Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Holy MatriPhony

The best thing about my Marriage and Family class is that we get delightful tidbits of information like this:

"Married people are generally healthier and happier than people who are single, divorced, and widowed. Married people have lower rates of heart disease, cancer, stroke, pneumonia, tuberculosis, cirrhosis of the liver, and syphilis. They attempt suicide less frequently and have fewer automobile accidents than do singles. They are less likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, and other forms of psychological distress..."

In other words: Get married. Or you will die.

But this is how alot of women see the single life, anyway; a wretched state of loneliness and longing. Walking past couples in the park in matching neon jogging suits and sighing a heavy sigh of pain; or tearing up at the sight of a man proposing to his girlfriend on New Year's Eve, or wearing tragic bride's mate dresses in mango orange as you watch another one of your friends walk Down The Aisle and think, if only that were me....

"You will die alone" becomes the ultimate threat to any woman who doesn't want to Settle Down. Even if, God forbid, she is attractive and mentally functional with plenty of friends and family and a job and hobbies and things to do, she is still, by cultural standards, destined to Spinsterdom. You know, spending your weekends in a dark one bedroom apartment, devouring a pint of Ben & Jerry's with your 17 cats (who you've named after each of your exes) and watching Golden Girls reruns to cheer you up --because, Dammit, if Blanche and the gang can be single and old, than so can I-- before realizing how pathetic that is and proceed to cry for the next three hours with Phil Collins songs playing in the background.

Oh yeah, and then you'll die alone.

But i think there's something really wrong with marriage. And I'm not talking about the Monogamy Doesn't Work theory the whole bit about Keeping the Romance Alive or even traditional gender roles that explain the near 50% of divorce rates, because we've all heard them a bizillion times before.

The biggest reason i could never see myself jumping on the Wifey bandwagon (aside from the fact that i wouldn't be caught dead in a matching jogging suits) is because i believe in the human project and personal development that comes with being single. Elizabeth Wurtzel says it beautifully in Bitch: "There are other things that other women need to do: they need to have lesbian affairs; they need to drop out of medical school and become investment bankers; they need to fly with the Air Force in Iraq or work for the Peace Crops in Papua New Guinea; they need to sleep with their live in New Orleans for five months, in Krakow for three months and in Bangkok for two years. They need these things, all these things--for if they didn't, they surely would not bother, for it is so much easier to just get married. It is so much easier to stick with Plan A. "

And Plan A, the marriage plan, is just another in the series of sequential steps society has set out for us; bread crumbs for Hansel and Gretel. We live life in perpetual groups, under the thumb of Rules and Compromise that come with living with someone else. We're all so scared shitless of being alone that we never get to experience the freedom of being alone; of letting the dishes pile up for a week or spending loads of money on frivolous things or casual sex or spontaneous trips half way around the world or sleeping in till' 5 pm or doing whatever the hell it is you feel like doing because you're unattached and independent and you don't have to answer to anyone. In the time of being single, you learn who you are, what you want and why you want it and make the mistakes and missteps that shape you into a decent adult. When you're single, in other words, you can grow the fuck up.

And i think that may be the biggest marriage detriment of all: the idea that two people who barely know themselves, who've only half-lived, can somehow exist in a lifelong relationship, expecting not to fall victim to the "what-ifs" and regrets itching in the back of the mind.

I personally think the above "studies" are bullshit, more cat nibble feeding the mouth of the backlash that's been gnawing at the women's movement since the 70's. Some shady scholarship that will end up being the basis of some Ann Coulter book with a title like, "I Do. Why don't you?" (because we all know that conservatives that come up with clever puns are just hilarious) .

But even if it is true, even if choosing to be unmarried means risking eternal loneliness and depression and car wrecks and herpes; Even if it means living alone without a Big Strong Husband to protect me at night, or the last tick of my Biological Clock or the societal frown that comes with being a woman unchained--And it might mean all of these things. But i'll take my chances anyway. I'll risk the dying alone.