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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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204 Responses

  1. Dr. Confused
    Dr. Confused June 13, 2007 at 6:21 pm |

    Ah, marriage. I was never going to get married, for all the reason you list. And then I did get married. And it turns out I enjoy it.

    I’m not sure if it’s one of my few major capitulations to society’s expectations of me, or if my husband and I are part of a movement to redefine marriage from the inside. Some say that the institution is so broken, it can’t be fixed. But when we take the pieces we like, and reject those we don’t (e.g. strict gender role expectations), can we make progress?

    I’m really looking forward to discussion in this thread.

  2. libber
    libber June 13, 2007 at 6:33 pm |

    Nice post. I feel more or less the same way.

    A couple of comments. I always thought it was extremely odd that men do not wear engagement rings. It should be both, or neither.

    As for the losing one’s desire to have sex, I find it peculiar that there is always so much focus on women losing their desire to have sex. Many of my female friends report the opposite. Their male partners have no or little desire after having been married a few years.

  3. Sara
    Sara June 13, 2007 at 6:43 pm |

    One of the frustrating things about this issue is realizing that no matter what we end up doing, people are going to be projecting their own values onto our actions. You can remain single, but I doubt most people will understand why (even if you did lay it out pretty simply in your first sentence).

    I’m pretty sure not many will entirely understand why I married, either, and it’s not for lack of trying. The reason I got married at a big wedding was because I liked having a public ceremony to mark the way that my husband and I were becoming a family, a social unit. It was meant to be social and shared and at least slightly important to everyone there. No buying, selling, etc. was meant to be implied, but if I was going to use the symbolic wedding vocabulary that the guests were going to understand (and if I was going to get to do the fun wedding things that I just love, sexism in traditions be damned), any outsider would have a difficult time telling the difference between my wedding and my grandparents’. In fact, I don’t even know that my grandparents noticed, even as I felt I was compromising my message in an attempt to get something across. I have my personal, interrelationship reasons for wanting to get married too, but I definitely don’t think many more people than my husband and I had a good idea of what the whole thing meant to us. I guess I was asking a little too much of symbolic communication.

  4. evil fizz
    evil fizz June 13, 2007 at 6:49 pm | *

    I cannot express how deeply irritating I find it that masculinity and virility are somehow freely interchangeable *and* the sine qua non of of male ego and satisfaction. It just reads as “Deep down, I’m really very shallow. And do keep an eye out. My entitlement is ever so delicate.”

  5. Kirsten
    Kirsten June 13, 2007 at 6:55 pm |

    My first thought when I read that title was ‘Me neither!’ Because of all the things you’ve mentioned, plus even more. The traditional wedding symbolism sucks. A white wedding dress to show off the bride’s virginity, her father giving her away – literally handing over his property to another man. Bollocks to that.

    At the time when I was becoming more certain about that, my bestfriend got engaged. So I had to balance expressing my own views about my discomfort about marriage, with being a supportive friend to her. Well. mostly supportive. My initial reaction was ‘WHY?’

    And yeah, marriage, and weddings, can be a wonderful things – they’re celebrations of love. But for me, it’s an effort not to think of them as one of the ways that straight, monogamous people are given the acceptance and approval denied to others.

  6. Amanda Marcotte
    Amanda Marcotte June 13, 2007 at 6:56 pm |

    Wearing an engagement ring was one of the most confusing experiences of my young life. It should have made me happy, but I hated having my friends grab my hand and make everyone look at it so they could regard me with that weird combination of pity and envy. I’m with you; marriage has a powerful pull on the psyche (who doesn’t want to be loved and to love that much?) but the actual practice of it is disconcertingly patriarchal and miserable.

  7. Amanda Marcotte
    Amanda Marcotte June 13, 2007 at 6:59 pm |

    One of the frustrating things about this issue is realizing that no matter what we end up doing, people are going to be projecting their own values onto our actions. You can remain single, but I doubt most people will understand why (even if you did lay it out pretty simply in your first sentence).

    Good point. Also, it’s paramount to understand that very rarely are motivations ever pure. As much as I’d like to say that I’m against marriage strictly on principle, it doesn’t hurt that a pre-determined opposition to it means I’ll never fall into the trap of hoping that I’ll be proposed to by a man who’s biding his time because he has the social power to do so and I don’t. That lack of control scares me to the bones.

  8. RodeoBob
    RodeoBob June 13, 2007 at 7:12 pm |

    But, being that it is a powerful social and economic institution, it continues to reflect cultural norms that are wrapped up in gender and power. Same-sex marriage rights are perhaps the best example — same-sex marriage is offensive to social conservatives precisely because so many of us rely on gender difference as a way of organizing society and our experiences, and marriage equality challenges those notions.

    Wait, what?
    Because “same-sex marriage is offensive to social conservatives”, that naturally leads to “so many of us relying on gender difference as a way of organizing society”?

    Bit of a non-sequitor there…

    Traditionally, men held most of that power. They still do — even in our modern, supposedly egalitarian construction of marriage. Without that gendering of power, same-sex marriage would not be an issue.

    So the issue in same-sex marriage isn’t gender or sexual preference at all, but power-dynamics? This really seems like you’re reaching.

    How, exactly, do you conclude that men still hold most of the power in modern marriages? This seems to be a pretty sweeping, broad claim to base your position on, especially that no evidence is given. And, since you’ve personized the issue (“I’m Never Getting Married”) you not only presume that male dominance is the de facto state for modern marriages based on generalities, but also that it is a condition inherent in all marriages, such that even if you, an enlightened, educated feminist were to marry, you would automatically “lose power” as a result.

    But the “take the groom-to-be out to watch naked women dance around” is problematic not only because of the feminist issues with paying women to strip,* but because it strikes me as a direct statement of power over his to-be wife — the message is that marriage is such a burden and a bore that he has to get all of his youthful energy out before he enters into it, even at his fiancee’s expense.

    What a pecular and tortured interpretation of the modern batchelor party. I can honestly say that such a view is utterly, completely alien to me.

    The far more common & straightforward message of the batchelor party is the theme of a “last night of freedom”, a final hedonistic splurge before entering into the responsibility of marriage, replete with the notion of “enjoy this tonight, because you won’t get to do it any more once you’re married”. The message being that such activities as oogling strippers and other naked women is unacceptable behavior for a married man, as it disrespects his wife. (yes, yes, married men still go to strip clubs; we’re talking about the meaning and the message, remember?)

    Clearly, Mr. Multiply Divorced is the victim, and there’s nothing wrong with him – something is wrong with everyone else.

    It’s a little of both. A large part is poor communication before getting married and during the marriage. If two people in a committed, monogomous relationship have differing expectations about sex and fail to communicate those expectations, there’s going to be trouble. Duh. Failure to disclose expectations is a bad way to start, especially since things rarely change without some level of disclosure.

    That said, if one partner in a relationship has needs that aren’t being met by the other partner, if those needs are important, people look to take care of themselves, one way or another. Again, inability to communicate can limit one’s options, as can shame and inhibition.
    Notice that all of this language is gender-neutral. It’s not “the penis rules”, it’s a much simpler view: people who aren’t being satisified by their current conditions usually take steps to find satisfaction, one way or another.

    So Mommy is exhausted from running around all day and cleaning up after her husband and the kids, but she’s driving him to another woman if she doesn’t enthusiastically have sex with him at night. Would it be silly to suggest that maybe he could contribute to the household tasks so that she isn’t totally exhausted and stressed at the end of the day, and might then enjoy sex a little more?

    Two points here.
    First, you seem to presume that ‘Daddy’ isn’t contributing enough to the hosehold tasks. Without trying to define what is ‘enough’, I find it an awful generalization to claim that the default state of marriage and family is that Dad doesn’t pitch in enough.

    If indeed ‘Mommy’ is running around all day, cooking and cleaning, it’s safe to presume that ‘Daddy’ is spending 8-10 hours of his day engaging in some sort of money-earning activity, perhaps even more time. This isn’t to belittle ‘Mommy’ or the enormous work she does, but it’s not as though ‘Daddy’ lives a life of leisure.

    In a scenarior where one partner stays at home while the other works a full-time job, it’s not unfair to say that the wage-earner is contributing to the household tasks by, you know, paying rent and making sure there’s money to buy things with like food and whatnot. Again, I’m not trying to draw the line of where “enough contribution” lies, but it seems you’re marginalizing the contribution of a full-time wage earner as compared to a stay-at-home partner.

    Mostly, though, I’m struck at how extremely odd it is that an unmarried feminist who has probably never been to a batchelor party and is creeped out by men who go to strip clubs should try and pass judgement on instutitions based on terribly mis-adric stereotypes about marriage.

    For someone opposed to gender stereotypes, you seem very vested in using them to decry marriage. (“Men have the power in marriage”, “men don’t contribute enough around the house”, etc. etc.)

    I’ve tried to use gender-neutral terms lke “partner” frequently, to illustrate that while marriage is an “instutition” in the broadest sense, it is a deeply personal commitment, and like all personal commitments, it’s real meaning and structure are drawn from what you put into it. Is your position really that you couldn’t make an equal partnership in marriage without gender-based power-imbalances? Do you really beieve that you are inherently incapable of forming a union with another person that doesn’t somehow subjegate you as a person or as a feminist? Really?

  9. Kristen
    Kristen June 13, 2007 at 7:24 pm |

    Even though I did eventually marry, I understand the sentiment. I felt very similarly even when I met the love of my life. If the world were perfectly fair we probably never would not have gotten married. We were perfectly happy just sharing our lives.

    After 6 years my better half had to go the ER. We thought he was having a heart attack. The stupid hospital would not let me go back to see him even though he asked AND I had a medical power of attorney. They just ignored me when they found out I wasn’t “family”. I still almost cry when I think of that night. Fortunately, he was fine, but that experience terrified me. So on our next anniversary we went down to city hall and made it legal. No fuss, no muss, no rings….but a very nice hot dog afterwards.

  10. Henry
    Henry June 13, 2007 at 7:28 pm |

    As far as engagement rings go, I think that it’s been done for so long that the symbolism has changed completely. I’ve never met any guy who was excited about buying an engagement ring, and it’s certainly no guarantee of faithfulness. I think it’s just become the price you pay for getting married. It’s expected, and I’m pretty sure a majority of women would be insulted if one weren’t offered. I’m with you on the whole diamonds thing though. Even aside from the moral aspect, the fact that a completely non-rare stone is so expensive due only to market manipulation offends me, and I’d much rather go with something that’s actually rare.

    One other thing, and I know it’s completely anecdotal, but I know a fair number of married men, and not one that I can think of wields the majority of the power in their marriages, not by a long shot. It’s almost become a truism that when a woman gets married she gets to tell her husband what to do.

  11. nexyjo
    nexyjo June 13, 2007 at 7:57 pm |

    being tall, slender, and not unattractive by today’s beauty standards, i’ve endured my share of getting hit on. and by the time i started dating my husband, i actually bought myself an engagement ring, thinking that it would put a stop to men trying to pick me up.

    while it certainly slowed the hits down, it didn’t stop them. i’ve had a few guys attempt to convince me that i’m marrying the wrong guy.

    after my then fiance learned of this, he bought me a real ring, with a real diamond, and a platinum band (the one i got was cubic zirconia on a silver band, priced at around $25 from overstock.com). that, along with the wedding band put a stop to the hits. well, that, or the fact that i’ve become older :P

    there’s no question that the engagement ring ritual is entrenched in symbolism, much of it negative and anti-feminist at its core. but i don’t wear much jewelry at all, and the rings mean a lot to me personally and spiritually. so i allowed myself this indulgence, and quite happily wear both my engagement and wedding rings every day. they make me happy, they symbolize the love, commitment, and joy that is my marriage and husband, and they keep the propostitions away.

    regarding marriage itself, one might have guessed i’d be done with marriage based on my previous extremely negative experience with it. and in fact, because of my specific situation, my 2nd marriage impacted me negatively from a financial perspective. i would have been better off financially just living with my husband. but it’s something we both wanted, and we are both very happy.

    i agree that it’s not for everyone. but in my case, it definately improved the quality of my life significantly.

    i think it’s easier for younger people to dismiss marriage on a variety of analyses. i’m 51, and the idea of being alone in my old age is frightening, especially as i’ve aged. and while i recognize the problems inherent with the institution, it fills a very real emotional need for me, one i’m not willing to compromise.

  12. Oni Baba
    Oni Baba June 13, 2007 at 8:05 pm |

    Awwn! Dear old Club Super Sexe!

    I feel so honoured that it’s getting the international recognition it deserves! *rolls eyes*

    Around the entrance of the Club, there are a certain number of posters featuring scantily clothed women in unnatural sexual poses. As I walked past its entrance the other day – this club and all the other strip clubs on Ste-Catherine St. in downtown Montreal are kinda hard to miss – I noticed that the – otherwise reputable – lingerie store next door was displaying models wearing the same kind of clothing, in similar poses.

    I’m not sure if this is ironic or simply bad marketing…

  13. Kristen
    Kristen June 13, 2007 at 8:08 pm |

    I’ve never met any guy who was excited about buying an engagement ring,

    I figure that is because they are so damn expensive. My MIL wears a 15k diamond ring…15k!!!!…I could buy so many video games or heels with that much cash.

  14. Hugo
    Hugo June 13, 2007 at 8:08 pm |

    I know I’ve been promising posts left and right, but I am PROMISING a post that manages to do two things — agree with Jill’s reasons not to marry, and vigorously defend the institution.

  15. Lotte
    Lotte June 13, 2007 at 8:21 pm |

    You know, not everyone who’s married is monogamous. :)

    – polyamorous girlfriend of a happily married couple

  16. Theodora
    Theodora June 13, 2007 at 8:22 pm |

    The idea of marriage used to make me feel physically ill. I didn’t understand it at first. I never had any of the little girl princess fantasies of the “OMG Perfect Most Important Day of My Life,” I never wanted kids, but I did see myself with a partner and best friend to go through life with. Problem is, when I found that person, the idea of marriage still made me physically nauseous. It wasn’t fear of commitment or anything, I realized it was because of all the bullshit societal baggage surrounding marriage.

    We didn’t have a traditional engagement. It was more of a mutual discussion/realization that we wanted to be together. I abhor diamonds on moral grounds, as well as the fact I didn’t want to be branded as property. I see engagement rings as vaguely akin to a dog pissing on a fire hydrant to mark its territory. I’ve gotten much shit from people on this account. We got married in a ceremony consisting of the two of us and our officient who is a personal friend. I get shit on this acount too. We have plain matching anodized titanium wedding bands. Again, more shit from people. And let me not getting started on the fact that I kept my name. I’ve been asked why I even bothered to get married.

    I’m pretty happy though to be married and in a perfectly egalitarian partnership with my best friend who doesn’t feel that his manliness is being undermined by any of it, and is not theatened by the fact that I earn more money. We just get along perfectly, have a ton of shared interests, and are very affectionate and mutually loving with each other. I feel strangely like we’ve almost opted-out of society on some level, and I do feel that people treat us like our marriage isn’t really “real” sometimes.

  17. Linnaeus
    Linnaeus June 13, 2007 at 8:25 pm |

    When I was in Montreal, I remember passing by the Club Super Sexe and being jarred by the fact that it was next to all of the other shops. Just seemed weird.

    i actually bought myself an engagement ring, thinking that it would put a stop to men trying to pick me up.

    while it certainly slowed the hits down, it didn’t stop them. i’ve had a few guys attempt to convince me that i’m marrying the wrong guy.

    Reminds me of Jack’s line from Sideways: “When Christine worked at Sushi Roku, she wore this big engagement ring to keep guys from hitting on her. Think that worked? Fuck no! How do you think I met her?”

    My $0.02 on the marriage thing: I rarely say “never” about anything, so of course I won’t say that I’ll never get married. It’s certainly within the realm of the possible.

    It is, however, not a likelihood. I feel like I have too many things I want to do with my life that may not be compatible with marriage. Of course, I don’t know for sure, and people in marriages do manage to work these things out. Furthermore, having come later to the relationship/sex thing than most people do these days, I just don’t want to “settle down”.

  18. libber
    libber June 13, 2007 at 8:31 pm |

    I’m pretty sure a majority of women would be insulted if one weren’t offered.

    Some women would be insulted if one were offered.

    One other thing, and I know it’s completely anecdotal, but I know a fair number of married men, and not one that I can think of wields the majority of the power in their marriages, not by a long shot. It’s almost become a truism that when a woman gets married she gets to tell her husband what to do.

    That must be rather recent. In a lot of marriages (particularly my parents’ and grandparents’ generation) it is still the man who gets to tell the wife what to do. Sadly.

  19. Lynn Gazis-Sax
    Lynn Gazis-Sax June 13, 2007 at 8:35 pm |

    I always figured that a bachelor party was a deal breaker – any guy wanting a bachelor party (of the ogling stripper variety) wasn’t getting a wedding. Whatever anyone may say about men visiting strippers in general, I would have considered my fiance watching strippers specifically as a last blast of freedom before marrying me hugely insulting.

    As it happened, when I told Joel that he was definitely not going to have a bachelor party, he said he’d never wanted one anyway.

    The far more common & straightforward message of the batchelor party is the theme of a “last night of freedom”, a final hedonistic splurge before entering into the responsibility of marriage, replete with the notion of “enjoy this tonight, because you won’t get to do it any more once you’re married”.

    Sorry, there’s just no way that I can see a tradition of “man symbolizes his last night of freedom by visiting strippers the night before, while woman symbolizes her premarital chastity by wearing a white gown on the day of the wedding” as nice and fun and neutral.

    (None of which kept me from marrying, but it certainly kept me from going along with that tradition.)

  20. jeffaclitus
    jeffaclitus June 13, 2007 at 8:37 pm |

    We’ll probably never know the full number of suicides inspired by this post and its title. I suppose I’d like to get married, because I’m somewhat bourgeois and extremely neurotic, and I expect, rightly or wrongly, that marriage would help manage a few of the anxieties stemming from each of those unfortunate conditions. I’d also like to burn through more of the world’s resources than I can with just my own low-rent lifestyle, and I expect there would be advantages to being married if you have kids.

