Sunday night, I was watching America’s Funniest Home videos with my daughter. We were curled up on the couch under a fluffy blanket together, two little peas nestled in our safe, comfy pod, laughing at the antics of random people who, by happenstance, had managed to document some fairly funny snippets in time; slices of life now available for mass consumption.
On AFV, they often do montages, a series of separate clips of events that complement each other. Sunday’s montage was comprised of videos of men asking women to marry them. These guys were “popping the question to their girlfriends.
I was more than a little disconcerted by this montage, partly because the majority of them seemed to be recorded in the late 80’s, early 90’s and ohmyfucking god, the hair on these women was absolutely atrocious.
I’ve truly been trying to forget the Aquanet era.
But mostly I was disturbed by the message that was being sent to every little girl of my daughter’s age, or thereabouts, who did not have her mother there to explain to her the totally distorted perspective that these images promoted. The women in each video were stunned into submission by the cleverly creative proposals, the shiny rings thrust into their line of vision – this an announcement in and of itself, a non-verbal assertion of You, lucky bitch, are the chosen one, you are to be my wife – and the accompanying, requisite look of shock upon the face of the unassuming bride-to-be. All of this merrily transforming into tears of joy, pure, unabashed and forthright joy, at being the chosen “One, and now forever her life will be changed. It will be better. It will be happy. It will be perfect.
Because she is “The One.
Please pardon my negativity but I really have to call bullshit on that one.
Marriage is not the be-all, end-all. It is not the road to which we should aspire, but one which we should approach with extreme caution, trepidation even. And once we get on it, goddammit, we must be aware how hazardous a path it is.
All the good stuff notwithstanding.
Because otherwise we will, without question, trip and fall, thus injuring our relationship on the massive boulders that marriage assures a couple will encounter along the way.
And that’s an absolute guarantee.
Another thing that I can practically guarantee is that unless we enter into a legal contract such as marriage without vetting who it is we are signing up to do it with (which means really, really, REALLY knowing the person almost as well as we know ourselves) and unless we do so for our OWN reasons (and not because of those enforced by our parents, or society, or anyone else,) we will be destined to fail at that marriage.
Or at the very least, we will be unhappy.
So I become greatly, greatly disturbed when I see these isolated messages about marriage being imposed upon us and upon our children. The ones that tell young, idealistic girls and women that they, too, will be complete once they are chosen as “The One. The messages that say that marriage is such a fantastically flawless arrangement that clasping our hands to our hearts and bursting into tears at the prospect of our being chosen is the only appropriate response. The ones that infer that from the moment we are engaged our lives are better and the course we have just embarked upon becomes the absolute cornerstone of our existence.
*cough, cough (bullshit) cough, cough*
But, I suppose that there is a reason to get all excited. We get to wear a shiny new ring, and buy a fancy white dress, and be a bride, and command the center of attention ¦ for a whole fucking day. And then we get to put that dress away, never to be worn again, and go into debt as a result of the wedding, starting out our marriage already in the hole.
(Okay, my husband and I didn’t do this. We spent a grand total of $5,000 on our wedding, but the reality is that many couples do start off financially fucked as a result of their wedding.)
There is one good thing ¦ we get to keep the ring. That little token reminder that we were the chosen one that fated day. The day we got so excited, were stunned even, when he chose us to be “The One” and popped that pretty question.
I know I sound jaded. I promise that I am not. I love my husband more than I could ever articulate, and there are plenty of good things about marriage. I write about them regularly, in fact. I am just suspicious of this paradigm and its inherent sexism and the fact that it’s still tolerated and even encouraged.
I wonder if I will see it shift in my lifetime.
After the question popping montage was over on AFV, I turned to my daughter and said to her, Baby, I hope if you decide to get married someday (but not before you’re 35 please), that you do so because you have come to the mutual decision with the man or woman that you love. Not because he or she sprung the idea upon you unexpectedly and you felt obligated to say yes.
And she replied, Okay, mom. Sure thing.
But, you see ¦ my ideas are my own. She’ll make up hers, too. Just as I made up mine about all of this. And these thoughts are of course, subject to change.
My luck? She’ll come to me when she’s 19 and tell me she has found “The One” and that she got down on one knee and asked him to marry her ¦ and he said yes. After he grasped at his heart and burst into tears at the surprise.
What the fuck am I going to say then?