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How romantic is marriage, actually?

August 22, 2012

Marriage! It’s an odd concept, at the best of times. It’s not that I’m against it, or anything. God knows, if I found a woman I liked who actually wanted to marry me, I’d be quite astounded enough that I’d probably say “Yes!” without thinking. Ah, as I sit here in my pants and vest, thinking about the big day, the less likely it seems. For one thing, I can’t seem to picture myself wearing anything else.

What gets me is how unromantic it all is. It’s treated as this big romantic thing, but when you boil it down, what you’re actually saying is: “I guess I trust you just enough to think there’s a possibility you won’t screw me over, but in case you do, let’s sign this here contract so that I won’t be left in the shitter by your need for fantasy and freedom or my possible inability to overlook the fact that you don’t clip your nose hair quite as often as I’d like.”

I went to a wedding recently and by all accounts it just looked like an excuse to throw the most extravagant dinner party ever. The very fact that I enjoyed it proves how little like a wedding it seemed to me, being as I am not very prone to getting teary eyed over the exchange of vows, which sounds to me more like something one would do upon entering a monastery.

And is it relevant, these days? When people construct a good proportion, if not most of their lives, perfectly well in cohabitation? It looks to me like some people spend their entire existence working up to the assumption that they will one day be wed, as if it were the ultimate symbol of promotion out of the damning status of “single”, never to be undone. Compared to that, the fanciest wedding in the world would be anticlimactic, when (thankfully) it doesn’t guarantee a lifetime of anything.

I hang around with the kinds of people who think that monogamy is not the natural state of human kind. I think that it is, to some extent; but serial monogamy, nonetheless. It isn’t realistic to think, if you get married at the age of 20, you’ll still be together at 80. Fine, if you get married at the age of 70 and say “We’re going to spend the rest of our lives together!” you’re probably right. I doubt men at least do much philandering at that age. It doesn’t seem worth the effort of endless trips to the pharmacy.

Older people complain about Youths Today like me, who are either shunning or corrupting The Institution of Marriage (as if marriage is some kind of physical location besmirched by squatters). But, to me, the fact that marriage rates are in decline makes them more special. No longer are we marrying because of convention; we’re marrying because we want to. And if you are one of the few who has a happy marriage for 40 years, good for you. Yours is a true success story.

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From → British Culture

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