    From my point of view, admittedly not one I can recommend, the traditional bachelor party is almost as queer adn hoaky as the traditional method of marriage proposal. A few years a couple of my friends got married, and the night before the wedding we didn’t have any bizarro gender-segregated activities, much less any involving prostitution; we all just went out to a bar and caught up. On the way back to the hotel, in downtown South Bend, Indiana, home to the college football hall of fame, we saw a banner hanging on the side of a parking garage (and who the hell knew SB had mutli-story parking garages?). It advertised “Enshrinement Fest 2004″ (or whatever year it was) at the CFB Hall of Fame. As one of my friends said, “That’s the saddest media blitz ever.”

  21. jeffaclitus
    jeffaclitus June 13, 2007 at 8:38 pm |

    Oh, and I’ve heard from female architects that giving that as your profession intimidates the right kind of guys, so some people may want to try being an architect when they’re out instead of/in addition to wearing engagement rings.

  22. libber
    libber June 13, 2007 at 8:54 pm |

    We’ll probably never know the full number of suicides inspired by this post and its title

    I would think it should prevent suicides. “Hey, girlfriends, don’t worry if you didn’t find the right man to marry. Marriage is over-rated anyway.”

    Oh, and I’ve heard from female architects that giving that as your profession intimidates the right kind of guys, so some people may want to try being an architect when they’re out instead of/in addition to wearing engagement rings.

    Yes, practically, giving any female-X as your profession, where ‘X’ is some high-powered job title stereo-typically associated with males will work. In fact, “I am a feminist” works well too.

  23. Nita
    Nita June 13, 2007 at 9:16 pm |

    The institution of marriage IS entrenched in patriarchal symbolism and history and can lead to unequal power dynamics (at least in this culture). Yet because it is essentially a bond entered into in the midst of your community, in the presence of your friends and family, and with another person whom you presumably choose, there’s so much flexibilty to redefine it and it varies tremendously with those factors.

    Ultimately, if the only reason that a person avoids marriage is the fear of being oppressed or not wanting to be complicit in patriarchal traditions, that seems sort of hopeless somehow. For instance, investment banking has traditionally been a bastion of white, rich, male privilege–but is that a reason that other groups shouldn’t participate in it and make it less odious?

    I’m not saying that women are therefore obliged to get married in order to change the structures of marriage. Rather, I’m saying that if a person feels like they would want to be married except for all the patriarchal symbolism (say you like the idea of spending your life with someone who you know will be there for you, or you’re already with someone who you think you’ll spend your life with, etc.), then I don’t think that should be sufficient deterrent.

    If, on the other hand, the reason you don’t want to be married is because you don’t believe it’s necessary to make some sort of legal or public statement of commitment in order to *be committed to someone, or because you simply don’t believe that people are designed to be together for life, or because it doesn’t make sense financially, or because you don’t want to have your life bound to another person’s in such a legal way, or maybe you just don’t think it fits you–that makes a lot of sense to me.

    As an aside you mention the ceremony and symbolism surrounding the wedding itself quite a bit, but I would argue that wanting to BE married and wanting to get married are two different things. People can be married without having strippers or engagement rings or white dresses. Coming from a multicultural background, I don’t see the wedding as monolithically in terms of white wedding dress, bridesmaids, engagement rings, garter belts, etc, and I don’t think anyone else has to either.

    And finally, it has always seemed weird to me to talk of wanting to get married or not wanting to get married as a theoretical construct separate from the “getting married TO X”–the desire to get married seems so contingent on the person or people you have relationships with, that it just doesn’t even make sense to talk of my general desire for (or lack of desire for) marriage. I may want to get married if I find a particular person who is so amazingly awesom that I simply can’t imagine NOT being with them for the rest of my life, but may emphatically NOT want to get married if I had to choose between George Bush, Rick Santorum, and James Dobson.

  24. Tiny
    Tiny June 13, 2007 at 9:20 pm |

    My partner (ok spouse) and I wore matching cheap bands that turned our fingers green as engagement rings.

    Our bachelor party involved goofy tee shirts and an Irish pub. Funny – we actually like each other.

    Anyway, there are new ways around old, unfortunate traditions.

  25. Linnaeus
    Linnaeus June 13, 2007 at 9:21 pm |

    As it happened, when I told Joel that he was definitely not going to have a bachelor party, he said he’d never wanted one anyway.

    As an aside, Lynn, a friend of mine had a bachelor party, but it did not feature strippers or strip clubs. It was a multi-day affair in which the guys played golf, went to a baseball game, played cards, had a barbecue, and drank a lot. Really, it was just a way for the groom-to-be to see his friends together, since he doesn’t get much of a chance to do that anymore.

  26. mythago
    mythago June 13, 2007 at 9:23 pm |

    but strippers claim to find their work empowering

    This is unadulterated bullshit. The only people who claim ‘strippers find their work empowering’ are guys who like to pretend that their going to see strippers is just like giving money to NOW.

    but I know a fair number of married men, and not one that I can think of wields the majority of the power in their marriages, not by a long shot

    I know a fair number of men who pretend this is the case, because they like to have a Bad Boy dynamic going, where they whine about wifey telling them what to do. Of course, they do what they please anyway and then giggle about how pissed she’s going to be at them.

  27. Dr. Confused
    Dr. Confused June 13, 2007 at 9:25 pm |

    And finally, it has always seemed weird to me to talk of wanting to get married or not wanting to get married as a theoretical construct separate from the “getting married TO X”–the desire to get married seems so contingent on the person or people you have relationships with, that it just doesn’t even make sense to talk of my general desire for (or lack of desire for) marriage. I may want to get married if I find a particular person who is so amazingly awesom that I simply can’t imagine NOT being with them for the rest of my life, but may emphatically NOT want to get married if I had to choose between George Bush, Rick Santorum, and James Dobson.

    This is a good point. I have never been a person who wanted to get married, but after meeting my now-husband I changed my mind. I’ve seen that quite a bit in the feminist women I know. And what we do, at that point, is say “ok, so I’ve found a person I want to marry. How can we change the traditions of marriage (and less importantly, of a wedding) to fit our needs?”

    The people I know who “wanted to get married” before meeting their spouse tend to have the least happy marriages, in my experience. I don’t know if it’s a general rule.

  28. Thomas
    Thomas June 13, 2007 at 9:39 pm |

    About engagement rings: I actually was excited about mine. My spouse and I made the decision to marry together, and we shopped for rings together, but only so I could get a very good sense of her preference. She wanted a one-knee proposal and a surprise, and she got it. But the ring was a one-off custom the inspiration for which was a red garnet decorative ring we ran across.

    Photo here.

    During the wedding planning, some of my inlaws were appalled that we didn’t conform entirely to patriarchal gender roles. When we walked into the bakery to design a cake, I had specific ideas about what I wanted and my spouse didn’t, so I started talking to the baker. My sister in law stood there with her mouth hanging open: men don’t care about the cake, they just look bored while the women get overly excited.

    There was no bachelor party. I spent the night before reading Fraser’s Gunpowder Plot. I’ve never been in a strip club.

    My spouse wanted certain traditional trappings — like a wedding in the church where she grew up (I lied to the priest and said I was a Unitarian to make it happen). We try to live our as equals, though.

    And that’s where we have the toughest time.

    We have about the same education; she’s got a masters’ and I have a JD, and we both had to pass a test to start our careers. She’s smarter than me, and I have a better knowledge base. We’re both proud of what we do, and we both enjoy it. She works three days a week and spends two weekdays parenting all day. I work five long days a week and fit in work on the weekends and late at night. Why? My work is fairly compensated. Hers is not. Mine is white collar and hers is pink collar. Her career track tops out financially in the first ten years, I should make more every year into my fifties. This is the system we live within. We did not make our educational and career choices in a vacuum; they were constrained choices.

    So, when we had kids, we were far down the road that made career choices inevitable. The financial sacrifice from her working full time and me working part time seemed intolerable. But there was more to it than that. She wanted to stay home more. Everything in her past tells her that she is supposed to spend a lot of time with her kids and that she’s less of a mother if she doesn’t. She looked forward to mixing work and parenting almost as much as she dreaded giving up some of her professional responsibilities. I define myself very much by my work and wouldn’t dream of stepping back to be part-time. I am ill at ease with the role imposed on me, but I have not been able to break with some of the major constraints.

    We try not to let the man’s-career-first arrangement define our marriage. I do a lot of parenting. I do substantially all the night stuff. My spouse does not handle sleep deprivation well; our oldest is a preschooler and I still get up if he wakes with a bad dream. When he was a newborn and she breastfed, I slept with his basinette on my side, listening to his breathing. When it was time, I would get him out, put him on the breast so she could feed in a half-sleeping state, burp him and put him back without her ever fully waking. When the younger kids bottle-fed, I would not wake her at all except in the first few weeks when the feeds were constant. It has meant a lot of rough nights. Them’s the brakes. I’m here on weekends. I wake with the kids and let her sleep in. I make the coffee and the kids’ breakfast and do the morning diapers and feeds, then I cook for her and I. Our oldest had a medical condition that required surgery and still requires a lot of follow-up; I go to all of those.

    I also do a lot of the housework, though not half. I think I do 40%. When we only had one kid, I thought I did about 40%. Then she want on bedrest with the second pregnancy for several months, and I did 100%. I learned that I had been doing about 40%, and that 100% is a lot more than 40%. I learned something much more important, though. How much I actually do is not the issue. The more important and pervasive inequality is in what she has to worry about. If my spouse has to keep track of everything and tell me what needs done, my help is only marginal. What matters is what I can take off her plate by doing it without being told. That’s where I have improved the most since we got married. I’m still not as good as I need to be, but I am better every day.

    I think the biggest locus for change among middle-class and affluent folks has to be in men’s willingness not to have the primary career. All the change flows from there: they stay home, they are primary parents in some opposite sex marriages, they run the household, and equal roles within opposite sex couples can become much more common. But as long as unequal career paths and compensation are the norm, it will be very hard to stay out of the “separate spheres” black hole.

  29. Lynn Gazis-Sax
    Lynn Gazis-Sax June 13, 2007 at 9:43 pm |

    Linnaeus, if he’d come back and said he wanted to do that kind of bachelor party (just get together with a few friends before the wedding), I’d have been OK with that (and gone off and played fantasy role playing games with my own friends while he was busy). Or a joint party with friends as some other comments in the thread described. It was just the “last wild fling with strippers” variety that was nixed.

  30. Linnaeus
    Linnaeus June 13, 2007 at 9:46 pm |

    Oh, I figured as much, Lynn.

  31. Pockysmama
    Pockysmama June 13, 2007 at 9:50 pm |

    I’m never getting married either, I’ve known that since I was 4. I have been with the same man for 23 years. And quite frankly if I won’t marry him it is unlikely I’d marry anyone. Though I do joke sometimes that we are waiting to for the child to move out and then we might consider it (4 more years!). I know he would like to be married though I really can’t understand why, I’ve spent 22 years of my life with him, raised a family and created a home and if that doesn’t spell commitment then I just don’t know what does. But I’m still not getting married.

  32. Katherine
    Katherine June 13, 2007 at 9:50 pm |

    Jill, I got really excited when I read this because I identify with it so much. I might eat my words someday, but I can’t forsee any circumstance where I’d get married, even if I wanted to spend the rest of my life with someone.

    Whenever I mention that I don’t think I’ll get married or that I have problems with marriage as an institution, people say that I’ll change my mind when I meet “the one.” Which is insulting, to say the least. I can only expect the pressure to escalate as I get closer to marriageable age.

  33. David Thompson
    David Thompson June 13, 2007 at 10:04 pm |

    I’ve thought for a while that dropping a huge stack of cash on an engagement ring and then another huge stack of cash for a wedding ring is silly. If you’re going to get married, the two of you should make your own rings and learn how to do things together before you’re all legally encumbered and shit.

  34. Julie
    Julie June 13, 2007 at 10:12 pm |

    It’s funny… I actually spent my whole life wanting to get married and rushed into as soon as I could. I was 19 when I got engaged to a man I had been dating for just a little over a year and 20 when I got married 8 months later. Now looking back, it was definately a stupid decision on my part and I did it without any real meaning of what marriage was or what I wanted out of it, and the first couple of years of our marriage were absolutely miserable. I can’t tell you how close we came to divorce, and how many times. As I’ve gotten older, though, I’ve become more self-confident and self-assured and I’m much more comfortable expressing displeasure when I don’t like how things are going. I also have a husband who was willing to learn right along with me, who still has his moments of sexism, but is willing to apologize and learn from it when he’s called on them, which I think is a huge help. So now, 6 years later I’m a fairly happily married woman, but I am far from an enthusiasic supporter of the idea that anyone must or should get married, especially in the way it’s still set up. If I had it to do over again knowing what I know now, I think we would still be together, but I don’t know if we would be married. Of course, if I knew what I know now, I would’ve entered with a much more realistic view of marriage and we probably wouldn’t have had the issues we had.

  35. SarahMC
    SarahMC June 13, 2007 at 10:22 pm |

    Yay Jill! It’s so reassuring to read posts like this from women like you, because sometimes I feel very isolated in my attitude towards marriage. And my friends are educated, independent women.

  36. Shankar Gupta
    Shankar Gupta June 13, 2007 at 10:29 pm |

    I think I hear the sound of 1,000 progressive male hearts breaking.

  37. SarahMC
    SarahMC June 13, 2007 at 10:30 pm |

    Katherine, I don’t want to get married and I’ve found “the one.” Meddlers are just as perplexed and annoyed, probably even moreso. I’ve been with my boyfriend for four years; we’re best friends and I’d like to grow old with him. But people are never satisfied with that. “Do you think he’ll propose soon?!” “Maybe you’ll get a ring this Christmas!” It never fucking ends. It’s like they pity me because I haven’t made my relationship “official” in their eyes. It’s such bullshit. I know for a fact that my non-marriage is more stable and happy than a lot of actual marriages.

  38. prefer not to say
    prefer not to say June 13, 2007 at 10:35 pm |

    Being an old maid rocks. You don’t have to be pretty. You don’t have to have the same markers of social or financial success as couples feel pressured to have. You don’t have to have children but people are happy to lend theirs out for awhile. Your career options are wide open. You can finally wear comfortable shoes. Your furniture and your dishes don’t have to match. You are allowed to have eccentric hobbies. There is time for a quiet cup of coffee on a Saturday morning. You make your own travel plans. You can keep up with a much wider swath of friends.

    And I never wanted to get married until I met the man (and he existed) who would let me stay an old maid, even if we did get married. It hasn’t been easy (my future-in-laws think I am about to become a wife, and it has taken a lot of strategic deafness not to respond to those expectations) but it’s an interesting challenge and kind of fun with someone smart enough to give it a try.

    This isn’t a post to say, “Oh, honey, you just need to meet the right man.” Instead it’s a post to say — stay committed to being an old maid and happiness in the form that you need it will follow.

  39. Katherine
    Katherine June 13, 2007 at 10:50 pm |

    Oh, it’s really fun to experience guys’ responses when I say I don’t think I’ll get married. The smart, progressive ones react as though I’ve just said “I don’t like carrots,” while the less evolved ones freak the fuck out.

    And I’m all about embracing my inner cat lady.

  40. Liz
    Liz June 13, 2007 at 10:50 pm |

    I was adamant I was never going to get married for years – including several years after meeting and falling in love with my now-husband. When we realised that we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together, we made a commitment to doing just that (we called it being engaged to not-be-married). Eventually my not-fiance talked me into becoming my fiance, because I really couldn’t think of any reasons why we two, in particular, and doing it our own way, should not be married. I realised that my opposition to getting married was really opposition to participating in the same arrangement that had frustrated my mother for my whole life, but my husband was not the same as my father and our marriage could become what we made of it.

    I don’t have an engagement ring – we bought a fridge with the money instead. We don’t wear wedding rings and we didn’t vow fidelity for life. I didn’t wear white (I wouldn’t have even if I hadn’t been 5mos pregnant and had my then-7yo daughter as a flowergirl, which would have been stretching the virginal symbolism just a tad) and I didn’t have a big splashy dress. I wore pants and a top in black, white and red, and my entire wedding outfit cost less than A$20 from my favourite op shops. Nobody gave me away. We got married in my parents’ back garden with immediate family only, and had a big meal at our favourite restaurant afterwards to celebrate with all our friends. I’m not a Mrs, I haven’t changed my name, and indeed my kids both have my surname not my husband’s. My daughter came with us on our honeymoon. We got married so that our legal reality matched up with our lived reality, that’s pretty much it…

  41. Flippa
    Flippa June 13, 2007 at 11:12 pm |

    Immigration, taxes, health insurance, get your mother to stop bitching about you/your partner. These are the reasons I married and there are some incredibly revelatory beautiful comforting relieving things about it and some tough things, just like being single. Monogamy and white dresses it is not.

  42. evil fizz
    evil fizz June 13, 2007 at 11:15 pm | *

    It’s like they pity me because I haven’t made my relationship “official” in their eyes. It’s such bullshit.

    Without trying to provoke a 600 comment flame war, I don’t understand this mentality. The thing that I find baffling about people in committed relationships who talk about never wanting to marry is that marriage comes with a boatload of financial advantages and miscellaneous benefits (like visiting loved ones in hospitals, for example). Sure, there is a ton of cultural baggage attached to a concept like marriage, but it seems like health insurance, tax breaks, etc. would make it worthwhile for someone already in a committed relationship.

    Is this is a case of “my cost/benefit analysis is just different from yours?” Or am I missing something else?

  43. Isabel
    Isabel June 13, 2007 at 11:17 pm |

    One of the many thing I love about the (now-cancelled *sniff*) Veronica Mars is that the very first spoken words of the show are: “I’m never getting married. You want an absolute? Well, there it is.” (granted, they got edited out of the network premiere. BUT WHATEVER).

    Anyway, I don’t want marriage and I don’t want kids. I have happy images of my middle age of spinster aunthood to all my friends’ kids (most of my friends want kids, and they will make great parents. me? i’ll be the one knitting Sally her very first fingerless gloves, to be given in the same bag as her very first feminist tome. it’ll be awesome).

    This is unadulterated bullshit. The only people who claim ’strippers find their work empowering’ are guys who like to pretend that their going to see strippers is just like giving money to NOW.

    Mm, this is mostly true, but not quite. I’ve definitely read some strippers in the blogosphere who really like their work and find it, maybe not necessarily empowering, but something they really want to do and enjoy and have fun with.

