Yes, another marriage rant… Continue reading
Another of the reasons I disagree with marriage between a man and a woman is that same sex couples are not allowed to do it. Oh, of course, they can have civil ceremonies, but that’s not exactly the same thing, is it? If it was the same thing, it would be a wedding and a marriage, not a civil service and civil partnership. Aside from the fact that it’s called something different, married gay couples are not entitled to the same benefits as straight ones. Evidently, I don’t understand why anyone would want to marry at all, but that aside, why are same sex couples denied the option to have a marriage with as much import as straight couples? If people are forever encouraging straight couples to marry, why aren’t gay couples encouraged to for the same reasons? Could anyone ever say that gay couples are less in love? Of course not. That’s absurd. Love is love. Whoever* it’s happening between. Do people take offence because it’s “wrong” in the eyes of God? If so, then presumably, any marriage that doesn’t fit into those strict guidelines would be “wrong.” It would be wrong to get married if you weren’t religious, for a start.
This is not an argument in which I’m going to bang on about the fact that placing someone into a box like “Gay” or “Straight” is ludicrous. I’m not going to wax lyrical on how sexuality is fluid and how it makes no sense to take such offence simply because you don’t understand why one person is attracted to another. Some woman married Nick Griffin of all people – I don’t understand it, the v.thought knocks me quite sick in fact, but I don’t think that it warrants me burning crosses on her lawn or condemning her to Hell. The man may be a slimy, hate-filled, Nazi with a brain the size of a poppy seed; he may resemble the creature from the black lagoon, or something that’s been plunged out of a drain never before unblocked, but there’s no accounting for taste, is there? All it boils down to is attraction at the end of the day and how can I deny a person that?
I’m not going to bang on about gay rights, because this post isn’t about that, no matter how strongly I feel that homosexuality (should there be a thing so easily labelled in the fickle nature of human sexuality) streaks through us all and that you‘re just attracted to the person, not the gender. This blog is not about how disgust is a man-made feeling, designed to control our actions – in terms of hygiene, it does this v.well; in terms of disfigurement &c., not so much. Still, boundaries bind less than one would think and the blurring edges merge and converge until one subject cannot be broached without summoning another. So it is, in part, relevant to allude to these things… no matter how much this post isn’t about them.
On the subject of gay marriage, I recently had the following conversation, which I think sums things up nicely:-
T’OTHER PERSON: I don’t care if people want** to be gay, I just don’t think they should be allowed to get married.
ME: Why not?
T’OTHER PERSON: Because marriage is between a man and a woman***.
ME: Well, actually, if you’re going to be parochial, marriage is between a man and a woman in the eyes of God.
T’OTHER PERSON [with no small degree of vehement concurrence]: Yes! Exactly! It’s sacred.
ME: Oh… I didn’t know you were religious!
T’OTHER PERSON: I’m not.
ME [stunned pause while I wait for the nonsensical aspect of what “t’other person” has just said to sink into their heads]…
T’OTHER PERSON [clearly losing argument and so roaring slightly]: It’s tradition!
Of course, this person hadn’t ever thought about why they felt the way they did – they’d just been told somewhere along the line that it wasn’t the done thing and run with it. This person knows nothing about gay people other than that they fancy people of the same sex – something this person’s learned to think of as abominable. Would this person dare to judge a straight person on their heterosexuality alone? No, of course not. Would this person claim to know enough about a straight person to make a judgement of them? Again, of course not. But, apparently, the majority of society sees the act of coming out as a way of eradicating every other quality, quirk, flaw and idiosyncrasy. As far as the ignorant are concerned, if you’re gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual &c. then that is ALL you are and it isn’t the way they want you to be, so you definitely shouldn’t be allowed to mingle with the “normal” people.
If people are going to make offensive sweeping statements, they should be able to give you a logical, well-reasoned argument for thinking that way. And they should damn well know enough about the subject to be able to hold a consistent, balanced conversation about it. And if anyone ever says to me: “… because God says so” I swear I will reflexively chin them. That is not a valid excuse to go to war, and it is not an argument for racism, homophobia, misogyny or any other misguided, misinformed, loathsome features people may choose to adopt. Be religious, if you must, but don’t be a bigot in the name of “God.”
I was asked recently in a conversation, after I had admitted that I didn’t agree with marriage, why I didn’t want to commit. I’m not one for soppiness, especially not in public, but I was somewhat taken aback. I guess it depends on what your own personal definition of commitment is, but to me it means a degree of self-control, a quality of compromise and mutual respect, and the knowledge that if you were needed by another to lean on you’d be there for them… I’m pretty sure I’m already doing that.
If you’re not sleeping with anyone but your partner, you share decisions with that person and make plans with them then I don’t see how you could be more committed. If you don’t need to lean on them, but know that if you did that person would be there for you and vice versa; if you move v.much in your own circles and congregate from time to time and know that you’ve missed their presence, then surely what more could they ask of you? I don’t feel that forcing someone to announce that they’ll be there for you would mean more than the unspoken knowledge of knowing that they would be. Actions speak louder than marriage vows.
Marriage lost its clout the minute divorce became a possibility. It continues to lose its clout with societal evolution and, like organised religion, must learn to change with the times if it is to be embarked upon for generations to come with any rational rationale.
AIN’T NOBODY’S BUSINESS
There is something else that niggles me about marriage as much as anything else that I’ve mentioned and it’s this: why should I have to prove myself or my love for someone else to everyone else?
A v.close friend of mine recently got engaged. I am happy for her – it’s what she wants. But I know that she and her partner are crazy about each other. I know that they have a great relationship. I can see that they are in love. I do not need her to parade around in front of me in a lovely dress (and I’m sure it will be spectacular affair because she is stunning) to prove that she loves and wants to spend the rest of her life with this person; I can see that. I’ve been able to see that for years. Much as I believe that love generally doesn’t last forever (and the love that doesn’t is no less valid than that which does I hasten to add), I can honestly see these two people being together for the duration, so well matched are they. I love this couple – they are a beacon of joy together, and are so as individuals too. They have chosen to get married – I don’t know what for, but I v.much hope that I’m still invited. As I said in the first paragraph of my first post on marriage: I love weddings.
But I know the above couple love each other. I didn’t need them to announce it formally to me. If there are people who don’t understand how much they love each other, then they obviously haven’t seen R— and I– together… ever. So, if R— & I– know that they love each other, and if everyone who sees them together knows that they love each other and want to share a life together… what’s the marriage bit for?
Someone once said that being with me was like being with the Ice Queen. I’m not particularly proud of this and I hope that my current partner doesn’t feel that way. That a partner could feel that way is a serious issue, but I don’t really care what anyone external thinks of me in terms of my relationship or past relationships. I don’t feel that I have to validate my love for my partner by announcing it or shouting about it or tweeting about it (or even blogging about it – I’m v.uncomfortable with this whole paragraph, truth be told). I don’t want to have a party about it where everyone can tell me how “cute” we are. As long as my partner knows how I feel (and I hope that they do), I don’t see what it has to do with anyone else. Most weddings appear to be all about being the biggest, best, most dazzling, sparkling, regal couple for a day as if this proves that they love each other more than people who don’t go down that route. As if the whole day is to out-love other couples. But if you’re comfortable in the knowledge that you love each other, why do you need to prove it?
