With that skeptic Elizabeth Gilbert making peace with marriage, it seems like I should at least be able to make some peace with love.
In contrast to my ex who has personal ads placed on every free site out there—(turn ons: tattoos. Who knew? I’m guessing he reckons chicks with tats are younger and possibly more likely to put out)—unlike him, I am guarding my heart fiercely and have sworn never, ever, ever, to share a bathroom with anyone again. It’s true, I even chase the children away from my bathroom. (Good thing we have more than one. I don’t think a pit in the backyard is code here.)
Think a minute, Reader, about your own relationships and about those you are aware of and not in the nice-holiday-photograph kind of way. Aside from relatively new ones, those—say, less than seven years old—how many would you score in the really-and-truly-happy column? I have a sense that a good many partnerships survive on pragmatism alone with romance bone-dead. Many tolerate one another with tight lips over septic resentments. I concede—I am jaded, but I can’t think of many loves I envy. (Rosemary & Ned and Allison & Bernard, you are notable exceptions.)
On the recommendation of a friend, I picked up Daphne Rose Kingma’s book, The Future of Love: The Power of the Soul in Intimate Relationships, looking for some guidance. It begins:
“Love is a mighty power. It is light. It is the energy of life. It brings us into life and sustains us while we live and breathe.
Love is an energy, not a substance. It is essence, not matter….It is exquisite and profound….Love is mysterious and beautiful. It makes us happy, gives us hope and makes us believe the impossible can happen.”
I think I have a hairball. It goes on like that for a long, long syrupy time.
The author hits some valid points though, especially when she nails what have been our culturally universal and increasingly outdated expectations of marriage: Daily contact 24/7, shacking up “under a shared roof in a house with a yard and a white picket fence,” mutual exclusivity, and permanence—“until the end of time.”
It’s no wonder modern marriage is in trouble. I mean, daily? There’s no bigger love-buzz killer than over-familiarity. How can you miss someone who won’t go away? When Kingma dings exclusivity, she’s not talking only about sexual exclusivity, she’s talking about what we usually actually mean:
“…I’m also expecting you to be a great lover, a great father, a wonderful Friday night date, my comforter in times of sorrow, my social sidekick, my political compatriot, the person my parents will dote on, as well as my emotional crying towel, and my First Personal National Bank.”
That is one tall unreasonable order.
My daughter has been reading Romeo and Juliet for her freshman English course. “I just don’t get it, I mean off-yourself over a guy? I don’t think so,” she said. That seems to be the consensus among her classmates. She went on to explain that her (female) English teacher loves the work and relishes the poetry in a way my daughter finds “creepy.”
“I have to wonder what her relationships are like,” she said.
So do I. Really, so do I.
Imagine if 13-year-old Romeo and his darling, Juliet, had managed to pull-off their escape and live together, to marry (disowned by both their families), and pop out a couple of pups—then what? Would they have made it through their madonna-whore tensions? Would the babies have stolen their thunder? Would J-babe have gotten her pre-baby figure back? Would Romeo have cared? Would Romeo have turned out to be a creep like my ex? Should I be writing for US Magazine?
I think I’d have had to check “will not attend” on that wedding invitation RSVP, like I do so often and send a little gift (not cutlery).
My daughter and her peers are a more sensible lot than girls her age once were. I hear them say things like, “Guys suck–well, except for X.” They are clear that they don’t need men. If they partner, it will be of desire, not necessity. My girl, she’ll have a career of her own—she’ll stand on her own two feet. It’s no wonder boys can’t get their worth in the same places they did a generation or two ago.
I encourage it, too. Women like me, we’re a nightmare for the men’s rights movement. According to the those at Manhood 101, my ex was probably so emasculated by Feminism (me) that he couldn’t possibly care for me “properly” (as though I’m a houseplant). I wasn’t “properly” fulfilling my gender-defined role sexually—(lay-there-and-take-it)—so he went looking for sexual stimulation and validation elsewhere (a pretty slimy elsewhere). He needed to feel successful at being a man and, I’m admitting it straight out—he wasn’t getting that from me.
Ex was emasculated. (Though a friend argued otherwise asserting that one can’t lose what one never had.) The men’s movement wouldn’t have thought much of him, either. He even had a t-shirt that read, “men of quality respect women’s equality.” (The poser.) I think it was fatherhood that started it. Can a man be manly while changing a diaper? Silently aggrieved, he was always perfectly willing to keep his testicles in my purse. I have to admit, I didn’t respect him much for it.
Whatever the future of love generally, it’s in bed with the future of masculinity and I have a feeling, recrafting the convention of love and marriage just might serve to protect masculinity from the daily insults of domesticity and over-familiarity.
The future of my love life, it doesn’t look anything like marriage has looked before now, and that bodes well for the future of my happiness. It doesn’t involve 24/7—I’m raising three kids and any extra complexity on the domestic front is thoroughly unwelcome. It doesn’t involve sharing a bathroom. It doesn’t entail unreasonable expectations of emotional exclusivity which are really premeditated disappointments, and there won’t be any promises of forever.
In that spirit: Have a Sappy Happy St. Valentine’s Day, Readers!