I have been attempting to write this blog for three years and failing miserably. One of the difficulties is that it has been steadily growing at a rate faster than I can type. I write a paragraph, I save it, I read it back, I add some more. Sometimes I bring the subject up in conversation; it’s controversial, I get some more opinions, I add some more. People begin to question related subjects, such as gay marriage; I try not to explode in their faces, I add some more. I start a new relationship; I’m grilled about it, I add some more.
It has been a tough post to keep a handle on and no doubt I will refer back to it in the future and, shaking my head in resolution, add some more. It’s a piecemeal affair and neither elegant nor eloquent. But, since I am often offended by what is socially acceptable, I feel that it is unfair that I should have to keep quiet for fear of causing offence.
(I am posting this blog post in sections, so if you want to ask me a question/answer one of my questions, it may be something that comes up in a later post, but feel free to do either anyway.)
I love weddings. I do. I get caught up in the moment easily, I love getting dressed up, I love seeing Brides blushing with anticipation and guests flushed with champagne. But I don’t understand it – I don’t understand the need to bind yourself with another. What follows are my thoughts and questions on the matter. I am not attempting to belittle anybody’s marriage or relationship. I am not trying to tell anybody that they are in the wrong. I am opening the floor for discussion. I do not want to get married and I do not comprehend why anyone else does. If anyone can give me some answers, I would be v.glad to hear them. You never know, you just may change my mind… I doubt it, but stranger things happen at sea.
To my wonderful married (and potentially to be married in the future) friends: I love you all, I love your partnerships and corresponding loin fruit, I loved and will love your weddings – they are (and will be) beautiful, graceful ceremonies full of gorgeous people. Go, prosper, grow, breed – ignore your friend Emily, for she is clearly a lunatic to question a thing like marriage when you are all such glowing examples. I envy your clarity of mind and your resolution and your lovely, clean houses (also a mystery to me – how do you achieve that?). But, nonetheless, questions I am having.
THE START OF IT ALL
I’m not sure when it dawned on me that I would never marry. Somewhere between my third consecutive serious relationship and the two that followed, I guess. It wasn’t an unwelcome revelation, by any means; the realisation didn’t come wistfully clouded in hopelessness. On the contrary, it was a relief. A blessed, refreshing relief. In one, unbidden thought, I had absolved myself of the massive weight I hadn’t even realised I was carrying; the society-driven pressure that most women place upon themselves to find a husband had been lifted. I was me and I always would be me… I was free. And I couldn’t stop telling people.
What I failed to realise, in those early days, before I’d seriously considered the impact of this understanding, was that simply voicing what I considered to be a wonderfully freeing fact such as this was not only going to invoke pity in any listener, it was going to make them angry. V.v.angry.
It begins with a look of deep sympathy. A frown, a wonky, patronising, sad smile. Then comes the sentiment: “Don’t worry – it’ll happen for you one day. You’ll find someone &c. &c.” The automatic assumption being that I want to get married but haven’t met someone who wants to marry me. Or perhaps that I have never met someone that I loved enough to want to marry. Which is utter hogwash on both counts. I have been loved. I have been in love. Crazily, stupidly, illogically, want-to-spend-the-rest-of-my-life-with-you, truly, madly, deeply, head-over-heels, can’t-live-without-you, painfully, torturously, in full on clichéd stylee love. And, in that state, the urge to lock a relationship down, to preserve it, to do anything to make the other person reciprocate your love to the same extent is incredibly strong, I get that. No, my reasons, of which there are many, for opposing marriage have nothing to do with an inability to find love. I do believe in love, I honestly do! Just not in the way that people expect.
THE FAIRY STORY
We thrive on stories. With our art, music, acting and writing we can cause anguish and pain, we can make people cry and laugh, we can cause depression and anger and contempt. We like a good fable, an old-fashioned fairytale, a thumping formulaic read with some hot gypsies thrown in. We understand the black and white of the thing – learning the black and white is the basis for understanding that there are only shades of grey in life. Swathes and swathes of suffocating grey. And so, when the grey gets a bit too much to bear, we fill some of it in with black and white again… in our minds at least.
Fairy stories have a lot to answer for. Tales have always been a way to control societies; these days we have stories in the media too that churn out similarly damaging propaganda, but we still have those more traditional fairytales to remind us of what we should strive for in life and to warn us of the dangers of not living how we should. It is brainwashing of the highest order and it is the thing, above all else, that causes niggling feelings of guilt and failure in our lives, no matter how we live them. The fairytale has crept into everything; it’s in adverts and films and books and songs.
