“If it doesn’t take, there’s always divorce,” she said, trying to be reassuring. My mom and I were discussing her recent foray into the world of ‘motherliness’ which seems to include the need to get her children married off. Thankfully, my brother had managed to do this all by himself, and here I was, the only unmarried sibling in my massive, scattered yet connected family. The main problem? I wasn’t showing any inclination towards marriage. Nobody dared ask me directly, but whispers abounded at all family celebrations as siblings started producing the regulation kids. The common refrain was, “So, is Searcher planning to marry?”
The truth is – I’ve never known anyone give a satisfactory answer to my question, “Why?” Why should I get married? Why is it important? Way back when, marriage used to be a way of uniting two kingdoms, making them more powerful and more immune to attacks. Then, in an increasingly puritanical society, it became the way for men to have sex legitimately (and perhaps more regularly?) and women to be financially secure and of course, sport pregnancy bellies without the shame of the ‘unholy act of sex’.
And now, here we are. Single women hold jobs, adopt kids, buy their own exotic vacations. Men and women have sex whenever they feel like it (given ideal conditions which usually include alcohol, bad judgment and a corner to call your own), and pregnant bodies stand proud on covers of lifestyle magazines.
So again, why marriage? Why should one deal with in-laws, questions like ‘should you be drinking so much?’ and ‘when will you have children’, the sense of guilt and obligation when it comes to sex or shared holidays, the co-owning of property, the stresses of limits on expenses and space… And if you have the escape hatch of “divorce” within reach, then why even bother?
My mom’s reaction? “Screw all that, I’m gonna find you a boy,” she decided and then she went on a determined online hunt for a suitable mate.
And I don’t get it. I don’t understand what I’m supposed to do under these circumstances. I meet the suitables, get a drink with them, have a fun conversation, discover that they’re interesting in their own right, and go home. My mother’s refrain – “Who knows? You might meet someone interesting” – means nothing because every person is interesting, if you have enough time. What does that have to do with deciding to wake up next to them every morning for the rest of your life, splicing your DNA with theirs to create a unique person whom you worry about for the rest of your life and taking their word for why the Xbox isn’t a suitable investment?
Don’t get me wrong. I love marriage. I love the fact that two people get together and decide that “for better or worse, I’m always going to be better with you than without.” But living with and loving another human being is hard. Just when you think you have it figured out, they change and so do you. The rules change. Priorities change. And as the years go by, it becomes harder because as more time passes, you discover more things you don’t like about them or you or the relationship. All those things you love become tainted with all those things that could be so much better.
And the only thing that can get you through it? The truly heartbreaking irrationally passionate love for who you are when you're with them. That the real stuff movies are made of, the stuff for which you forgive a messy bathroom and clumsy social skills in your partner. Because they make you awesome. How do you find that love or create that relationship out of thin cyber-air where you're clearly checking off the pre-requisites in meetings that are testing if there are enough "overlaps of interest"?
But in the increasing clamour of some kind of closure on the “loose end” status of my life, and the echoes of how passion fades and love isn't everything, I ask myself if I’ve got it wrong, if this isn’t what it’s all about.
As I brooded on the possibility that I was mistaken and that marriage (apparently to the first suitable person who helps you paint your front door blue) is the ultimate goal, I happened upon small film clips of Steve Jobs’s wisdom. He said, albeit in another context but I’ll use it here, “Amidst the noise of all the people telling you that what you believe is wrong, trust your intuition. Your intuition already knows the person you want to be in the future and will take you there. Never settle for less than that.”
And what does my intuition tell me? Wait for it. It will come.
(If not, Steve will have a lot to answer for)