“IT’S A TRAP!” Or, why I’m not likely to get married, ever.
I have a gorgeous 56″ HD television in my living room. It’s the sort of thing few twenty-somethings would be able to afford if not for their fathers moving to Jackson and going all minimalist in a bid to save money and time on moving and letting them comb through the house, pointing at various objects and saying, “I’ll take it!”
It’s so gorgeous that I routinely find myself gawking at it even when there’s nothing on the screen. I have even been guilty of this crassly materialistic behavior when I have guests over. Even when they’re guests I haven’t seen in person for several years, such as my primary relationshit counselor, who has been doling out thoughts over the phone until coming to town for the past week.
This was a well-timed break for both of us. We’ve both been through recent break-ups, although on opposite ends of the dumper-dumpee spectrum (okay, maybe it’s not so much a spectrum if there are only two options, but I’d like to think the point is clear). As such, we spent a smattering of time discussing the programming project we are putting together and a nearly uncomfortable amount of time discussing how much romantic relationships, whether starting, ongoing, or ending, suck.
We also got to discussing marriage. Not between the two of us, of course, because we agreed that marriages have to be ten times worse than relationships for commitment-phobes. But it seems a mutual acquaintance of ours has been with a man for two years and can’t understand why he’s dragging his feet on the proposal. Can’t he see she wants to get married and start having babies already?!
I’m baffled as to where she’s coming from. For me, marriage makes about as little sense as having babies. On a grander scale, both activities make sense. Having children works on an evolutionary scale, allowing the human race to continue and flourish. Getting married works on a societal scale, conferring legal and financial benefits upon those able and willing to commit to each other before the state and any higher powers they may happen to believe in.
But on a strictly personal level, I don’t get it. I hate babies. I (and remember, this is just my own opinion and does not–should not–represent everyone’s worldview) think they’re ugly and honestly worse than useless due to the drain they put on your time and money, with no return on investment that would be meaningful to me and my life. Elementary-school aged kids are, at least, able to communicate their wants and needs, but I couldn’t fathom being responsible for one and not seeing it as eighteen years of drudging community service.
I understand that parents don’t see raising their children that way. I know that for them, the rewards might be intangible, but they far outweigh the costs. And believe me, I’m happy for the human race that I’m an anomaly, but since I would only see parenting as an Excel spreadsheet in which the assets take up a fraction of a percentage of the space of the liabilities, I’m even happier that humanity will chug along just fine without my contributions.
As for marriage, I keep coming back to my TV. I keep coming back to my TV because I’d wake up at the classic nightmare hour of 3 a.m. with my entire GI tract clenched together in the weeks following my breakup, delusionally panicky that I’d have to engage in a custody battle over who got that impressive piece of technology. He’d never do that, I’d reassure myself as I stared uncomprehendingly at the ceiling, my cat insisting that I pay attention to him by headbutting my face. Besides, he’d need to hire a moving truck to get it out of here. He can barely drive a sedan, let alone a U-Haul!
Sure enough, the television remains, although there were a few miscellaneous items that escaped and have yet to return. But as I told my friend, I might not get so lucky next time. I’m already doubtful of how much I could trust that any potential boyfriend my age isn’t a gold-digger, since you’d have to be pretty unaware of how the world works to figure out that the combined income from ski instruction and freelance writing doesn’t add up to a two-bedroom apartment near downtown. Once that guy figures out that divorced parents + only childhood + dead mother = cushy inheritance, I doubt that, given my suspicious nature, I could ever put aside my concerns that I was more of a sugar mama than a true partner. And given that same suspicious nature, I have significant doubts that I could uphold the “’til death do us part” of every marriage vow ever uttered, and that TV, along with anything else I purchased in part or in full, would be fodder for the Colorado Family Court system to assign ownership.
But my friend explained our mutual acquaintance’s position. She wants to get married because marriage means security. Marriage means that she feels comfortable having kids with her partner, because her partner made an investment. He signed onto a binding contract that would carry severe consequences if broken.
And that I understood. I understood because I can envision myself on the flip side. I can see myself, once again, staring dully at the ceiling at 3 a.m., contemplating not whether I’ll be able to keep the TV without a fight, but rather, what else will go along with the TV. Will I be like my dad following his separation from my mother, an M.D. scrubbing his own baseboards on the weekends because he couldn’t afford to have a cleaning lady come by twice a month in spite of having one of the most prestigious educations and professions in the country? First-world problems, indeed, but given what divorce costs, it could go even farther: will I have enough money to live off of if I injure myself and can’t work as a ski instructor? Writing is a notoriously fickle enterprise, making the more physical job my more reliable source of income.
Such thoughts might well be enough to make me turn to the sleeping form next to me, a form that I haven’t wanted to touch in months, maybe years, and think, “Fine, you bastard. You win. You’ve got your talons sunk so deeply into me that I’d lose too much blood trying to get them out.” Security indeed, from his perspective.
From my perspective, there’s more security in permanently ticking the “Single” box on government, employment, and medical forms. And there’s more mental security in it, as well. After all, how could I help but be suspicious of a man who wanted the whole enchilada with someone as anti-romantic as I am? If my ulcer-inducing viewings of Say Yes to the Dress are anything to be believed, I’m obviously looking at the institution with a completely screwy mindset.
Just as well I can’t watch that show here in Denver. I’d hate to lose that beloved TV to a rage-fueled feat of strength resulting in defenestration.