I LOVE YOU
Internally warm and soppy like a fuzzy love-bundle, inside tearing up at silly romcoms and getting a lump in the old throat when I hear words of love, I realise that I am, externally, a bit of a cold fish. Although I rarely say “I love you” even to my family (I know I know – bad Emily), I hope that my loved ones know just how much I love them. I would hope that they never see these strong opinions of mine as a sign that I don’t care or that I don’t value my relationships or the relationships of others. From my Mum to the wonderful explorer that is Michelle Jones, through John Magee, El Kitten (and hubby Mike Infinitum), Rose (and fiancé Ian) to my partner, and many many others (I merely haven’t mentioned you other wonderful people because a. I’m scared of missing someone vital out, b. I don’t want to impinge upon your privacy and c. I can’t be bothered typing out all those names), I can say with absolute honesty that I may have fingers in many pies, I may be able to cope without you, but I absolutely wouldn’t want to – my relationships, romantic or otherwise, are the foundations on which I build everything else. I would hope that, despite my not wanting to officially bind myself to any of you permanently in the eyes of “God,” and Goddess knows who else, you know that I wouldn’t ever not want you to be in my life.
This blog is not anti-love, it is anti-brainwash and I’m happy to be signing off with love… a love that has no need of marriage. Because as long as you guys know that I love you all v.v.much, that’s enough for me.
* People should definitely be allowed to have sex and/or fall in love with whoever they want, as long as the other party is wholly consensual (and neither young child nor animal).
** First mistake. T’other person clearly about to embark on an argument when they obviously haven’t got the faintest clue what they’re on about
*** Yes – already a weak-arsed argument
Cunt: A Declaration of Independance ~ Inga Muscio (an appreciation of the wonders of the vagina, the etymology of the word so many people find shocking and words of wisdom for women everywhere.
The Edible Woman ~ Margaret Atwood (an unassuming work of fiction on the subject of societal pressure)
The Dying Animal ~ Philip Roth (a v.dark, fictional tale of love, marriage and sex)
The Women’s Room ~ Marilyn French (a novel about women, marriage and feminism)
The Female Eunuch ~ Germaine Greer (a seminal discourse of women and their position in society – common sense for everyone)
Lady Chatterley’s Lover ~ D. H. Lawrence (or watch the TV series with delicious Sean Bean and the delectable Joely Richardson)
The Canterbury Tales ~ Geoffrey Chaucer (filthy, pious, sexy, devout, ambiguous and still relevant. I highly recommend David Wright’s adaptation, if you don’t want to struggle with Ye Olde Englyshe)
The Stepford Wives (the original Katharine Ross version, not that new shite with Nicole Kidman!)
I often overestimate society and believe it to be more tolerant and forward-thinking than it actually is. As I said in the first paragraph of my first post: I am constantly offended by people telling me that I should get married, that when I meet the right person I will want to get married (the insinuation being that I have simply never loved anyone enough) and that there’s clearly something wrong with me (not society – oh no – it’s all me!) Last night I had the conversation yet again. A friend and I went to the pub after work and were met by another friend who announced that they were getting divorced after ten years of marriage. So, naturally, the topic turned to my opinions on the matter. I was both shocked and appalled by what followed; suffice it to say that I never wish to speak to the friend with whom I originally went to the pub again.
I am more than happy to listen to the opinions of others; however, when I say opinions, I mean rational, well thought out, logical points of view, not bald statements. Of course, what I got was a load of bald statements.
Conversation the first, had with the soon to be divorcee who joined us:
ME: Well, to be honest, I don’t understand why anyone would get married. If someone can give me a good enough reason, maybe I’ll change my mind, but I doubt it…
DIVORCEE: Oh you should get married – our wedding day was so much fun
ME: But if I want a big party, I’ll have a big party
DIVORCEE: But it was just nice having people there to celebrate it with us
ME: Celebrate what, though?
DIVORCEE [pause]: The day, I guess. It was just loads of fun – you should do it
ME: I just don’t see why I need to get married to be with someone
DIVORCEE [beginning to look condescending]: Oh, when you meet someone you’ll want to marry, it’ll all change
For a few moments I was speechless with rage at the injustice of that comment, I reeled, and both of the people I was with took this as their opportunity to turn their conversational backs on me and start talking to each other disgustedly. Finally, on the way home, the original pub friend began again.
PUB FRIEND: It’s what holds our society together
ME: That may be how people perceive it, but I really don’t think, in these changing times, that it should be the case. Explain to me why you think that
PUB FRIEND [more than a little patronising]: It just is sweety.
ME: But you must have a reason for thinking so
PUB FRIEND: Well, without it, society would fall down
ME: What the fuck are you on about? Explain to me how
PUB FRIEND [still patronising]: It just would. That’s just the way it is. Marriage is about creating a union in the eyes of God… [at this point, my friend looks a little bit shocked at what he’s just said, what with him not being in the slightest bit religious]
ME: But you’re not religious
PUB FRIEND: No I’m not, but it’s not about that
ME: Um… you just said that’s what it was about. So you think married people are more important that we are [my “Pub Friend” is a 54 year old singleton, I hasten to add]
PUB FRIEND: Ah… no… well, yes, actually. Yes
ME: Do you have any idea what you’re saying?
PUB FRIEND: Ah… Look, marriage is what we base our society on
ME: I’ve already asked you to explain that. You’re just trotting out propaganda – explain to me how that is so
PUB FRIEND: It’s how adults conduct relationships, sweety
ME: Um… that makes absolutely no sense. So you’re saying that a relationship between two people is nothing without marriage?
PUB FRIEND: Yes.
ME: Do you percieve relationships that don’t involve marriage to be everything that’s wrong with the world?
PUB FRIEND: Well, yes.
ME: So, I’m everything that’s wrong with the world?
PUB FRIEND: In that respect, yes, I guess so
ME: But you’re not married…
PUB FRIEND: That’s different [pub friend lives with a similarly-aged lady and has done for several years… I mean, since the ‘80s]
ME: How? I just want you to explain how you’ve come to these conclusions. Do you have the first fucking clue what you’re on about? [yeah, so I was getting cross… wouldn’t you be?]
PUB FRIEND: Oh… [looking superiorly over his glasses]… sweety… your ideas are 30 years out of date. You obviously don’t know what you’re talking about.
ME: I don’t want to talk to you right now. You’re not making any sense and you appear to have turned into a patronising, misogynistic arsehole. In fact, don’t talk to me until you can actually answer my questions instead of making statements you can’t support!
Proving that, unlike the evolving society I like to think we are, we are, on the whole, just a bunch of brainwashed, walking clichés who don’t know why we think what we think and don’t want to question it in case it rocks the societal boat. So depressing.
