Narcissus' Echo

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A round peg in a world of square holes...

Friday, October 28, 2005

Dear Amy,



I've been in a relationship with a lovely woman for two years. Six months ago, she gave me an ultimatum. Now I have two weeks to make my decision: marry her or break it off forever. She's crazy about me, and my family and friends adore her, and all would be ecstatic if I took the plunge. The problem is, I am just not passionate about her. A friend's father once told me "it doesn't matter who you marry." I find that really sad, but if it's true, what am I waiting for? -- Down to the Wire


Romeo and Juliet were overprivileged freaks. Until 2000 years ago, according to the historian Stephanie Coontz, "the theme song for most weddings could have been 'What's Love Got to Do With It?'" Sure, sometimes love did follow, but for thousands of years, writes Coontz in Marriage, a History, people married for sensible reasons, like keeping peace between France and Spain. For commoners, matches were not typically made in heaven, but in three inches of manure: "My daddy's pigs and your daddy's cows forever!"

Back in the 1550s, when it took two to do a lot more than tango, divorce was about as common as cell phones. In those days, putting food on the table meant chasing it, killing it, skinning it, then turning it on a spit over a fire, and there was a bit more to housework than despotting the water glasses and wiping down the microwave. Since the laboring class usually married in their late 20s, according to Lawrence Stone and other historians, and "growing old together" could mean making it to 40, a marriage might have lasted 10-15 years, at beast. These days, with some gerontologists predicting that living to 120 will soon to be the norm, if you pledge "till death do us part" at 25, you could be promising to spend 100 years together. (You might serve a similar amount of time if you murder several of your neighbors).

Love isn't the answer, it's the problem. As Coontz observes, once people started marrying for love, they started getting divorced for the lack of it. Nobody wants to ask whether it makes sense to tell another person you'll love them until you drop. Yes, it could happen. Everybody's got a story of that one couple, still madly in love at 89, and chasing each other around the canasta table. Guess what: They lucked out. You can't make yourself love somebody, or continue loving somebody after the love is gone; you can only make an effort to act lovingly toward them (and hope they don't find you too patronizing). Love is a feeling. It might come, it might go, it might stick around for a lifetime. It's possible to set the stage for it, but impossible to control--which is why people in the market for durability should stop looking for love and start shopping for steel-belted radials.

I've always thought a marriage license should be like a driver's license, renewable every five years or so. If your spouse engages in weapons-grade nagging or starts saving sex for special occasions--like leap year--well, at the end of the term, give them bus fare and a change of clothes, and send them on their way. But, what about the chi-l-l-ldren?! Maybe people who want them should sign up for a "delivery room to dorm room" plan, with an option to renew. It's counterproductive to preserve some abusive or unhappy family situation, but maybe more people would buck up and make parenting their priority if they knew they just had to get through 18 years on family track: "We're very sorry you're in love with your secretary, but there are children involved, so zip up your pants and take the daddy place at the dinner table."

Some people do have to settle. They're afraid to be alone, or they aren't brave or creative enough to thumb their nose at convention, or it's closing time in the egg aisle, and if it's male and willing, they'll take it. According to your friend's father, "it doesn't matter who you marry." Maybe it doesn't matter to him because he's one of those guys who really just wants a tidy house, regular sex and hot meals--and he never figured out how he could come close with carryout food, topless bars, and a cleaning lady. Do you have what it takes to hold out for a woman who really lights you up? You might--providing you don't need another half to be whole. If you let this girl go, you may feel empty, bored, and lonely for a while--but it beats marrying her and feeling that way for a lifetime. Maybe if you can't order up "happily ever after," but if you try for "realistically ever after," you might find "happily ever now."

Amy Alkon can be reached at alkon@metronews.com


The purpose of love, sex, and marriage is the production and raising of children. But look about you: Most people have no business having children. They are unqualified, either genetically or culturally or both, to reproduce such sorry specimens as themselves. Of all our privileges, the license to breed is the one most grossly abused. (Edward Abbey)

4 Comments:

Blogger takchek said...

So, no marriage for you?

12:42 PM  
Blogger -ben said...

< So, no marriage for you?

-"You" used in the hypothetical sense in my reply. (No need for a senseless flamewar here. You know what they say about arguing on the Internet. *grin*)-

Well, you know the old adage: never say never.

That said, I know more than a few individuals marrying (or seeking to be married) for the wrong reasons: parental, societal, cultural, even simply from the fear of loneliness. It is safe to say that I will never marry for these reasons. Marriage is neither an achievement nor a guarantee of. Marriage is a promise. And many couples enter into this promise ill-equipped to honor and preserve it. In these cases, I agree with Edward Abbey's provocative statement: they have no business producing children. Why burden society with another batch of maladjusted and emotionally dysfunctional individuals? This is a lifetime commitment that should be entered for the right reasons and the right reasons only. Or maybe these people just spend such a disproportionate amount of time watching television that the social programming ads (in Singapore) now dictate their actions from the subconscious.

While marriage is an institution reserved for adults (IMHO), being married or seeking marriage does not an adult make. I recall this transplanted FOB acquaintance who, 3 years ago, disparaged me with the title of "Peter Pan," because I was more interested in cycling, traveling and thrill-seeking than dressing up for "the market," getting in "the scene," getting married and settled down. Well, fast forward to today: a veteran of countless heartbreaks, he is still searching, while I have a resting heart rate that is easily 2/3--even 1/2--of his and have enjoyed epic journeys that would probably kill him if he tried. Better Peter Pan than Desperate Old Man, IMHO.

