Friday, February 10, 2006

love and marriage. and then some.

so roni really kicked some shins (in a good way!) with this post the other day about marriage, and how it’s way too complicated for our society to be pressuring so many people into. that is my super-condensed nutshell of her point, but go read her post because i’m obviously reducing a bit. her post got me thinking about the issue of engagement and marriage, which, let’s be honest, is something i think about a fair amount because a) it’s a really crucial sticking point in a lot of feminist thinking and criticism and b) it affects me personally. this is not only an abstract question that i can ponder theoretically, but one that i will have to make a concrete decision on in my own life in the somewhat near future.

so. in honor of that scurrilous Hallmark holiday, valentine’s day, and the concomitant obsession with all things romantical during the month of February, i am going to take the next few days/weeks to ponder the issues, as i see them, around engagement and marriage. why not? i don’t think i’ve really pissed anyone off with this blog in a while, so i’m due.

that last observation was sarcastic, sorta. i would like to put out this disclaimer, however, before i begin my random, disconnected, and intermittently brilliant analysis of all things betrothal. i do not – i repeat, do not - condemn anyone for making the choice to marry, or not to marry. we all do the best we can with what we’ve got, and i respect that there are wildly divergent opinions around this topic. so while i lay out my own concerns, questions, and comments about the venerated institution of marriage, i ask that you hold in you mind that my observations are not a personal indictment of your choices, whatever they may be. i’m just working my way through all this like anyone else.

ok, so. before i even get to the headliner of marriage, i think we need to start with the opening act of engagement. obviously, “getting engaged” in our society is as much of a tradition as “getting married.” but while the two are inextricably (well, sorta) connected, they are technically two different things. while one could get married without having been engaged, for many people, this is not the way things “should” work – if you go that route, you’ve been aberrant. the way it’s supposed to work is that after a certain amount of time together as a couple – i’d say a year to three years is probably the average, but i’m sure someone’s done a study somewhere – you get engaged. the way you get engaged is the male half of the couple asks the female half of the couple to “marry him,” preferably while offering up some physical token to symbolize the engagement. ok, preferably a one-to-two carat diamond in the classic tiffany engagement ring setting – but any diamond will do. the woman wears the diamond ring as a signifier that the couple is engaged, and roughly a year to two years later, the couple gets married.

ok. i understand how this tradition has continued through years and years (though the diamond part is relatively new, regardless of what DeBeers wants you to think). but in the era of co-habitation and a later average age of marriage, is it just me, or does this whole thing start to feel a little antiquated? i was thinking about this today as i watched the umpteenth jewelry store commercial (seriously, valentine’s day can’t come soon enough. if i never see another treacly ad with a jewelry box and a woman looking surprised, it will be too soon). i was ruminating on the term “engaged.” back in the day, i can imagine an explicit agreement to marry as being an escalation between the literal “engagement” between two people – the way that they factor into each others lives. but now? in certain cases, it seems a little superfluous. i look at BoyCat and myself, and that fact that we have joint car payments to make, and rent to cover, and a cat to take care of, and shared food bills and vacations we’ve taken and trials we’ve seen each other through, and i think, hell, we’re “engaged.” i’m not sure we could be much more “engaged” in each other’s lives at this point. so what exactly would a ring and a waiting period do? how exactly would this tradition serve us? since we have agreed upon the fact that we want to be together forever, regardless of whether that means marrying or not, what does the middle ground of engagement really offer?

ok, this post is long enough already. more to come on engagement and other things, like why pale girls with freckles shouldn’t wear white anyway, my odd fixation with wedding shows, and the issue of equality and justice being played out on the marital stage.

comments and insults, as always, are welcome.


DancingFish said...

My big sticking point is the ring. De Beers disgusts me and Even if you go to Canada there is no 100% guarantee diamonds are conflict free. Anyways the point of this comment is to share all recycled gold, lab created gemstones and diamonds. If people feel it is right for them to get a ring- at least it can be environmentally responsible now.

Toast said...

"Conflict free"?

kate.d. said...

toast, if you are posing a serious question, check out the UN's page on conflict diamonds:

(i'm trying links w/in comments for the first time...hope that works)

and if you're being cheeky about the idea of any engagement ring being "conflict free"...well, ha, that's kinda funny :)

Toast said...

I'd honestly never heard of that term. Interesting. I bought a diamond for Tracy when we got engaged (2.5 years ago). My jeweler got it at the diamond exchange in Boston. Never occurred to me that there was any "political" dimension to such a purchase.