NO SEX AFTER MARRIAGE
One of the things I constantly hear from certain of my married friends and acquaintances is that they never get “any.” Indeed, the first website to show on Google when I typed in “No sex” was divorcebusting.com. I am told that nothing kills a libido like marriage, which is enough to put me off without all the other reasons I’ve just mentioned. I don’t know exactly why this is the case… but I can have a few damn good guesses.
Desire & Disgust…
My main suspicion is surrounded by mystery. Or lack of. The minute most couples are married, any remaining sense of modesty seems to go out of the window. Why would you bother locking the bathroom door if you’re living together as a family? Why not happily sit on the toilet when your partner is in the bath? Um… because there is no situation other than extreme food poisoning that could possibly warrant it. You are a grown person, not an incontinent child. Unless you’re both really into scat, there is no reaction other than disgust and annoyance at watching someone else do something that really should only go on behind locked doors. Yes, we all know that everyone clips their toenails and blows their nose and shaves unbelievably fiddly parts of themselves and goes to the toilet and plucks out hairs and plays with pimples and waxes their ears. But these things are not sexy. You may have to do them, but you do not have to do them in front of anyone, especially not someone with whom you wish to have sexual intercourse. There is no bigger turnoff than irritation. Sharing to this degree is not intimate. There has to be a balancing act between comfort in each other’s presence and the intimation that you still wish to be seen as desirable (and that you still find your partner desirable), otherwise you become less like a romantic match and more like two siblings cohabiting.
There is also the fact that a lot of women just don’t enjoy sex as much as they make out (please see my previous post on the subject of sex for my thoughts on that particular matter https://emilydewsnap.wordpress.com/2011/02/17/women-know-your-limits-part-ii-sex-and-climax/). Supposing a woman has dreamed all her life of being married; she works for it, she groans and moans her way into a man’s heart, he marries her… what’s the point in carrying on the pretence once this dream has been realised? She’s married now, the sex was never that good and so there’s no point in continuing – he’s not going anywhere; he promised. On the flip side, all those things that men do to please their girlfriends in the sack… why continue making the effort after marriage? She’s not going anywhere; she promised.
Sex is a highly manipulative weapon that has been brandished for centuries in numerous different ways, especially in marriages. It strikes me as cutting the nose off to spite the face of the worst possible sort to deny your partner sex simply because you want something. Because you’re not just denying them, you’re denying yourself, and dangling their supposed responsibility to you in front of their face to boot. But then, if you’re not enjoying the sex as much as you used to or as much as you used to make out you did, then I guess withholding intercourse could v.much become a powerful tool.
Hormones and body clocks play a great part in a lacklustre sex life too. Women have babies – we are the ones who get pregnant, so it is our responsibility to get a hold on our pesky wombs so that sex can be enjoyed whenever. The mini pill, the injection pill (depo provera) and the hugely popular and effective implant (Nexplanon – the implant formally known as Implanon) are all progesterone/progestogen only methods of contraception and work by, essentially, tricking the body into thinking it is in the early stages of pregnancy. This sometimes instigates havoc in a woman’s body and often causes them to bleed until they’re so anaemic they can barely see straight; but, when it works, the whole reproductive system is suspended and the monthly cycles stop altogether. Aside from being rather a risk to the ovaries in the cancer stakes, this can cause a loss of libido. It can also cause a lady to start piling on weight. A woman burns a lot more calories on the days that she bleeds, which is understandable, and a woman will put weight on even in the early stages of pregnancy. In fact, the combined pill is worse than the progesterone only pills for weight gain because of the oestrogen.
Weight gain. It gets harder to keep weight off the older you get and, once married, a lot of people let it all go a little bit. Which is perfectly fine, except that the media insists on us looking a certain way and points out our “inadequacies” as it sees fit, so that, when we gain weight or wear less make-up or don’t totter around in five inch heels &c., we begin to feel bad about our appearances; we lose confidence in ourselves. Loss of confidence manifests itself in many ways – your partner will pick up on it; maybe they’ll even make a remark or two about how much thinner you used to be, or maybe they’ll make “helpful” comments about how you can lose weight and make a dig whenever you’re eating. If we don’t look how we’re told we should, we no longer feel sexy. If a person doesn’t feel sexy, they aren’t going to want to partake of the sex, are they?
What happens when the woman in a straight relationship no longer feels the way she used to? Situations where women feel that they have to have sex every night to earn the right to go to sleep are absolutely disgraceful. It feels like rape, but you can hardly say anything to anyone about it when you’ve rolled your eyes and said: “Oh, ok…” can you? And, even in this day and age, it is not uncommon for a man to consider sex a service that should be performed by a wife… he married her – she got hers now he wants his. But how does it reach such a point? Wouldn’t it be better to call it a day than to bear the humiliation? Part of the reason some women stay with husbands they no longer love is through fear. They fear that they won’t be able to afford to live alone. They fear the shame of being alone. They fear being alone and vulnerable. They fear being labelled a sad, divorcee. They fear what other, still-married women will think of them and say about them. So they suffer the occasional violation of their bodies and refuse whenever possible.
The Daily Grind & Other Animals…
And I can hardly miss off the daily grind. Life is pretty mundane and it’s hard not to let that seep into all walks of life. Clambouring wearily into bed with your partner at the end of every day, feeling that they’re just part of the furniture is just not conducive to a healthy sex life; but then, the fact of the matter is, you can’t avoid it. You’ve promised yourself to each other, you know that your other half isn’t going anywhere, so they become just another unremarkable element of your daily routine and you a similar element in theirs.
And then there’s television. Televisions do not belong in dining rooms or bedrooms. They are a constant distraction, even when on standby. They are great, big plinths of mind-numbing entertainment – designed to whisk you away from the day of work you just endured and show you how you could be living if you were one of the beautiful people. Recent research shows that if you eat in front of the TV (and we’re all guilty of it), you’re so distracted that your stomach doesn’t register that its full; if you have a screen in the bedroom, chances are you’ll fall asleep watching it or be distracted by it instead of having the sex or going to sleep. The only exception I’ll accept as a decent excuse for having a TV in a sex session is when a couple want to watch pornography together, in which case it becomes a temporary sex toy.
Arguments do not belong in the bedroom either. The mind is a funny thing and we associate particular things with memories, which affect our present frame of mind. Rows linger like herpes, ready to rage out at unexpected moments; certain objects remind us of particular things that were said and the way we felt at the time. If there’s a residual anger, it could be triggered by anything in the room in which the argument was had. This is not beneficial to your sex life. Or a sleep pattern.
Sleep! You need it in order to have the energy and frame of mind to want to have sex. Partners snore and they can’t help it, but there are other things that take place, like those midnight arguments – you know, the mysterious ones where somehow you’ve upset the other person while you were asleep and they wake you up to say things like: “How can you sleep after you said/did/implied that…?” Don’t do it! It can wait until the clear light of morning when you’ve had a proper chance to sleep on it and your partner will be rested and ready to answer questions and see your side of the argument better.
Whatever the reason, marriage seems to go hand in hand with a dwindling sex life. If there were no other reasons, this one would put me off marriage entirely all by itself.
