All posts tagged marriage
All posts tagged marriage
I insulate myself in the guise of “independence,” “autonomy,” “power”, but if I’m being honest, the ship of I-Wanna-Man set sail right around the time I discovered how lovely Barbie looks with Ken (and how sad she looks without him). I mean, I don’t think I would DIE if I couldn’t fool one into marrying me (I hope you are wearing your earmuffs, James Dean). No, no. Certainly, I would continue to breathe and laugh and play and love. Yes. ‘Tis true. But I would laugh less, I think. I would love smaller. I would play empty.
I should just say it: Pssst. I want a husband.
And how do I want said husband? In a lovely marriage bundle. The traditional kind—where Dad gives his permission and walks me down the aisle. Where we blubber through our carefully crafted wedding vows, celebrate with a huge stinkin’ cake, and bubbly and FIND OURSELVES MAGICALLY BELIEVING IN THE POWER OF WE.
“Traditional marriage,” that dirty phrase, has become simply unmentionable for the educated, upwardly mobile woman. So what do we do? We collage together different bits of “relationships” with their various, (fucking) confusing rules, and norms, and correctnesses we think we have created something truly unique and therefore more valuable. And in so doing, we refuse to “settle”—because that (of course) would mean eternal damnation. We refuse to “give in” to gender norms. Oh and we curse those (weak) women who give into the social pressure of White Wedding.
Logically speaking, however, it is impossible to step out from the socially imposed constructs from which we are born into and raised. Therefore, all values, wants, dreams, and visions are (at least in part) socially imposed. My desire or rejection of “marriage” in part or in whole is as co-created as the fact that I have “chosen to” shave my armpits, am drawn to literature over mathematics, and add conjunctions to every (sorta) definite sentence.
I have wavered back and forth on this point over the years—ever loyal, (boo-fucking-yah) to the feminist movement and the social paths and professional possibilities she blazed in cement in my honor. But conversely, I now know (as my recent upchuck of JEALOUSY clearly illustrates) I am intimately and irrevocably interwoven with instinctual/personal/culturally-imposed desires for security, stability, commitment, love-ridden, fairytale.
So I confess that perhaps I have been pretending a little. Pretending to side with the “independent” (Rah!), self-made (Rah-Rah!) Jodi. Ignoring the part that has already made up her mind at the life I want to lead. At some basic needs of I. And those needs… yes, needs… include a marriage, and a husband, and some kiddos. Who? What? When? Where? Je ne sais pas. But I’m working on it—starting with the honest declaration of “personal” desire for ‘Til Death Do Us Part.
I discovered another little piece of ugly in me tonight. I am ashamed of this piece. She probably deserves to be drop kicked in the groin. But (alternatively!) here, Piece, take the mic…
One of my lifelong friends got engaged tonight—after eleven years of dating the guy—and I turned my head from the (text message) news with distain. QUICK! Running through all the reasons I just knew it wasn’t going to work out. And why they should not have made this decision. Phah! What are they stupid?? My whole body thought.
I damned their marriage in my own mind before her engagement ring even had a chance to carve a dent in her finger. And it totally makes me feel like a lump of shit to say this out loud but: I AM JEALOUS.
I am jealous of it all. The spotlight, the “announcement,” the sparkly, silly priced ring, the planning, the believing, the making others believe in it, too, the name changing, the name creating, boo la la, I am jealous of picking out linens, and wall paint color, and becoming Mrs. So-in-so, and sharing dreams and bank accounts and bathrobes.
But most of all… I am jealous of their readiness. Their HOPE. Their TRUST. Their LEAP. I crave to be ready for the marriage bit. The wedding bit. The baby bit. The husband bit. But as much as I want it, I’m not ready. It frightens me.
My friend, Monica, asked me recently over ice cream what I fear most in the world. “That I’ll end up like my Mom,” I said. “Devoted, loyal, blindly in love, desperate to salvage a failing relationship, but ultimately incapable. Because he leaves me anyway. He tells me that he never should have married me, that I am crazy, that I was a bad mother. And he happily builds a life with someone else with the tools and the assets that we created together, that we were supposed to realize together. He does this with her. And never looks back with regret. And never credits me for my tolerance, my sacrifice, my forgiveness, my love. He just walks away. And never looks back.”
This is my biggest fear: That I will marry the wrong man. And he will realize it first, and leave me.