  44. The Bun
    The Bun June 13, 2007 at 11:45 pm |

    I have so many reasons to avoid marriage, but primarily because I figure there aren’t a whole lot of interesting men who will forego sex, children, and sleeping in the same bed. When I talk about it with other people, I get that tired “MARRIAGE IS ABOUT COMPROMISE” line, which is always code for “do something you loathe just for his pleasure.”

    Common attitudes on marriage–like that–show me why I don’t bother. People who are otherwise rational call me selfish for hating kids or sex or pulling myself from the market, and think my duty as a woman is to sacrifice my own happiness so a guy can stick me on his mantle. No one ever suggests that a man should “compromise” by respecting my lack of desires. I never hear “if he loves you he’ll cope without rubbing his genitals on you specifically.” It’s always, “if you love him you’ll do it anyway and pretend to like it for the sake of his ego.”

    No, not all men are dicks, but I can’t even seem to have male FRIENDS without them wanting to get physical. I can’t imagine how annoyed I’d be if I was actually looking for my soulmate.

  45. Neko-Onna
    Neko-Onna June 14, 2007 at 12:03 am |

    One other thing, and I know it’s completely anecdotal, but I know a fair number of married men, and not one that I can think of wields the majority of the power in their marriages, not by a long shot. It’s almost become a truism that when a woman gets married she gets to tell her husband what to do.

    Well, of course. That’s why the wifey is also known as the ol’ ball and chain. GET REAL, people. I just hate this kind of crap. In my experience, in relationships that are not egalitarian, (one partner “dictates” to the other) what really happens is that wives tend to make decisions about things men don’t care about- what color to paint the bathroom, which hotel to stay in on vacation, etc. and men make the “big” decisions like what car to buy, how to invest money, etc. Because after all, that’s the traditional gender split, right? So, those men who are whining the most about being “run” by their wives are usually a bunch of duplicitous bastards who use those little detail decisions to mask the true inequality of the relationship. Trust me, if these guys gave a rat’s ass about the color of the towels in the guest bathroom, they’d let their opinons be known.

  46. Jennifer
    Jennifer June 14, 2007 at 12:10 am |

    I hear you. I don’t think I’m getting married either. I was engaged once and that was a bad idea all around.

    In my experience, the culture we live in is very hard on those who don’t fit into the little boxes, and all the guys I know got raised in those boxes. Even the most egalitarian fellows at some point assume I’ll have their babies or take their name or start doing their cleaning when we don’t even live together, it seems. Sure, I hear there’s this occasional miraculous guy (with someone else, of course) who doesn’t have a traditional boxed male somewhere inside him that comes out six months into your relationship. I hear of them, I can’t say I’ve met any in the flesh. I suspect odds are higher that I’ll have to deal with a lot more men who still have it inside them that a woman will happily cook and clean for him, than ones who truly don’t care if I don’t act like the happy homemaker.

    To be honest, I’m not so much against getting married so much as I don’t want to be a traditional wife. Or have to deal with everyone EXPECTING me to be a wife, and bitching me out for not happily fitting into the box they want me in. I’m not even sure finding a miraculous guy of my own is going to trump the expectations everyone is going to have of me, and one of the nice things about being an old maid with not a man in sight is that while everyone disapproves of me, at least they can’t easily fit me into the Taken Woman box..

    prefer not to say: I ADORE YOUR POST SO MUCH AND IT MAKES ME SO HAPPY. I just wanted to say that :) I’m saving that quote forever.

  47. Betsy
    Betsy June 14, 2007 at 12:18 am |

    The Meghan O’Rourke piece made me very happy. I’ve felt for a long time that I shouldn’t get (or want) an engagement ring, should I ever become engaged, for reasons including the monetary wastefulness, the political problems, and the symbolism issues. And yet…there was a little piece of me that thought that somehow I wouldn’t have the same excitement or something without it. I was feeling like the only woman in the world who wasn’t going to get a ring, and like I was missing out or something. But I also knew that I was right to reject such a tempting symbol of convention, even if it was hard to do, because it was the aspects of myself that I least like that wanted it most. (Speaking only for myself. Everyone has their own line in the sand, and I don’t expect them all to pick engagement rings!) O’Rourke’s article, and the responses to it, have been very heartening.

  48. Chet
    Chet June 14, 2007 at 12:36 am |

    As far as I can tell, most people end up getting married — yet I can’t imagine that every one of those people, or even most of them, found someone who, social constraints and cultural expectations aside, they would actually want to spend the rest of their life with in a monogamous relationship.

    I think you’re overlooking the fact that, for most people who aren’t wrapped up in their own bullshit, there’s actually quite a lot of people that you could conceivably spend your whole life with. People are malleable, and they mold by proximity.

    I don’t think it’s cynical for me to point out that most people settle.

    Is it that they settle? Or is it that they’re mature enough to realize that the idea of a person who is always entertaining, new, and stimulates intense passions forever is essentially a crock of shit?

    People get familiar when you live with them. I think that’s a good thing; not all of us thought dating was all that much fun or that the awkward period of “getting to know someone” is better than the comfortable period of being able to count on someone.

    I’m just saying that there’s a certain viewpoint where “settling” isn’t really any part of marriage. There’s nobody out there who’s your “soulmate;” that’s a fiction. The people who are out there are the people with whom you could make a life together work, if you work at it.

    As for marital politics, issues like name changing and distribution of domestic labor seemed more important, or more visible.

    That’s very much true. Feminists who marry, like myself, have to grapple with these issues, grapple with our failures, and grapple with friends and family “not getting it.”

    But not marrying, in a large part, excludes you from the discussion about these issues. Getting married is a chance to solve the problem in the way you think would work best, and find out if you were right. Otherwise it’s just complaining about the color of the moon – you’ve excluded yourself, largely, from any meaningful opportunity to solve these problems.

    I don’t mean to exclude co-habitating couples with my language, but I see that I basically did, so I’d like to apologize for that. I think what I said applies to them, too; really, the only scope where marriage is fundamentally different than just living with someone your whole life is the financial interface between your relationship and the rest of the world; sometimes being able to say that someone is “my wife” opens doors or obviates hassles.

    But that stuff isn’t really what marriage is about. The things that marriage is about, you don’t have to be officially married to get; and I’m very much in favor of people of an appropriate maturity level getting those things as they see fit, regardless of official legal status. (Which isn’t to say that I’m not abundantly in favor of expanding who can claim that legal status.)

  49. Linnaeus
    Linnaeus June 14, 2007 at 12:38 am |

    I suspect odds are higher that I’ll have to deal with a lot more men who still have it inside them that a woman will happily cook and clean for him, than ones who truly don’t care if I don’t act like the happy homemaker.

    You may be right, Jennifer. For my part, I like to think that I’ve done those things for myself for so long that I wouldn’t expect a woman I marry or cohabit with to do those things.

    Especially laundry. I’ve done my own since I was about 11, I think. Maybe earlier. In any event, I wouldn’t let anyone do my laundry after that. I was afraid it wouldn’t be done right.

  50. Autumn Harvest
    Autumn Harvest June 14, 2007 at 12:47 am |

    Certainly marriage isn’t for everyone, and if you don’t want to get married, I have no particular desire to push it on you. But I find much of your post a little strange, because most of it does not object to marriage, but certain traditional but easily negotiable aspects of marriage. Assuming you have a progressive partner (and I’m assuming you wouldn’t want to marry a non-progressive one), things like the engagement ring and bachelor party are fairly mild issues to navigate. Heck, I don’t think I have any male friends who even wanted to see strippers the night before their wedding, let alone had to be talked out of it. And I don’t think the imbalance in sexual desires in married couples is as one-way male>female as you state.

    That’s not to say that marriage doesn’t have entrenched institutional aspects and societal expectations that are difficult to deal with in an egalitarian manner, particularly if you have children. But most of the issues you bring up seem pretty easy for a like-minded progressive couple to deal with.

  51. Stephen
    Stephen June 14, 2007 at 12:51 am |

    I like to think I am in an egalitarian marriage, but I think all these discussions of it have been very interesting. I do the cooking and grocery shopping, she does the decorating, we both work, she proposed, we both wear rings. We had a largish wedding with 150 guests and an officiant I met at a protest of focus on the family. I never thought I would be married, we lived together for three years first. Eventually my wife asked me to marry her and it seems to have been a sensible move. Patriarchal tradition, perhaps, and I think we are all too aware of that. We both read feminist critiques of the institution and the event. In the end it was worth it to be a family in the eyes of our families, friends and the state, after we had already considered ourselves such.

  52. octogalore
    octogalore June 14, 2007 at 1:14 am |

    “Within traditional marriage, there are gendered requirements that go along with the roles of ‘husband’ and ‘wife.’ The roles and the requirements are different, and with delineated, sex-based roles and requirements comes a power differential. Traditionally, men held most of that power.”

    Yeah, within traditional marriage — but it’s possible to lose what you don’t want and keep what you do. The institution is basically what you make of it.

    In my marriage? One person outearns the other by about a factor of four, does about the same amount of child care, less of the cooking and cleaning, refuses to deal with repairs and repair people, and has spent far more time than the other inside of a strip club. Wanna guess who that is?

    Law school is much more of a patriarchal, inflexible environment than marriage, having experienced both institutions.

  53. SarahMC
    SarahMC June 14, 2007 at 1:20 am |

    evil fizz –

    My boyfriend and I live an hour apart. We’ve lived as far as five hours apart, and we’ve lived blocks away from each other. Right now, why should we put ourselves through the stress of getting married when we’re perfectly happy the way things are now? It’s annoying when people bug me about settling down with M, but it’s better than having people butt into our wedding plans. And as soon as we’d get married, they’d be wondering where the babies are. No matter what I do, people are not going to be satisfied with how closely I toe to the patriarchal line.
    There’s nothing compelling me to get married right now, and I have no delusions re: a wedding ring and it’s ability to keep us *in love forever and ever*.

  54. ACS
    ACS June 14, 2007 at 1:26 am |

    This is unadulterated bullshit. The only people who claim ’strippers find their work empowering’ are guys who like to pretend that their going to see strippers is just like giving money to NOW.

    Other than strippers who claim to find their work empowering. There are sex workers who talk about their work as being empowering. This isn’t unproblematic, but claiming they don’t exist because their existence is inconvenient doesn’t really help.

    — ACS

  55. Cecily
    Cecily June 14, 2007 at 1:44 am |

    I was married once and it was miserable. I was totally appalled, after I woke up and R-U-N-N-O-F-T, to discover how much patriarchal bullshit I had completely assimilated on a subconscious level. I was completely dominated, completely nurturing, and completely committed to telling myself I was happy. Obviously, that isn’t everyone’s experience of marriage, but once nearly ground into suicide, twice shy. My partner and I don’t plan to marry.

    Reactions vary. I enjoy the deeply confused look on the face of those who imagine life as a line running through cradle, chapel, maternity ward and grave. I’ve noticed younger people imagine every het couple will get married eventually, but don’t assume said marrieds will have kids. My partner’s conservative extended family, on the other hand, acts like he is doing me a huge wrong, and I must be helplessly wringing my hands over his refusal to do the honorable thing. Heh!

    The thing I most deeply regret about this is that I doubt I will ever get to see my partner in a tux. I think he’d look smashing.

  56. Lynn Gazis-Sax
    Lynn Gazis-Sax June 14, 2007 at 2:21 am |

    people say that I’ll change my mind when I meet “the one.”

    You might – it’s a lot easier to find being married to an actual person you love appealing than to find marriage-the-abstraction appealing. And then there’s all the insurance, hospital visitation, etc., stuff, which have been reasons for more than one person I know to change his or her mind after meeting the person for whom he or she wanted to be sure to have all those benefits (and some occasion where not having those benefits proved problematic).

    But “you might change your mind” isn’t at all the same thing as “you will change your mind”; that’s the mistake all those people are making. Some people change their minds, some don’t, and they have no way of knowing in which camp you’ll fall.

    I was feeling like the only woman in the world who wasn’t going to get a ring, and like I was missing out or something.

    You’re certainly not; in my family not doing engagement rings is actually now the norm.

  57. Cola Johnson
    Cola Johnson June 14, 2007 at 2:41 am |

    I intend to give my children unique last names that have no relation to my or my husband’s family. My boyfriend, who has a much stronger, less complicated relationship with his family, wants at least one of our children to have his family name. I’ve more or less put my foot down, though.

    I think it’s stupid. You’re either branding them with an unwieldy, long name that will be a constant source of irritation and warrant a shortening which represents a value judgement of some kind later on, (his is already a compound name) or choosing which side of the family is more important to genealogy.

  58. brooksfoe
    brooksfoe June 14, 2007 at 2:58 am |

    social constraints and cultural expectations aside – Jill

    True. Had I grown up as a feral child in the Black Forest like Caspar Hauser, with no social constraints or cultural expectations or, indeed, language, I probably would have no interest in conventional marriage.

  59. libber
    libber June 14, 2007 at 3:06 am |

    wives tend to make decisions about things men don’t care about- what color to paint the bathroom, which hotel to stay in on vacation, etc. and men make the “big” decisions like what car to buy, how to invest money, etc.

    Is that true? Then that’s another reason not to get married. I’d rather decide how to invest the money than what color to paint the bathroom.

    I was completely dominated, completely nurturing, and completely committed to telling myself I was happy.

    I think that happens a lot. I constantly hear stories about just how verbally abusive marriages can be, and guess what, it ain’t the woman who abuses the man.

  60. MaladyDee
    MaladyDee June 14, 2007 at 3:07 am |

    My boyfriend and I have been together for 4 years. I’ve gone through changes of opinion on whether I want to get married to him or not (mainly corresponding to whether one of my sisters was getting married at the time, and by now I’ve run out of sisters) but to be quite honest, I don’t really feel the need. I can’t stand big parties or planning big parties, and I hate paperwork with a fiery passion.

    The unvarnished truth of the matter is that I’m too damned lazy to get married. I honestly can’t be bothered. I’m in Canada, and living together is more or less good enough here.

    What my boyfriend thinks about that…. well, his opinion isn’t completely clear to me, but seems to be the same as mine. Paperwork, who needs it? And at this point, I think I might politely decline if he did ask, unless it was a really huge deal to him. since it’s not something I’m actually opposed to, I’d go through with it if it was important enough to him. I don’t think it is.

  61. Weetz
    Weetz June 14, 2007 at 3:10 am |

    My reasons for not getting married have come to include all of the above, but I think my initial reason was a bit different. Almost every marriage that I’ve been acquainted with has either ended miserably or resulted in one or both partners wishing it would end, but sticking with it because they believe divorce is sinful. Of course, there have been one or two notable exceptions, but overall happily married couples seem to be scarce. I think I’ve been afraid that marriage would “jinx” any relationship I had – the pressure to be together forever would ruin it.
    Now, I find the greatest difficulty in staying unmarried to my partner to be my deep-rooted fear that others will see me as being “unworthy” of marriage. I know it’s a stupid feeling, and I’m somewhat ashamed of having it, but I just feel sometimes that others (particularly my family) think that I’m not married because my boyfriend doesn’t think I’m good enough. Of course, recognizing this just makes me more resolved not to get married, so I won’t be giving in to this bullshit fear. I’ve been living with my partner for over two years now, and I’m so happy with our relationship that I just can’t imagine changing anything.

  62. MaladyDee
    MaladyDee June 14, 2007 at 3:19 am |

    Actually, scratch that last comment of mine. I don’t think I would get married, even if he did really want to, because there’s too much baggage that comes with the role of wife. I know myself well enough to know that I would find myself becoming less of a partner and more of a wife, in the submissive-servant sense of the word, even though neither of us would want that.

    And I can’t see any reason he would have for us getting married that would be compelling enough to override the chance of me losing my identity, which I’ve fought hard enough for already in this patriarchal world.

  63. Cassie
    Cassie June 14, 2007 at 3:21 am |

    This post is great, and the comments (mostly) back it up. Having experienced both European and American cultures, I must say I like the way the Europeans do it better. Americans seem really backwards in comparison.

    Iin Europe, most of my friends from high school are living with people they have dated for over 10 years (we’re in our thirties), many are starting to have children. No one can understand what marriage would add to their situation, so they don’t get married. Our common-law marriage laws are very strong, so legally there is not much difference. The only high school friend who got married in his early twenties went through a horrible divorce, with two little sons, so no shining example there.

    In the US, I remember being shocked at the social premium awarded to rings, fancy weddings, etc. Once I came home and my housemates had just become engaged. The woman shoved the ring in my face – I was really and truly shocked. So medieval. One of my other housemates had decided to marry her boyfriend, waiting until he graduated so he could pay for a ceremony costing at least 10K. Thank goodness the poor man turned out to be gay, hopefully he is living happily ever after. I loved both of my brothers’ weddings (and their wives), no bachelor party bullshit there: why go to a strip club when your family came from overseas and you can have a clambake on the beach?

    Of all the awfulness surrounding US marriage traditions (rings, expense, social pressures, giant formal ceremony with enough stress for several divorces, etc), the bachelor party stands out as by far the worst. Why, why, WHY does any woman put up with it ever? Why do men want to do it? It’s just divisive and demeaning and awful. Why does society (family and friends and colleagues) condone it? Never mind marrying someone who would have a bachelor party of the traditional variety: I couldn’t stay friends with someone who did. But then I have high standards for my friends: I expect them to see me as a human being, which inevitably means they are feminists (whether they call themselves that or not), so that problem is solved by itself :)

    If I ever get married, I think I’ll follow my parents’ tradition: run down to city hall one day, then throw a “end of the affair” party the next evening.

  64. Ole
    Ole June 14, 2007 at 3:21 am |

    libber (no. 2) and several others. What?? Men don’t wear engagement rings in the US?!?!?! How come? And why do you have separate engagement and wedding rings? And why aren’t US jewelers pushing for changing this and trying to sell engagement rings to the males as well (twice the business!)? (last sentence is not meant ironic; in Denmark Valentine’s Day has become a tradition in the last ~10 years or so. To some extent because of cultural (=TV) influence, to some extent because florists have begun advertising heavily for it after Christmas).

  65. Dianne
    Dianne June 14, 2007 at 3:48 am |

    I was never going to get married, mostly because the historical and legal issues are so disgusting, and I didn’t. I’ve now been happily not married to one particular person for over 10 years and we’re raising a kid together. At this point we’re almost certainly not ever going to get married because if we did we’d have to face the sarcastic comments from our relatives and that’d be worse even than blowing our savings on engagement rings.

