On Marriage

Some days, why. Others, why not?

Marriage, 

1 a (1): the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law (2) : the state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage…

Merriam-Webster 2013

Let’s hammer this out (on several levels). 

I originally started this post to rant about marriage in general. I don’t believe in or support marriage as a social institution, and really only see it’s point as a legal contract and aid, and ultimately as a choice. But upon seeing m-w’s definition of marriage (and even worse, my laptop dictionary’s definition of marriage), several acres of ground popped up for me to cover. 

Marriage as a “social institution” needs to be explained, right, because what else can marriage be?


Marriage is a religious right, a social necessity, a financial tool etc. But marriage in the social context means layers upon layers of connotation. Wanting to marry someone can be due to a lot of reasons, and the most romantic among them is because you love your partner, and want to solidify, remember and then broadcast it to the whole world with a ring and a celebration. But sometimes the reason isn’t as clear-cut as that. Let’s consider this: children grow up with the idea of marriage as a social goal. It’s the magical wish, the Disney dream. And the only ones who get this happily-ever-after are people who are stable, respectable and progressive. Conversely, people who are not married (especially parents who are not) are unstable, disgraceful and ultimately undesirable. The concept of marriage as intrinsically linked to social acceptance and maturity is then established at a very young age. Most children grow up with this kind of reinforcement in society

/and let’s not even go into patriarchal reiterations of the necessity of marriage for women/

so marriage becomes an inevitable prospect in their horizon. Failure to meet it is failure as a person.  

And this romantic ideal continues on even up to adulthood and so-called rationality. Marriage is a behemoth of a social entity, pushing liberals and freethinkers into conformity. Child out of wedlock? Not allowed, go marry. Over 30 and still single? Not allowed, find a partner. Then go marry. “Promiscuous”? Not allowed. Find the One. Then go marry. The social pressure to marry: subtle, I think, but pervasive. 

The image of marriage is so strongly built that there can be museums dedicated to symbols and words linked to it. The ring of commitment, the veil, the purity of white, tying the knot, the walk down the aisle… tropes that, alone, don’t really mean anything (and really, how would you explain marriage to a complete foreigner), but engaged with marriage becomes entirely different /see what I did there/. They become reinforcers of tradition, and they echo down the generations. 

Not to mention other intricacies, such as the link between marriage and economic status. Who ever dreamed of a runaway wedding, except for those who are already rich? Maybe also the link between marriage and religion, and therefore social conformity. Everyone eventually wants a Church Wedding. It’s not valid, otherwise (apparently).  

I’m not trying to criticize marriage, though I think I am, on some level. But I am questioning why a lot of us are trapped with the idea. What’s in it for marriage? 

If I love someone, and then I go marry them, I get all the romantic and legal benefits. Easier parenting, established domestic unit, property rights, pension, marriage taxation, insurance and emergency contact privileges etc. I get to stay with them forever (which, you know, I could do without the sacrament part). 

I’ll get this out of the way: even after being in relationships, or knowing people who (for me) shine as radiant as the sun, or crushing on several dozen men and women, there’s really no one in the world that I’d need to be linked with romantically and legally. Or maybe even romantically or legally? I could just as easily get a heterosexual life partner for all the legal benefits, in an ideal world, and leave the romantic side open. 

Basically I’m getting to the root of my problem. I don’t want to marry anyone, not of love, or necessity or a bout of spontaneity. I’ll probably always be a free person, and what I don’t understand is why (left right and center) I feel the shadow of marriage looming ahead of me. (Who’s your next SO? When will you take a break from college to get hitched? How will I get a grandchild otherwise? [Oh, you know, without a recognized father. It’s alright. We can live.])

And if I end up eating my words… not going to happen. Because marrying out of love is fine and amazing and I congratulate anyone who does so. But the pressure getting there? Not so good in my books.

But here comes the mountain of frustration I still have to resolve. Searching for the lexical definition of marriage I get to this jewel (thanks to the Apple dictionary app): 

The formal union of a man and a woman, typically recognized by law, by which they become husband and wife: a happy marriage | the children from his first marriage.• the state of being married: women want equality in marriage.• informal a similar union between partners of the same sex: gay marriage.

Sounds a lot like the definition from m-w, for one reason: it amended itself. 

To be fair, I support self-correction most of the time. It proves self-awareness. But the fact that these lexicographers felt that an amendment covering homosexual or homoromantic marriages had to be given strikes me as highly controversial. And I am very much willing to debate. 

Because why does the first and formal and main definition deal only with the gender binary of man and woman alone? True, it might be the understanding of majority of the people in the universe, but that doesn’t mean that this understanding is holistic (or dare I say it, in fear of being out of scope, correct). For a universally-accessible dictionary, it completely ignores aspects of marriage that are incongruous with the western conservative definition: polygamous marriages are out of the count, and so are same sex unions. And one of the more important things relevant to marriage, at least in the human rights perspective, is missing! (I’m talking about consent and maybe legal age, but they are both debatable, true). 

Basically it strengthens every rhetoric spewed out by oppressive legislators and activists. You know that argument —the one where they say, “but that’s not what marriage is, go check the dictionary!” in order to deny the legitimacy of same sex or polygamous marriages. As if language never evolves and culture always remains stagnant and unchanging. 

 

Life Update Bio 116, thanks. Hi, Chem 40. Sorry for the lack of organization in this response :/ I honestly do not know what I am doing with my life hihi.

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