MICHAEL JEWELL A&E Editor
All throughout California and now Connecticut, wedding bells are ringing. The difference is, now all couples have that privilege if they so choose. I’m not really sure if I would. For over a decade, I’ve been witness to a nationwide feather-ruffling contest over what constitutes a threat to the vague, abstract, supposedly sacred concept of “traditional” marriage. It’s an unfortunately human trait to get all worked up over something that never existed, for the one man, one woman model as it is currently defined is a fairly recent invention. No one ever seems to ask the spouse-swapping Zoe tribe of the central Amazon or the matriarchal Mosuo of China’s Yunnan province to contribute to this one-size-fits-all-cultures consensus about matrimony, but Western culture cobbles together a rudimentary collage including bride, groom, tears, rice, white gowns, cake, spooky blessings, flower-tossing, chair-dances, an open bar and fifty-plus years of joyless bickering to come. Eventually, there should be babies.
Pardon me if I don’t sound enthusiastic. The whole affair seemed arbitrary until I discovered the social contrivances behind some of our customs, like how the white dress was designed as a public show of wealth. The dowry is a sinister concept, and a key to our social structures that hearken back to when marriage was a business contract between two families, where one man owned several women and girls, counting slaves and concubines. The wedding as we know it today, along with our modern faux-supernatural delusion of romance, is a mostly Victorian invention.
I suppose the thousand or so spousal rights that come with marriage are a good thing. The superstitious elements are what make me more than a little uncomfortable. The “holy” side of “holy matrimony” is an interesting touch for an interpersonal arrangement. It may not hurt to seek the blessing of a god (Which one? Take your pick?), but the attitude that two people spending a life together is so improbable that supernatural intervention is required to bless the union is a little counterproductive. This cynicism carries a grain of misanthropy even greater than my own. Furthermore, the idea of the union’s permanence as an end to be achieved with disregard to the context of the couple’s relationship is more than a little creepy. It’s no failing to recognize when two people are making each other miserable and taking steps toward a mutually beneficial solution.
I’m not buying it – love at first sight, soul-mates, A, the love of B’s life, any of it. A partner is someone who shares expenses, helps lighten the burden of life’s many, many little agonies, and puts up with your baggage, nothing more. I’d consider finding one of my own if it weren’t for my open contempt for just about everyone. I’ve gone through a lot of turmoil to discover that my work makes me happy. Rain-showers in the summertime make me happy. Other people do not make me happy. My getting out of the game of loneliness, sewer-level self-worth and embarrassing pining for romantic interaction is long overdue. These days, I like to mind my own business instead of hog-tying my happiness to another miserable prick. I’m twice the happier for it.