  66. yugenue
    yugenue June 14, 2007 at 4:23 am |

    You might want to check out this post on marriage at IBTP. I think Twisty herself gets to the heart of what Jill is saying as well:

    “Two heterosexual people may marry for ‘love’ but sooner or later they find their ideal subsumed by duty to bogus culturally constructed expectations. ‘Love’ as it is commonly understood — a sense of unbridled benevolence toward one of your own kind — cannot withstand the pressures wrought by the power differential between dominator and dominated. Because all of society, not to mention the global economy, turns on the difference between two classes — oppressor and oppressed, man and woman, white and black, top and bottom — love, initially an affinity between two like entities, morphs into a class struggle. Couples struggle against the world and each other for fidelity, for money, for sex, for kids, for individual happiness or fulfillment. Thus, marriage is ‘work’, as patriarchybots like Oprah will tell you, but it is the woman who has to do most of it; the dude merely has to show up at the wedding.

    “Your Nigel is different, of course, but unless he is a woman (and sometimes even if he is), he enjoys a privilege that you will never see for as long as you live. I allude to the privilege of personal sovereignty. Deny this truth at your peril.”

    The comments are largely heartbreaking and are summed up by, “we are both cool progressive types and he’s a good man but if I had it to do over I would never have married him because the daily grind, the assumptions, and the little indignities and compromises that I frequently submit to as the woman in the relationship, all mount up and become unbearable over time. And he doesn’t even see it, and he really is a good man so I feel like an idiot to complain.”

  67. Maxwell
    Maxwell June 14, 2007 at 5:55 am |

    The arrival of children in a monogamous relationship seems to be the pivotal point. Example.

  68. Maxwell
    Maxwell June 14, 2007 at 5:55 am |
  69. louise
    louise June 14, 2007 at 6:40 am |

    Jill, if you find the ring you describe or one you really like ALOT, just go ahead and get it as a gift to yourself! You will treasure it forever. I did exactly that- found a gorgeous 3 stone, white gold trininty that was symbolic for me at that stage in my life- and what I liked best was that it was a souvenier from a trip to Las Vegas and is a “fake”- but it’s stunning, beautiful, and comfortable. Better to spend $200 than 20-50k…

  70. Brooklynite
    Brooklynite June 14, 2007 at 8:45 am |

    I know a fair number of married men, and not one that I can think of wields the majority of the power in their marriages, not by a long shot. It’s almost become a truism that when a woman gets married she gets to tell her husband what to do.

    “It’s almost become a truism?” It was an anti-feminist talking point in 1776:

    Depend upon it, we know better than to repeal our masculine systems. Although they are in full force, you know they are little more than theory. We dare not exert our power in its full latitude. We are obliged to go fair and softly, and, in practice, you know we are the subjects.

    We have only the name of masters, and rather than give up this, which would completely subject us to the despotism of the petticoat, I hope General Washington and all our brave heroes would fight.

    Wasn’t true then, though, and isn’t true now.

  71. sloopin
    sloopin June 14, 2007 at 9:13 am |

    As others have pointed out, marriage is a set of benefits. Marriage doesn’t have to include white dresses and inequality. As I see it, it’s just a bunch of legal stuff with the added benefit of getting my mom off my back. You can add in kids and dad giving you away and quitting your job, but you don’t have to.

    Getting engaged just helped me realize all the more what a good choice I’d made in my hubby. Right after we’d decided to get married, he went to go visit his family without me, and he told them the news. Even though we had never discussed these things and he had probably never given any thought to them, he reported back that he’d given all the right answers to the usual questions… he couldn’t imagine why I would want an engagement ring (I hate jewelry as a money- and time-waster; we eventually both got cheapies because we were tired of constant questions from our conspicuously-consuming friends); he couldn’t imagine why I would change my name; he couldn’t imagine why you would need a year to plan a wedding, etc. Good hubby. Now he does more than his share of the housework and household organization-type-stuff so that I can focus on earning about four times as much as him at work.

  72. Kristen
    Kristen June 14, 2007 at 9:32 am |

    Is this is a case of “my cost/benefit analysis is just different from yours?” Or am I missing something else?

    I think it may be a different cost/benefit. For me my early aversion to marriage was due mostly to what people expected a “wife” to be. They though I’d “settle down” and stop being “so difficult” once I “had” a husband.* Not to mention I hated the disrespect my relationship received because we hadn’t married. (If I hear that cow milk analogy one more time…) As a result I was in full rebellion against social expectations mode.

    A trip to the ER changed the calculus for me, but then that was just me.

    Of course I get to enjoy the same sexist crap about my decision not to have children or to have a career, so once a difficult child, always a difficult child.

    *Please excuse the overuse of quote…apparently, I’m still irritated!

  73. Fizgig
    Fizgig June 14, 2007 at 9:46 am |

    I totally understand the sentiment (I was there for a long time) but I agree with Nita in that social symbols are always changing meaning over time and that we have the power to change them. I would also argue that there is a very important distinction between the symbols of a wedding, the patriarchal assumptions of a marriage, and the actual lived marriages of feminists (which are VERY different).

    For example, I’m married and my wedding consisted of a trip to the courthouse in my favorite blue dress with a man I trust and believe in as the person I want as my partner in life. There was certainly no bachelor party, no engagement ring, no white dress…and far more importantly in my mind, no gender-divided expectations in our actual marriage. If you ask why get married I will bring out the exact arguments made for same sex marriage, all those social and legal benefits really do make a difference. I’ll also add that I find my life easier with a partner. We split the housework so I do less than when I lived alone. When things go wrong, I am grateful to have someone there to share the trauma with. I was single for a long time and I definitely loved things about that – there were good and bad sides. The same goes for marriage – there are good and bad sides but overall I’m happy with my shared life.

    This is all to say that I think it is a shame to dismiss marriage because of the social expectations surrounding marriage. With the right person you can create your own partnership that looks and feels not a lick like those traditional patriarchal nightmares. Marriage has changed drastically over the past 400 years and will continue to do so as people enact very different marriages.

  74. Frumious B
    Frumious B June 14, 2007 at 9:49 am |

    It’s almost become a truism that when a woman gets married she gets to tell her husband what to do.

    Yeah, she gets to tell her husband when to come home for dinner, where to go on vacation, which parties they will go to, what chores to do, etc. In other words, she’s his mom. He ought to be able to figure out for himself that everybody will be home at x time so that’s when dinner should be served; expensive vacations are a way to show what a good consumer she is and what a good provider he is, kind of like an engagement ring; he ought to be able to remember when his friends are giving parties and decide whether he wants to socialize with them on that night; he ought to realize that the dishwasher needs to be loaded after every meal, just like it has for the last x years, and do it without being told. Some power. I believe Hugo addressed this once by saying his current marriage is better than previous marriages b/c he “grew the fuck up.”

    Meanwhile, the man holds the financial power in most marriages, he also holds the sexual power in that he can guilt his wife into having sex with him by threatening to look elsewhere if she doesn’t give it up on demand. Yeah, there is role reversal in some marriages, but not many.


    re: roles and same sex marriages
    As I have gotten to know a few butches, I am stunned at how they have internalized the masculine-feminine roles in their relationships. Same sex marriage is far from a panacea for gender-based power structures. Just observing.

  75. Kristen
    Kristen June 14, 2007 at 10:03 am |

    Yeah, there is role reversal in some marriages, but not many.

    Perhaps I just have a different background, but among my friends, this is definitely not true. Come to think of it, I don’t actually know a single person under 40 that does have a 1950s relationship. Most of my friends make as much if not more money than their spouses. The one friend I have who is a stay at home mom (with a home business) still makes about the same amount of money as her husband. I don’t think that these cultural norms are the norm among younger couples.

  76. lou
    lou June 14, 2007 at 11:05 am |

    I had adamantly refused to marry my partner of 20 years even when he proposed.
    But we’re probably eloping this summer for two reasons:

    1. I had a change of heart after attending a gay wedding. The couple had been together for 10 years but weren’t allowed to get married until judges’ rulings and new laws. It was the first time I ever cried at the wedding. It meant so much to them and softened me up a bit.So I stopped thinking of marriage as an evil thing.

    2. The second reason is totally practical. I work for a small non-profit with minimal health insurance. I’m having to spend a small fortune on asthma medicine because our drug co-pay is $65 for brand medicine and there isn’t anything generic. (thank god my pharmacist pointed me to a generic birth control pill)
    My SO did give me a ring. It was his mother’s and grandmother’s and it was up to me whether to call it an engagement ring.

    And it’s too bad that not everyone has those choices.

  77. charlotte
    charlotte June 14, 2007 at 11:10 am |

    this is a great post, and I love reading all the reactions to it. I’ve never wanted to be married. like theodora, I didn’t grow up dreaming of my perfect day princess wedding. like katherine, I’ve been told “you’ll change your mind” by many infuriating people when I express my desire to not get married. like SarahMC, I’m in a relationship that I consider permanent with someone I consider my best friend who has the same feelings toward marriage that I do. we’re happy in our non-married partnership that we strive to make egalitarian. depending on who I’m talking to, I call him my ‘boyfriend’, my ‘partner’ or just by his first name. we’re at the age and point in the relationship now when an engagement is probably expected by a lot of people, but we don’t believe in it for ourselves. I personally have a very strong reaction to engagement rings and always have. I always saw it as a down payment, or akin to marking territory, and inherently sexist—where’s the guy’s engagement ring? my partner and I know that some people are probably going to take our relationship less seriously as time passes and no wedding happens, and there will be others who have pity for me because “he just won’t marry her, poor thing”. I sometimes feel that I just want to gather all the family together and tell them that we’re not getting married and they will have to live with it. we have also (half-seriously) contemplated lying to everyone and telling them that we actually did get married just so people will leave us alone and accept for us what we’ve already accepted for each other, though I doubt that’s the best way to confront the issue. has anyone ever lied about being married when you’re actually not?

  78. Thomas
    Thomas June 14, 2007 at 11:59 am |

    Jill, because I didn’t say it before, I’ll say it now: great post, impressive long-form treatment of a tough topic.

    I find that even as a thirtysomething with children, men (always men) older than me presume to tell me how I will think when I am closer to their age. I tell them that folks have been doing that since I was at least fifteen, and their predictive success is no better than random.

  79. pearlandopal
    pearlandopal June 14, 2007 at 12:10 pm |

    I tend to lurk and not comment, because by the time I get to these discussions there’s not much I can add, but I did want to speak up here. It seems I’m one of the few, but I married my high school sweetheart and we have a relatively equal (in power and duties) relationship. We’re also a good match and very happy together. The only thing that bothers me about our relationship whatsoever is that he’s developed some health problems that might become very serious very quickly, and I’m terrified of that. Other than that, and the small gripes that come up in daily life, we’re good. Now if only people would accept that we don’t ever ever ever want children…

    Just wanted to balance out the equation here. :) Not all marriages are bad news.

  80. mythago
    mythago June 14, 2007 at 12:18 pm |

    But most of the issues you bring up seem pretty easy for a like-minded progressive couple to deal with.

    Heh. “Seem” is about right. Don’t ever make the mistake of assuming that “progressive” is synonymous with “perfectly aware of, and willing to give up every jot of, my privilege”.

    (I wonder if the posters who insist that ‘marriage is what you make of it’ and that one can subvert patriarchal expectations in a marriage by snapping your fingers are married women?)

  81. Hugo
    Hugo June 14, 2007 at 12:19 pm |
  82. Kristen
    Kristen June 14, 2007 at 12:31 pm |

    I wonder if the posters who insist that ‘marriage is what you make of it’ and that one can subvert patriarchal expectations in a marriage by snapping your fingers are married women?

    Yes, I am a married woman and I do think marriage is what you make of it.

    Marriage doesn’t make people assholes. Some people are assholes and they bring their assholishness into their relationships. Some people are not assholes and as a result do not bring assholishness to a relationship. Some people’s previously undisclosed assholishness only becomes evident after marriage, but it wasn’t marriage that made them an asshole.

    Hmmm…sort of like a 501( c) corp. It could be the Christian Coalition or the ACLU. Depends on the people involved not the legal title.

  83. Wishy Washy
    Wishy Washy June 14, 2007 at 1:09 pm |

    I am married and I for one (and I consider myself feminist) am not threatened by posts by feminist bloggers pointing out some very common ways in which marriage has been historically fucked up and ended up giving the woman the short end of the stick – and ways in which it is still that way. Because it’s all true, and I’ve seen it.

    Will it happen to us? Geez I hope not, but I think like most hetero progressives who decide to marry, you expect, and work towards, the best but understand that anything can happen. Right now I’m pregnant and we expect our baby boy mid October. So THAT will be a whole new set of things. For a double-income/no-kids couple, marriage is hardly inequitable unless you marry a pig, because your lives are pretty much the same. You both have huge hourly constraints on your day, job woes, probably a similar schedule, you both have to eat and live in a relatively clean space (I’m kind of a slob by the stereotypical “girl” standard of cleanliness so in no way have I ever picked up more than my share of housework, LOL). Care of a small infant, with the assumption that I will at least try to breastfeed and will not be able to spring up back into action the very day after I give birth, will necessarily mean I will be dependant on my husband for three months. Does that freak me out a little? You bet it does. But I think as long as we’re both aware that I will be going back to work thereafter, there’s not as much chance for inequality to slip in if it wasn’t there before. I for one have promised myself that if I get the “mommy micromanager” bug and hover over my husband as he performs the simplest childcare task, I need to take a chill pill and let him handle it. If you want people to help you have to let them. (actually I should probably be afraid I’ll be TOO laid back, given that it’s me I’m talking about here.)

    Why did I decide to get legally married? That’s a tough one, I guess, since I used to think I would never get married, was never focused on marriage as a goal in and of itself, and in undergraduate seriously disdained the concept. All I can say is that when we got together it just “worked.” And also in re: the concept of “settling,” I guess I’ll come out and say: yeah I think in most relationships that last more than three or four years there is some settling going on – I mean there’s very little surprise anymore. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, but neither is it something for everyone. When I was in my 20’s I placed a very high priority on having that quasi-dangerous “butterflies in the stomach” feeling at all times when with a person. That meant they were probably new to me and a little mysterious. Once I got serious with my husband I found it just wasn’t as important to me that I be theoretically free to fuck every attractive guy with whom I felt a slight pheromonal pull.* And yes, that was important to me for quite some time. I turned down many a serious relationship because there was someone I was more attracted to and I thought it would be unfair to get involved with someone just because they were nice to me and wanted to be with me. But with my husband, with whom I was friends first: I liked the companionship, the understanding, the support, and also began to count on the fact that here was someone who knows my body and does have a personal investment in making sure I get off. To me, at this point in my life, this is superior to constant mystery and longing. If there’s one thing I can see in couples choosing to get married that in my not-so-humble opinion is a good predictor they’ll split, it’s when they’re hot for each other but other than that don’t really get along.

    Does this kind of simpatico relationship necessitate legal marriage? Absolutely not. Our marriage was civil anyway (we’re pretty much atheists). But somehow it seemed less scary and something we wanted to do, so we did it. And for those who are in long-term cohabitation, I would imagine many of them will feel pretty similarly to us in that the sexual dynamic is simply not the same as a one-week fling you had with that guy who was going back to Europe next week – and that’s OK. It’s better than OK, actually. If anyone asks me, I say, yeah, I like being married.

    *I’m not taking into account mutually-negotiated open relationships, which are not really for us and which I’ll admit I don’t understand, but I definitely respect the concept, because it’s honest.

  84. Athena
    Athena June 14, 2007 at 1:09 pm |

    With regards to the whole engagement ring thing, it’s also important to note that jewelery given to the woman by the man has historically functioned as an alimony of sorts. In certain cultures (particularly those in the Middle East), if a man leaves his wife, the woman has no real means of greivance. She is cut off from her husband financially, and, because of the shame of being abandoned by one’s husband, her family offers no support. As you said, problems in marriage are always the woman’s fault. If this occurs, however, a woman can sell her jewelery to help support herself. Such is why the bride’s family often bargains for the bestowal of such gifts prior to the marriage. It’s insurance.

    If you’re interested, the ethnography “Guests of the Sheik” by Elizabeth Warnock Fernea offers an interesting explaination of this cultural practice.

  85. Wishy Washy
    Wishy Washy June 14, 2007 at 1:17 pm |

    Oh and re: engagement rings: yeah I had one, but (a) its main stone is not a diamond and (b) it’s 60 years old and belonged to my husband’s beloved great-aunt (he was her favorite and she left him a lot of her stuff – we also wore about the same dress size so I have all these great vintage clothes). I really love that we did not pay a dime for either my band or engagement ring, and that it has connections to his family all of whom I think are awesome. And I was proud to wear this unusual ring and have people look at it and go “wow, what is that?! Is that an engagement ring, or just a regular ring? How cool! it’s so beautiful!”

    And yeah, I am actually quite glad it’s not a diamond.

  86. Kala
    Kala June 14, 2007 at 1:22 pm |

    I did not think it fair that I be the only one with an engagement ring. That is why, as soon as my beau proposed, we went out and I bought him a ring. And he is more than happy to wear it.

  87. Zos
    Zos June 14, 2007 at 1:25 pm |

    I was never going to get married either, until I met my husband. I insisted that he NOT buy me an engagement ring, and he was actually quite relieved to hear how against the concept of engagement rings I am (as well as diamonds in general). We didn’t have a big wedding – just immediate family and two friends were present to sign as witnesses. My brother, who is an atheist licensed wedding officiant married us. We wrote our own non-patriarchal vows. My Dad was a bit thrown off when there was no part about him giving the bride away, but otherwise it went very smoothly. I didn’t change my name, nor did my husband want me to, and we still have separate bank accounts. We split the household chores equally, and I can honestly say I feel a huge sense of relief at having someone else around to help out (rather than feeling burdened by taking on an extra set of chores).

    I do realize that my situation is probably very rare, and I am extremely grateful that I found my male radical feminist other half. I am hopeful that soon stories like this will become more of the norm though. I think it will happen.

