On marriage

I have been thinking about marriage a lot lately.
Not about getting married, but about the institution itself.

I was chatting this week to my old high school friend, Heidi. She blames me (tongue-in-cheek, but still) for the fact that she struggled to commit for longer than most. Apparently my clearly articulated feminism and rejection of “the house with the picket fence” was a huge influence on her in our teenage years. She was thirty-eight or so when she finally got married. “And then, Gail, you went and got married at 21 and settled down and everything!” (<- outraged tone).

Yes, but it isn’t as simple as that. Too long a story for now.

I have a close friend who separated from her husband for a couple of months earlier this year. She was describing to me the joy expressed by almost everyone that they are now living together again. Society wants us in couples, and wants couples to be married. Is it only because “it is best for the children”? I don’t think so.

Her experience mirrored mine – my close friends and family really struggled when my ex-husband and I publicly split up – even though they knew that the ‘marriage’ was non-existent (I been in a closeted relationship with my previous girlfriend for four years) – they wanted the façade of a marriage to continue. “Why couldn’t you just carry on the way you were, and have relationships on the side like we all do?” someone asked. I am not going to tell you who.

Because I am not comfortable with that. I need to be honest to the world about who I am and who I am with.

I am not afraid of commitment. Part of me would very much like to be married. Part of me wonders why. Why sign an off-the-shelf contract of marriage? Why have a public ceremony in which one pledges fidelity? Why are the whispered promises in the privacy of our own home not enough?

When she was in hospital recently, I wished I could introduce myself to Thabisa’s surgeon as her wife, rather than as her girlfriend – girlfriend sounds so feeble – temporary. Our relationship is way more than that. But isn’t it enough for us to know? Why does it matter to us that other people know? I don’t know, but it does. Particularly for us – where people often assume that Thabisa is my employee. A typical scene… I am at the pharmacy, having a script filled for Thabisa. (She is on my medical aid). The pharmacist looks fascinated. “Is she your maid?”

One thing related to marriage that I absolutely detest is the notion of a proposal. For me it is the most stark reminder of the inequality of the sexes. Women, certain of what they want, wait patiently for their partners to “pop the question”.  The inequality has filtered through to same-sex relationships in a way that makes me feel very uncomfortable.

A friend posted this flash mob gay proposal on her facebook page a little while back. She thought it was lovely.  I thought it was excruciating.  Not only the public spectacle of a very private moment. But…the end bit…

Bennie says, “of COURSE I will!”

If the proposee was so certain that he was ready to get married, why hadn’t HE proposed? You know why, don’t you?

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to On marriage

  1. Denise Potter (a pseudonym for an old friend of yours) says:

    Interesting blog which I happened upon by accident.

    I have a completely different take on the coupling up of people in society. I never started out wanting to be single, in fact I wanted very much to be part of a couple almost as far back as I remember becoming aware of boys around the tender age of twelve. I always pictured myself married with a couple of children living the suburban life in relative peace but life had other plans for me. As someone who seems incapable of complying with accepted norms and going against accepted social patterns of behaviour in an almost childlike defiance of them. I ended up becoming a confirmed bachelorette. I was proposed to many times and each time I would look at the man and think “what will this picture look like in 20years” and I never liked the answers I came up with so I never once even got as far becoming engaged. I would run for the hills and never look back.

    The most tiresome thing for me as a single person in a coupled up society is that people seem to think my lack of “couple-ication” (loving making up words here) is due to some unfortunate character or physical flaw or even possible closet gayness and not because I actually choose to be single. People can’t quite seem to get their minds around my complete indifference to the need for coupling or sex. No, I don’t have some wild single sex life, in fact, I’ve been celibate since the age of twenty three: exactly half my life as it happens.

    All the assumption and strange looks upon hearing my views and lifestyle used to irritate me when I was younger: now it amuses me. I tended to take the high road when I was younger, regarding coupling as a sign of weakness. Nowadays I think people who are involved are immensely brave and it’s I who is the coward. I am incapable of compromise and terrified of commitment, but I am far more afraid of ever being seen as needing or depending on another human being for anything, especially emotional validation or gratification. No, it’s just so much easier to be single.

    Would I ever marry? Perhaps: for all the wrong reasons. Would I ever live with someone? Never. Would I ever become involved emotionally with anyone again? No. In fact, looking back on my life, there is only one person I might have done all of the above for (for the right reasons) and might yet if he were to be found but that will never happen. Am I experiencing unrequited love? No because I don’t and never did love this person I just think I might be able to love them if the situation was right. Why only this one person? That is a question I can’t answer, I have no idea. Perhaps he just imprinted on my brain as being the ideal man at a time when I was more susceptible.

    As far as public spectacles of private moments, I have to agree, I can’t stand them. It may have something to do with upbringing or just being a deeply private person. I don’t understand what you meant by the proposee not proposing though?

    • Lotusdrifter says:

      Hullo old friend! Thanks for taking the time to write. A fascinating take on things.

      To answer your question about the proposee… It points to a lack of equality in the relationship, where the power lies more with one partner than the other. Proposees have to wait, patiently (desperately?) until the proposor has finally decided that he/she is ready to get married. There can only be two reasons why the proposee in the video (Bennie) had not proposed: (1) it hadn’t occurred to him to propose (unlikely, given his “of COURSE!”) or (2) he wasn’t confident of Tim’s answer.

      I think a decision to get married should be a mutual one – a discussion rather than a contractual offer and acceptance.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s