So while I crave to be married, I WANT to believe in it, I WANT to trust that I am the future Mrs. James Dean, I want to trust that he wouldn’t do that to me. That he is reliable, loyal, nothing like Dad, I don’t. I don’t know how. I simply don’t know how to trust. Not even for a little bit, not even a little bit.
How do I learn how to trust?? Please. Tell me. How do I learn to trust?
Oooooooo… I can already anticipate the responses. Fucking mega-unreasonable, right? But hold up! Did you catch the YOUR marriage bit?
I just attended a beautiful wedding in Mexico— two friends of mine, who even by my cynical standards definitely should have taken the plunge. So gorgeous… you know why? Because these two were more excited to become married then to have a wedding (Ya’ll know what I am talking about, right? I mean who wouldn’t want to have an enormous party celebrating YOU and YOUR relationship? Totally… but shit hits the fan when suddenly you realize you spent all your time planning and crafting every detail of the wedding day and not the rest of your married life!)
So even though I believe that yes, these two are a good couple, with good ingredients, and no delusions about marriage and the inevitabe crap that they will have to work through, midway through the ceremony I started to build trepidation. They said the dreaded words!! Ahhh! They fucking said, “‘til death do us part”! And suddenly my stomach felt like it was digesting rocks of doubt in my black silk taffeta dress.
And so I’ve been thinking… what the heck is the purpose of repeating, no, promising such nonsense?
I joke with my friends (okay, half joke) that Tiffany’s has captured the essence of the modern marriage with their “Celebration Rings” collection. Rah rah marketing team a la Tiffany’s! But seriously… when the institution of marriage was created, life expectancy was about 30. So cool, get married at 15, stay married max 15 years. Rock on, I could totally do that! So is it coincidence that according to the US Census, of those marriages that end in divorce (which we all know is well above 50%), the average length of the marriage is 8 years? Well, what do you think??
So back to my Tiffany’s shout out… they have this line of rings that a (seriously wealthy) dude is supposed to give to his wife at every 10 year benchmark, to “celebrate” their achievement and, of course, stack another gloriously designed, horrendously overpriced loop on her ring finger. And to extend this ritual, what if it was a moment of re-evaluation and re-commitment, in addition to a celebration? Expense and Jodi-loves-shiny-things-that-come-in-baby-blue-boxes aside, how awesome is that? Forget vowing to stay married (and possibly horribly miserable) for 50+ years, how about just 10 years at a time?
Alright, I’ll just come right out and suggest the radical (and possibly impossible)… how about we change the traditional vows to something that reflects what’s really possible? Meaning, "I will love, protect you, etc, for the next 10 years or ‘til death do us part, whichever comes first." Yeah, yeah, someone who has better rhetoric can fluff that line up to make it more “romantic” or whatever. But what about the idea? Maybe a little easier to repeat gazing into your lovers eyes (without your fingers crossed behind your back)?
Like every other B-School student, my professors drilled SMART Objectives (a well tested marketing goal setting technique) into my head. Totally applicable (and yes, I can hear you chuckling at my nerdiness):
Traditional vows are Specific and Timed for sure (until you die is pretty damn specific) and Measurable (sure there is something about honoring and protecting and not doinking your neighbor and stuff), but what about Achievable??? And what about Realistic??
The institution of marriage is totally archaic, right? But perhaps we can modernize it by applying what we know from years and years of studies on goal achievement. From a managerial perspective, there is noooo mystery as to why marriages end— in the workplace we simply stop trying when, a) we believe we cannot achieve the assignment, or b) we don’t have the resources to complete the task. The assignment of marriage according to the traditional wedding vows would be like telling a marathon runner (of which I am not, but could imagine)… “Okay John, run. Yep, just start running and… well… never stop until you die.” Riiiiight???? Okay, now how about, “John, run 10 miles, then break, see if you like the race and if you do, go another 10 miles.” Mucho better, eh?
I realize how unromantic all this is………. so much easier to let the “love” heal all, and miraculously lend wisdom and strength during times of turmoil. That’s definitely worked awesome thus far. Seriously, sans joking, I also realize that children possibly disrupt a necessary shift in marriage promises— as a child of divorce I certainly wish that my parents would have not have called it quits (for selfish reasons). But I also realize that with any institution that is failing, a change-agent has two options— radical, abandon the institution altogether (personally not a fan in this case) or liberal, reform the system from within.
And I don’t think I have to convince you that the institution of marriage IS failing. So before we all become life-long Brad and Angelina’s, how about we borrow and apply the principles from the institution of business that has proved profitable (read, successful) over and over? Perhaps then we could at least say we are people of our word…