HALF OF A WHOLE
David Cameron seems to be forever banging on about tax breaks for married couples. Well, how fucking rude! Two people live together, they share the mortgage/rent, the council tax (don’t get me started), the electricity bills, the cost of food and living. And because one day they had a big party and signed a certificate, they are deemed more important than us single folk and so are given a discount on their living costs, despite the fact that living alone is crushingly expensive. I have made a choice not to marry, some people just never have the opportunity to marry, but whatever the reason for a singleton being single, it does not make them incomplete. Nobody should be treated like a second class citizen because they are female or black or gay or Jewish or transgender or disabled or 6 foot 9. And yet, somehow, it’s ok for a politician to stand up and announce that one portion of society deserves a prize for their choice of lifestyle. Somehow, our Prime Minister thinks that it’s acceptable to denounce all people who aren’t exactly like him; and the thing that really gets me is that there wasn’t more outrage about this. Can you imagine if our “esteemed” leader turned round one day and said: “I propose that all whites can have their income tax waived…”? What’s next, I wonder? No NI contributions for Christians*? Complimentary breakfasts for people earning over £50,000 per annum?
I’m presuming (and I could be wrong – it has been known to happen) that when the PM alludes to married couples, he is not referring to civil partnerships.
The opinions of certain Tory wankers aside, nobody should ever feel that they are unfinished because they haven’t met a match. Being comfortable with and by yourself is one of the most satisfying things in the world. And building a life for yourself is just as important as building a relationship – in fact, the two things go hand in hand. Co-dependence creates an awful lot of tension; I can’t understand why the government tries to ram the concept down everyone’s throat as though it will create communities of happy, content people. Quite the opposite of having the effect of preventing divorce, reliance on another to complete your life is more likely to cause it.
Daunting as the thought may seem, you are not guaranteed to find a mate. If you do find a mate, you’re not guaranteed to get married. Just as if you are married, you are not guaranteed to be married for the duration of your short existence. This is only daunting because society made it so. It is not a lifestyle that anyone should fear, because even if you are with someone, you are only ever you and someone else, you are not made whole by them and you are not validated by being with them. You’ll find that if you can spend time alone or with your friends and not spend every waking minute feeling like you should be in your partner’s pocket, then the time you do spend together will be of a higher quality because you chose to spend that time with them and they with you.
* Would Mr Cameron be happy enough to admit that he is of Jewish-German stock? How anyone who has that background can possibly ever be a right-winger is really beyond me, but hey ho. Each to their own. Maybe David Cameron thinks it’s ok to be Jewish and marry out of the faith… but at least if you marry “out” you’re married, ey? That’s the important part.
I began writing this blog many moons ago. I have taken advice and gleaned insight through the opinions and circumstances of others. However, I have not based this on anyone or anyone else’s relationship and I am certainly not referring to myself, though I draw on personal experience to ask questions.
This is a work of opinion and enquiry. Any resemblance of characters to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
THE OTHER WO/MAN
What happens if you are married, have been with your partner for years and suddenly you meet someone who knocks you off your feet? Do you diligently stay faithful, all the while resenting your partner and fantasising about this other person? In actuality, you promised to forsake all others when you tied the knot, but that was a while ago and the shine has started to fade a little. Still, a promise is a promise and you decide to leave well alone; after all, you are the reason the other person is happy and you’d make life difficult for yourself if you made them unhappy.
In the fairytale version of this, you wouldn’t have even been attracted to another person and, even if you were, would never dream of being intimate with anyone but your spouse. But this isn’t a fairytale. True, you can be wholly devoted to and completely in love with your partner and still find other people massively attractive, but the decision to not risk your relationship by allowing something to happen would be a genuine choice and not one based on a sense of duty and fear: you want to be with your partner, your partner would leave you if they found out, so you don’t pursue this other person. That’s a fair cop, I’d say.
Everyone has to accept that attraction between their partner and others is inevitable – to attempt to prevent it would be futile and puerile; but what if you were the partner of someone who was actually in love with someone else, not just attracted to them? How could you ever be happy with that person knowing that they wanted to be elsewhere? The problem is that the partner who wants to leave probably feels duty bound to stay – they promised, after all – and so in all likelihood won’t say anything, which leads to resentment on both counts. There is an undeniable element of cowardice in not coming clean, but given the stigma that accompanies leaving someone, the coward who feels they can’t just be honest with their spouse is not entirely to blame.
But then again, what if you’re on the other side of it and found that you’ve fallen in love with someone else? If you’re in a position whereby somebody has placed their entire happiness in your hands and constantly reminds you of this, would you indeed stay faithful or would you have an affair, considering it to be less hassle and less upsetting to your partner than to leave them? What they don’t know won’t hurt them, and all that jazz. Except that if you don’t love that partner, surely it would be far more respectful to tell them so that they can go out and find someone who does love them. Or so that they can be alone and learn to love themselves so much they don’t need to be validated by someone else. It is massively arrogant of a person to believe that the other cannot live without them, even if the other has intimated as much; even if the other believes it, they won’t always feel that way.
And then there’s the “Other Woman” herself. Songs have been sung about her, poems and novels have been written for her, films have been based on her. Women warn other women about her. Women threaten their husbands because of her. I have been her; I have been cuckolded by her. The woman who dares to sully the “sanctity” of marriage*. The evil, she-devil. The Lilith of the modern day. A nymph. A nymphomaniac. Femme fatal. Women live in fear that she will “steal**” their husbands and poison their husbands’ minds out of sheer spite. So when a man does leave his wife for another woman (which isn’t often), it is the woman who is at fault, while the man’s only part in the whole thing has been that of bewitched fool. The man is absolved of responsibility because a witch trapped him with her feminine wiles; he is free to continue relations with this sorceress until the magic wears off and then return to his wife, sheepish and apologetic; or he can continue to stay trapped with the minx, the enchantress who stands as the only obstacle in the marriage she single-handedly broke. Oh yes, the witch hunt is still on and those women who rest any blame solely on other women don’t do anything to help it.
This acrimony between two women, both of whom have generally been deceived in equal measures by the man in question, is rather vile. But it’s the women who are indoctrinated into hankering after marriage so much more than the men, so the need to have it and preserve it has a far greater drive in women. It leads to desperation and desperate unhappiness and jealousy and hatred and other violent emotions that cause women to work against each other rather than with each other.
Admittedly, it’s hard to even consider that the person to whom your lover has just flown is a human being in their own right. Rather than accept that the person who has left you just didn’t love you any more, it is so much easier to blame someone else. There are spikes of sheer hatred that pierce your psyche no matter how unbidden, even when you have come to terms with your partner’s decision. After a certain length of time, and possibly because of the way the ex-wife views the new partner, the other woman generally grows to hate the implied or actual presence of the ex-wife.
Haven’t women been hostile towards each other too long? Men seem to be able to have some semblance of a brotherhood cum pack attitude, whereas women see threat in each other. Of course, there’s always an instance of more than one dominant male in any given place from time to time, and most amusing it is to watch too, as wildly exaggerated tales of fisticuffs are followed by displays of scars, which are followed by bench-pressing fibs. Somehow, though, women see the need to ostracize other women. Are we not a force to be reckoned with as one for all and all for one? Would it not work in our favour to be able to communicate with any woman we chose to communicate with, knowing that they would offer their support and advice?