The basis of a fairytale is to take a young, pretty, thin girl; weak and vulnerable and sweet-natured, of course; and put her into a difficult situation, which inevitably gets worse and, just when we as the audience despair, along comes a man (generally rich and dashing and noble) to save her. And then they get married. Happily ever after. The audience is so glad it’s a “happy” ending. Life will be swimmingly easy for them. Isn’t that what we want? Love, happiness, riches, an easy life…? Well, we may as well get married – that’s a start, ey? And it’s the “right” thing to do. Don’t ask why, it just is, ok?
And then along came Disney. Despite the grim nature of some of our original fairytales, Disney manages to turn each one into insipid nonsense. True, I will quite happily sit down and watch the Little Mermaid or Snow White &c. when I want to allow my brain to have a snooze, or when the grey bits in life really get me down. But I know that I’ll have to swim back into the sea of grey at the end. Children, however, think that the fairytale is gospel, as they do the… well, the gospel. We are all brought up with these tales and they stick with us because, unlike the story of Santa Claus, they are still taught to us in varying formats throughout our lives. And everyone gets married, don’t they? It’s like growing up, it just happens. So when it doesn’t happen the way we’re told it should, we feel like failures; whether we failed to marry, failed to meet a mate, failed to be happy in marriage, failed to stay married, failed to be straight – we feel responsible. Because the other thing that fairy tales teach us is that if you are a good person and do as you are told, all the good things will happen to you and you’ll get your happily ever after. And they teach us that if you don’t get married/can’t get married/stop being married/don’t fancy who you’re supposed to, you’re probably a bad person because you’re not even trying to follow the story that someone else wrote for you long before you were even born.
It’s something that is fundamentally flawed in society – the need to promote the married and fecund above the single and childless. David Cameron is just not helping society to progress, but I don’t have time to go into that diatribe right now. Society as a whole is constantly changing and, v.slowly, it’s trying to evolve into something more modern and, for want of a better word, tolerant. But perceptions of marriage stand stubbornly archaic against that evolution of acceptance and, unless the way in which we view marriage changes with the times, this out-dated institution will hold us back in part, and exclude more and more people from its clique.
Another thing we thrive on is drama. Let’s face it, the majority of us Westerners lead pretty mundane lives and a lot of the time it’s a strain and an effort and we don’t see much for it. So we spice it up a bit. Probably as a hang-up from more devout days, we attribute meaning to every token – we take things as a sign that we’re meant to be with this person or that person. We make booming declarations of eternal love that seem so v.real at the time, but in hindsight are embarrassing, undignified and rather absurd. But then, you will prostrate yourself at the feet of someone who has said they want to leave you and scream things like: “I can’t live without you! I want to die! Oh, can’t you see we’re meant to be together?!” because that’s what you do when you love someone, isn’t it? Um… in films maybe.
“ONE TRUE LOVE”
Let’s start by looking at the concept of “The One”. Even if there were such a thing as “The One,” in a world of approximately seven billion people, what are the chances of that person being in your hemisphere, let alone in your country/city/place of work/bed? But incredulity aside, let’s suppose you’ve met someone who you consider to be your “One and Only” and let’s suppose they feel the same way about You. They feel the same way about this You, the You you are now, not the You you were five years ago or the You you will be in five years. Different books are right for you at different points in your life: you can read a book at twenty and hate it, yet read it at twenty seven and adore it, and vice versa. I believe that the same theory works if you substitute the word “books” with the word “people”. Cue outrage
That’s not to say that people can’t change together, but life takes so many different turns; events and situations change you so v.much. Even if you were to live out of each other’s pockets (and this is v.unhealthy both for your relationship and your own personal sense of self, I might add), the two of you can never have the same reaction, emotional or otherwise, to any given thing, so the likelihood of you changing into two different people who love each other is slim. Opinions change. An incident could occur to your partner that turns them from a liberal, free-thinking hippy into a bigoted, racist homophobe. You might have so adored your partner’s smile and twinkling eyes, yet the death of a loved one causes a bout of depression so deep that their eyes become dulled and the mouth never again curls upwards in mirth. It’s easy in theory to say that you would love that person through thick and thin, no matter what the cost, when the going is rosy; but if everything a partner says to you becomes tinged with scorn, for example, would you patiently take the flak and continue to love them as vehemently as you always did, regardless? Of course, history in a relationship adds a certain something; but surely that is akin to loving the memory of how a person was, rather than who they are now. And presumably the urge to stick is tantamount to the age old excuse of doing exactly what you’ve always done because it’s harder to not do it.
But, again, let’s suppose that you’ve been with your partner for years and that you’re still emotionally compatible… what is there to say that you’re still physically attracted to each other? What is there to say that your sexual needs have morphed into the same craving? What is there to say that there isn’t someone else out there who would fulfil your “needs” more?
We are driven towards partnerships, but I think Tim Minchin, as he so often does, succinctly sums this up perfectly with his song: “If I Didn’t Have You, Someone Else Would Do.”