  88. maja
    maja June 14, 2007 at 1:29 pm |

    Late to the thread, but I wanted to bring up one issue that I haven’t seen addressed yet: If you and your partner come from different countries, marriage is, and constructed as, a way that you can stay together. I’m from a liberal country where non-legalized ‘partnerships’ are common. Some of my friends have been together for years, 2+ kids and no intention of getting married nor pressure to do so. I never felt that either, something I appreciate whenever reading about this issue.

    My boyfriend of many years and I had a small ceremony at City Hall (female Justice of the Peace, yay!) and a simple weekend honeymoon. I’m exasperated by the way his conservative family treats our decisions, though. (No engagement ring? Cheap identical wedding bands? NO CHANGING YOUR NAME???) It’s a reaction of pity towards me – for letting my husband ‘get away with it’ – and also disapproval of him – for not ‘really getting really married’.

    It’s made me more committed to feminism and gay rights than ever.

  89. thegirlfrommarz
    thegirlfrommarz June 14, 2007 at 1:31 pm |

    Excellent, thought-provoking post, Jill, and a really interesting set of comments.

    There are only two reasons my boyfriend and I might consider getting married (we always said we wouldn’t). The first is the legal benefits that evil_fizz points out – we’ve only just started living together, but when our finances and lives are more entwined, it might start to make sense.

    The other reason is that it’s the only way I can think of to recoup the enormous amount of money I’ve shelled out on other people’s weddings in the last five years. A minimum of £200 for the hen weekend (“bachelorette party” to you – and it’s now a whole weekend, not just a night out), then hotel room, presents, possibly new clothes and shoes (but hopefully they can be recycled from the last wedding, unless it’s the same group of people again), drinks and travel expenses for the wedding itself, so it’s probably around £300 for that. It dismayed me even more when I was single, as I had much less chance of finding someone to share a hotel room with me and halve the cost. Much as I loved the people getting married, it amazed me that they weren’t uncomfortable expecting people to spend so much money to be there on their big day.

    What surprises me is how many of my friends are uncomfortable with the idea that my boyfriend and I don’t want to get married and become really defensive. They seem to think it’s a subtle criticism of their choice to do so – it really isn’t.

  90. Iyapo
    Iyapo June 14, 2007 at 1:43 pm |

    I mostly read on this blog but this post touched a cord with me. I am currently engaged and planning on getting married in two years but as an ardent feminist I have struggled a lot with the decision to marry.

    I still have mixed feelings on getting married but at the same time I really want a chance to gather the people I am close to around me and celebrate the love between my partner and myself. Also the benefits of marriage have weighed in on my decision, it is a lot easier to do certain things if you are married. Of course that brings up the issue of participating in an institution that excluded others. This in particular hits home for me because I have many queer friends and am bi myself. I realize that many of the people I care about can’t have the same advantages I will have as a married woman and I also realize that if I had fallen in love with another woman things would have been very different for me.

    I guess the actual idea of marking your love for someone doesn’t bother me, and having a “wedding” doesn’t bother me that much because mine will be anything but traditional – it’s the fact that not everyone has the option to do what I am able to do and that makes me feel guilty.

    As far as engagement rings go. I realize the tradition behind them but I have never thought about mine or my partner’s ring like that. To me they are a symbol I can look at that reminds me that he loves me, that I am special. There is also the fact that, socially, it is easier to mark relationships in a semi-traditional manner. Then I don’t have to explain as much to people than if we had lived together for a number of years. (I am not saying that relationships that aren’t marked by traditional things like engagements are inferior or lesser, only that it is simpler to mark them conventionally.)

    And to comment on the idea that marrying will make a relation less equal, I really think that it depends on the mindset of the people in the relationship not on the marriage. Living with my partner I have discovered the he can definitely use some good old fashioned “conscious raising.” I will at times spout very sexist things and expects traditional roles for gender to be fulfilled. He is definitely on a learning curve right now. I doubt that any of the things we are dealing with now in our relationship will change when we marry because I can already see what problems there are (if that makes any sense). :)

  91. Hector B.
    Hector B. June 14, 2007 at 2:07 pm |

    Great post and comments. A couple of points:

    The giant rock engagement ring custom seems to be limited to North America. Traveling in Central Europe with my cousin and his wife, we stopped to visit with one of our distant relatives. She was surprised his wife wore her wedding ring on her left hand. In their tradition, a plain band worn on the left hand let the world know you were engaged; after the wedding you switched the ring to the right hand.

    The only bachelor party I’ve been to was strictly stag, out of respect for the bride. We ate, drank, and played poker till dawn, when we went out to breakfast and then home. It was a great time, even though I slept all the next day. This was the weekend before the wedding so we could all recover.

    I never saw the point to strip clubs: to me it’s like smelling barbecue aromas from a stranger’s yard. At most, you build up an appetite that you cannot satisfy. Plus you’re marked as a loser for whom no woman would willingly take her clothes off without pay. Perhaps the point of having a bachelors’ party at a strip club is precisely to sexually frustrate and embarrass the groom.

  92. Autumn Harvest
    Autumn Harvest June 14, 2007 at 2:07 pm |

    Yes, there are progressive men out there, but having progressive politics is not the same thing as actually being able to carry out an egalitarian, feminist relationship. Progressive dudes were raised within a lot of cultural bullshit too.

    That’s true, although a lot of the comments in this thread bring up cultural b.s. that I feel is largely dead among my friends. I don’t think any childless couples I know have even much of a background assumption that the woman should do the majority of the cooking or cleaning. I would be stunned if any male I knew thought that a difference in sexual desires was justification for an affair. I know that my friends aren’t typical of Americans, and the b.s. beliefs discussed in this thread are still common in America, but I don’t think my friends are that atypical either.

    I’m surprised more people haven’t brought up kids and career, because my feeling is that that’s where the real entrenched beliefs come in for progressive men and women. I know only a few men who would be/are comfortable being a stay-at-home dad, so if a couple decides that they need a stay-at-home parent, it’s more likely the woman. And although none of my friends would explicitly say it, I think it’s difficult for a lot of progressives to shed the background assumption that the man’s career is the important one (often confusing when the man’s career is the more “important” one, financially). For many people, the career prioritization only becomes an issue once there are kids, though.

  93. Steevl
    Steevl June 14, 2007 at 2:14 pm |

    Am I insane to think the original meaning of symbols is irrelevant if no one involved intends them that way?

  94. m00nstar
    m00nstar June 14, 2007 at 2:26 pm |

    This is a subject I find very relevent. I am 25, have been in a relationship for 8 years. It started off very casual, and got more serious as it went along. I have never found anyone that I’d rather be with than my partner.

    My sister is getting married this summer. I am a bridesmaid. I’ve never dreamed of getting married or what my wedding would be like, unless it had to do with stunning people with how UN-traditional I could make it. This summer will be my time in hell. Everyone already asks, “when are you getting married” and “when’s your turn?” I can only imagine what the next few months will be like. Answers such as “Marriage is a tool of the patrichary” “it’s better when you are living in sin” and “our mortgage together is more binding than any marriage” do not seem to deter them from butting into my business.

    I just don’t see why I should marry A. I love him, and hope I will always love him. I’d like to say that each day I choose to be with him, rather than being married and choosing not to leave, but the mortgage, the house, and each other’s expectations do not really allow one to consciously decide each day. A and I would marry, if either of us felt really strongly about it. Neither of us does. We now both now feel stronger in our decision to NOT marry.

    I oppose marriage for me because:
    1) my parents divorced, my dad has since divorced again. Most of my friend’s parents are divorced. Each of them had a ceremony, a legal marriage, and promised to spend the rest of their lives together. Did the rings, the reception, the legal document keep them together? As a method of keeping families and couples together, marriage is doing a pretty poor job of it.

    2) when A and I moved in together, I noticed that there are TONS of things that I just know how to do. Or just know need to be done. IBTP. Why, when I’d never used our new washer before either, did A ask me how to run it? Because I have tits? I will not get married because I am already struggling with equality in my relationship regarding housework, home maintenance, meal prep, and such. As someone said above, if I have to remember what needs to be done, and tell you to do it, we aren’t really equal. We are working on this, and he is learning, but I feel it will be a long, on-going battle. (I’m looking for pointers if anyone has any?)

    3) Other than housework, our relationship is pretty good equality-wise. We make decisions together. We seek out advice from each other. In many respects, our relationship is marriage-like. However, all the trappings and such of being a ‘wife’ is not something I want. I hate the idea that as a ‘wife’ I’d be the ball and chain. While A would never see me like that (and yes, I see the irony, re: housework issue), I refuse to put myself in a place where others would see me, due solely my marital status, as such.

    4)We live in Canada. If we lived in the US, we’d be married by now. Here, our legal status does not trump our other beliefs. I have no worries regarding wills, ER visits, and such. I am thankful this is the case.

    I have always been the one in the relationship with stong-anti-marriage-for-me convictions. Why does no one, especially my mother, believe that I really don’t want to get married. They all think I’m just waiting for A to ‘do the right thing.’ My mother doesn’t believe I don’t want to marry, and that A has warped my opinion somehow. That hurts FAR more than people’s good natured inquiries.

    Sorry for the long rant. Feel free to skip it. This subject is very close to the surface in my life right now.

  95. mythago
    mythago June 14, 2007 at 2:35 pm |

    Marriage doesn’t make people assholes.

    That’s correct – people have cultural and gendered baggage loaded onto them long before they get married. It’s silly to pretend that self-labeling “progressive” is all that’s needed to insure that all that sexist claptrap–and specifically the stuff to do with marriage.

    As Thomas points out, in addition to individual expectations, there are all kinds of financial and cultural pressures to conform to a particular, gender-role model of marriage. It’s fine to insist “I don’t care what anyone else thinks!” when “anyone else” is just your mother-in-law complaining that her son does the laundry; it’s another thing when it’s your boss or the HR compensation committee or a judge deciding custody.

    Or when it’s your spouse. Progressive men, IME, are particularly bad at admitting how attached they are to their male privilege, and are apt to come up with bizarre and amusing explanations to justify it.

  96. trailer park
    trailer park June 14, 2007 at 2:57 pm |

    Diamond engagement rings are for rich folks. My husband and I had already been living together (out of necessity) for more than a year when we decided to get married. At one point during our “engagement,” he brought up the idea of “waiting a few years until we can afford an engagement ring,” because he didn’t feel right marrying me without being able to give me the big ring. I was flabbergasted. I said, “No way! We’re not waiting just so we can waste a ton of money on some ridiculous piece of jewelry that will sit in my jewelry box for the rest of my life! That’s crazy!”

    We got married at the courthouse, with our $40 white gold wedding bands (got ‘em on sale), the best clothes we had and a fake bouquet from Garden Ridge. Neither one of us had a “bachelor party,” and our reception was a backyard barbecue at home. I can’t fathom spending thousands of dollars (or worse, going in to debt) on a wedding.

    I never thought I’d get married, either. Men aren’t supposed to want to marry used-up sluts single moms like myself.

  97. Kristen
    Kristen June 14, 2007 at 3:03 pm |

    I’m sorry mythago, I’m not trying to be obtuse here. I’m just having trouble understanding.

    Most people have ridiculous expectations about marriage. I get that. I still don’t see how that makes *marriage* the cause of those expectations.

    I get that some or even most progressive men might have trouble admitting male privilege and might even use it in their relationships to gain power (dominate) or refuse to take power (mommy, where’s my tie!). Hell, when I was single I dated gobs of them.

    Even so, the solution is not to call marriage bad, but to engage in some introspection about how we view relationships and our expectations about those relationships and to carefully consider whether our partners share those expectations.

  98. charlotte
    charlotte June 14, 2007 at 3:13 pm |

    yep, I totally forgot to mention anything in my previous post about the enormous amount of money one can end up spending on the weddings of others, and how this can become a huge burden.

    weddings and related trappings often cost a lot for the couple of course, but they can cost a great deal for the attendees as well, particularly the bridesmaids with all the things that are required of us. bachelorette parties, bridal showers, gifts, the dress, shoes, getting hair done, travel to/from all showers, parties, weddings, etc. I fully support each person having the kind of wedding he/she wants, and for most of us here that seems to be the non-traditional (or non-existent), rather inexpensive kind. but how to handle the situation when your dear friend asks you to take part in her huge traditional wedding for which you will spend great deal of money, when you know you will never have one yourself?

    I realize that this could be interpreted as me assigning a price tag to friendship, and that’s not what I mean at all. it’s more that I would like some sort of balance between what traditional society expects me to give of myself for the marriages of all my dear friends and what traditional society (which includes my family) deems the non-marrieds worthy of receiving.

    the many weddings that I’ve been in and attended actually contribute to my desire to not have one. I have friends whose non-traditional ideas were steamrolled by parents paying the bill, others whose non-traditional ideas were openly mocked, and many who were so stressed out by the entire process that they didn’t really enjoy themselves at what was supposed to be their big day.

  99. Hector B.
    Hector B. June 14, 2007 at 3:20 pm |

    Hmm…. my post’s been over an hour in the moderation queue. Could I be….. SATAN?

  100. Ipomoea
    Ipomoea June 14, 2007 at 3:33 pm |

    I have to admit– When I was growing up, I wanted to be a princess, but never a bride. I’m all about a ridiculous dress and tiara, but the idea of “settling” with one person forever seemed crazy (and my parents have been together for 33 years).

    But then I met Josh, and actually had a functioning, caring, relationship with someone as equals. We knew very early on that we were each other’s ‘one’, and then we waited 9 months after the first discussion about forever before he mentioned going ring shopping. He took his best (female) friend with him, and ended up getting me a white gold and sapphire piece that was not the 3 months’ salary pushed on him at every store in the mall. I think that with tax it was under $600, but we’d been saving money for it for a while. Our wedding bands are plain white gold and were undwer $150 fo the two.

    We did the ridiculously big wedding, but I never felt like that was when we actually committed to each other. We view it as more of a celebration of our relationship for our families and friends. We had the ceremony and reception at the Seattle Aquarium, because he refused to get married at my Unitarian church, and I refused to get married in a hall. We wanted something fun. There was lots of liquor, an upside-down cake (literally– small end on the bottom, big end on top), and our friends and family wandering around the otter tanks tipsy. We didn’t go on a honeymoon, but we did take Labor Day weekend off a couple weeks later to do Bumbershoot and see Radiohead.

    I’ve worked retail as long as I’ve been working, and he does IT work. His work pays better (apparently I can’t get 60k for working at a record store), so we decided to pay for me to get my AA, and when it comes time to apply to 4-year colleges, we’ll move to wherever accepts me. We’re happy with what we’ve worked out. I actually enjoy puttering around the apartment, and it looks like I get to quit my job and spend the summer playing video games and finally being able to cook again.

    We (like most of our married friends) have chosen to re-interpret what marriage means to us. In our case, it means spending the last 4 years (basically, since we said ‘I do’) fending off the inevitable kids questions, because it’s blindingly obvious that if we’d wanted kids, we certainly didn’t have to get married to do so. At some point, we might, but right now, they aren’t financially, educationally, or socially feasible for us.

    I think that what scared me away from marriage the most was the usnpoken pressure from society to conform to norms. But now that I am married, the pressure is halved, as he’s got it to deal with too. Plus, everytime someone refers to me as the ‘ball and chain’, he points out that if he’d ever viewed me like that, he wouldn’t have married me.

  101. anna
    anna June 14, 2007 at 3:43 pm |

    I really hate the assumption that men hate monogamy and want nothing more or less than an endless string of pretty women, and consider being married with all the enthusiasm of being shackled to a ball-and-chain.

    Until people stop thinking that (don’t kid yourself, you only have to turn on a sitcom to see that some do) women will still feel as though they have to get married before their looks go, supposedly the only thing men care about. Why would a man put up with a mere woman unless she was absolutely beautiful or he was legally tied to her? is still the assumption in some quarters.

  102. Thomas
    Thomas June 14, 2007 at 4:31 pm |

    Or when it’s your spouse. Progressive men, IME, are particularly bad at admitting how attached they are to their male privilege, and are apt to come up with bizarre and amusing explanations to justify it.

    One of the things that keeps me on track is that my wife constantly talks about what shits her friends’ husbands are; all of the assumptions that make about what things are the wife’s problem; their perceived entitlements to blow off household and family obligations to have fun; their bizarre assertions that because they have the dick they make the rules. Watching them be blind to their own privilege helps look for mine.

    But I’m no-damn-where-near perfect, and I’m always trying to be better. I have children, and I owe it to them to model equality. I can’t have them thinking that cooking and cleaning are women’s work or that only men have to read a stack of stuff to be ready for the next work day. To achieve more equality than we can, they have to grow up with more than we grew up with.

  103. Hector B.
    Hector B. June 14, 2007 at 5:25 pm |

    [husbands'] perceived entitlements to blow off household and family obligations to have fun

    Something I have observed time and again:

    The Wives’ Work Ethic
    It doesn’t feel right to have fun
    Till all the housework is done.

  104. Autumn Harvest
    Autumn Harvest June 14, 2007 at 5:57 pm |

    I’m sorry mythago, I’m not trying to be obtuse here. I’m just having trouble understanding.

    Most people have ridiculous expectations about marriage. I get that. I still don’t see how that makes *marriage* the cause of those expectations.

    This is a point I’m having some trouble with too. It made more sense to me when Jill clarified (at #84), and said that she’s not comfortable with being “in a life-long committed relationship.” Are some of the posters who are saying that they don’t want to be married because men are so often pigs, using that as shorthand for saying that they don’t want to be in a long-term relationship with a man, or live with a man? Because, when I went from living in sin to being married, none of the relationship issues got any better or worse; they were exactly the same (except that we had a piece of paper that, due to what I will freely admit is just bizarre social conditioning, makes me pretty happy). I would imagine that if a man thought his wife should do his laundry, he would also expect his live-in-girlfriend to do his laundry too.

    Incidentally, Jill, thanks, I like this thread a lot. It’s made me think about stuff in my own marriage that needs work, or at least more inspection.

  105. Chet
    Chet June 14, 2007 at 6:08 pm |

    But that aside, since when does one have to be part of the group in question to discuss the issues that the group presents?

    I was actually kind of under the impression that that was how it worked, actually. As a white male, my viewpoint in regards to (say) what it’s like to be black or female in my society is valued but certainly not valued more, and probably not even as much, as the viewpoint of a woman or a black person.

