In response to Jamie Peck’s post: “Dear 2011: The 19th Century Called, It Wants Its Marriage Narrative Back“
“Maybe we, the media, just need to pull back a little bit and try out some new narratives for a change. Maybe then, we can come back around to marriage not as the single culminating event of a woman’s life, but as something two people who love each other might decide to do together if it’s right for them. But I’m afraid that wouldn’t sell very many magazines.”
There’s a great misconception about what marriage, today, actually is. People who look at it from a societal perspective or from a historical perspective tend to view it through crap-colored glasses. The concepts of “women as property” and a “wedding as the culmination of a woman’s life” while certainly are enough to rub any modern woman raw, are no longer relevant. I’m sure they exist some where in every culture and society and that’s horrendous. But fixating on these concepts as truth rather than archaic occurrences is what keeps many modern women from wanting to be married – and modern men using these reasons to refuse to commit because they’re being “sensitive to women’s issues.”
I can tell you for certain that in 99 percent of the marriages I know “gender essentialist” narratives don’t exist. In every marriage the couple makes their own rules, and usually that means playing to their own strengths. In my parents’ marriage, my Dad does the dishes and my Mom pays the bills. In my marriage, due to crazy life stuff, my husband has been “under-employed” for two years and I’ve been the one with the steady job.
Today’s successful marriages recognize that we live in a world of evolving roles and these marriages still thrive. In a marriage where the spouses accept and love each other where they are and where they can be, time and societal constraints have no limiting effect on a couple.
Ms. Peck is correct: marriage is often viewed as the “Happy Ending” of the story – look at Shakespeare, Austen, and just about every Disney movie. Which is one reason why I believe that there is such a high divorce rate. People expect happiness to remain after the wedding. They’re kidding themselves. Marriage is not a wedding. A wedding is a big ceremonial hoopla to begin a marriage (much like a graduation from high school to begin college), which is why my husband and I wanted to elope.
“Who cares!?” we’d bemoan. “We just want to be married.”
We had a wedding because it meant so much to our families. And I did find a rockin’ dress! But since the day I donned the dress, my life was not a fairy tale. And most couples will be able to relate to that. I understand that some girls need the fairy tale day of a wedding, if they know that after the honeymoon they will face a new reality for which they may not be prepared.
Ms. Peck is correct about one more thing: we, the media, need to try out some new narratives – say, for example, the truth about what marriage is really like.
“Well,” some will say, “truth is subjective and every relationship is different.”
True, every relationship is different. But if my married friends and I share anything in common, it would be the similarities in our marriages.
And as for selling magazines – magazines are either recycled once the next issue comes out or saved on a coffee table for a year before discarded. But go to your nearest Barnes and Noble and there will be shelves upon shelves of marriage related self-help books. There are seminars, counselors, movies, TV shows, Victoria’s Secret catalogs, Sandal’s resorts, florists and jewelers who all make money because of marriage. I think there is a market and an audience to hear a fresh, realistic narrative on marriage.
So let’s hear it ladies, do you want to know what marriage is really like?
You might be surprised: it’s not a fairy tale, but it’s not a nightmare either. It’s life shared with someone worthy of the awesomeness that is you.