Friday, May 23, 2014

That peculiar institution

Mawwiage. Mawwiage is what bwings us togethew today. Mawwiage, that bwessed awwangement, that dweam within a dweam. And wove, twue wove, wiww fowwow you fowevah and evah… So tweasuwe youw wove...
---The Impressive Clergyman, The Princess Bride

So why do people get married?

When I was younger I didn't think two thoughts about marriage. That's just what people do. As I got older, of course, and became more educated and interested in the ways of life, I knew what marriage was for.

Sex, of course. And hot damn, I couldn't wait.

Never occurred to me that people were having sex without being married. In my limited worldview you got married, then had sex.

And hot damn, I couldn't wait.

"Look, in my opinion, the best thing you can do is find a person who loves you for exactly what you are. Good mood, bad mood, ugly, pretty, handsome, what have you. The right person is still going to think the sun shines out of your ass. That's the kind of person that's worth sticking with."
---Mac MacGuff, Juno

The winter of my discontent turned into the spring of my discontent... and then the summer of my discontent. I was having a hard time connecting with someone. Junior High was horrible. I realized at that time that something's happening here, but what it is ain't exactly clear. But I wanted in. So to speak.

Problem was, no one wanted to open the door.

I liked girls. Oh did I like girls. I liked them so much that I would write dirty stories about them and shove them in their locker. Smooth move, Ex-Lax. Yeah, that will impress them. But I just couldn't talk to them. I froze big time. So I thought... hmm, how can I make them notice me? With 35 years of hindsight I realize that I just didn't know how. Certain things that should be obvious in dealing with people weren't that obvious to me. High School was more of the same. Only this time my literary career got me suspended several times.

But wait... there's more.

“The marriage institution cannot exist among slaves, and one sixth of the population of democratic America is denied it's privileges by the law of the land. What is to be thought of a nation boasting of its liberty, boasting of it's humanity, boasting of its Christianity, boasting of its love of justice and purity, and yet having within its own borders three millions of persons denied by law the right of marriage?”
― Frederick Douglass, My Bondage and My Freedom

I became a born-again Christian when I was in high school. It helped me as far as my debilitating shyness goes; I was finally able to speak before a group, I became one of the first teenage lectors that our parish ever had, I even gave talks to young people on retreats. The shyness issue was fading into the background.

But me and girls still didn't hit it off. And it depressed the hell out of me.

I was still pursuing the golden ring, the holy grail, my eyes firmly fixed on the prize. In my eyes at that time a relationship with the opposite sex could only lead to dating, the altar, and... well, use your imagination. I was horrendously naïve. In high school I finally started to be able to talk to girls. I took a speech class which had most of the popular girls in the high school in it. And I found that I could talk with them. Didn't get me any dates, mind you; but I had my foot in the door.

I entered college still not ever having had my first girlfriend. Heck, I hadn't even had my first date yet. I started attending a lot of Bible studies, as a good born-again Christian is prone to do, and I met women there. And I finally learned how to be friends with women there, without trying to make every relationship with a women proceed to something more. (Women, not "girls".)

I fell in love in college, two times. And I fell hard. When I received the "just friends" talk, it was time to pull out "The Wall" by Pink Floyd and lose myself in the haze. I was first diagnosed as clinically depressed when I was in college.

My naivete about Christians and sex took a beating in college. Christians were having sex! Huh? How could this be? And getting pregnant? Everyone knows that you always wear a raincoat when you go out in the rain!

My friends were now getting married, some of whom out of love, some of whom out of necessity. And as is common when people get married, they tend to go off the grid for a time, and you don't have the same kind of friendship you had during the single years. So I continued to make relationships and marriage my goal. My idol. My golden calf, if you will.

“I have to wonder at what point the people fighting to protect marriage will realize that traditional couples haven’t exactly been doing too good a job of it so far.”
― Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing

I finally had my first date when I was 29 years old. Met a woman through a classified ad. We stayed out at a bar until 2AM. And 8 days later, on our second date, we had sex.

Some Christian I was turning out to be. The whole experience wracked me with guilt. No more waiting until marriage, huh? Yeah, that ship finally sailed, although I had pulled the anchor on that one a long time ago. We didn't stay together long, maybe a couple of months. Just long enough for her to pull a fake pregnancy angle on me. When I figured out that was false, we were done. I ended up in a hospital for three days. Just wanted to opt out at that point.

I was done. Through. I wasn't going to pursue dating anymore. I was tired of the whole game, and a game it really was, because people were playing each other to get what they wanted with little concern about caring for the other person. At least from my observation.

