Saturday, December 24, 2011

On Marriage and Intellectual Contortions

I recently expressed an attitude to marriage, which boiled down to 'share your life with whoever you want, celebrate it as you wish, and call it anthing you choose, but leave me to do the same and don't go on about it all the time, I'm not interested.'
I came across an article the other day that spoke about a woman's attitude to marriage and how she changed her mind. Although it was from the Guardian, and she still writes for them, I saw it in an EFL textbook. It doesn't appear in any online archive, to confirm that it is complete and is really what she wrote, and in any case this post is not an attack on her but an analysis of a particular way of thinking, so I won't give her name (I’d probably misspell it, anyway). The quotes are from the article as it appeared in the textbook.
She first sets out her youthful attitude to marriage, a combination of distaste for the dull, repetitive life she saw her mother and other women lead, reinforced by political indoctrination via books and a feminist gang at her university. She saw marriage, everyone's marriage, as an enslavement imposed by a patriarchal hierarchy, an unnecessary, even evil, social invention.

So, she might lack a little perspective and contrast, not to mention observation of how real people experience marriage, but her position on the matter is admirably clear. And she hasn’t finished.

Ah, yes, the ‘I don’t understand it, nor why people do it, therefore it is wrong and must be stopped’ approach to argument. Blinkered, certainly, but, as I say, perfectly clear.

Then she falls in love.

Truly heartening to see the moment of revelation. The rest of already knew that, but it’s good to see she has realised her error, and come to understand the reality. Now she will humbly renounce her previous beliefs and asked to be welcomed into the fold of the enlightened.

She could just have asked someone, but in any case her eyes have been opened, which is what matters.

Precisely, that is exactly what motivates most people to get married and have a big bash to mark the event. She has finally discovered why people get married, and that it has nothing to with the patriarchal imposition of servitude or anything else. They do it because they want to.

No, it isn’t, but we´ll let that pass. She has now understood not only why people get married but also why they often do it in church, in a ceremony whose basic traditions have not changed for generations. Except that she hasn’t.

There then follows a list of all the things which she won’t be doing, specifically so that her marriage will be a special kind of thing, unique to her, not like all those other marriages that is so much resembles. Her reasons for getting married, and doing it in a traditional way, are powerful, personal and feminist. Other people still marry because they are crushed beneath the jackboot of something or other.

I have a sneaking suspicious that it won’t be entirely free from pomposity or smugness, but that would also be a way of making it ‘ours’, so I wish her the best. She may have six children or be divorced by now, but I wish her well anyway. I hope she made her wedding ‘theirs’, and their marriage, too.

It’s just a shame that having been moved, by completely genuine sentiments, to marry and to do so in a particular way, she fails to recognise that it is exactly those sentiments that move everyone else to do the same thing. She could have dispensed with all that junk she learned at University and rejoiced in her new understanding of humanity. But no, her marriage must be special, different, free, unique.

Like mine. And yours.

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