    Even in regards to the other thread, I wouldn’t expect any parent to take my viewpoint as authoritative, because their experience with the issue does privilege them. (It doesn’t privilege them to the extent that some parents act like it does, but that’s the other topic.)

    I mean, when somebody quotes Twisty saying:

    Two heterosexual people may marry for ‘love’ but sooner or later they find their ideal subsumed by duty to bogus culturally constructed expectations.

    I don’t think I’m the only person who would want to ask – “how the hell would she know?” I’d submit that a person for whom the prospect of heterosexual intimate companionship is viscerally distasteful on every level has essentially no idea what she’s talking about. And why would she? Is she ever going to be in a position to find out that she’s wrong?

    It’s the same reason that I completely dismiss Andrew Sullivan when he talks about finding Hillary Clinton “creepy.” Well, gosh, buddy, maybe there’s another reason why you might feel that way?

    I guess what I’m saying is, first-hand experience is valuable. The perspective of the outsider can sometimes provide objective clarity, but sometimes it’s also a position of ignorance of essential context.

    Oh, and also Jill – I apologize for talking past you. If what I described isn’t something you want for yourself, that’s perfectly valid. My intent was to supply a viewpoint that might correct what I saw as a false construction of marriage in your post.

  106. David Thompson
    David Thompson June 14, 2007 at 7:10 pm |

    What I meant was, if marriage was one option among many other equally-valued options, and if there wasn’t a standard marrying age and if unmarried women over the age of 35 weren’t looked at with skepticism, I think the face of marriage would be very different.

    Just what is a standard marrying age, anyway? I’ve never heard of any such thing, so now I’m curious.

  107. EG
    EG June 14, 2007 at 7:27 pm |

    Judging from my own personal anecdotal experiences, my own Years of Attending Weddings have put one round at around 27-28, and one at around 30-32.

  108. Kelsey
    Kelsey June 14, 2007 at 7:46 pm |

    The man I love jokingly said to me the other day, “Will you Civil Union me?”

    Seeing as he’s a radical liberal, feminist, and also that most of his neurosis stem from his parent’s ugly divorce, I don’t think marriage is on his radar.

    And I love that about him, in a way.

    My mother says people don’t really love each other unless they get married, and that gettin hitched binds you to the person so you can’t just “walk away”. I have many issues with this thinking, especially since I know many more married people who literally did just walk away than unmarried people…

  109. philosophizer
    philosophizer June 14, 2007 at 8:14 pm |

    charlotte at #83 – I lie to my grandmother about being married. I told her that, and I quote, “we were married in the eyes of God, but just couldn’t afford the tax burden that comes with signing the government paperwork”. Being as she doesn’t know that practically speaking, we’re pretty much atheists, it seemed like a logical extension, and that’s how we feel already, so only the god part’s a lie…

    My partner and I are in an interesting state compared to most of the people in this thread – where most everyone else is either married, single, or unmarried-partnered, we’re ‘indefinitely engaged’. We knew pretty quick we wanted to be together for the long haul, and later decided that we should get engaged (which I won’t lie, involved a diamond for me, but I picked it out for $100 and there was no ‘proposal’), but don’t currently have plans to get married.

    He’s not sure if he ever wants to actually get married, but I told him that if/when the legal and financial benefits outweigh the extra taxes we’d incur, he better suck it up, because I’m not wasting money paying extra for, say, insurance, just because he doesn’t like people making a fuss over ‘omg you’re married‘. yes, I’m mean :)

    however, i’m considering submitting my (first) publication (if it doesn’t creep him out too badly) as Firstname Mylastname Hislastname, just because it means I’d finally be Googleable.

  110. Scipio Africanus
    Scipio Africanus June 14, 2007 at 8:58 pm |

    Maybe marriage would make you grow as a human being, learning to accept and love someone who is fundamentally different than you, and who will smooth out the rough patches in life (i.e. “risk spreading”).

    But you’re probably right – its a conspiracy to make someone with a B.A. do dishes.

  111. EG
    EG June 14, 2007 at 9:40 pm |

    Maybe marriage would make you grow as a human being, learning to accept and love someone who is fundamentally different than you, and who will smooth out the rough patches in life (i.e. “risk spreading”).

    Because, of course, it’s impossible for people to forge the kind of relationship that helps you to grow as a human being, love someone deeply despite or because of their differences, or smooths out the fough patches in life if you don’t get married. Marriage is so obviously the be-all and end-all of personal relationships. It’s impossible for anyone who is not married ever to have a relationship as important, as meaningful.

    What a load of bull.

  112. winna
    winna June 14, 2007 at 10:05 pm |

    The Wives’ Work Ethic
    It doesn’t feel right to have fun
    Till all the housework is done.

    Yes, because if people see the house and it’s not sparklingly immaculate, it’s the wife’s damn fault. Why is she so slovenly?

    It’s easy to blow off obligations that don’t negatively impact you if they’re left undone.

  113. Scipio Africanus
    Scipio Africanus June 14, 2007 at 10:10 pm |

    “Because, of course, it’s impossible for people to forge the kind of relationship that helps you to grow as a human being, love someone deeply despite or because of their differences, or smooths out the fough patches in life if you don’t get married. Marriage is so obviously the be-all and end-all of personal relationships. It’s impossible for anyone who is not married ever to have a relationship as important, as meaningful.

    What a load of bull.”

    It kind of helps the bond when you can’t walk away quite so easily, hence Marriage. Ever try the two-legged pant race? Marriage is the two-legged pant race of life.

    Hell, maybe you are right, and just like everything else, 4000+ years of human history is teh stupid. Kind of rings hollow when you clamor for homosexuals to be awarded this great non-prize as well.

    Jill, whosoever she is, will most likely fall in line of the great tradition of feminists who never get married right until they do, because this guy is different. And sooo hot!

    Take care.

  114. EG
    EG June 14, 2007 at 10:14 pm |

    Don’t you mean the three-legged race? A two-legged race…is just someone running. But if you mean a three-legged race, it’s a stupid analogy. There’s a reason why people don’t walk around like that in daily life, you know.

    The past 4000 years of marriage has been nothing to write home about for women, and it is full of people walking away from marriage very easily indeed.

    If you’d like to know who Jill is, I suggest you click the link at the top of the page. You know. The one that says “About Jill.”

  115. philosophizer
    philosophizer June 14, 2007 at 10:40 pm |

    wow, does that post come with a pat on the head? ’cause generally language that patronizing tends to include one.

    damn. just, damn.

  116. Hugo
    Hugo June 14, 2007 at 10:41 pm |

    Scipio, I share with you a profound respect for marriage — but EG is absolutely right. Marriage is a marvelous vehicle for personal transformation and growth. At its best, it exalts both parties.

    But I’m danged sure it isn’t for everyone, and I know full well that there is more than one road to that kind of transformation.

  117. Chet
    Chet June 14, 2007 at 10:44 pm |

    I guess that’s true, Jill. Thanks for your remarks.

  118. Scipio Africanus
    Scipio Africanus June 14, 2007 at 11:24 pm |

    “The past 4000 years of marriage has been nothing to write home about for women, and it is full of people walking away from marriage very easily indeed.”

    In case you haven’t noticed, life hasn’t ever really been an unmitigated bowl of cherries for anybody not graced with the title “Emperor, “”Highness,” “Duke,” “Laird” or “Earl.” And it never will be. It is through the struggle that meaning is achieved, whether you be religious or no. I prefer to seek my happiness unencumbered by some original sin or grievance (perceived or real – it makes no difference), and this strategem works out rather well. I endorse it wholeheartedly.

    As for the race – I drink and smoke, so I haven’t let one of those participation things ruin my good time in nearly twenty years, or at least not since there are no more nuns and “spirit days” of compulsory fun. My chortle comes from your thinking that I thought it was anything other than a silly aside.

    Let us all agree that no one will marry Jill if she doesn’t want him to, but also agree that her feelings may change at some later point, a change which I concede she is entitled to without being labeled an unredeemable hypocrite – or worse yet feel that she has to exercise some fidelity to her above statements in the sake of ideological purity and despite a great opportunity with a kind man – and that she may (and hopefully will) find someone who will love her but also put up with her nonsense. Everyone has nonsense, but not everyone knows that they have nonsense – I’m well acquainted with my own, so I am forgiving of that of others, which I believe is a mark of maturity.

    I suppose you have guessed that I do not subscribe to Jill’s ideology, with which I have serious problems, and no doubt she would find my political ideology odious but at the same time challenging. But I really, truly wish her the best, and all the happiness life can offer – which for 98% of people is the security of a life bond – mainly because happy people are much better interlocutors, better citizens, and contribute more benefits to the current human condition than the strident, bitter, or those virulently devoted to such a comprehensive ideology.

  119. evil fizz
    evil fizz June 14, 2007 at 11:56 pm | *

    Let us all agree that no one will marry Jill if she doesn’t want him to,

    Scipio, I think you’re confusing your verb tenses. This is not the time for the hortatory subjunctive.

  120. Tony
    Tony June 14, 2007 at 11:59 pm |

    I’d be willing to bet a substantial amount of money that by the time you are 30 you will have totally changed your tune on this one . . .

  121. Scipio Africanus
    Scipio Africanus June 15, 2007 at 12:03 am |

    Let us all agree that no one will marry Jill if she doesn’t want him to,

    Scipio, I think you’re confusing your verb tenses. This is not the time for the hortatory subjunctive.

    Well, sometimes I dream in Attic Greek, so it could be much worse – tense-wise, that is.

  122. Scipio Africanus
    Scipio Africanus June 15, 2007 at 12:25 am |

    Hugo,

    I read your blog and, although I’m not 100% with you, you have some interesting thoughts to ponder. You also seem like an allright chap to boot.

    I also think that what is missing from the whole Marriage dialogue is a candid admission that the institution has wholly different significance for our Mandarin classes and those raised and living in the working classes.

    I am shanty Irish, raised in the neighborhoods of Philadelphia, although I am now a junior associate at a relatively large law firm, where all but a very few of the young attorneys know not a day’s honest manual labor. I tend to see these things from all sides vis a vis class, and the attitudes are so different that they should not escape consideration in this dialogue. While for some marriage is a frivolity – to be taken or left according to some ideology – for others it is all but a necessity for a reasonably comfortable life. In the end, so many of both sexes in the working class are quite happy, unaware of the fact that there is some ancient gender-servitude oppressive paradigm of which they are partaking. If we seek happiness as much as an examined life, perhaps adjusting our windows of perception would net much more happiness even for the upper classes?

  123. Hugo
    Hugo June 15, 2007 at 12:44 am |

    Scipio, I wonder if you and I could agree that creating a culture in which marriage was genuinely just one (perhaps excellent) choice among many might be a worthy goal. I’m workin’ for the day where marriage is not necessary as a tool for reaching the middle class, but is, rather, based on a desire for one’s own fulfillment and the desire to play a vital role in helping another person achieve that same fulfillment.

  124. Lynn Gazis-Sax
    Lynn Gazis-Sax June 15, 2007 at 12:46 am |

    Just what is a standard marrying age, anyway?

    The age at which people start asking more and more pointed questions about when you’re going to be getting married?

    My mother says people don’t really love each other unless they get married, and that gettin hitched binds you to the person so you can’t just “walk away”. I have many issues with this thinking,

    I wouldn’t put it that way; you can walk away any time if you’re legally married, and you can also stay together for life without ever marrying. But I do think that marriage helps people stay committed, in the sense that it’s easier to be responsible to each other when the whole world is recognizing that you’re responsible to each other, and giving you what you need to keep those commitments (this is a major reason that I’m in favor of same sex marriage). That’s the up side of the social expectations that come your way when you get married (the downside being, of course, the expectations that involve more traditional gender roles than you want).

    To me the upside beats the downside, especially given that my husband has multiple chronic illnesses, but I think it’s important to acknowledge that both sides are there.

    I’d be willing to bet a substantial amount of money that by the time you are 30 you will have totally changed your tune on this one . . .

    Well, you’re certainly more of a gambler than I am; I know too many people (even straight people) still single at 30 to make any such bet. Hey, maybe you’d even have better than even odds that Jill will change her mind, but not so far better than even that you should bet anything you’re not prepared to lose.

  125. Scipio Africanus
    Scipio Africanus June 15, 2007 at 1:06 am |

    Scipio, I wonder if you and I could agree that creating a culture in which marriage was genuinely just one (perhaps excellent) choice among many might be a worthy goal. I’m workin’ for the day where marriage is not necessary as a tool for reaching the middle class, but is, rather, based on a desire for one’s own fulfillment and the desire to play a vital role in helping another person achieve that same fulfillment.

    Well, we would probably part ways if you think that marriage should be anything other than normative and preferred.

    I tend to look at cultural institutions as an “autopilot” system for the vast majority of people. It is what is in their economic, social, emotional and physical best interests, even if it is in direct opposition to their more immediate appetites for freedom, sexual variety, career exploration, and general prolonged adolescence. The higher rate of marriage and lower rate of illegitimacy, along with parochial education, is what separates the life outcomes people I grew up with from those a few blocks to the west. We not only revere our institutions – our marriages, our families, our parishes, our Church, but we need them as well. We do not welcome the government as a substitute for any of these. This is what so many so-called progressives do not understand, and why we do not forget who goes out of their way to undermine, insult, and belittle them.

    Like experimentation with drugs and sex in the sixties and seventies, the impact of any behavior is wholly different depending upon the class to which you belong. A buffet of life choices for the well off may not provide the same benefits to a 22 year old barmaid.

  126. Scipio Africanus
    Scipio Africanus June 15, 2007 at 1:15 am |

    I’d be willing to bet a substantial amount of money that by the time you are 30 you will have totally changed your tune on this one . . .

    Well, you’re certainly more of a gambler than I am; I know too many people (even straight people) still single at 30 to make any such bet. Hey, maybe you’d even have better than even odds that Jill will change her mind, but not so far better than even that you should bet anything you’re not prepared to lose.

    Changing her mind about wanting to be married and actually being married are two different things. She seems like a nice enough person, and maybe more fun in person than comes across in typewritten words, so I wouldn’t bet either way.

    Jill v. marriage (-2)

  127. EG
    EG June 15, 2007 at 1:17 am |

    Scipio, the issue isn’t whether life in general has been easy for people over the past 4000 years. The issue is what benefits and what problems have accrued to which people due to being married. Not poor, or non-aristocratic, or stricken with smallpox. While those are all important factors in one’s quality of life, they are not actually the issue under debate. And the fact is that the benefits of marriage, over the past several thousand years, overwhelmingly accrue to married men, while the married women have lost rights, been exploited, and been subject to abuse.

  128. EG
    EG June 15, 2007 at 1:28 am |

    It also occurs to me, Scipio, that you’re assuming a normative view of marriage that is not borne out by the 4,000 years of human history that you invoke. Monogamous marriage? Lifelong marriage? Marriage freely chosen by all parties involved? Marriage for love?

    In fact, marriage as we think of it today, or even as we thought of it fifty years ago, is radically different from the various forms of human bonding practices you can find over the past 4,000 years.

  129. libber
    libber June 15, 2007 at 1:29 am |

    this is way back (sorry but I had to attend to some important business and no, it wasn’t a wedding)

    OLE: libber (no. 2) and several others. What?? Men don’t wear engagement rings in the US?!?!?! How come? And why do you have separate engagement and wedding rings? And why aren’t US jewelers pushing for changing this and trying to sell engagement rings to the males as well (twice the business!)? (last sentence is not meant ironic; in Denmark Valentine’s Day has become a tradition in the last ~10 years or so. To some extent because of cultural (=TV) influence, to some extent because florists have begun advertising heavily for it after Christmas).

    Don’t know why men don’t wear them. Most don’t. It weirds me out. and yes, it’s very odd that stores wouldn’t try to promote them.

    Come to think of it, I don’t actually know a single person under 40 that does have a 1950s relationship. Most of my friends make as much if not more money than their spouses.

    none of my friends has a 1950s relationship but lots are being verbally abused by their partners. they will come and go as they wish, expect lots of things and complain and blame and criticize when it’s not getting done. who’d want that?

    Just what is a standard marrying age, anyway? I’ve never heard of any such thing, so now I’m curious.

    Some of my friends were reallly young — 21-23 — but late-20s is probably more common.

    I’d be willing to bet a substantial amount of money that by the time you are 30 you will have totally changed your tune on this one . . .

    I just don’t get this attitude, AT ALL. Speaking of which, I don’t understand why lots of women expect their mommy and daddy to pay for their wedding and why lots of men expect their wife-to-be’s mommy and daddy to pay for the wedding – that’s SOOOOOO 1950s but it still happens A LOT. The thought of it weirds me out.

  130. Scipio Africanus
    Scipio Africanus June 15, 2007 at 1:42 am |

    Scipio, the issue isn’t whether life in general has been easy for people over the past 4000 years. The issue is what benefits and what problems have accrued to which people due to being married. Not poor, or non-aristocratic, or stricken with smallpox. While those are all important factors in one’s quality of life, they are not actually the issue under debate. And the fact is that the benefits of marriage, over the past several thousand years, overwhelmingly accrue to married men, while the married women have lost rights, been exploited, and been subject to abuse.

    Benefits? Like working in the fields from dusk to dawn six days a week? I think that feminists in general take men’s work, men’s fighting wars, men’s physical sacrifices, and men’s disposability for granted to the point of ignoring them rather than explaining them. Domestic labor and ploughing a field are both – labor. You can quibble with the division, but life in general was never one of privilege for anyone who wasn’t titled. I would say that feminists also confuse the authority that runs with duty and responsibility with privilege and raw power.

    For instance, as a Marine Officer, I had great responsibilities, and with them authority. But neither was raw power or privilege. The authority extended only so far as my responsibility. If a man was responsible for maintaining a household and a family, and if society would adjudge him a deadbeat and shun him is he did not meet his duties, there ought to be a modicum of authority running with the responsibility.

    In either event, I see a dissonance between the supposed awful lives of fifties housewives and members of my family who were housewives in the fifties. I just think that at the particular level, people were, and are – people – and they actually do love and respect one another regardless of some of the profferred evidence that every man is an awful misogynist abuser. No ideology will change this fact, or make bad people love and respect whom they ought to love and respect. As a matter of fact, at least in my family, the unhappy wives were baby boomers, steeped in radical politics – they had careers but were also divorcees and suicides. The “fifties wives” sat vigil at the ends of their husband’s lives, and indeed even after their deaths.

