I’m not a big proponent of marriage (before you pass judgment on this seemingly-hypocrite statement, read on), so when I read Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off by Sandra Tsing Loh, I found myself nodding, chuckling and pondering. Growing up, I had these elaborate big fat Indian wedding fantasies (at one point in seventh grade, I remember making a scrapbook of Neeta Lulla’s bridal collection) and had even picked out the probable names of my unborn children.
But as I grew older and started noticing the loveless marriages that abounded everywhere, it made me question why people chose to stay in a social contract that was more of a burden than a beneficial, emotionally rewarding, heart warming relationship. The answer, more often than not, was children. Couples had become a family and it was important to stay together for “the sake of the kids.” Forgive me, but I think that is the weakest argument to present. Children are no fools. They can sense the tension between their parents. They don’t turn deaf when their folks are yelling at each other. They know. They understand. And, they remember. More emotional scarring happens in this situation than when couples decide to mutually separate and come up with a reasonable way to ensure a stable environment for the kids. Easier said than done, right?
“So why don’t we accept marriage as a splitting-the-mortgage arrangement?” asks Loh. The laws of the land and society dictate marriage as a useful enterprise to engage in. But conforming to societal pressures makes it a rather painful arrangement. In some cultures more than in others. If you weren’t married, for example, you wouldn’t have to spend Thanksgiving with your husband’s family and buy tons of presents for your wife’s cousins. Of course, you could choose to, but my point is, you wouldn’t have to.
I think for the most part, a marriage for a woman only serves to offer protection from wandering males (not adequately either sometimes) and loads of social norms to ascribe to in return. You become a wife, a caretaker, a cook. And I would have resisted being stereotyped this way had my Indian parents not thrown a tantrum about their only child crushing their lifelong dreams (yes, that’s the kind of stuff parents dream about!). It would have been a miserable situation to be in had my “husband” and I not entered into a secret agreement of treating this relationship not as a marriage, but rather as a friendship. He is no husband, and I am no wife. Our marriage could be called a sham…for after all, all it is is a combination of hormones that clicked. He having a good amount of testosterone (the “director”) and I being ruled by estrogen and oxytocin (the “negotiator”). And I think, for us, this “marriage” works only because we don’t treat it like one — it’s not a “sacred” contract bound by social dictats, it’s simply a desire to be with each other, to share, to laugh, to love.
We are, in many ways, like that “long-married husband and wife” who have “pleasantly agreed to be friends, to set the bedroom aglow at night by the mute opening of separate laptops.” But, no — we’re not “done with it.”
I highly recommend reading the article and posting your thoughts.