Posted Wednesday, July 22, 2009, at 10:30 AM
In November of last year my boyfriend Dan and I celebrated six years of dating each other exclusively. We went to Palm Desert. By the time we arrived at our condominium the pool area was closed but we made ourselves double Moscow Mules and crept into the Jacuzzi. We had barely turned on the jets when a security guard arrived and politely ordered us out. We went back to the condo and, in our swimsuits smelling of chlorine, we gamely toasted six "fast and easy" years together. Dan's words. That weekend I kept thinking, "I want to spend my life with Dan." " I would like to be with Dan forever." "I would like to marry Dan."
"Ok," you might be thinking, "why not just go on drinking Moscow Mules in air-conditioned rooms with each other forever?" "Why not just be together?" "Why get married?".
Sandra Tsing Loh just had a piece in The Atlantic titled, "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off" about the end of her own marriage. She suggests marriage seems to serve only children. But what if you don't want children? Or what is you don't know if you want children? Why would you enter into an institution that fails half the time? I can only answer for myself: why not?
I'm the type of woman who likes formality. Show me a ceremony and I'll show you a willing participant. I pledged a sorority at Northwestern and loved every minute of it. When the older girls told us that sometimes new members fainted during the initiation ceremony, my interest doubled-a ceremony where people might pass out is a ceremony indeed! Not that I'm encouraging anyone to collapse at our wedding; I'd like to discourage that. I'm saying I like the of idea of making a formal commitment. And so does my partner.
We knew we were committed to each other. We knew we would spend the rest of our lives together. Whenever people asked if we were planning on spending the rest of our lives together, we said, "Why yes, yes, we are." And we could have gone on happily like that-knowing that we would be together forever. But we wanted to say "YES! WE ARE SPENDING OUR LIVES TOGETHER!" We wanted to say that to all our friends and family while I was wearing a white dress (with pockets). And supplementing our desire to make it "official" were the practical reasons of health insurance and taxes and the rights granted to married couples. So unromantic, right? Well, so is paying $400 a month for COBRA.
Ms. Tsing Loh cites a study saying humans are best suited to four-year stretches of monogamy. That's what college is for. The four-year itch might be real, but it doesn't work for me. I don't want to spend four years with anyone else. I want a life partner, not a "part of my life" partner. Even if that is biologically illogical, even if it's outdated or defies the odds, that's what I want, and while I'm placing orders I'd also like a house with a view of the Silver Lake Reservoir and perfect health for everyone I know and love. I want to sign optimistically on the dotted line to be a helpmate/have a helpmate.
Again, this is just me. If you want to be life partners and skip the wedding and the signing and the official helpmating, more power to you. There's certainly a lot of evidence to support you.
I just take the half-full perspective on marriage. I could credit my parents' forty-two years of being married, or Dan's parents' 30-something years of being married. I could cite social pressure (see above mention of sororities), or my deep love of Preston Sturges' movies. But I think this is just a personal choice. I'm a pessimist about plenty of things, but marriage just isn't one of them.
It seems absurd to say that my entire view of a lifetime committment boils down to "why not?" But...why not?
Read the next installment in Bridget's wedding countdown here .
Photograph courtesy of the author.