CHOICE AND MARRIAGE
Banging on about a controversial subject such as marriage, or rather, questioning the reasons for marrying, will place one directly on the receiving end of other people’s righteous anger. Quite why it’s perfectly acceptable to utterly demean me for my views and tell me that I should get married, and then not tolerable for me to so much as to question why I should get married I do not know. In fact, to me, such vehement indignation on the part of those saluting marriage suggests defensiveness, which in turn implies insecurity. The majority of people are uncomfortable with having a belief questioned where they have followed blindly. There is an initial feeling of bewilderment, followed by an inner shame that manifests itself as anger at the person who has brought this belief into question; and, finally, there is the denial that allowed the believer to believe in the face of great odds in the first place, and allows them to blunder on through the logical thought processes with their eyes closed to come out the other side and say: “It’s my choice.”
It’s my choice.
Those words annoy me almost as much: “It’s my right.” I could, in theory, never have said anything remotely contentious on the subject of marriage and, when asked why I wasn’t planning a future of marriage, could just bark: “It’s my choice!” But, if I were to do that, I would never get any answers – I would never be able to get to the root of what causes a person to desire to marry. If I never questioned people or allowed them to question my beliefs, my beliefs would remain resolutely unchanged throughout my life – I would be staunchly narrow-minded forever. I would be ignorant by choice! I may initially oppose something that someone says, but I will still go away and think about it and, perhaps, adjust my views where I see fit. How can anyone be any other way?
Of course, I absolutely believe in and respect people’s right to choose their own paths in life. I’m not disputing the right to choose, per se, I’m just questioning why, when people insist that marriage is what I should be pursuing, they don’t have anything further to add. Some people haven’t even been able to tell me why they got married themselves, or haven’t been able to answer any of my questions. Lots of people, in fact. I am sick to the back teeth of hearing people mumble something nonsensical and then, in aggressive defence of the actions they don’t seem to know why they’ve taken, snap: “It’s my choice. People have a right to choose, you know!” Well, yes I do know, as a matter of fact. I have chosen not to marry… but I can damn well tell you why! I have questioned and honed my anti-marriage tirades. I wish to question and hone my ideas further, but I am unable do that unless people will talk to me about the reasoning behind their choices to marry. I am not questioning the right to choose, I’m questioning why it was chosen.
When I was a child, my mother* would consider every question I asked before giving me an honest, straight answer. Now, there may have been an element of make believe when I was v.young, because I suspect that those letters from Santa Claus hadn’t actually been written and signed by him at all; I think his personal elf sent them, but then I have always been a sceptic. Not once did ma Mum give me the answer: “Because I said so” or “Because I am your mother”. If she wanted me to do something or not do something, she had a bloody good reason for it and she wasn’t afraid to tell me what that reason was. As a consequence, I become incensed when people give orders or make decisions without the faintest idea why they’ve started down that route**.
I am not disputing that to marry or not marry is a choice; what I want to know is why it was chosen. If you feel that it’s none of my business, that’s fine – it is none of my business. But how dare anyone suggest that I should marry and then refuse to tell me why they think so; or, worse, get offended when I ask why I should. I know why I am not married. Do you know why you are?
CHOICE AND POLITICS
Another thing that grates with me is when women announce that they don’t vote because the suffragette movement was just about giving women the choice to vote, not insisting that they vote. I’m telling you what, though – Emily Davidson did not leap in front of a horse to sacrifice herself just so that several years later, having won the vote, you could sit back and watch telly because you couldn’t be bothered to get off your arse and go to the polling station. The suffragettes, and many feminists since, fought (and still fight) for your equal rights as a woman in order to give women the right to learn politics, vote in the politicians that they choose and get women into positions of power. Women did not die so that some women could vote and others could bang on about their choices whilst not even bothering to find out a single thing about the policies of the men who rule the country. We need women in positions of power and your understanding and vote matter. No excuses!
Barbara Castle is probably turning in her grave!
And don’t start on at me about not “doing politics”. I hate it when people say that. If you ring 999 and expect someone to respond, if you send your children to a community school, if you walk on pavements, drive on roads, expect well lit streets, use the NHS and libraries and free condoms and abortion clinics, and if you want your rubbish collecting and your country secure, and if you expect your human rights in society to remain intact no matter who you are, then you “do” politics. Our v.society is built on precarious political structures and to excuse yourself from considering them is tantamount to burying one’s head in the sand and letting other people deal with it.
* Yes, she’s back. She’s been a huge influence on me (as I’m sure most people’s parents have been and still are)
** I once ended up being dismissed from a lesson for that v.reason. There was a system in my secondary school of putting a pupil’s name on the blackboard if they had misbehaved. That was a warning. If you continued to misbehave, you got a cross, which meant suffering through ten minutes of detention (a lifetime) after school; then came the second cross, which meant twenty minutes of detention; then, the third cross, which meant Room 24 (cue B-movie music). Three crosses meant immediate banishment from the classroom and you would have to spend the rest of the day in detention doing your homework. I’m not sure what happened this particular day, but I ended up with my name on the board. So, I frowned, and v.calmly put my hand in the air. The teacher asked me what I wanted and I said:
“Miss – why have I got my name on the board?”
She immediately stepped up to the blackboard and gave me a cross. Slightly less calmly, I said:
“What was that for? I just want to know what I did.”
She stepped up the blackboard and drew another cross on the board, larger than the first.
“EY?!” by this point I was infuriated.
The last cross she did with a flourish and then she screamed:
“You can work in Room 24 for the rest of the day!”
I still, genuinely, have no idea what I did. Although, I did make it into the “cool kid” category for at least two days after that. I sat and read my book and chatted to Mr Thackeray who was doing his shift of watching the naughty kids. It was rather pleasant, actually. Especially given that you’re not supposed to talk in Room 24.