As I watched Modern Family last night (which, by the way, is the best new comedy on the airwaves these days) I couldn’t help but laugh out loud when one of the characters woke her daughter in the middle of the night and beseeched her teenager to teach her how to use the remote. The daughter sleepily, and irritatedly, asked, “Now? Why can’t daddy teach you?” and the mom ever so matter-of-factly responded, “Because we’re married.”
It was so succinctly put. Although I laughed, the veiled sadness of the situation wasn’t lost on me.
Marriage somehow tends to bring out all the stereotypes of both genders to the fore. Women and their emotional dramas. Men and their forgetfulness. The silent grouch. The overly-communicative diva. The one who won’t ask for directions. The one who loves the shopping channel. The mall-fashionista. The gadgety nerd. The nurturer. The provider. Unknowingly we find ourselves stuck in a socially-constructed maze of expectations. Almost unfailingly, we can “predict” what the general gender-specific reaction will be to something we say. We are so entangled in the politics of marriage, that we forget the reasons we entered this lifelong pact.
Besides the whole “love” part of it, wasn’t it about sharing a life together … accepting each others’ failures (and failings) … not being on the defense all the time … leaving our egos out the door … not judging … being a team instead of competing against each other?
And yet, we empathize with complete strangers of the same sex, but not with our spouse. How do we end up taking sides with those “against” our better half? How do we bond with colleagues( from different nationalities and different ethos) around spousal jokes? How are we able to label our significant other (who is so unique that we believe he/she was “made just for us”) into a general “this is what all men/women do” category? And we do it with so much reckless abandon all the time that it becomes second nature to the concept of marriage.
I guess it is just the way it is, given what a social construct marriage is to begin with. And since no one seems to mind it, who am I to question this age-old mechanism that continues to fuel the power struggle between men and women?