    In case you thought otherwise, I was raised along with my brother by a single mother who, had me at 19, divorced my father, and at 24 leveraged the buy-out of a business with a 2.2 million business loan (would you loan 2.2 million to a 24 year old?), and was known to have “brass balls” before “girl power.” I don’t think she was ever really happy though . . .

  131. Nymphalidae
    Nymphalidae June 15, 2007 at 2:03 am |

    In Russian if you’re a woman “to get married” is vuidti zamuzh, which translated literally means “to get behind a man”. If you’re a man, you say na zhenitsa which doesn’t really translate…maybe like “to the woman”. I like how honest the Russian verbs are.

  132. Nymphalidae
    Nymphalidae June 15, 2007 at 2:12 am |

    Benefits? Like working in the fields from dusk to dawn six days a week? I think that feminists in general take men’s work, men’s fighting wars, men’s physical sacrifices, and men’s disposability for granted to the point of ignoring them rather than explaining them. Domestic labor and ploughing a field are both – labor. You can quibble with the division, but life in general was never one of privilege for anyone who wasn’t titled. I would say that feminists also confuse the authority that runs with duty and responsibility with privilege and raw power.

    Great, but not many people do that any more. At least not in America. Why do you want an agricultural division of labor in an industrial society? I mean, other than the fact you think it’s pretty swell that you’d be the one with the power.

    You view men as disposable? Wait. Who hates men again? Probably not feminists, who are by and large pacifists.

  133. Sarah in Chicago
    Sarah in Chicago June 15, 2007 at 7:50 am |

    Jill –

    I agree with the points you make in this post, but can you excuse me for a moment if I express a little frustration and anger in reading it?

    Why? Because it is a serious expression of privilege; heterosexual privilege. You have the ABILITY, the CHOICE not to marry (or the choice to marry conversely), and its just galling to read such expressed. I know you are making the right choice for you, and are very accurate in your analysis, but just as I get torn up inside when I go to the weddings of straight friends, the in-your-face nature of the privilege is like a slap in the face.

    Sure, us queers can do the engagement ring thing (which, btw, with lesbians, tends to involve both partners generally), and the bachelorette thing, the showers thing, the ceremony, the reception, etc, etc, etc … but it’s not recognised like those of straights. It’s not given credence, it’s considered play-acting, mimicing the ‘real’ thing …

    And so, when someone says “eh, the institution is shite” when we are sitting on the outside saying “yeah, wouldn’t mind access to that, you know?” it DOES reek of privilege.

    I’ll admit, as a monogamous lesbian I DO want to find the woman of my dreams and settle down with her, committing to her for the rest of my life; marrying her (whenever I find the woman insane enough to do such with me). So maybe I am over-reacting a tad here.

    However, I would like you to recognise the privilege inherent in your ability to reject an institution that so many of us are dying for access to.

  134. Kristen
    Kristen June 15, 2007 at 9:57 am |

    Marriage is a marvelous vehicle for personal transformation and growth. At its best, it exalts both parties.

    Whoa…I know I was all defendy of marriage up there but wait just a minute. Marriage is not a vehicle for personal growth. Marriage is just a bundle of rights. As I said above, marriage doesn’t make you an asshole, but to be more precise, marriage doesn’t change you period. Marriage doesn’t make you grow. Love might. Proximity might. Duration might, but marriage?? I’m going to have to go with a no here.

    none of my friends has a 1950s relationship but lots are being verbally abused by their partners. they will come and go as they wish, expect lots of things and complain and blame and criticize when it’s not getting done. who’d want that?

    But don’t you think their relationships were like that before marriage*? Were those men (or women) ever kind respectful partners? The problem is not that they married, the problem is the person they married. My husband has never once acted like that….not before we married or after. Why is the assumption that men will behave badly?

    *Yes, I know that DV accelerates after marriage, but I think that is not exactly what we’re talking about here.

    Sure, us queers can do the engagement ring thing (which, btw, with lesbians, tends to involve both partners generally), and the bachelorette thing, the showers thing, the ceremony, the reception, etc, etc, etc … but it’s not recognised like those of straights. It’s not given credence, it’s considered play-acting, mimicing the ‘real’ thing …

    You are absolutely right. I was coming from a place of privilege and completely taking for granted something that you are unfairly denied. Not all women (or men) have the chance to be married or choose whether marriage is valuable for them.

  135. Thomas
    Thomas June 15, 2007 at 10:25 am |

    I’ve seen folks shout down queers for calling out the privilege when het folks talk about their marriages. I am not on board with that.

    Sarah, I got married. I did a privileged, privileged, privileged thing. I did.

  136. Sarah in Chicago
    Sarah in Chicago June 15, 2007 at 10:32 am |

    Btw, I just wanted to say, I’m not “frustrated and angry” at Jill or anyone else here (just started to realise that perhaps my post may have come across like that).

    More, I guess just frustrated and angry at the social and cultural privilege in general, which the post spoke through … sorry Jill if you thought that might be aimed at you. That’ll teach me to post before my first espresso of the day …

  137. Constantine
    Constantine June 15, 2007 at 10:38 am |

    First, I’d mock the tendency of conservatives to choose Roman noms de blog (eg, Tacitus, as well as our other guest here), but I am, seriously, in no position to criticize. :)

    From my perspective, I’m an extreme traditionalist on these matters of marriage, but Scipio, I think you’re missing a lot of the point entirely. The point that a lot of people are trying to make is that marriage, in and of itself, does not seem like a great deal to many people. It can be a great deal if both partners are willing to work together to create a mutually beneficial life for themselves, but all to often, the work this involves falls inordinately on the woman. Your ethnic/religious tradition, of course, regards this as a feature, not a bug (eg, “isnt it great how women are so wonderful that they keep the family together, no matter what happens?”), but this isn’t necessarily an appealing scenario.

    Also, you have a sort of disdain (and aknowledgment) for the fact that marriage is sometimes not appealing when the alternative is career development. You’re implicitly admitting that marriage can actually hurt someone’s career prospects. I know plenty of mothers who tell their daughters that career development is something that has to be focused on because that is a woman’s ticket to security. I know one mother who came to the US in the 20s telling her daughter — “your education is your dowry.” It was what would be assured to keep the woman independent in the event of a bad situation. You talk a lot about everyone’s obligations, but what about their sense of security and stability (I don’t see you advocating dowries here)? To a large degree, without the additional trappings of security, more egalitarian marriages, and indepdence, people aren’t going to see marriage as a good deal.

    Finally, the other problem you’re ignoring is that while especially in pre-modern, rural marriages, the amount of sheer physical labor required by both parties was extreme, the labor that fell on women was regarded as less valuable. Is that something a person would want to subject herself to?

  138. Hector B.
    Hector B. June 15, 2007 at 10:49 am |

    Why? Because it is a serious expression of privilege; heterosexual privilege. You have the ABILITY, the CHOICE not to marry (or the choice to marry conversely), and its just galling to read such expressed. I know you are making the right choice for you, and are very accurate in your analysis, but just as I get torn up inside when I go to the weddings of straight friends, the in-your-face nature of the privilege is like a slap in the face.

    Not to speak for Jill, but to me, she made it clear she was talking about heteronormative marriage, by describing it as the “cultural norm” and by contrasting it to same-sex relationships. I can’t see how she could have addressed your concerns in her post without derailing her argument or seeming patronizing (e.g. shoehorning in a “it’s deplorable that same-sex couples still cannot marry”).

    What I would like to read some day is an essay written by a homosexual on why s/he married an opposite-sex partner. I know three gay folks who have been married and had children, and now live with same-sex partners. But I don’t know them well enough to probe them.

  139. Anatolia
    Anatolia June 15, 2007 at 11:20 am |

    I’m 37. I’ve never found the desire to actively involve church or state in my personal relationships.

    Benefits? Like working in the fields from dusk to dawn six days a week?

    I laughed. Do you think crops and livestock take a rest on the 7th day? Women work the fields and tend the livestock, repair the machinery and frame the houses all the same. I won’t go into the sacrifices and the physical suffering they endure in times of war. At least some men got the war machinery to defend themselves. I guess one might call that ignoring.

  140. BabyPop
    BabyPop June 15, 2007 at 11:21 am |

    I’ve only been to one bachelorette party in my life – consisted of the ladies getting together and having those rediculous penis-shaped things, then having the guys be the “sober sister” and drive us around and hang out with us at the local pub – nothing too wild and defnitely not gender segregated.

    However, I have been places where there have been bachelorette parties, and the bride-to-be is dressed funny and has mints or candies taped to her t-shirt. People pay $1 (or whatever) to get the mints off with their mouths. Has anyone else seen these? Thoughts? It always struck me as weird but I’ve seen it at least 4-5 times, maybe more.

  141. EG
    EG June 15, 2007 at 11:21 am |

    I see a dissonance between the supposed awful lives of fifties housewives and members of my family who were housewives in the fifties

    Your family is not the be-all and end-all of reality. Go look into the use of valium by housewives in the 1950s and Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique. Go look into what happened to those women when their husbands decided to run off with other women.

    The issue is not whether men worked in the fields or fought wars–those activities had nothing to do with whether or not the men were married. Unless the men were rich, they were going to have to work in the fields no matter what, if they lived in a rural area. The issue is the rights men had and women did not within marriage.

  142. Sarah in Chicago
    Sarah in Chicago June 15, 2007 at 11:26 am |

    So, Hector, because you think Jill also has the privilege to just talk about marriage as that for heterosexuals, us queers should just shut up and enjoy our exclusion from two things then?

    Wonderful, good to know.

    /sarcasm

    Jill was speaking about _marriage_ Hector, the fact that it is heteronormative is a given … hell, even SSM tends to be heteronormative. Jill, Kirsten and Thomas all acknowledge their existance as privileged in this discussion, so just STFU.

    Oh, and go to any bookstore, you’ll find plenty of works on previously heterosexually partnered/married queers. It’s really not difficult to find if you think about it.

  143. EG
    EG June 15, 2007 at 11:30 am |

    the unhappy wives were baby boomers, steeped in radical politics – they had careers but were also divorcees and suicides.

    OK, that’s your family. In my family, the baby boomers steeped in radical politics have had, generally, quite happy lives. Despite some problems stemming from their 1950s families-of-origin unhappiness, they made fulfilling careers for themselves and created loving relationships that made them happy. They took full advantage of the opportunities they had, thanks to feminism, that their mothers never had. And my mother impressed upon me the importance of earning my own money, so as not to be at the mercy of a man’s “authority.”

    What makes you think that what’s right for your family is somehow objectively better, preferable, and normative?

    The “fifties wives” sat vigil at the ends of their husband’s lives, and indeed even after their deaths.

    That may well be the case, but it doesn’t sound at all appealing to me. Why does it upset you so much to read that now that we have options, not all women want to follow in the footsteps of your ancestresses? Why do you take it as such a personal insult that the institution of marriage in the America has often meant terrible things for women: physical abuse, rape, loss of property rights, loss of the ability to make decisions about her own life, loss of career potential?

  144. libber
    libber June 15, 2007 at 11:36 am |

    I’ll admit, as a monogamous lesbian I DO want to find the woman of my dreams and settle down with her, committing to her for the rest of my life; marrying her (whenever I find the woman insane enough to do such with me). So maybe I am over-reacting a tad here.

    Sarah, I understand your anger and frustration but why would you want the whole marriage thing? What’s so great about it?

  145. jeffliveshere
    jeffliveshere June 15, 2007 at 11:56 am |

    The institution of marriage IS entrenched in patriarchal symbolism and history and can lead to unequal power dynamics (at least in this culture). Yet because it is essentially a bond entered into in the midst of your community, in the presence of your friends and family, and with another person whom you presumably choose, there’s so much flexibilty to redefine it and it varies tremendously with those factors.–nita

    Seems to me that, though there is some flexibility one is allowed in creating a marriage, it is exactly the fact that marriage is an institution–that it happens in the midst of a community that, consciously or unconsciously, will do its darndest to shape things according to its will–that limits one’s felxibility.

    Which isn’t to say that people can’t do it, or shouldn’t try. But one draws one’s own lines as far as the amount of effort and time one wishes to put into something. Can you create a marriage that isn’t steeped in patriarchy, heteronormativity and consumerism (i.e. the wedding, in part)? Well, you can at least make progress there. But I’d rather spend time and emotional effort developing and maintaining bonds that aren’t part of the marriage tradition, and I think that, indeed, that may change the way people view relationships in general more than if I were to seek out marriage in order to change it.

  146. Hector B.
    Hector B. June 15, 2007 at 11:57 am |

    So, Hector, because you think Jill also has the privilege to just talk about marriage as that for heterosexuals, us queers should just shut up and enjoy our exclusion from two things then?

    No, comment all you want. I simply think it’s unfair to expect one essay to address more than one subject. As an example, although heteronormative, my grandparents’ marriage is currently illegal in over half the US. Yet, I don’t expect Jill to include a footnote empathizing with their need to move to a state that permitted cousin marriage.

    go to any bookstore, you’ll find plenty of works on previously heterosexually partnered/married queers. /blockquote>
    Good to know. Given the universality of Sturgeon’s Law, can you recommend one or two?

  147. buggle
    buggle June 15, 2007 at 11:59 am |

    Sarah in Chicago-
    I’m straight, but this is why I get so violently angry when people talk about how they did their wedding so “differently.” It’s still an institution that is completely discriminatory-why would I ever try to defend it, or want to be part of it?

    A lot of people say they got married for the “benefits” which they should actually call “straight privilege.” Although you have to be married in order to get them. But those lovely benefits you get are reserved for only SOME people-straight married people. How come I can’t get those benefits without getting married? How come you can’t marry whoever you want to and get those benefits? How come as adults, we can’t decide who we want to come see us in the hospital, etc?

  148. EG
    EG June 15, 2007 at 12:03 pm |

    Because we live in a crappy world, buggle. No argument there.

  149. libber
    libber June 15, 2007 at 12:06 pm |

    -It’s a highly valued social institution
    -It’s a symbol of life-long commitment and love, which is obviously incredibly important to many people
    -It comes with a whole slew of economic, social and cultural benefits, including the right to visit your partner in the hospital, the right to make medical decisions for your partner if they can’t make the decisions themselves, immigration and citizenship rights, tax breaks, inheritance rights, and on and on.

    Jill, I definitely think the third reason is important. But how grotesque that you can’t even visit your partner in the hospital if you aren’t married. As for the two first reasons, marriage may be a highly valued social institution and a symbol of life-long commitment but highly valued by who? And a symbol to who? With all the divorces, it’s not a symbol to me, and it’s not valued by me.

    so, let me re-formulate my question: if you don’t marry for reason 3 but you do marry for reason 1 or 2, why do you think marriage is valuable or a symbol of life-long commitment?

  150. EG
    EG June 15, 2007 at 12:16 pm |

    I have close friends who were finally able to get married when gay marriage was legalized in MA, and the first wedding I ever attended was my mother and stepfather’s. They all, separately, talked about how incredibly meaningful it was to them to see their relationship validated, respected, and supported by their communities of friends and family in the quasi-public way by a wedding and marriage. Now, both these relationships were of long standing, and both couples were already acknowledged as couples by their loved ones. But for them, and for many people, I believe, ritual and ceremony are deeply meaningful and public markers of important events/life changes/aspects of life. I like it to the way I attended my graduation. I would still have my PhD whether i went to the ceremony or not, but the process of dressing up in funny robes and being publicly, ceremonially recognized provided a sense of public acknowledgment of a major life change and achievement that merely opening my mail and getting my diploma would not have.

    Not everyone finds ritual and ceremony that important, of course, but many do, and for those of us who do, marriage is of great symbolic value.

  151. philosophizer
    philosophizer June 15, 2007 at 12:18 pm |

    plus, people give you presents!

    (yes, facetious snark. i’m not quite that stupid or callous.)

  152. Sarah in Chicago
    Sarah in Chicago June 15, 2007 at 12:22 pm |

    Sarah, I understand your anger and frustration but why would you want the whole marriage thing? What’s so great about it?

    You mean aside from the 1100+ odd federal benefits and considerable state benefits? *smile* ;)

    But seriously, I assume you are asking here about the emotional and personal side of things, right?

    I can’t talk for all queers in the slightest, but for me the commitment to one person for the rest of my life, being there for them, helping them be more than they are/were, being more than I would be by myself by participating in their experiences, giving myself to them as support through all that, growing and changing, having that support there myself, having someone to share intimately my own experiences of my life, knowing that just as I am going to be there for them through it all, they are going to be there for me, to be both my port in a storm, and sometimes the storm that pushes me, and a load of other things.

    Not to mention simply being stronger as a couple than we ever would be alone, and not just financially :)

    Yes, I know I could probably get these elsewhere as well, but being in a commited, monogamous relationship is honestly important to me. I simply LIKE such. Not to mention I see a lot of value and worth in commiting oneself to a person (and maybe that is a cultural socialisation thing, but nonetheless its ingrained in me).

    I’ve given poly a try, but just as my poly friends are wired that way, that form of love works about as well as a lead balloon does fly for terribly monogamous me. That’s how I am wired.

    Also, the romantic in me simply loves the very simple idea of a wedding (as well as of course the lifetime that comes after that). I don’t want anything huge or ornate, but I did my sister’s low-key but really nice wedding, and I love the idea of all that. It may be awful of me, but I do.

    Also, as a feminist and an activist as well as an academic, I see the power marriage has in our culture, and I know you don’t change jack from the outside. Allowing queers to marry actually DOES go some way to what the fundamentalists are so terrified about; we do want to tear marriage down. At least how marriage operates today, in it’s sexist, normative, constraining form. The less elitist a social insitution is, the more democratic, the more diverse, it is, the less power it has to dictate specific forms, and a movement towards egalitarianism has to come from within if it is to succeed, as well as from without. Plus, simply, as a queer activist, having access to marriage means we become more accepted in society in all our forms.

    So, I see it also as part of my political orientation as well.

    I’m not totally rosy-eyed about it. The institution of marriage as it exists in our culture has BIG problems, and we need to work on those both as individuals and as movements. And that’s HARD.

