As I slowly come to grips with the fact that I will get married in approximately 12 months, I find myself thinking a lot about the roles of love, marriage, and monogamy in society and what people (including some diarylanders) have to say about it. As these ideas have seeped into my psyche and pooled in quiet and hidden places, I feel the need to also say my peace.
Ultimately, I think our collective perceptions of love and marriage have become too programmed by fairy tales. It is as if so much has been written and acted concerning "and they lived happily ever after, enjoying unbounded material prosperity in a crime free suburb, incredible personal energy thanks to the regular practice of yoga, Tae Bo and Pilates, and massive multiple tantric orgasms on a regular basis" that people have forgotten how much of a myth that really is. Somewhere I think too many people started believing that those images somehow correspond to reality. It's like looking in your average women's magazine and saying "ooh, everyone must look like that," asking "why don't I?" and suddenly feeling suddenly insecure because of the lack of artificially constructed normalcy.
If I've learned anything, I've learned that love is difficult and anything but "happily ever after". Love is opening yourself up to another being and constantly and consistently putting yourself in vulnerable position with respect to this other person. It's all about doing things for someone else, and making your life into a set of compromises that you can both live with. The hand holding, the three bedroom/two-and-a-half bath house in the suburbs, the loving looks into one another's eyes, these are trappings, mere side effects. Real love is something much deeper and committed. It's about building lives that intertwine and support each other. It's about opening yourself up to the full range of possibilities offered by being with another person, even when things go very badly awry. Ultimately, it is a very beautiful thing... but in a way that doesn't usually involve fuzzy closeups, overly cute pet names, or matching sweaters (thank God!). As such, I tend to feel that many people look at love, and can't see the forest for the trees.
Monogamy, well, monogamy fits me. I've spent over 5 years listening to all the best intellectual arguments recounted from books such as Dossie Easton's tome The Ethical Slut detailing how monogamy is an antediluvian, prehistoric, and antiquated custom designed to oppress everyone into rigidly defined gender roles. I've also heard how wonderful it supposedly is to be able to go up to someone at a party and ask "isn't my girlfriend (or boyfriend) just a really great fuck?" Neither appear to be a path for me.
Now I am aware that I carry around the notion that sex is an intimate act as a rather heavy piece of cultural or evolutionary baggage. Yet I would not have it any other way... for myself at least. I find that the best friendships grow and develop over time, and are held together by something deeper and more profound than casual circumstance. As a consequence, I would rather have five friends I can really count on than a stadium full of casual acquaintances. This sensibility is even more acute where lovers are concerned... and I find it difficult enough to nurture one relationship where true intimacy is available and possible on a fairly regular basis, much less more than one.
As for marriage, it's a social contract. I can't deny it. When I think of the huge sums that will likely be spent to make the activities that happen the day I get married, I realize more than ever that this is about societal expectations and regulations as much as anything else. It is not just about the solemnization of a commitment between two people, and is often about a lot of things other than that -- inheriting power or property, cementing allegiances, or establishing social position.
Yet for all that, I feel it is important to stand up and declare your intentions sometimes. I tend think that publicly announcing the decision to join your life to that of another has got to be one of them. That a large party has become attached to this event is both a great thing, and sometimes a necessary evil. It is not something absolutely implies a move into a boring ranch house , or a $22K party. I tend to believe that people have a much more diverse notion of what constitutes a wedding, a marriage, or a life than have existed in the past.
Now I know that these views fit into a decidedly convention portrait of society. I do however think that they fall more into the realm of willful and enlightened choices for myself, than mere behavioral programming. I cannot recommend then to everyone... yet I think they must work for at least some sizable group of people in the world. Other circumstances and perceptions force other choices.
And oh yes, the payoff for all this? I think companionship has got to be it. Definitely. As someone who largely separated from his blood relations by a few thousand miles, I seek companionship and someone to make a life and share the moments.
on 2003-06-13 at 1:37 p.m.
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