Recently a friend explained why he doesn’t believe in the institution of marriage. He can’t stand the political dynamics that are natural to any family, the complication of multiple opinions and agendas and the excessive rituals. I can’t say I agree. I know there is a common notion (further popularized by pop culture) that women are programmed to love the idea of marriage, due to the paraphernalia of weddings. But those aren’t my reasons for believing in marriage.
First of all, I distinguish the wedding from the marriage. The wedding is the formalization, the ceremony that symbolizes that two people are henceforth bound together, socially and legally. Customs may vary but this is the fundamental purpose of every single wedding ceremony conducted over the world. It is a ritual and like all other rituals, it only has as much significance as the people carrying it out, attach to it. It is true that no paper or custom can ensure or create a fulfilling union between two people. That has to be built by the two people in question, bit by agonizing, confusing, wearying bit.
Let’s look at marriage itself, beyond the rituals, beyond the superficialities of sindoor and rings. It is the meeting and combining of two people’s lives. It is the merging of assets, of tangible ones like money & possessions and of intangibles like career, eating habits, lifestyle choices etc.
Take the most basic human action of eating. Everyone does it. It’s difficult enough to decide on one meal to be shared by two people (eating place, seating, cuisine, taste, spice, vegetarian/non-vegetarian etc). How much more complicated it would be to repeat this for the rest of the two people’s lives? Multiply that several thousandfold for every other aspect of life above food.
This alone tells me that the only sensible way to start is to do it in an organized manner. Marriage signifies just that, with several of the supposedly meaningless rituals providing a framework for two people to undertake this arduous venture. I’d say that’s a template at best and can (and should) be customized to the couple’s requirements.
Considering what a massive undertaking this is, it’s only prudent to account for issues and breakdowns. I think it’s a fool’s errand to go starry-eyed into something as big as a lifelong relationship and assume blithely that everything will work out in a ‘happily ever after’ way. Marriages are not always happy. Unions are not guaranteed to work. Compatibility may not last. While a relationship should only be undertaken with the hopes of it working, the possibility that it may not should also be borne in mind.
What then of two lives that were joint together (or at least attempted to)? The division of those aforementioned assets is yet another complicated exercise, one that often consumes the people involved, completely and leaves everyone dissatisfied. There’s no easy way to unite or to end emotional involvement; that bit is always going to be bloody. It seems wise to at least sort of the relatively easier things like possessions and even that’s not easy. A formal ritual strikes me as the process that can be closed most cleanly. If at this juncture, the law must be brought in as an impartial third party, it is only fair to have it be a party to the union right at the start, which is the legal wedding ritual.
Personally, I may have the temerity to go against society and the strength to survive a messy breakdown, outside the structure of marriage. However, I cannot guarantee the same for my children. It doesn’t feel fair for me to thrust my life’s choices and their consequences onto my children, even before they choose it for themselves. Society still isn’t easy on the children of a single parent, especially an unmarried one, never mind an unmarried mother. Whether I ever have children or not is immaterial. This is far too important for me to overlook what might be even a remote possibility.
I won’t (and haven’t) run around desperately in search of a partner to sucker him into the grand party of a wedding. I’ve lived a reasonably happy single life for many years. However, if I decide to build a lifelong relationship with a man, marriage is the only way I’d consider going about it.
A version of this article is posted at Yahoo! Real Beauty.
Recently, a friend updated his relationship status on Facebook to the now-familiar status of ‘X is now in a relationship’ preceded by the ubiquitous red heart. He received a barrage of comments specially alluding to the fact that he has been in said relationship for years now.
Last year I saw another funny thing on my feed. In the varied flow of interesting links, photo uploads and news of people ‘friending’ each other, two consecutive entries stood out. (As they appeared on my Wall)
(broken heart) A is no more in a relationship. one minute ago
(red heart) A is now in a relationship. three minutes ago
Another barrage of comments followed, referring to the short-lived affections of the Facebook generation and likening relationships to a certain brand of instant noodles.
What had actually happened was this: A had logged into his account from his girlfriend’s computer. He got up to visit the bathroom and she slipped in and changed his relationship status. It was something they had argued about earlier, with her campaigning for an ‘open to all’ status and him pushing for being discrete. When he returned, his sharp eyes spotted it. He threw a fit of course, but not before changing the status back to its former. It was a private conflict in the couple but it caused much mirth among their friends.
I’ve myself been in a relationship for awhile now, a fact that neither of us has tried to conceal from the people in our lives. One conversation I initiated early on, was how we both felt about being ‘open’ about our relationship, on Facebook. I thought it especially important, in the face of what happened with my friends. My significant other shrugged and told me he didn’t really care either way, he was rarely on the site anyway. I still haven’t made up my mind what I feel about this.
It’s not about whether to be open or secretive about my relationship. Everyone who matters to either of us has seen us together, knows beyond doubt that, yes, we are a couple. On the other hand, that seemingly simple act of changing the status is actually a loaded one. It puts the relationship in the spotlight, all of a sudden. Most people on his Friends list and mine will feel nearly compelled to say something in jest or at very least, a congratulatory vein.
There is a certain scary ‘officialness’ about this update. It’s almost like signing a contract together, eerily similar to a marriage agreement or prenuptial. It is not that the thought of a deeper commitment itself is scary, but a relationship has to be ready for that in its own time. And at this stage, it’s not. Funnily enough, by the time it will be ready for that ‘Finally on Facebook’ update, it will provoke even more jest and attention precisely because it comes so much later.