And there's no one there to dry your tears. I could hold you for a million years, to make you feel my love.
Bob Dylan, "To Make You Feel My Love"

So why do people get married?

In 1997 I met a woman named Laura Rose. We got along. We became friends. We quickly became boyfriend and girlfriend. And on August 16, 1997, I knelt in the dusty gravel outside of her father's office and asked her to marry me.

(SPOILER ALERT: She said yes.)

So let's step back from the personal story for a moment and ask ourselves a few questions.

Why did you ask Laura to marry you?
Because I loved her. I still do.

If you hadn't asked her to marry you, does that mean that you didn't really love her?
No, because I loved her before I asked her.

Did you have a wedding?
Yes, on August 8, 1998, in a Baptist church in Medina, OH.

If you already loved her, and everyone knew that you loved her, then why did you have a wedding?
Because.... umm....

Where there is love, there is life.
Mahatma Gandhi

So why do people get married?

My belief for a long time is that people get married to have sex. You ain't got a thing if you ain't got that ring. It was a trick question, of course. First of all, people do have sex outside of marriage. Second, you may start off a marriage having sex four times a week, 2AM sex, afternoon-in-between-appointments sex, cancel-the-appointment-and-pay-the-penalty-fee sex.... But ask people who have been married for more than ten years how much sex they are having. Go ahead, I'll wait.

Yeah, I thought as much. People don't really get married to have sex. Married people stop having sex after awhile. Go ahead, deny it.

So why do people get married?

"Out of love", some will say. "We love each other, we want to commit ourselves to each other for the rest of our lives. We have a wedding to proclaim our love and demonstrate our commitment to each other amidst a gathering of our family and friends."

You can't commit yourself to a person without getting married? You can't love them deeply and fully without exchanging vows, rings, shoving cake in their face and having your automobile vandalized by people who if they had done that in another context would be up on charges? Obviously you can. People do. But where else are you going to get to wear formal clothes and have a hell of a party? And get showered with toasters and money? And be the center of attention?

A related question is "why do people get a marriage license?" I mean, if you are together out of love, why the need of a piece of paper? Why the need of that legal recognition?

Wait, I'm going somewhere with this.

If ever a man had it all
It would have to be me
I love you

Climax Blues Band, "I Love You"

The topic of allowing a man to marry a man, or a woman to marry a woman, has been bandied about a lot in the past few years, and everyone has an angle. On one side are people who defend marriage as "a sacred institution", although they get divorced at the same rate as other couples do. On the other side are those who want "marriage equality". It shouldn't matter who you love! You should be able to marry the one that you love!

Yet they both have something in common.

If God is the one who sanctifies a relationship via marriage, then why the need to have the state recognize it? I have the feeling that God hasn't recognized a lot of "official" marriages, and has blessed a lot of couples who are doing their own thing.

If all that matters is that you want to celebrate your love, then why the need to have the state recognize it? If a man loves a man, or a woman loves a woman, then be together! Have a party if you want, exchange gifts, celebrate however you like. No one is stopping women and men from loving other women and men.

The one thing both sides have in common are the benefits. Social Security. Visitation rights at hospitals. The government recognizes marriages and extends certain benefits to those entering that state of life.

People say they get married out of love, but ultimately they want to get married out of what they can get from the union. At the core of the issue seems to be those federal and state benefits.

Men and women can love who they want. In that there is equality. I didn't have to get married to love my wife. I already did. But if the government is extending benefits to those couples who are committed to each other and happen to be men and women, and they aren't extending those benefits to those couples who are committed to each other and happen to be two men together or two women together? Then that government is in the wrong.

A lot of people are complaining that gay and lesbian couples can already have civil unions. "Isn't that enough?" Well, let me ask those people something. Isn't that enough for you? Why do you pursue legal recognition of your relationship? Isn't it enough that God recognizes it? And if they are being totally honest, the answer would have to be "No". They want that legal recognition for the benefits it provides. And if our government is extending that legal recognition to them, they should also extend it to gay and lesbian couples who are every bit as committed to each other. There is really no legitimate reason not to do that.

The exclusion of same-sex couples from the benefits and responsibilities of marriage, accordingly, is not a small and tangential inconvenience resulting from a few surviving relics of societal prejudice destined to evaporate like the morning dew. It represents a harsh if oblique statement by the law that same-sex couples are outsiders, and that their need for affirmation and protection of their intimate relations as human beings is somehow less than that of heterosexual couples.
Justice Albie Sachs, Minister of Home Affairs and Another v Fourie and Another, 1 December 2005

So why did you get married?


Blogger Brian Lehigh said...

For the green card, ese!

9:31 PM  

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