There are, as I’ve mentioned in the past, many (many) of the conventions of marriage that are both perplexing and repellent to me (not the dress though, I’m down with the dress; I’m very happy to accompany any brides to be to the dress shop and pull the requisite ‘awed’ face as they adorn layers of starched silk – being invited on such outings is one of the few perks of being an adult woman). This means that, on a day to day basis, I dismiss the notion of marriage as insane; secretly pitying anyone daft enough to buy into such an outdated, sexist and conservative lifestyle choice and immediately relegating any newly married people who are not related to me to the outer ring of my social circle.
Recently however, I’ve been giving marriage some serious thought. This is not because there have been any significant romantic events that have forced me to reconsider my bitter ideology, but because I’ve spent most of January wrapped in a blanket watching Rom Coms and stuffing chocolate in my mouth to stave off the winter blues.Thus, in the past month, I have had to watch approximately six hundred fictional wedding ceremonies.
Filmic wedding ceremonies are a lot more enjoyable than real ones – which I usually spend either ensuring that the monologue beginning ‘have you all gone fucking mental?’ stays inside my brain; thinking about the vintage of the wine I’ll be allowed to binge on later; or forcing the fake smile to remain glued to my elfin face in case any photos should reveal me as a miserable, twisted wedding scowler*. Because movie weddings are so much more enjoyable, I have, for the first time, begun to pay attention to the words spoken in the (conventional Christian) ‘vows’. And I have noticed that there is a point during the wedding ceremony at which the couple must solemnly promise to stay together ‘for better or for worse’.
Of course, I knew that these words happened long before I binged on cheesy Hollywood hits – somewhere in the auto-recall mechanism of my consciousness I have stored all the words to the traditional marriage vows (along with all the words to the following albums: The Slim Shady LP, Spice World, Ready to Die and S Club). But, until Meryl Streep uttered them during It’s Complicated, I’d not given any critical consideration to what the words ‘for better or for worse’ actually mean.
What I’ve subsequently realised is this: all over the land millions of people have literally and legally promised – in front of assembled friends and family – that they will stay in their relationship even if it makes them completely miserable at some point in the future. I can only presume – judging by divorce rates and the great big beaming smiles on the faces in the wedding photos currently assaulting my social networks – that pretty much everyone utters these vows in absolute ignorance.
I don’t know about you, but all my life’s activity (bar the alcohol/fags/drugs based stuff) is hinged on the premise that today’s choices will result in a better tomorrow. I can’t think of a single thing I have ever done with the full knowledge that should it unexpectedly turn out to make my life worse I’ll have to stick it out to maintain face or break a legal promise in order get my life back on track again.
I mean, how low does a person’s self esteem have to be that they would sacrifice their own psychological well-being to fulfil pointless expectations conceived of by ancient men attempting to protect their wealth and absorbed into culture via the dangerous medium of ‘tradition’? I’ll tell you how low: very.
But, as I’ve already pointed out, it’s not low self esteem that propels most people into marriage. It’s idiocy, sentimentality and blind faith. Think about it – no one you’re likely to envy enters into matrimony expecting that they are actually going to have to live up to the ‘for worse’ part of the bargain. They all think they’ll be the ‘for better’ ones.That’s why they spend lots of money throwing a wedding and then try to rub their unification in your face at every possible juncture: by referring to themselves as ‘we’, publicising intimate family photos and arriving at social events looking both smug and, simultaneously, less fabulous than they did before they married.
This is my response to such optimism: lol.
It should be a massive warning to those considering a Holy union that even God (or God’s scribe or whoever) admits there is, at best, 50/50 chance of life long commitment turning out to be more crap than it sounds. I’m not a gambler, but if I was I’d be less than willing than stake my metaphorical dollar on those odds. Because this is the future if you do: a life where you are duty bound to weather the storms created by others, a life where you might have to bite your tongue at a sexist/racist remark made by someone else’s elderly relative, a life where – should you lock eyes with a human specimen that makes your soul burn – you’ll have to decline spontaneous sexual encounters or cause heartache, a life where some ageing cad gets to refer to you as his ‘wife’ (bleurgh). A life where, depending on your choice of spouse, you might have to allow Match of the Day to play on your telly.
That sounds a lot like obligation to me. Which is, I suppose, why the government need to incentivise it via tax breaks.
Fuck that. Choose life my friends. Choose single life.
*Alright, I do also sometimes cry at the loveliness. But only when I’m hormonal.