Now, people who know me, know that after a failed marriage that literally sucked the life out of every orifice of my being (soul stealing included, thank you very much) that I developed what I actually believe to be a rather healthy skepticism of marriage. Rightfully so. I mean, so many of us end up with our lives torn apart when things go badly between spouses. We leave our marriages broken (both our hearts and our pocketbooks) and bruised.
While I thought that I would never again let anyone get anywhere near me with one of those disgusting things that go around your finger and then hang on there, becoming too tight, squeezing in on that little part of you that used to stretch out to the world according to its own will but now feels the constraint of a metal band situated at its base, I decided that since there are some marriages that make it, and because not everyone has as horrible a situation as I did, that I would investigate a little (if only to help myself heal).
For all of us who fell in love with Liz and Felipe in Eat, Pray, Love, there is more to the story. I finally (because it’s my style to buy books ahead, in a kind of prophetic way; charting the path I intend to go down, and then waiting to read them until…I don’t know, it just kind of feels right) started reading Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace With Marriage, the lesser-known follow up to Eat, Pray, Love.
In Committed, Elizabeth Gilbert explains how Felipe was denied entrance back into the U.S., and their hop-in-and-out of America lifestyle was rudely interrupted by tightening immigration concerns. They were told the best way to ensure that Felipe would be allowed back into the States, was to get married, something the pair had sworn never to do. They did swear, however, to love each other eternally…just, not with the marriage part.
Now, that’s something I felt like I could get down with. Hardcore.
Marriage. Oh, marriage. There’s nothing that sounded like more of a noose around the neck to me than…ew…marriage. Why? Because I’d done that shit before. I thought it was fine for other people, but me…nonononono….not me.
Love, I have absolutely no problem with. I am in – have once or twice before, been in – love.
Cohabitation? People live together. Why not? Pull some religious pedagogy and instruct couples who love each other, and (pssst…sleep together anyway) against making a living arrangement that makes practical and economic sense especially since they probably spend most nights together anyway? Sounds stupid to me.
Partners, gay couples who married, marriage for anyone (especially cute older couples who have been married for quite some time) seemed exceedingly sweet to me, and on some cellular lever, I probably still wanted marriage, I just felt like the risk of making a lifelong financial, emotional, spiritual, matrimonial commitment to anyone and believing that someone would do the same for me (that being the bigger part – the part I couldn’t control) was just too risky.
Screw losing my life again. Screw anyone who ever thought I’d be stupid enough to agree to some bullshit like that.
But, like with anything in life, when your intention is put into practice, you begin moving forward. My intention was to heal, balance my perspective, find out what someone else who was equally skeptical of the practice of marriage thought.
And I found, that, like myself, Gilbert’s liberal and moderately feminist values were mostly in line with my own. I want success, I want equality, I want help with the fucking house chores; I want a healthy, understanding, fun and exciting friendship; I expect fidelity, and yearn for erotic lovemaking (not porno erotica, but uninhibited and unrestrained passion). I want to celebrate differences, including the things that make me roll my eyes at my lover (because doesn’t that carry some grudging acceptance of the reality of who our lover is? And the parts we can’t change?) I want safety, a little warmth from the cold world outside, and a living legacy, a brood of happy family that follows where we go – through thick and thin – always learning, growing, loving, evolving through the stages and seasons of life for years and generations to come. I want marriage, in the most modern and free yet classic and honorable sense of the word. Yes, I want it all.
I loved this quote Gilbert makes in Committed:
…I have finally found my own little corner within matrimony’s long and curious history. So that is where I will park myself – right there in this place of quiet subversion, in full remembrance of all the other stubbornly loving couples across time who also endured all manner of irritating and invasive bullshit in order to get what they ultimately wanted: a little bit of privacy in which to practice love.
In the face of things we tend to fail at as humans: taking care of our bodies, our environment, our hearts, our families, and our spouses, we would do well culturally to educate ourselves again, to become students of philosophy again, to form a culture, to engage our senses and our hearts, and to move forward with sensitivity and grace. That’s the type of quiet subversion that is untouchable and eternally yours. Because nobody can take what beauty you build within the walls of your being or share between the sheets within the quiet walls of your home.
And that’s what marriage is really about.