PLANTING THE SEED
So, you’ve been with your partner for years and they’re still showing no signs of popping the question. If you’re a bloke in a straight relationship and want to marry, chances are you’ll be working out how to ask your lady for her hand, safe in the knowledge that she’ll almost certainly say yes. But, as I have witnessed firsthand in other couples, if you’re a woman in a straight relationship, you’ll probably be dropping hints like crazy: strategically leaving catalogues open at the Engagement Rings section, leaping desperately for the bouquet at weddings and coming out with such gems as: “Tallulah and Tarquin have only been together for three years and they’re getting married already…”
If you’re at this stage, then there is no denying that you’ve submitted to manipulation tactics to get what you want. But is that what you really want? Why do you want it? If you’re happy with your partner, you live together and you have a good, strong relationship, what is the point of marrying? Chances are you’ll spend an awful lot of money on feeding and watering distant relatives, followed by a lavish holiday only to return to the exact same life you had before, only poorer.
Maybe you feel that there’s something missing in your relationship and that marriage is the fundamental link to success and happiness; that marriage will solve all your issues. Or maybe you feel that you’ve been with your partner long enough and after doing so much hard time, it’s absolutely imperative that you tie the knot or it has all been for nothing. That’s the thing about relationships, though – there is nothing to work towards; if you’re in a relationship, you’re in it and that relationship can grow and change, of course it can, but there is no “happy ending.” Marriage is not as dramatic as an ending, it’s not even a beginning – it is a continuation.
Whatever the reason for wanting to marry, why do women drop hints? Why is it such a rare thing for a woman to propose to a man? A hang-up from days gone by, perhaps, but a hang-up that acts as a tiny, but niggling reminder that all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others. The institution of marriage is fundamentally flawed in many ways, but its inability to change at the same rate as our culture deems it outdated and regressive.
CONFORMITY IN FRIVOLITY:
With This Ring…
An enormous amount of emphasis is placed on the ring that starts it all. The engagement ring. Note the singular: ring, not rings. An engagement ring should typically cost the same as the prospective groom earns in a month. You see, it all starts with a deposit. To secure this man’s future purchase of a wife, he must guarantee it against outside interference with a trinket, and this trinket must be worthy of the item to which he is laying claim. Well, that’s how it used to be in the good old days before these damn women started reading too many books that gave them ideas. Unfortunately, there was something misunderstood in the feminist movement that is still misconstrued to this day: the idea that women battled and battled in order to offer other women the right to own their partners as much as they themselves were owned. Equality – yes absolutely – but surely where ownership of a human being is wrong on one count, it can only ever be wronger on both. Two wrongs do not a happy union make. Note that the word “obey” is often omitted from the woman’s wedding vows to make them more equal, it’s never added into the man’s!
But I digress. The engagement has only one ring; there is only one owner in this part of the proceedings and an engagement ring is a talisman to ward off all other suitors. Worn solely by women. And judged massively by the woman herself. After all, if a man loves his woman, he will all but bankrupt himself to give her what she wants, no? The significance of this ring is now one of power on the woman’s part; the ring is a prelude to a promise almost as binding as the wedding vows themselves. And is this ring something that has been picked out because it suits the wearer? Well, it’s a diamond solitaire on a gold band, the slight variation is irrelevant.
Dress like a Princess…
Then there’s the dress. White, floor-length and, these days at least, strapless. White. For virginity. Let’s face it, most couples are already cohabiting with each other when they decide to get hitched, so to wear a white dress seems somewhat disingenuous. Why white? Certainly not to imply virginity. There may have been a slight increase in the number of coloured dresses to appear in bridal shops, but for the most part, the dresses are still white (or cream). It’s almost like a fresh start; a blank canvas. But if marriage is neither beginning nor end, it again seems somehow inappropriate. It’s a rare occasion when an affianced couple opt for a small wedding to which only close friends and immediate family are invited. It is also a rare occasion when a girl doesn’t spend thousands of pounds on a dress that she will only wear once for a ceremony that lasts all of twenty minutes.
It’s all about uniformity. Conformity. A diamond solitaire ring in a gold setting, a white wedding dress, flowers, drapes, place settings, a sit down meal, a cake cutting and a first dance. “But it’s traditional” you might say. Yeah, and so is slavery, imperialism and oppression of the minorities, but that’s no excuse for ploughing on regardless. Traditionally, marriage was for uniting countries. Traditionally, marriage was to justify sex and childbirth in religion. Traditionally, marriage was a way for government and church to control the masses. Tradition? Balls to tradition! The Wicker Man was a satire of communities who take tradition too seriously – I suggest you traditionalists watch and take note. In a western world that is evolving cerebrally, there is no act that can be validated because it is an act of tradition.