DOING IT FOR THE KIDS
I’ve heard many people tell tale of the discontent marriage that must never be dissolved because the unhappy couple has children.
On the one hand, children are moulded within the first seven years of their life and divorce is incredibly hard for them to get their little minds around. To a child, who has only ever known unconditional, familial love, falling out of love has never crossed their minds. They need the security of knowing that when people say: “I love you” that means “I will always love you.” So when parents admit that they are no longer in love, the child is distraught – if they no longer love each other, how can they still love the child? Yes, I agree: divorce when you are a parent is a tricky business indeed.
On the other hand, a child’s perception of a relationship – what a relationship is, how two people in a relationship relate to one another, the way they act around each other, their gestures and loaded looks, their contact with each other – is what a child will grow up believing a relationship to comprise of. So, if all they’ve ever known of their parents’ relationship consists of snide comments and glares and underhanded remarks (and, believe me, children see these things that parents think are above their doughy heads, even if they can’t articulate it), chances are that they will fall into the trap of creating an unsatisfying union that is exactly the same themselves in later life.
Then there are the parents who use the children as bait. One parent may threaten another that if they should ever leave, they would never see the children again. Which, let’s face it, is pretty childish and not fair on said children. In this situation, “staying together for the kids” is v.much “using the kids to make someone stay,” which is in no way shape or form in the child’s interest and solely to the advantage of the threatening parent. If there is someone else involved, it could be that the hurt party will not allow the children to see the other parent while the new partner is around. This, in itself, breeds yet more hatred by planting the bitter seed in a child when it is at a vulnerable stage in life. Presumably, this act of outrageous jealousy is to prevent the child from developing any attachment to the usurper – it smacks of the fear of losing this child’s affections just like they lost the affections of the partner who left. It also causes contention in the new relationship, which is probably an added bonus to the hurt party. There are even parents who attempt to turn their children against the other parent.
I feel v.much that I am on uncertain ground here. I am childless as yet (and maybe will be so for the duration of my life) and I am no child psychologist. I can remember being scared, when I was a child, that my parents would get divorced and then, later, wanting them to. I don’t think it’s healthy to stay together for the kids, and it’s certainly not healthy to use them in relationship bartering. Divorce is probably harsh for a child, but then, staying in a failing marriage can’t be conducive to a happy family. There is a collective attitude that, if a marriage doesn’t work out, one or both people involved are failures. I see it as being more of a failure to continue with a marriage that has no benefit to either party than it is to call it a day and move on.
* Obviously, that word does not apply to me, but you know what I mean.
** I hate it when people say that someone has been stolen from someone else. It takes two people, not one stealing the other. Nobody belongs to anyone else for them to be stolen. It’s akin to “giving the bride away” at a wedding… is she an object to be owned?
WARNING: Prepare for some serious footnotes
I began writing this blog many moons ago. I have taken advice and gleaned insight through the opinions and circumstances of others. However, I am not targeting anyone or any particular relationship. This is a work of opinion and enquiry. Any resemblance of characters to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
TO ENTER INTO MATRIMONY
There are many reasons people get married and none of them, to my mind, have ever been good enough. Peer pressure is a powerful thing. If you are not married and others are, there is the implication that your partner doesn’t cherish you like theirs does them; the insinuation that if your partner loved you, they’d want to marry you. It starts to make people doubt their relationships; there’s suddenly contention where there was none before.
Marriage, or the prospect of marriage, looms over most relationships like the grim reaper, to be dealt with in one way shape or form, even if not to be undertaken. The enforced notion that, for a straight couple who have been together over a year, marriage is inevitable puts a dreadful strain on a relationship, even if both parties don’t want to marry one day, even if they do; but especially when one party does and the other does not. Suddenly there’s a subject that one party wants to discuss and the other to avoid; snide comments are bandied around; there are misunderstandings followed by disappointments followed by screaming rows. Anything small and square could represent a ring, even if it’s a box of panel pins in a paper bag. Any gift of an item of jewellery that isn’t an engagement ring is a cause of conflict. At this point in the relationship, the person less inclined to marry has probably never felt as disinclined in her or, more probably, his* life. In fact, the disinclined party has probably never wanted to be with the other person less. But here’s the rub: you see, the marriage card is down, on the table, staring at you. It’s saying things like: “You’ll have wasted x years of this person’s life if you don’t want to marry them,” it’s arguing that: “You’ve been in this relationship too long for it to be easy to walk away from; after all, it’s not that you don’t love this person and it would shut them up.” And most importantly, it’s battering you with that most powerful of all words: SHOULD…
THE SENSE OF DUTY
Because society dictates this turn of events, the expectation of a significant other is raised beyond anything that anyone can possibly live up to. And when the other person doesn’t match up, it is infuriating. They should want to spend every waking moment with you even if you’re doing something they’re not interested in; they should bring you presents for no reason; they should never look at any other person than you in a sexual way; they should tell you where they are every waking moment; they should be home at what you consider to be a decent time; they should allow you to read their personal mail messages; they should allow you into their heads so that you can see what they’re thinking and when asked: “What are you thinking?” they should be thinking about how amazing you are… In short, they should want to marry you. We’ve all either pulled the “should” card at some point in our lives or had it pulled on us and it has the ability to manipulate like nothing other than sex can.
This message of “should” appeals to the sense of guilt we all carry somewhere deep inside of us; the sensation of responsibility that keeps us in check. It allows us to fill our space in western culture and it harbours our most nonsensical neuroses. They say that even innocent prisoners feel a certain sense of relief at being sentenced – I like to think of this as the Should Factor. The Should Factor**in relationships suggests that we aren’t currently pulling our weight in the battle to integrate in the world and that not only is this a problem for us, but that it’s now affecting someone else.
A relationship can have the ability to enhance your life, but it should not be the thing on which you rest your entire happiness. And you most certainly cannot help the way you do or don’t feel about someone, especially when feelings change, as they inevitably do over time. So what happens when, for whatever reason, someone realises that they are no longer in love with their partner? Should the self same sense of duty apply? I really can’t understand why you would stay with someone you no longer love because they have been irresponsible enough to rest their sense of worth completely in your hands. And would you really want someone to stay with you out of a sense of duty? Surely this is the main cause of affairs and deceit, when in actual fact, there could be a v.dignified ending and both parties could move on rather than sit around feeling resentful that the other person didn’t feel how they promised they would. In fact, it would make more sense to not force people into the corner of making promises they just cannot keep in the first place.
Unfortunately for marrieds, the person who is no longer in love is caught in a bind – you see, back on the wedding day they made a promise to love and cherish the other until death do them part and not only promised them, but promised aaaaalllll the people who came to witness the homogenising of two beings into one married unit. It is never easy for anybody to walk away from someone with whom they’ve been intimate, but once married, you can’t just walk away. In fact, you’re entering into a whole new world of pain – you’ve signed a contract. There are the friends you had together for a start – who gets to keep who? There’s the partner’s family and the wave of disapproval that will rain down on you, despite the fact that you’re only crime is to not feel the way everybody expected you to. There’s the separating of things you own together and the loss of most of it out of sheer guilt. There’s a mortgage you have to plump up for as well as the rent for wherever you’re to stay while it’s all sorted out.
