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.
If true love is finding that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life, Mr.Everyday is doing a damn fine job of it! Now that we’ve wiped the stardust out of our eyes and reality is setting in, the hitherto charming differences are starting to wear thin.
I knew I was a sociable person but the reality of just what a big, crowded, noisy, busy life I have is becoming clear to me only now. He has what might be described as a regular Joe lifestyle and what in comparison to mine, seems like citizenry to Coventry. He goes to work, he pays his bills, he occasionally catches up with an old friend for a movie or ‘the boys’ (exactly one-two-three of them) for a night of inebriation. Never forgetting the boy’s toy, his XBox that fulfils the function of his absorbing, fulfiling hobby. I on the other hand, have a running tally of multiple books being read, a constant tickertape-like stream of output and input to the social media, people I ‘do coffee with’, ‘grab lunch with’, ‘catch a brunch with’, ‘take tea with’, ‘have dinner with’, party with, hang out with, chat up and cosy up with.
I have a busy life, he has a quiet one. But that’s not even the start of the problem. I (rather successfully, if I say so myself) juggle these sometimes conflicting priorities and engagements in my life by careful planning and balancing. I love Outlook (ask anyone who’s worked with me), keep my phone calendar synched to the various plays, movies, meets, luncheons, dinners, calls, gatherings, concerts and events that compete for my time. I figure out places to meet that will suit the parties and purpose involved and also be convenient and accessible. I may be organized but I’m not boring. I milk the 60 seconds worth of my distance run to full capacity. Above all, this is my life and I love it.
He, on the other hand, ‘likes to take it as it comes’. Oh, how I hate that phrase! It scores right up there on the hatelist with ‘going with the flow’, ‘keeping it flexible’ and ‘not over-thinking things‘. It makes me grrrrrrrrrritttt my teeth and growl like an angered wild cat. Tiny wisps of smoke start to curl out of my nostrils and flames leap out of my ears. It goes against everything I believe in, everything I stand for, everything I am.
I gave it a shot, I genuinely did. As with everything else I do, I conscientiously strove to live outside plans and schedules and organization. The result of that was that this is the sixth weekend that a much-awaited Pune trip has failed to happen. Calls have not been returned. Movieclub screenings have been missed. People have been kept waiting or hanging for days on end and proposed lunches & dinners have still not happened. I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy the time but it makes me shudder to think of how much more could have been done. Just think of how it could have been better (and I know it could have been done)! More comfortably, less stressfully, at lower costs, for longer time, better seats, more movies, tastier food.
Finally, I threw a volcanic fit. Yes, I’m not one of those genteel ladies who can ‘air their grievances’ and the man was made aware of it.
The thing is, I realized that most people tend to live in a certain way, driven by their own temperament and the demands of their lives. There may be some merit to being spontaneous. But I think many times that is just used to excuse laziness and an unwillingness to take responsibility for some admittedly boring activities.
Being organized is not a hobby. I don’t go into raptures over the perfectly sorted out filing system. Lists don’t give me orgasms. Bullet points are not my favorite accessories. But these things make my life easier; they really do. There is no way on earth I would have managed to sustain an active writing output, a very demanding career, a large social life and a family life without being organized about these things. And these habits stay. It deeply troubles me when things are not clear. And I am not compulsive about it. I know life is unpredictable and there is much that we don’t have control over. But the purpose of an organizing system is to make chaos more manageable. I’m not as bothered by a plan that didn’t work as I am by the thought that a plan wasn’t even made.
The trouble is, this works just fine for oneself. I have managed to be an organized person even while living with one rather messy person and working with several chaotic wrecks. In some cases, I have been able to influence (or indeed, bully) them into following my systems. In other cases, I’ve taken care of what I could and ignored the occasional stray sock that lands on my chair or looseleaf papers scattered close to my table.
But how do you interweave your life with someone whose fabric is a different consistency and indeed, not even woven? There are common friends, social occasions to be attended together and ‘together time’ which has to be planned factoring in two different schedules and now, different ways of being. The last time I spoke to Adi, we estimated the most convenient times for our phone conversations, based on his schedule and mine but also his girlfriend’s and my boyfriend’s. On the other hand, Mr.Everyday’s modus operandi goes along the lines of,
“Yeah, we could catch that movie. X was saying he wanted to see that movie too. Don’t worry….I’ll go again with him.”
I feel not just murderous but like Velma Kelly in Chicago, singing,
It was a murder but not a crime
I didn’t do it
But if I done it,
how could you tell me that I was wrong!!??
Can chaos and order make peace?
I have a new relationship adage to add to the thousands of platitudes we’ve been fed over the years (and none of which are working right now, dammit!).
Few people die of a volcanic eruption or a plane crash. In most cases, it’s the tiny damn things that are going to kill us. So fug the differences in age, background, upbringing and language. I think we’re going to spend a long time fighting over the damn calendar.
And then he looks at me with that shy smile and says,
People like you make the world run. People like me make it interesting to run. Besides, there’s no one else I’d rather be miserable with.
…and even my diatribe, my rant, my tall declarations are silenced. For the time being. 😉
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —— —
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