Whether the bride and groom have chosen a religious or secular wedding, they will no doubt be heading for a wedding breakfast and reception shortly after they’ve had lots of posed photographs taken. Photographs that don’t portray any natural moment of the day, but capture exactly what the photographer wants people to see. Then the guests will throw confetti at the couple, despite the fact that the custom is rice (or the local grain) and that the rice is to symbolise fertility, not just so some people in posh clothes can throw bits of shit at some other people in posher clothes in the name of convention.
It is popular these days for wedding receptions to be held in expensive hotels, where the wedding guests who have probably travelled to see the happy couple get married, bringing with them gifts they can’t afford to bring, are expected to book themselves into swanky rooms. Luckily for the wedding guests, the bride and groom have arranged for all the chairs at the reception to be covered in organza and for fresh, colour coördinated flowers to adorn every table, so that makes up for the expense, doesn’t it? Well, no, not really. It’s a vicious circle: the bride and groom shell out thousands of pounds to arrange the wedding, so it is expected that the guests spend hundreds of pounds each in return. The bride and groom are probably only really bothered about a third of the guests and about two thirds of the guests aren’t that bothered about the bride and groom. And yet, somehow, the groom’s sister has manipulated the bride into making her a bridesmaid and even though the invitation said “no children,” there’s a suckling sprogger screaming its head off because that particular set of owners couldn’t possibly have found a babysitter in the three months prior to the big day even though every other besproggered family managed it.
It’s a stressful do, is a wedding. There is a massive responsibility when seating guests – one mustn’t forget the row auntie Doris had with your cousin Frank in 1998; the seating plan is created and immediately scrapped over and over for just such reasons. Once seated in carefully designated places, the guests will find favours next to their place names, which are generally little knickknacks for which they have no purpose and which will gather dust in a drawer for years to come. Is any of this sounding romantic to you?
With the invitation you receive, for which you are required to feel suitably humbled and grateful, you will also receive either the name of a shop from which the bride and groom would like you to purchase the rightfully expensive present that you’re going to give them, or a request for money, with which the newly married couple will buy drinks on the luxurious holiday they’re about to go on. Most couples have already lived together long enough to know that they are capable of cohabiting with each other. Wedding presents were generally given when couples lived with their respective parents and so had none of the things needed to make a house a home when they moved into their new pads together.
An important question I think you have to ask yourself, if you are seriously considering marriage, is: “Do I want to be married or do I want a wedding?” Because if what you crave is the dress, the day all about you*, the party, the presents and the holiday, I’m guessing you haven’t considered the implications of marriage at all. Maybe another question should be: “Would I do this if it was just the two of us, both wearing jeans, doc’ martins and skanky old T-shirts with a quick I do ceremony in the register office and nothing more?”
[Name], do you take [Name] to be your lawfully wedded [husband/wife] to live together in marriage. Do you promise to love, comfort, honour and keep [him/her] For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. And, forsaking all others, be faithful only to [him/her] so long as you both shall live?
Groom: I, [Tarquin], take thee, [Tallulah], to be my wedded Wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, ‘til death us do part.
Bride: I, [Tallulah], take thee, [Tarquin], to be my wedded Husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, cherish, and to obey, ‘til death us do part,
These days the vows are sometimes adapted somewhat, as in the case of Kate Middleton refusing to “obey” Price William. A girl under enormous social pressure to conform and with some pretty daunting boots to fill. Good on her!
I can’t read the wedding vows without wanting to tear my hair out. “Do you promise to love… so long as you both shall live?” how can anyone promise that?! You can promise that at that moment in time you love someone; you can promise that at that moment in time you can’t imagine ever not loving them – you cannot ever promise to love them forever and know that you will keep that promise, because love is out of your physical control. And everybody knows this, deep down. If they didn’t, there would be no instances of jealousy or insecurity. Love is an erratic malady that makes fickle creatures of us all.
Moreover, how can we pretend to not see that wedding vows are superfluous in a world that allows divorce and prenuptial agreements? And how could you not allow divorce?
* I have a day about me every year… it’s called My Birthday.