And then there’s the “wronged” partner in question. Let’s say you’ve done it – you’ve got past the screaming and shouting, past the sobbing and begging, past the leg-clinging and the hysteria. You’ve packed a few things, you’ve found somewhere to stay and you think you’re on the home run. You’re not. You see, you are bought and paid for and your partner (who you’d like to now consider your ex) has the certificate to prove it and you’re playing silly buggers. The problem is that there is no shop to take you back to so that you can be mended because you prepped and sold yourself, so the indignation is aimed straight at you. How dare you malfunction in this manner! This person now believes that they own you. They own the right to your body and mind. And you should love them because that’s what it said on your tin several moons ago.
It’s an absurd belief that anyone can force another to love them through sheer pressure. It’s a little bit like attempting to “cure” homosexuality***, wouldn’t you say? You will love me… You will love the opposite sex… You should love either men or women… Not really something you can help or dictate, is it? Painful to accept that you are no longer loved by one that you love, undoubtedly; but out of anyone’s control.
There is this idea that love is defined by the actions of a person, not their thoughts and feelings. A woman whose husband left her for another woman once said to me, not knowing me incredibly well: “It’d have been better if he’d died, because then at least it wouldn’t mean he didn’t love me.” I nearly bit my tongue clean through.
The sense of possession, brought about by sheer indignation, can v.quickly turn into obsession when not satiated. And there is no untreated psychological disorder more frightening than limerence (think of Glen Close in Fatal Attraction) , which in itself is driven by the notion that love and marriage is deemed to be a human right.
Has your partner recently left you? Are you finding it hard to believe that they can just walk away from a love as true as the two of you seemed to share? The sad fact is that this person has left you and therefore clearly doesn’t reciprocate your feelings. And they have no responsibility to look after your wellbeing – they are not your parent. The thing to do (the only thing to do) is to wait for the pieces of your life to mend themselves. Suffering from a broken heart is like suffering from a hangover: you have to ride the waves until the pain passes. And it will… as long as you don’t fight it. Limerence can have the unfortunate effect of allowing you to forget your dignity: you cling to legs, you get on your hands and knees and beg, you slash clothes, you smash glasses, you break bones, you attempt to kill yourself, you scream and shout, you rant and rail, you sob until you can’t breathe, you appeal to your ex partner’s family, you win over their friends. The thing is, if this person would ever have considered coming back to you at some point when they first left, they sure as hell wouldn’t now!
And what if they did? How would you ever be able to maintain a relationship knowing that the reason the other person is with you is because you begged them to be, and not because they decided they’d made a mistake and come back to you?
* At the risk of banging on in my usual feminist fash’, I am genuinely as outraged that it’s women who are more brainwashed into believing in this marriage malarkey as I am about marriage itself. Whilst boys are messing around with their numerous mates up trees, little girls play with dolls. Little girls play house and create monogamous bonds with other little girls… until another best friend comes along. Little girls like fairy princesses and fairytale-wedding happy endings and dream of one day being that princess with the big poufy dress at her own fairytale-wedding. Little girls grow up into little women who watch the sort of patronising films that do a proper rage on me like “What Women Want.” The difference between little girls and little boys is nowhere near as vast as we make it. A child’s core personality is established early on in life and we push boys and girls into their separate pigeonholes before they have a chance to form their own opinion of how they should be. This early indoctrination shows itself later, when little girls are grown, in the lack of ambition in the majority of women to become politicians. Boys run the world with all its guns and girls play house and type things for the boys.
Little girls are promised from a v.early age that when they grow up, they will meet someone of the opposite sex and get married. They are rarely told that they may meet someone of the same sex. They are seldom told that some people never marry and that if they don’t that doesn’t make them half a person. Unlike Father Christmas and other fantasy tales, the marriage myth is everywhere as girls are growing up too, so they still believe it when they are at an eligible age. It is the cause of much frustration to straight women that men don’t generally have the same approach to relationships or have the same emotions as them or aren’t aware of the “etiquette” of holding a relationship together. And it is the cause of much bewilderment to straight men when their other half flies off the handle because they were unable to guess what said other half was thinking or wanting. We create this divide when we teach children that they are either boy or girl and that boys and girls act in certain, v.different ways.
** The problem I have, personally, with the Should Factor, is that I know of its existence, but I am unable to fend it off completely: I am not emotionally mature enough to be in an open relationship. It would hurt me too greatly and would, no doubt, be the cause of many arguments. I’m under no illusions about this – I realise that I feel as I do because I have been indoctrinated into thinking of a romantic relationship within certain boundaries, rather than as a thing that is changeable with different partners and with shifting emotions. Even non-romantic relationships have their rules. I do, however, believe that if we can stop enforcing the Should Factor so vehemently (and I mean in all walks of life), that the urge to shake off the ball and chain and run would be lessened, and the ego would emerge less bruised from constant indignation – our jealousy and resentment is self-inflicted.
*** Or attempting to deny bisexuality because you’ve never even considered the fact that you could be that way inclined yourself. Both gay and straight people are guilty of this! Stop trying to mould people – it’s not denial, it’s a way of life and it is not a choice!
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.
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.”
If The Golden Notebook slapped me in the face, Marilyn French’s The Women’s Room positively knocked me for six. If there was ever a fictionalised version of The Female Eunuch, this is it.
And it was the Female Eunuch that reminded me of the book’s existence. Once recommended as A Book at Bedtime on Radio 4, it was soon forgotten due to the unsociable hours I keep. I had no concept of the missed opportunity at the time, but then I had no concept of the issues broached in the book either; nor of the connection and, for want of a better word, oneness that I would find in its storyline. From a gentle beginning, I was suddenly plunged into a world from which I drew many parallels with my own, and as I turned the last page with tears in my eyes, all the hairs stood up on the backs of my arms. It’s not often you can say that about a novel, but I related to it so deeply.
Mira Ward is going back to college; a middle aged, divorced mother of two young boys. Considered a wild child in her teens, Mira narrowly escapes being raped by a group of men after having the audacity to be an unaccompanied female in a bar. In the years subsequent to this, she finally (still a virgin) marries the only man who can see past her bad reputation as a nymphomaniac and begins a family, as is expected of her and, indeed, of all women. Having dedicated 25 years of her life to a loveless marriage, the seemingly static pieces of Mira’s world are thrown up into the air when her husband leaves her for a younger woman, taking her two children with him. In an era when a husband provided financial security and acceptance into society, Mira flees from suburbia to Cambridge College where she meets a number of remarkable women who change her life and perceptions forever.