I wonder if the creators of this social network ever thought that their offering would someday become a key reference point in the relationships of connected people worldover. Relationships are tricky enough as they are. I’m wondering, do we really need the complication of yet another question?
“Are we ready to Facebook this?”
Note: A version is posted at Yahoo! Real Beauty
How similar do people have to be to get along? How different can they be?
He is a loner, doesn’t like too much attention and prefers minimalism. I’m the original social butterfly, I thrive on company and drama is my style.
On the surface, our interests seem to match. But scratch that and we uncover big differences. He likes literature, thinks Shakespeare had the groove and enjoys Charles Dickens. I’ve never actually read any Bard originals (yes, kill me) and I couldn’t decide if Oliver Twist or David Copperfield was the most depressing thing I’d ever read (then I read Thomas Hardy who won hands-down). I love pop culture, the flash and dazzle, the kitsch and even the fleeting impressions it barely leaves on our psyche. He has a mild disdain for anything not deep or meaningful.
I read him a bit of my novel. He listened carefully, offered his thoughts and then admitted quite truthfully that it wasn’t his thing. That stung but only in the way that it stings that my best friend doesn’t read my blog or that my dad is never very impressed by anything I do. It’s a sting at best but it doesn’t really hurt. Not really.
To my great surprise, he doesn’t feel very passionately about writing and literature even though I know that he can write (well) and does appreciate the fineness of literature. It seemed quite inconceivable to me that someone who knew this world could fail to be deeply moved by it.
But then we got to music and it started to make sense. I’ve been singing since I was 4, had classical training and guitar lessons and even performed on stage. But it has never been anything more than a pleasant hobby, one I really can do with or without. It doesn’t even rank as highly as art on my list. He, on the other hand, is deeply devoted, nearly fanatical about music. Hip-hop to be precise, a genre that I never understood or (in all fairness) paid much attention to. But it surrounds him where he goes, on his phone and his computer, plugged into his ears whenever he’s waiting for me and in most of his conversational references.
I watched him perform earlier this week, freestyle rapping at a musical Open Mic. Even if this genre is new to me, I can appreciate the gift of spontaneous performance, the ability to hold the audience in the palm of one’s hand. He’s good, very good and that’s something even I can tell. I was terribly proud of him, thrilled at the applause that followed his act and struck by that slightly lovesick thought of,
That’s who I’m with? How did I ever get so lucky?!
He finished, bowed and turned around. A number of people rushed up to him to speak and suddenly, right there, was my Mr.Everyday, shy all at once and unsure about how to handle the bright spotlight. He’s a performer all right but off-stage, he’s just a regular, sweet guy with no fancy airs about him. It was both a sobering and a sweet insight.
He slid into the booth beside me, clearly thankful as the crowd’s attention shifted to the next performer. Then he talked about his performance for a bit and I listened. And we watched the other musicians. Towards the end of the night, he leaned over and said,
“I just realised that you like me, the person much more than you like me, the performer. I like that.”
I found a great guy, I did. Someone who sees both himself and me, beyond our professions and talents and makes it possible for this relationship to be between two real people instead of a competition.
To come back to my original thought, I guess I now understand what people mean when they say they are grateful for their differences. His non-starry-eyedness about my dreams and talents gives me perspective and keeps me grounded and (hopefully) I do the same for him. We have different worlds that we each rule but we walk alone in them. And when we meet, we form something together, that belongs to both of us equally. I never realized sharing could be so much fun.
I’ve thought and thought about how and what to do with this post. I actually have another draft but it doesn’t feel right. So I’ll do what I’ve always done with this blog – be honest.
The dilemma is something I did figure would come up someday, in fact I rather hoped it would. What happens to all my male-bashing, my dudette/chick schizophrenia, my girlie fascinations and my single gal rants when I’m not single anymore? Now’s when we get to find out. Yes, you read that right.
I’ve never written about him, either literally (reporting a conversation, incident or experience) or metaphorically (slotting into the character types I’ve painstakingly organized men into). He’s new to me and to this blog.
He’s smart and educated but he’s not a Pedigreed Pup. He’s a bit of a breakaway but not exactly a Bad Boy. He’s not a Male Slut or a Metrosexual Man. He’s a regular guy with his own funny quirks and irritating habits and surprises. I’m going to call him Mr.Everyday.
He’s really the kind of guy you might pass on the street or sit a few seats away from, in a show. Indeed, I very nearly missed him myself on some of these very occasions. It took one unplanned and spectacular conversation to crystallize an everyday guy into someone special, somebody I’d overstep a few boundaries to get to know, someone who might be worth a few risks. Someone I’d like to know, to be with, every single day.
He challenges my assumptions about men, about relationships and about life in general. He makes me laugh and he makes me think. He argues with me, agrees with me, is indifferent to some things I’m passionate about and points me towards things I never noticed before. He is a friend. And more. He’s the comfort of daily rituals with the tiny surprising discoveries of life each day. That’s why he’s my Mr.Everyday.
So this then, is the new man in my life and this is the new me. I was cooling off on the male-bashing theme anyway. Maybe it’s time to hold up a white flag in the battle of the sexes. A time for some fun and a little love.
Until the next post,
Not A Single Gal Anymore