance. I think that’s kind of crap. I mean, its not like, you’ve made a life choice to go around strangling puppies, or anything like that. Its not like you’ve decided to do something completely immoral and despicable, so why does it need to be defended? And, if marriage is really not the be-end and end-all, why do you get pitied if you’re single, why do people start to get an anxious look in their eyes the older (and more single – oh, yes, its possible to get ‘more single’) you get, why do you get offers to set you up, take you out, blah, blah, blah, why does your own brain start to manipulate you, to intimidate you, to make ticking noises at you every time you admire another friend’s wedding photos? (On a side note, I’m aware that I’m babbling a lot about how tough it is to be a straight woman dealing with the assumption, that as you’re a single woman, you must want to get married, and your single state is probably due to some hideous deficiency on your behalf, which you must be both embarrassed and mournful about. I can’t imagine what it would be like as a gay woman, or man, who has found the love of their life and isn’t legally allowed to get married)
Anyway, that’s a lot of questions on a very big topic that I don’t think I have successfully man-handled into a single blog post yet. But its kind of late, and I think I’m going to turn in, as the post has turned much more strident, shrill and possibly offensive than I ever intended. Married folk, I’m not meaning to bag out marriage. I’m an old-fashioned romantic, and I love that you’ve gotten married, really I do. I always cry at weddings. I love oohing and aahing over the photos and would like to see them more of them on Facebook, please. Its just that, as an old-fashioned, idealistic romantic (and I mean that in the larger sense of the word), sometimes things don’t happen in the real world the way you would like them to, and that includes both being married and being single.
|Oh, wait, now I see why people want to get married…|