I found the first part of the book slightly harder to connect with because of the time in which it was written; it focuses on the aspect of traditional marriage and, whilst some elements are undoubtedly still relevant, some of the more archaic traditions have decayed from modern society somewhat. However, this doesn’t detract from the book’s relevance as a whole. After all, the fabled nuclear family is still v.much the life-goal for most people and this starting-point creates the foundations for the female struggle that Mira finds herself embarking on. As a character, Mira represents the incredulous masses; yet through her own experiences and those of the other female characters, with a lot of wisdom and advice, she is finally able to understand the social imbalance and strike out as a whole person in her own right.
I often think it cheesy when the title of the book is found in the text of the literature, and the title of this book is found within the first paragraph. It is, however, utterly forgivable since the title epitomises the v.point that the book is trying to make. The Women’s Room. Formerly The Ladies’ Room. The female toilets in a college in the late ‘60s (a time when feminism was beginning to murmur and bubble under the surface once more) has been rechristened by an anonymous graffiti artist. And if men have the Men’s Toilets, why on earth shouldn’t women have the Women’s Toilets? To call it The Ladies’ Room suggests that little ladies do far more delicate things in there than men… like powdering their noses. It’s a pedantic point to make, but it is v.much the tip of the feminist iceberg that Marilyn French explores with this narrative. Ranging from the presumptuous invasion of a stranger touching a woman at a social gathering, to the intricacies and complications surrounding a rape case; from marriage in the ‘50s and 60s to open relationships, The Women’s Room indefatigably and unflinchingly presents question after question on the subject of equality, the frustrations of bureaucracy and the seemingly endless instances of oppression and obligation faced by women on a daily basis. No matter how small the obstacle, how meagre the offence, French shows that every little helps in the ongoing battle for women’s position in society.
Thought-provoking rather than gripping; a book that certainly takes itself seriously, and well it might for the importance of a struggle that has raged for decades, The Women’s Room takes a bold and vital step towards equality and its inevitabloe rejections and conflicts. That I drew so many parallels to my own life, as a privileged child of the ‘80s, only reminded me that it is a trap to believe that society has reached sexual equilibrium. But whether you are ready to fight for or settle with this western society, this is a book that undeniably poses questions that are not often considered, and its answers, equally as provocative, stem from all sides of the spectrum.
A must read for feminists and femphobes alike!
Revolutionary Road ~ Richard Yates
The Bell ~ Iris Murdoch
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolfe
When I die, of whatever, at whatever age, in whatever circumstance, people will shake their heads and mutter:
“ Such a shame… She could have had plenty of opportunity… If only she had listened…”
For when I die, emblazoned… etched deep on my bones, written in my ashes, chiselled onto my tombstone and rapped out in my eulogy in big, shameful, unavoidable letters will be the word “spinster”. Yep, that’s me. Give me an S, give me a P, give me an I, give me an N, give me a STER… what do you get?
Actually, what you get is an embarrassed silence followed by overenthusiastic, patronising demurrals that go along the following lines:
“Don’t say that! You’re not a spinster! You’ll find somebody! It’ll happen for you one day, you’ll see!”
Because the association with the word is far from flattering. To most people, the word spinster conjures images of haggard old crones with wiry grey hair, sometimes crazed with a squint and twenty unruly cats, sometimes prim and schoolmarmish with a sour expression and a bitter outlook.
But the word “bachelor”…? Why, that’s a successful man of any age, surely. Living alone, carefree, happy, having the time of his life.
Presumably, the semantics of two words that essentially mean the same thing boils down to western society’s delusion that women want (or even need) to get married and men don’t. Unfortunately, this belief is so ground into your average person’s subconscious, that genuine pity and scorn are felt for the poor poor spinster, who is surely desperate to find a husband.
It starts at birth. I’m loath to delve too far into my opinions of marriage, because I feel those deserve a missive in their own right; however, I can begin to neither make my point nor attempt to reclaim the balance of spinster Vs bachelor without touching on the subject. From the moment we are born, our indoctrination begins: we are taught that, if we are normal, we will grow up, marry someone of the opposite sex and have the generic 2.4 children. Now, there may be people who never attempted to stuff this down your throat, but the odds are against anyone who tries to raise a child differently. Disney, chick-flicks, Mills & Boon… in fact, these forms of love propaganda are obvious and honest about the ideal they’re selling – it’s the rest of the media you have to watch out for: conservatives sell the notion of the nuclear family, as does Christianity in its many forms; films that claim to be historically accurate always revolve around a love story; books (and again, films) about vampires involve the choice between two loves, the true one and the false and, ultimately, between good and evil. Wherever you look, the myth of the “one true love” is being subliminally and literally shoved down our throats. And yet, for the most part, we’re so used to it, we don’t even notice. This is not so much my reason for not marrying as the reason I am subject to a stigma I cannot, and will never be able to, shake. Whether it’s a conscious smugness or not, mingled with the pity shown by a married to a spinster, is the superior air of someone who considers themselves to have “made it” in life where the spinster failed.
Of course, there is the Americanism of the “bachelorette.” Far less evocative of powdery old ladies. In my head, the term bachelorette applies to 3am girls in their twenties; bolshy, thriving on youthful energy and binge drinking* sessions. It’s probably an unfair picture to paint and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that lifestyle if you can hack it. What I’m trying to say, v.incoherently, is that one can only be a bachelorette for a finite period of time. That is to say, I can’t imagine that in my forties, I will be commonly thought of as a bachelorette. And whether I have incorrectly twisted the definition of the word to fit into my world or not, the fact remains that it isn’t even a word! An unmarried woman is a spinster. End of.
And what’s wrong with that? It would take decades to dissolve the ideology of the perfect life**, maybe hundreds of decades, the conditioning goes so deep. But while the majority of people subscribe to this, maybe it would be prudent for that majority to look at the spinster from a different perspective; try looking at her as a person who has chosen to live a certain way, not as someone who had no choice in the matter. And if you are a spinster who’s always looking for a partner, desperate to be loved, maybe take a good, long look at the life of the married and seriously consider the implications of promising your v.existence to someone else. Is that really what you want? Or could it be possible that maybe, just maybe, if you feel that something is missing from your life, it is because others have made you feel that way? I would urge any spinster to never ever allow anyone else to make you feel a failure for not seeing things the way the rest of the western world seems to. Scratch the surface of any marriage and you’ll find that nothing’s perfect. Though society presents marrieds as a shining example, are they really blissfully happy? Does doubt flicker under the solid exterior? And, with so much obvious discontent in the average modern marriage, why is this way of life still pushed upon us?
The inability of people to put themselves in others’ shoes or at least to understand that the way we’re always taught it should be is not the only one is v.frustrating to me.
I have a womb that will never be occupied, although I will not cut it out; I have breasts that will only ever be used to hang clothes from; I have a partner I will never marry, though I love v.deeply***; and I have genitalia, the purpose of which will only ever be to pass urine or for the instance of pleasure****. These hips will never have my children perched on them. These hands will never change a nappy or bear a solitaire chip or throttling band, nor will they clasp a swaddled newborn warm from my belly; they will not make meals, scrub floors, fetch washing, bleach bathrooms or unclog drains whilst my husband slouches in front of a telly or swans off to the pub with his mates whilst my children scream for more attention. I will never stay sober at a party so that my other half can have a lift home. This is my choice, not my fate!