    But given the personal, emotional, political, etc attractions I have marriage, as well as the more esoteric simple socialised WANTING to, I really do want to get married. I’ve had a couple of long term relationships in my life, so I know the amount of work such take and where I can screw up in that regard, so I am not expecting a sunset walk or any of that crap. I’ve been around the block.

    So yeah, those are my inarticulate rambling reasons why. Both in terms of a committed long-term monogamous life-bond, but also for the institution itself. Please note, these are just things I see for ME, I don’t prescribe them for anyone else, ie IMHO, YMMV.

    (Plus I also have a secret guilty love of wedding dresses *smile*)

  153. libber
    libber June 15, 2007 at 12:26 pm |

    Those sound like good reasons (except for the presents thing). but here is another reason not to get married and get kids while you’re still married. if the marriage doesn’t work, you can’t go anywhere (assuming you have shared custody). so you’re stuck in the place you settled down when you got married (unless you can find a way of moving together, in spite of being divorced, of course).

  154. libber
    libber June 15, 2007 at 12:34 pm |

    (Plus I also have a secret guilty love of wedding dresses *smile*)

    strangely enough, I’ve never been to a big queer wedding (the only queer wedding among my friends was very small and no dresses were involved) so i wonder. how does it work? do both wear a wedding dress, or just one? (assuming dresses are involved)

  155. Frumious B
    Frumious B June 15, 2007 at 12:37 pm |

    Marriage is a marvelous vehicle for personal transformation and growth.

    Hugo, I notice that you write about this a lot, and I have to say that my impression is that it’s really, fucking selfish. That attitude pushes the spouse into a role with respect to you. That’s objectifying. I’m glad that arrangement works for you, but I have a real problem with the way you push it as the be-all-and-end-all for all people.

  156. Frumious B
    Frumious B June 15, 2007 at 12:40 pm |

    Just noticed this one:

    the desire to play a vital role in helping another person achieve that same fulfillment.

    Still pushing the spouse into a role – that of the person who’s fulfillment you enable. Spice are humans, not roles.

  157. Sarah in Chicago
    Sarah in Chicago June 15, 2007 at 12:41 pm |

    libber –

    Depends on the lesbians … some I know will wear two dresses, some will wear pants-suits, some will wear tuxes, or none of the above. Might be both of them, might be either, it’s wonderfully diverse.

    Gay men … generally you tend to get a tad less diversity there *smile* but I’ve seen the full gambit from beach shorts through to full tuxes (oh, scottish kilts too, which some guys legs just look KILLER in!).

    I’m a femme so I know I’ll be wearing a dress. As to my partner, whatever she wants (though since I usually am more attracted to other femmes, chances are probably something similar) is more than cool with me … though I might have an issue with jeans or sweat-pants ;)

  158. mythago
    mythago June 15, 2007 at 12:59 pm |

    how does it work?

    The same way any other wedding works. There’s not, in most ceremonies, actually a portion where the spouses must demonstrate how their genitals fit together.

  159. mythago performs a blog dance for your amusement - Living in tedium

    [...] eky at the revelation that some “traditions” are more than a little sexist, to Jill’s realization that maybe this marriage thing is not necessa [...]

  160. mythago
    mythago June 15, 2007 at 1:08 pm |

    Most people have ridiculous expectations about marriage. I get that. I still don’t see how that makes *marriage* the cause of those expectations.

    You (and Autumn Harvest) seem to be reading me as saying “marriage is intolerable because it turns nice people evil.” Think of it as more of a triggering event — patriarchal expectations not only don’t vanish upon marriage, but there is a whole lot of sexism attached TO marriage. The role of “wife” is, in our culture, very different than “girlfriend” or even “live-in girlfriend”.

    AH, my own experience (and that of other women I know) has been that while some men don’t think of marriage as changing anything other than some of the legal rules about a relationship, many do in fact regard the role of a wife as very different than that of a girlfriend.

    And while it’s important to question and examine one’s own marriage, I don’t think it’s as simple as saying there’s nothing at all wrong with the institution and, if you pick the right husband and talk about things, everything will be OK.

  161. Caja
    Caja June 15, 2007 at 3:05 pm |

    I was married once, and happy with that (though not so happy with my spouse, and vice versa). I am deeply uncomfortable with the idea of being married again, because I really dislike having to deal with other people making asinine assumptions about the nature of my relationships based on their legal standing. I also don’t like the fact that I can get married, easily, because the chance that my chosen partner is one the state would accept is pretty damn high (I’m a woman; I’ve only been involved with men), and the unfairness of it pisses me off.

    But probably my biggest hangup about the whole thing is that I am afraid of the assumptions -I- might make, and that I might change the way I act in the relationship, without quite noticing it happening. Because I know I did that to some degree the first time around, and while I recognize that, and am constantly on the lookout to make sure I’m not compromising my self in a bad way within a relationship, it makes me very, very nervous. I know to some degree, not much changed with my SO when we got married, and yet some things did, and some of those changes were not good, and I don’t want it to happen again.

    If, on the other hand, legal recognition of a committed relationship weren’t pretty much mandatory in the US to allow hospital visitation and all those other myriad benefits, I’d be perfectly content to just never even consider doing it at all.

  162. Ways to End the World  » Blog Archive   » On the other hand…

    [...] On the other hand… I’m a lot more sympathetic to the issues Jill brought up here in the post to which Marcotte was responding. For [...]

  163. house bitch
    house bitch June 15, 2007 at 5:14 pm |

    Wow. Jill, I love this post. You’ve articulated a lot of the problems I have with marriage.
    To all of the progressive couples who’ve succeeded at the elusive egalitarian marriage- I applaud you. Honestly, I’m happy to hear that equal relationships ACTUALLY EXIST. It gives me hope- seeing as how I personally have never known a balanced relationship. (Out of curiosity, in what states do you “progressive couples” live? I hypothesize that the lack of progressive men around me is due to the fact that I live in the South!)

    Anyway, I also read Hugo’s post and I swear, he hits the nail on the head with the whole husband/son thing. I am currently in such a relationship. My live-in BF does so much of the household chores you’d think he was in an iron lung, were it not for his endless capacity for creating messes. Seriously, the man is domestically useless. He works and extra day per week than I do, and uses that as part of his elaborate excuse to get me to do everything.
    It’s disgusting, but I really think he’s unaware of the amount of emotional harm he’s doing me. He doesn’t realize that working 40+ hours per week only to come home to a dirty house knowing that if I want to live in a clean space, it’s all on me to make it so. And every evening, if I don’t cook, we don’t eat. It’s that simple. I have no choice in the matter. After working all day, coming home, cooking and cleaning all evening- I have no time or energy to devote to pursuing my hobbies or seeing my friends. I constanly try to explain how depressed I am because of it, and how much it’s damaging me as a person, but he just shuts down and won’t listen. He acts like I have nothing to complain about. It doesn’t compute. He can’t get outside of the mentality he was brought up to have long enough to see things from my perspective.
    He literally doesn’t know any better. He was never taught to cook or clean for himself. He thinks that making more money than me, shelling out more for the bills, and working 6 days a week instead of 5 exempts him form having any role in the hosehold maintenence.
    So why don’t I leave? This is all I know. This is every relationship I’ve ever been in. This is every relationship I’ve ever seen in my family and my friends. I never knew things could be different.
    It breaks my heart a little to know that there are guys out there who will help around the house. Why couldn’t I have gotten one of those? WHERE do I get one of those? Don’t get me wrong- my guy is not a complete asshat, he is really great in a lot of ways and I do love him- but if I thought for a second that it was possible to have a fair and balanced relationship- I’d jump ship from this relationship in a heartbeat. I’ll probably leave soon anyway, just b/c I’d like to have a life- BFs be damned.

    So yeah, husbands/boyfriends take note- hosehold chores are a BIG deal. neglecting the household = neglecting your relationship/taking your girl for granted/making your girl into your mommy/making your girl your indentured servent = fundamentally not cool.
    Progressive couples- take note also- please don’t take what you have for granted (for my sake at least!). For every one progressive relationship out there there are thousands like mine. What you have is rare. Cherish it.

  164. David Thompson
    David Thompson June 15, 2007 at 6:18 pm |

    Just what is a standard marrying age, anyway?

    The age at which people start asking more and more pointed questions about when you’re going to be getting married?

    No one has ever asked me anything like that. Maybe it’s a peculiarity of some subcultures I’m not a part of?

    First, I’d mock the tendency of conservatives to choose Roman noms de blog…

    They could use Phoenecian names, but people might get the wrong idea.

    ***

    I’ve never had any expectation of marrying, even though I’m not volspin like Jill, so seeing everyone get all worked up on the subject is a window into a thoroughly bizarre world for me. The question of marriage or not marriage has about as much gravitas for me as deciding which grocery store to go to.

  165. EG
    EG June 15, 2007 at 7:32 pm |

    No one has ever asked me anything like that. Maybe it’s a peculiarity of some subcultures I’m not a part of?

    More likely it’s something that people ask women.

  166. Lynn Gazis-Sax
    Lynn Gazis-Sax June 15, 2007 at 8:39 pm |

    No one has ever asked me anything like that. Maybe it’s a peculiarity of some subcultures I’m not a part of?

    I really think it’s more of a man/woman thing; when I started getting that question (living in California, where I wasn’t really expecting it), I compared notes with friends, and female friends reported getting the question, while male friends didn’t.

    I didn’t get it pushed at me too much, partly because I married in my late twenties, which actually was a normal marrying age for my place and social set (and lots of my friends married later), but my male friends weren’t getting asked that at all. Mostly, at that age, it came from people whose job status didn’t require a college degree (from the point of view of the college grad set, I had barely graduated, and was too young to already be married). And, when I visited my sister who was in the Peace Corps in Africa, I met a woman who asked why I’d decided not to get married, as if it were already a settled thing for a 25-year-old; I gathered that the standard marrying age for women must be fairly young in that village.

  167. Hector B.
    Hector B. June 15, 2007 at 9:17 pm |

    Rereading Jill’s post jogged my memory: Men wear engagement rings in Taiwan. At least that’s what a Taiwanese grad student once told me.

  168. libber
    libber June 15, 2007 at 9:37 pm |

    I’m happy to hear that equal relationships ACTUALLY EXIST. … (I hypothesize that the lack of progressive men around me is due to the fact that I live in the South!) … My live-in BF … is domestically useless. He works and extra day per week than I do, and uses that as part of his elaborate excuse to get me to do everything.

    Well, a good reason not to marry him, and probably a good reason to leave him (unless he’s willing to change). What you describe is just unreasonable. No one should put up with it. I think truly progressive men who do exactly 50% (or more) of the work around the house (even once they get married) are rare, but maybe not. I’m sure it doesn’t make it better that you live in the south but you really shouldn’t put up with it.

  169. David Thompson
    David Thompson June 15, 2007 at 10:13 pm |

    More likely it’s something that people ask women.

    Could be that, though no one has ever asked that of women in my presence either. Strangeness abounds.

  170. mythago
    mythago June 15, 2007 at 10:42 pm |

    Don’t get me wrong- my guy is not a complete asshat

    Yes, actually, he is a complete asshat. A non-asshat would not “shut you down” when you point out that he’d rather you give up hobbies, stop seeing friends and sink into depression than even listen to you, much less do his share of the housework.

    And yes, there are plenty of men who are far lower on the asshat scale than this guy.

    I find that the way to make reluctant partners get off their fannies and stop wallowing in male privilege is to make it clear that the alternative is finding somebody else to keep their dicks warm.

  171. Hector B.
    Hector B. June 15, 2007 at 11:03 pm |

    the way to make reluctant partners get off their fannies … somebody else to keep their dicks warm.

    This sounds familiar. Because this might be taken the wrong way: Not that you’re proposing an exchange of housework for sex, just that an overworked woman is seldom horny.

  172. David Thompson
    David Thompson June 15, 2007 at 11:26 pm |

    I had a general idea of what I liked (platinum band, square-cut stone, maybe a blood-free diamond but probably an emerald)

    Thought: get a drop of each other’s blood encased in a tiny clear capsule, and use those as the stones for the rings.

  173. libber
    libber June 16, 2007 at 2:35 am |

    get a drop of each other’s blood encased in a tiny clear capsule, and use those as the stones for the rings.

    that sounds really gross

  174. “I will…NOT” at  Hoyden About Town

    [...] Marriage, or the lack thereof, is in the air at blogdom. At least at Feministe and I Blame the Patriarchy. The two threads have different [...]

  175. Emily
    Emily June 16, 2007 at 9:33 am |

    I know the discussion has kind of moved away from batchelor parties, but I wanted to add a comment on that subject. I have always thought that the “last night of freedom” strip club batchelor party is super passive-aggressive as well as generally tasteless and objectionable.

    Say the groom does something unexcusable at the batchelor party. The bride either 1) does not find out until after the wedding or 2) finds out before and has to decide between sucking it up or cancelling her wedding on the DAY OF THE WEDDING.

    My husband and I discussed the batchelor party issue before we were even engaged, and his did not include strip clubs or strippers, but another requirement I imposed was that it be held months before the wedding, and not the night before.

  176. tigtog
    tigtog June 16, 2007 at 11:26 am |

    I know it was only a coupla blokes, way up thread, who went with the “oh noes, men are now mourning” thing with Jill’s post title, but can I just say anyway WTFingF?

    She’s not swearing off heterosexual pair-bonding, just marriage. Yeah, I know it was meant in fun and all, but still – Jill is not taking herself off the sexual partnership market, just the marriage market.

    Furrfu.

  177. mythago
    mythago June 16, 2007 at 3:07 pm |

    just that an overworked woman is seldom horny

    More accurately, that a woman is less likely to want to fuck a guy who makes it clear he doesn’t think of her as an equal.

  178. Hugo
    Hugo June 16, 2007 at 6:15 pm |

    Frumious (#169), please note that my celebration of marriage as a vehicle for growth is hardly one-sided. One doesn’t marry only in order to have someone to push that growth; one marries to be an agent of growth in the life of another. It’s radically mutual. And that growth empowers both partners to be of greater service to the broader world.

    It’s the best tool I know for achieving that kind of change. It took me four times to get it right, mind, and I’m still at it, so what the heck do I know?

  179. David Thompson
    David Thompson June 16, 2007 at 8:45 pm |

    I know it was only a coupla blokes, way up thread, who went with the “oh noes, men are now mourning” thing with Jill’s post title, but can I just say anyway WTFingF?

    Yeah, that skeezy prurient shit pissed me off, too.

    She’s not swearing off heterosexual pair-bonding, just marriage. Yeah, I know it was meant in fun and all, but still – Jill is not taking herself off the sexual partnership market, just the marriage market.

    I wouldn’t go so far as to preume that. I thought she seemed somewhat reticent about the whole ‘interpersonal relationship’ thing, rather than just excluding the particular of marriage.

  180. Tricia(freya)
    Tricia(freya) June 16, 2007 at 8:50 pm |

    Hugo, I don’t think I can be understanding you correctly, because what you’re describing just sounds creepy. I like to be in relationships with people who are already capable of self-reflection and growth, because I am.

    Maybe I’m just too old (41) to want someone who thinks it’s their job to “help me grow.” And any man I’ve met who needed that from me just wanted a Mommy, not a partner.

  181. tigtog
    tigtog June 16, 2007 at 8:57 pm |

    I’m a bit confused too, Hugo. As Tricia says, wanting to be and be with a person capable of self-reflection and growth is great, but why should marriage above any other aspect of life be the vehicle that drives self-reflection and growth?

    What I do think is very important is to have a partner who won’t be freaked out by the way self-reflection and growth changes people over time, but that’s way different from the partnership being the actual vehicle for growth.

  182. Brooklynite
    Brooklynite June 16, 2007 at 9:16 pm |

    My wife and I are both better people because of our partnership, and after spending nearly half our lives together, we continue to encourage and support each other in becoming better people. If that’s what Hugo’s talking about, I can get behind it.

    But I don’t see that partnership and support as being something that’s exclusive to my marriage as opposed to my other friendships, and I don’t see it as something that inheres in marriage as opposed to other forms of life partnership.

  183. Marksman2000
    Marksman2000 June 16, 2007 at 11:51 pm |

    Hmmmm…what could I add that won’t get deleted in moderation and get me thrown off the site forever?

    Nevermind.

  184. libber
    libber June 16, 2007 at 11:53 pm |

    Hugo, I don’t think I can be understanding you correctly, because what you’re describing just sounds creepy. I like to be in relationships with people who are already capable of self-reflection and growth, because I am.

    I’m equally confused, Hugo. The last thing I’d ever want is someone helping me grow.

  185. Hugo
    Hugo June 17, 2007 at 3:51 pm |

    Folks, if you read my post at my place, it’s pretty darned clear I’m not holding women responsible for making men better.

    Being in a committed relationship is challenging — and if the two people in that relationship are each committed to each other’s growth (while remaining, as Rilke so beautifully puts it, “guardians of each other’s solitude) they can challenge each other to grow more than they might have grown alone.

  186. Tricia(freya)
    Tricia(freya) June 17, 2007 at 8:42 pm |

    That’s a little more clear — I was getting a yucky Professor Higgins vibe from your previous phrasing.
    Being supportive of a partner’s (of whatever gender) self-growth is entirely different than using a relationship to “grow the partner you want.” Or having a partner shape your own growth to suit them. But I agree with Brooklynite, that support can happen in many other relationships: friendships, unmarried partnerships, etc. It’s certainly not endemic to marriage. Hell, a bad marriage can inhibit that growth faster than anything else.

  187. …is there something i’m missing? « Sara Speaking

    [...] ing out loud , blogging I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes … marriage is all around us, and so the fee [...]

  188. MARRIAGE: IT’S NOT FOR EVERYONE » Keep Up With Me

    [...] thought we should hear from some people who don’t plan on having a ceremony—ever. Jill: As far as I can tell, most people end up getting married—yet [...]

  189. darms
    darms June 18, 2007 at 2:17 pm |

    No strip club, no “bachelor party”, I skipped all that nonsense. My wife is my partner, the first real partner I have ever had in my life. Neither of us did all that well as single people, we are much stronger together. In fact I am home today, helping out as she is exhausted from a week of “on call”… Oh yes, no children either.

  190. Dr. Confused
    Dr. Confused June 18, 2007 at 5:23 pm |

    I wrote a response to this, entitled Why I Chose Marriage and Am Glad I Did.

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