Saturday, March 08, 2008

over 30 blues: why do I HAVE to get married?

It's no secret that any single (never married) woman over thirty is a spinster, and that spinsterhood in Puritanica is even worse than being a divorcee. This is one social situation in which being a lesbian may put a woman at an advantage because then you at least have an excuse for not netting a husband, and we all know that being single is the antithesis to being a woman. Women, we are taught, must couple up because single people are alone. Most people confuse being alone with being lonely and even more would prefer to live a lonely (painfully lonely) existence fronting as part of a couple than be single. If you doubt this, just read "Marry Him" by Lori Gottlieb in the March edition of Atlantic Magazine. In the article, Gottlieb advises spinsters to just settle so they can get married
My advice is this: Settle! That’s right. Don’t worry about passion or intense connection. Don’t nix a guy based on his annoying habit of yelling “Bravo!” in movie theaters. Overlook his halitosis or abysmal sense of aesthetics. Because if you want to have the infrastructure in place to have a family, settling is the way to go. Based on my observations, in fact, settling will probably make you happier in the long run, since many of those who marry with great expectations become more disillusioned with each passing year. (It’s hard to maintain that level of zing when the conversation morphs into discussions about who’s changing the diapers or balancing the checkbook.)
Over the years, I have watched friends, colleagues and family fill the need to be part of a couple by jumping from one relationship to the next. I've always feared that most of the time this relationship hysteria was as much to avoid the appearance of being unworthy of a relationship and loneliness as it was due to a pathological need to be part of a couple. I have witnessed the brutal power some women exert when saying the words "my boyfriend", "my fiancee" or "my husband". I have witnessed too many girls (I can only call them girls because they did not appear to have the emotional maturity to rightly be called women) who were so very eager to marry that they ID'd their prospects with more accuracy than a Peacekeeper missile, alienate all their friends planning the perfect wedding and wonder why they're not happy after they're married (this does not mean that I think marriage is always to meet a social objective; I know quite a few people who are truly happy and settled in their marriages).

I am, on occasion, ambivalent about having never married. While I have a tendency towards an embarrassing degree of sentimentality, I was never one of those girls who was planning weddings with each new boyfriend, madly in love right away, or even one looking for Mr. Right to have the perfect marriage. To be honest, I really had no interest in marriage and babies through adolescence and much of my adult life. Actually, with rare exception, I didn't start really crushing on guys until I was in college. I have (for good reason) major league trust and self-image issues and my life plans were based on my being married to the lab. I'm guessing this is why I've always had what I would consider a realistic and pragmatic attitude about love and marriage. Since these were things I hadn't considered for myself, I'm able to be quite objective about them.

I left the lab ages ago. I have since turned 30 (and then some) and become friends with people who were able to find a work-life balance. This has made me think about apsects of marriage and family that do appeal to me, but those aspects that appeal to me are those related to the things I've always thought are required for a stable, loving relationship/marriage: mutual love, respect and admiration; complementing one another. For me, the deep, earthshattering romantic love is built on friendship, not the other way around. I am friends with guys I will never have a romantic interest in but I could not have a romantic relationship with a guy I wouldn't want as a friend.

I don't understand the point of marriage without that abiding friendship coupled with intimacy and respect. Maybe this is why I don't understand how anyone could say that letting gay people get married is in any way a threat to marriage - but then, I'm not so sure that so-called "traditional marriage" has anything to do with what I feel is required to make a marriage worthwhile. Regardless, while I appreciate Ms. Gottlieb's advice on how to avoid the stigma of spinsterhood, settling for the sake of being a socially acceptable married woman (and running the risk of becoming bitter divorcee or worse, miserably married) just isn't an option for me.


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