On marriage and mortals
"My flat has become a creepy homage to other people’s nuptials: you can’t swing a cat without knocking over a wedding invite."
I’m not exactly sure when it happened. I can’t pinpoint a day, a week or a month. Maybe I was napping or peeing or eating a bucket of fried chicken when all this shit went down, but at some point in the last two years, the entire world and her (soon to be) spouse decided to get hitched.
My flat has become a weird, creepy homage to other people’s nuptials: you can’t swing a cat without knocking over a wedding invite. I spend my weekends staggering from canapé to canapé in too-tall heels, waking up clutching my swollen Prosecco face in Travelodges up and down the country.
As I’ve gotten older I’ve found my enthusiasm for the whole wedding-marriage-till-death-do-us-part thing waning. Don’t get me wrong – I love Love and any excuse to celebrate it, but I’m just not sure that marriage is, well, my bag baby.
Maybe it’s all the historical patriarchal connotations: the brutal shedding of the “maiden” name; the clinical transfer of the bride from one man to another; the women sitting in honeyed silence whilst their men command the room. It’s as if everything – the cake, the flowers, the laughter, the love – has been slicked with a fine patriarchal glaze.
Other fears run deeper: can I love and be faithful to one person for the rest of my life? What if I’m unhappy? What if she’s unhappy? How long do we flounder in miserable uncertainty? Of the couples who endure, how many are clinging together on the coat tails of their vows?
Naturally Blue Eyes is delighted by these revelations. She digs out stories to warm the cockles of my stony heart: couples still in love after 50 years of marriage; 90 year olds proclaiming that sex gets even better over the years. Every now and then she tells me it’s time to settle down with a little huff and I shiver and squirm.
And then, one blustery Saturday morning, my best friend’s brother dies. Cancer - root and branch. He was so kind and young and gentle that none of us saw it coming. I go to the funeral, my first in over 10 years, and the chill of it scissors through me to the bone. Though the speeches are tender and heartfelt and love pounds through the room, the family’s grief simmering under the surface is palpable.
As we file out slowly from the crematorium my friend’s mum lets out a cry, “Please God no, don’t take him”, and her husband grips her by the arm, steadies her. I turn my face away to cry.
Later I get to thinking, not about marriage per se but about commitment. All of us at some point will lose someone we love, or watch them suffer, or maybe suffer ourselves. We will all face some kind of hardship: not being able to pay the bills and scrabbling to the end of the month; getting sick or watching someone we love get sick; losing a job, a friend, a parent, a baby, a brother.
Am I really ready to face all of that alone? I could do it of course – we all could – but wouldn’t it be easier to have someone by my side? A hand to steady me when I want to give up and give in?
That’s what these weddings are about after all, underneath all the Prosecco and the cake and the razzle dazzle. It’s about two people saying to each other: I’ve got you. Don’t sweat it. We’re in this thing together – come what may.
Sounds quite nice really - just don’t expect me to change my name.
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