The Marriage Conversation Again


Lately I’ve been wondering whether Frank and I are being stupid for not getting married. I worry that I’m making a major life decision (or not making it, rather) out of spite. I swore up and down when I was younger that I’d never get married and the thought of proving right those people who said, “Oh you’ll change your mind” galls me. Not that I still know any of them. Well, except my mom, but she would only gloat a little bit.
I just don’t know how to do a cost-benefit analysis for this thing any more (I suppose some people would say the fact that I think of it in those terms means maybe I’m constitutionally not a marriage person but that’s another issue entirely.)

As more and more of my friends get hitched—even ones I was sure wouldn’t—I’m starting to feel like a weirdo. And also like I want to cash in. As anyone knows who has gone through that time in life when people all around start getting married, that shit is expensive. But making a life-long commitment just to get back what I’ve spent on the people I love is definitely the worst possible reason for doing anything.

Frank and I were talking about it the other day. We’re both sort of open to the idea, in that someday-in-the-future-when-we’re-old-and-boring kind of way. Usually it’s in the context of buying an apartment, which is so far off money-wise that it’s still firmly in the category of pipe dream. We were trying to decide if any of the Very Serious objections we had to getting married when we were in our early twenties are even that valid any more. Some examples:

1. The Patriarchy. I do still feel like fundamentally, a lot of the trappings of the wedding ceremony are about the whole women-as-chattel idea, and binds their worth up with their reproductive capability. On the other hand, Gloria Steinhem finally gave in (admittedly because her husband needed a visa, but whatever.) Tons of feminists are married and anyways, we’re Third Wave so we do what we want.

2. The Wedding Itself. Ugh, being in a wedding seems horrible. And expensive. And embarrassing. And you have to do all that work planning the stupid thing. Plus there’s all that possibility for family strife or hilarious America’s Funniest Home Video bloopers: so stressful and useless. Though, as has been pointed out to me by many marrieds, you can do the ceremony however you want. My friend Mike and his wife really did just go down to city hall then texted people to meet them at a bar. So if the wedding itself is a big deal, it’s only because Frank and I chose to make it that way.

3. The Government. I don’t really want the government in my love life, and the idea of having to get a lawyer to break up with someone sucks. But if I let the possibility of government involvement stop me from living my life, then they win right? Are there any conspiracy theorists out there who can do the math on this one for me?

4. The Gays. Yes, I was one of those “I won’t get married ‘till everyone can” people. But since nearly half the friends who are getting married this year are same-sex couples (even though they won’t be “technically” married, they don’t really seem to care) that boycott seems a little pointless.

5. Lies! This one is the biggie. How can I know if I’ll want to be with a person for the rest of my life? Half of all marriages end in divorce. Why tell a lie if I don’t have to? It’s okay for people to change and grow apart over the course of an ENTIRE LIFETIME, so why pretend that it isn’t? At the same time, if I only did things that were certainties, I’d never do anything at all.

So there they are, completely debunkable reasons. But is the absence of a reason not to do something enough of a reason to do it? I’ve always hated the idea that relationships that don’t end in wedlock weren’t “moving forward,” as though there were some kind of acceptable progression model of a life that all right-thinking humans must conform to.

But it’s hard not to feel like we’re being left behind. And I don’t even know what that means. Left where? Behind what? It doesn’t make any sense.

It’s like grad school: I don’t want to go to grad school. I tried it briefly and hated it. But now that 90% of my college friends are lawyers, in law school, or applying to law school, I’ve started to feel these weird twinges that I’m going to stagnate and fail if I don’t get my ass to law school. Even though I absolutely know I’d hate it, and I don’t want to be a lawyer, and anyway, I’m happy on the path I’m on. Maybe I’m just really susceptible to peer pressure?

No matter what I’m definitely not going to law school. But it’s difficult to take a different route, one that in my case is much slower and chancier and meandering-er than the LSAT-law school-firm job one. I think essentially (and perhaps this is radically naïve) that Frank and I will keep on keepin’ on whether or not we obtain any official designation as life partners.

So it comes down to a weird, icky-feeling calculus, with the moral superiority of clinging to the (now pretty baseless) ideals of our younger selves and the relief of not having to plan/star in a wedding on one side and the financial benefits (through tax stuff and gifts and all that) on the other. I know my mom would say we should just do what we want and quit being so neurotic about it, but I don’t even know what I want any more.

I’ve spent so long being disdainful about the institution of marriage that I really can’t even see any of the positive, romantic, love-affirming parts of it any more. And yet I get all teary-eyed and fuzzy at my friends’ weddings. So what the hell man?

The answer we came up with, which is the answer we always come up with, is to give it a few years and see if we feel more strongly about it then. Which sounds like making a decision by not making one, but I still think we’re a couple years away from that. I’m only twenty-eight, you guys.

TBD, I guess. Sorry for the lack of exciting resolution. That’s what real life is like, I suppose. Overly wordy and inconclusive.