More on Marriage… July 27, 2009Posted by Onely in "Against Love"...?, Food for Thought, single and happy.
Tags: alternet amy williams, fundamentalism, marital privilege, religious rhetoric, resistance to marriage, the kooks naive, therese the unmarried estate, why not get married
So, Copious Readers. Ya’ll (that’s how we say it in Kentucky) have got me thinking.
Last week, we solicited your thoughts on whether it’s tacky or tasteful to throw a party for oneself and register for gifts. We got a wide variety of responses, and our conversation prompted one of our regular readers, Autonomous, to link us to an article on Alternet called “I Don’t Believe in Marriage — Here’s Why I (Grudgingly) Got Married Anyway.” And that article reminded me of fellow singles-advocate-blogger Therese’s recent post about why she’s decided to get married after being in a long-term relationship with the same person. And then this weekend, I had a long, impassioned conversation with a (married) friend of mine who wanted me to explain why I didn’t plan to ever get married.
Here’s what I told her (in so many words):
1. For one thing, I have never desired marriage — and in particular, I’ve never wanted the ceremony. When I was in a long-term relationship, I thought I might do it for my partner, who wanted to do it for his family’s sake (they were Catholic). But back then I hadn’t ever considered the possibility that I didn’t need to if it wasn’t what I wanted. Today, I write for Onely, which has made me value my independence above all else. If I’m in a happy committed relationship, great. But I don’t feel like I need marriage to validate whatever connections I have to someone else.
2. I grew up as a fundamentalist Christian (my dad was a minister!), and overdosed on rhetoric about proper “family values” and “tradition” and “appropriate” gender/sexuality practices. I’ve always been drawn to academia, I think, because critical analysis offers a direct (and highly satisfying) challenge to the kind of thinking promoted in the church where I grew up. I know that not all churches are like this, and I know plenty of religious people who can and do think and act critically. But because of my personal resistance to religion, I feel little enthusiasm for the religious value that many people ascribe to marriage.
3. As many of our readers have expressed in their comments to our posts, I, too, feel deeply cynical about the idea that there is a single person with whom you are supposed to intertwine your self and your life “until death do us part.” I think a great deal of my cynicism comes from the experience of being deeply in love with a guy for six years, but then not being able to do a thing about the fact that his feelings changed. And then mine did too. And that was real. And it was okay. The reality (for me, now, anyway) is that emotions and life are extremely complicated, and you can only do the best you can. I used to feel sad when I heard about break-ups and divorce, and now I understand that these things do — and often should — happen.
4. And then, of course, there’s the problem I have with marital privilege — social, economic, historic, religious — that is inherently bound up with the decision to get married. In some small way, I feel like my personal resistance to marriage might really matter, and that it might help change the structures of power that reward people for getting married.
But after reading (and rereading) the two women mentioned above who explain why they’ve decided to get married in spite of the problems they have with the institution, I have begun to wonder: Is my point #4 simply naive?
I certainly don’t disagree with either Therese‘s or Amy Williams‘ decisions. It’s obvious that they are smart and critically aware in a way that makes me feel encouraged that they’re on our side even if they’ve gone to the “other” side. But, if I ever have the opportunity to get married and refuse not to out of principle — well, is that just stupid?