What I find sad is watching individuals of both genders rushing to the aisle the moment the 30s or the mid 30s arrive. It's worse than the bartender's last call. Why, are your eggs or seed no longer as fresh now? And you can't generate parasitic Minimes of yourselves soon?? Big deal. The species isn't going to diminish, or face extinction because of the absence of your little Johnny, or little Jane. Get over yourself. You are not that important.

The entire process seems to be some sort of sick joke. The poor guy gets "schooled" into dressing into what the girl wants. Behaving in a way that she is attracted to. (Sometimes even thinking in the way she approves.) And then spending vast sums of money and time into being a fixture in her life. He is taught to re-think the basis of human speech. E.g. logic doesn't work here; it is not WHAT you say, but HOW you say it; it is the manner of delivery, not the content. No. No. And NO. "Yes, you look fat, Honey. In fact, you not only look fat, you are fat. Now why don't you stop eating those Oreos so much and get some exercise?" Oh, no, that will never fly. Either that, or you will be stabbed in your sleep and set on fire.

For about 4 days every month, around the same time (if you are lucky), the bottom drops out and your life descend into an alternate dimension. Do you know why they call it "Mad Cow Syndrome"? Because "PMS" was already taken. If you think that marriage will cure that, boy, do I have a bridge to sell to you. A life time of that. Whoopie! I wish you joy.

As for those men seeking a submissive woman, thinking that they are easier to "manage," they will be well acquainted with the term, "passive-aggression" pretty soon. I too, wish them joy.

I admire strong, successful women. What I do not understand is the stereotype of them being demanding. Maybe it is my positive experience with one that was not. She taught Mechanical Engineering at Stanford, and holds several patents to her name, but the activities we enjoyed cost next to nothing. Backyard BBQs amidst the flowers, plucking fresh garden herbs for the patties directly from the garden, lazy afternoons fixing her old Honda on the gravel lot, quiet strolls in the woods, and cozy nights watching cult movies. She was gorgeous, extremely intelligent, and yet girlish and tomboyish at the same time. Looking at her twirling around in her summer dress, one would never guess that she is an expert TIG welder.

This "I earn more so I can demand more" puzzles me. So this is a race to consume? To price out oneself then? I thought this is about love, but I guess I was mistaken: it is actually about demands. Interesting concept of marriage and relationships. One learns something new everyday, I'd suppose. To those gold diggers out there, I used to frequent the establishment which Larry Ellison obtains his breakfast from every Sunday morning. He is worth about US$18.5 billion. He is divorced, thus, available. The only question is, are you worthy of him? Email me for the information. I don't require a cut. All the payment I need will come from watching you try.

I am not sparing the males who complain that strong, successful women are too demanding either. On one hand, the feeling I get is these males are trying to get the "cheapest" deal. Sort of like going to Walmart instead of Neiman Marcus. If that is all you are willing to expend in your search for a mate, why get married at all? With such a precedent, one wonders how much you will invest (money and time-wise) in your children. Are you going to raise kids who will grow up and have mail-order brides like you did? Order a blow-up doll, a jar of skin lotion, and spend the rest of your time volunteering at the local soup kitchen instead, dude. Your actions will result in a greater contribution to society, I promise.

Too often have I read or heard the words, "I need to get my wife's permission first," or "I need to ask my wife first." So, first we have a kid, who grew up learning that he needs to ask Mommy's permission before he goes out. Then he goes to school and learns that he needs to ask his teacher's permission before he leaves the classroom. And then he enters the Army and learns that he needs to ask his officer's permission before he can book out. After that, he gets a job, and learns that he is required to get his boss's approval before he leaves his place of work. Finally, he gets married and learns that he is required to obtain his wife's permission before he leaves the house. So, wait a minute here, and I am the Peter Pan, the guy who never grows up?

All right, enough of playing Tiresias for one day.

1:18 AM  
Blogger Candyfeehily said...

well if a person screw up his marriage it doesnt matter what reason he marries for. if a person doesnt, it doesnt matter either.

why would a person in a marriage zip down his pants wif the secretary? if ppl violate marriage vow then its apparently his problem, not the marriage problem.

"i ask my wife/partner for permission" is not a term of submissive. it is different from asking permission from parents or that in army. it is that once a person share life wif another it is fair to consult/inform/discuss wif the other before making any decision that would effect their shared life.

OR in case you dont know, when you ask a person something and he said "i ll ask my wife first" and never get back to you it simple means "no" in a polite form.

2:30 AM  
Blogger -ben said...

>once a person share life wif another it is fair to consult/inform/discuss wif the other before making any decision that would effect their shared life.

Those are but euphemisms for living in a state of submission. Do you consult/inform/discuss with your goldfish before you go off riding? No.

>OR in case you dont know, when you ask a person something and he said "i ll ask my wife first" and never get back to you it simple means "no" in a polite form.

That is irrelevant. And when an individual makes an implicit agreement to get back to you and never does, that makes him an unreliable and rude individual.

11:18 PM  

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