And until we come to our senses and invent one encompassing word for both unmarried women and unmarried men (and even then I’m not sure we need one, since singletons are not second class citizens!) I am a spinster. And don’t ever presume that I am short† of anything.
So… give me an S, give me a P, give me an I, give me an N, give me a STER… what do you get?
A whole woman, living a full life!
* I realise that my binge drinking is legendary in some circles, but bear with me.
** A la marriage to a person of the opposite sex and the 2.4 children
*** Don’t tell on me. I am fine with spouting opinions, but feelings stay tucked away inside me.
**** Never at the same time, of course.
† Physically short, yes, but not lacking in my life.
I began writing a blog several weeks ago on the subject of running; however, since beginning said blog, I have managed to break my back* and, whilst I fully intend to pick it up once I am healed, the thought of blogging about running, my beloved sport, seems unnecessarily masochistic at present. Still, there is many a blog subject whizzing around in my head just waiting to be put into writing.
During the last flat-bound week, a subject on which I have recently ruminated much, has been pushed to the forefront of my mind. You see, what with the vast majority of my friends tying the proverbial noose… I mean knot… buying houses in true grown-up fash’ and even dropping sproggers, I have been driven to study my own situation in greater depth.
It has been suggested that my views on relationships, nay on society in general, are somewhat unorthodox. I can’t even begin to summarise on such a broad subject without going off on a tangent, but I can say, just to give the general idea, that the middle-class myth of romance, marriage and happily-ever-afters leaves me cold. Don’t get me wrong, I v.much believe in love, but not in quite the way that western society dictates, although I have been Disney indoctrinated on my life journey as much as the next person. Anyway anyway anyway, to conclude before I really begin, I have no intention of marrying**, no interest in bearing babbits and I am clinging to my solitary studio as if my life depends upon it. All well and good and that’s my prerogative, you might say. But for the past few months, this resolution has been tinged with a nagging doubt. It isn’t the body clock rapping on my maternal instinct and it certainly isn’t the sight of yet another blushing bride in a strapless*** wedding gown. It is simply the matter of security.
Possibly this uncertainty has been borne from my mother’s indefatigable refusal to conform and marry her partner of 12 years, and my concern for her future well-being. Regardless of how it sprang into being, the question of security had begun to needle me long before the disappearing chair incident and my subsequent incapacity. A week of disability, however, has taken it’s toll. The question is now not just lurking nonchalantly, but tramping around the forefront of my mind wearing hobnail boots.
It’s all v.well my spouting on about independence and freedom and personal space and self-respect as an active twenty seven year old. It’s ok for me to spurn marriage as a fresh(ish)-faced young woman; no conventional beauty, it’s true, but no munter, either. But what happens when I unravel? What happens when I am forced to give up running, walking, yoga-ing, working out****? What will happen when the lines on my face don’t fade throughout the day, when my hair is grey and thinning and I can’t quite make it up the stairs or even remember where the stairs lead? If I do not marry, if I do not have children, if I never manage to make enough money to hire a good nurse, who is there to look after me?
This week, I have mainly relied on Gary, my boss (or my boss’s boss, if I am to be pedantic), who lives just around the corner from me and is, much to my eternal gratitude, always looking out for me. Michelle would have also been a great source of support, if she hadn’t been seconded to Belfast for the week. And it’s unfortunate that my partner is away skiïng in.. um… Sweden… Switzerland… somewhere beginning with “Sw”, although he did spend the former part of the week running me to hospital and bringing me shopping. I’m sure that both Michelle and my partner would have done their best to take care of me had they been here, but it’s a boring, time-consuming job to look after someone when you work full time yourself, and neither of them are used to me needing them; I encourage and seek autonomy in any relationship. I have been indoors for a week, peering out of the window at the ice-rink that is my street, unable to even step foot out of the door for fear of falling and doing yet more damage. I hate this. I hate needing people.
I hate even needing my mother and consider our relationship to be strictly want-to-know these days. But of course, the fabulous Mrs Dewsnap has, naturally, come up trumps in the hospitality stakes once more. She is my Mum at the end of the day. But when I am old, what then? My mother insists she will live well into her hundreds and, being as solid as she is, I can well believe it. If she makes her hundreds, though, who will be looking after who?
Michelle, my saviour and good friend, will one day pledge allegiance to the U. S. of A., marry a rich American and pop out more bairns than she’ll know what to do with. She does not share my cynicism of marriage. And Gary, great friend that he is, is the same age as my mother.
There is always John, of course. We made a pact, way back in the days of puppy fat, that should we both be single at the age of thirty, we’d marry each other. Thirty in those days seemed so v.far away and as the day of judgement looms, the boundary has been pushed laughably further and further back. I think we agreed on forty five at the last count. It seems John has no desire to marry either… even if I had been the right sex.
So, then, I expect to deteriorate and rot alone in my old age, far away as it seems right now.
Although I have not yet reached the end of the book, “The Female Eunuch” for me so far has been life-changing. Not in the sense that it has opened my mind, but rather because it has confirmed my own existing ideas. Whilst I don’t agree with every single point in an extended essay that is, in essence, a documentation of one woman’s opinions, it has voiced several thoughts that I have often tried to express and been rebuffed for. This book has been a blessed relief. It seems that my ideas are not as bizarre as people would have me believe – at least one other person agrees with me; and one as rational as Germain Greer, no less.
The real eye-opener, though; the section that made me think twice, was the short chapter entitled “Security”. This concern of mine is relatively new and I like to mull things over and really attack the root of any problem to find a solution, which often takes a while to come to fruition. Sometimes I ask questions of people†. The chapter on security has saved me a job, although I’d like to believe that I would have reached the same conclusion in the end had Greer not pipped me at the post. It’s all so obvious when you think about it:
There is no such thing as security
And I don’t just mean in terms of companionship. If you pay into a pension, does that guarantee your financial security? If you marry, does that mean you’ll never again be single? If you invest, does that mean you will get a greater return on your contribution? If you raise moppets, does that mean you will never be lonely? A husband/wife/civil partner can just as easily run off with a temp’ or get hit by a bus as a singleton. People change, companies go bust, markets crash, children grow into adults. All we are guaranteed is the moment in which we live and breathe and all we can do is hope that our investments (no matter what they be) pull through for us in the end.
Contrary to being daunting, the realisation that security is yet another mirage of society is v.comforting to me. At least this way, I can view other people’s situations in a new light when compared to my own. Others are no more secure than I am, they have just bought into the myth. All we can do is our best!
It’s a similar feeling to the realisation that after death comes nothing. Blessed, divine nothing. And once we are gone, none of this will matter a single jot. What a heavenly thought…
* Just my coccyx. It was a hilariously impressive feat performed after the consumption of copious amounts of mulled wine, whereby I hallucinated a chair and sat on it with all my might.
** If it hasn’t happened already
*** It is the fashion, I am well aware of this and each to their own
**** For many reasons that I won’t list right now
† Deep, delving, inappropriate, occasionally downright insubordinate questions.