Put a ring on it

Two weekends after same-sex couples lost their right to marry in the state of California, I found myself in Maryland at a wedding ceremony officiated by a lesbian minister. “Throughout history, in every culture all over the world, communities have come together to affirm the power of the marriage bond to build strong families and to celebrate and support love like the love that [X] and [X] feel for each other. By your presence in this room today, you’re signifying your approval and support, not just of [X] and [X], but of marriage as an institution,” she said at the outset of the ceremony.

I squirmed in my seat, the same way I’d squirmed at an engagement party I attended earlier this year when the groom’s father raised his glass and toasted what he viewed “less as a marriage and more of a merger between two families.”

A few nights ago, I met up with my college friend Val. She lives in Philadelphia so I don’t get to see her as often as I’d like. She has a half-sleeve tattoo of Barbarella and recently completed a documentary film about selling her panties online. She also just recently got officially engaged to her longtime boyfriend, as in, they are actually making wedding plans, though they’re the low-key, friend-officiates-and-then-we-all-go-to-a-bar kind. “You don’t have to wear, like, a ring or whatnot,” I asked a few minutes after we first met up. I couldn’t see her left hand — it was was protected, by a mitten, from the wind that was shearing down Fulton St. towards us as we walked to buy wine to bring to the BYOB Senegalese restaurant.

“No no no no,” Val said. “Although sometimes I think I should. Like, I would get hit on by creeps less.”

“The kind of people who you don’t want to be hit on by aren’t going to be put off by a ring,” I said. “And you don’t want to be marked as a man’s, like …” and then we said, in perfect unison, “chattel.”

It was a bizarre moment because, like, how often do you say the word “chattel” aloud? Is it even possible to use it in any other context? “I’m moving, so I’m trying to get rid of a lot of my chattel.” You could say that, I guess: all ‘chattel’ actually means is ‘personal property that isn’t land or buildings.’ ‘Slave’ is only one of the things it could mean.

“That marriage is a failure none but the very stupid will deny,” Emma Goldman wrote in her 1911 treatise ‘Marriage and Love,’ a seriously amazing document that seems at first to differ from more recent takes on the subject only in the statistics it cites (“Since 1870 divorces have increased from 28 to 73 percent”) and in how rosily it imagines a society governed by free love (“Love needs no protection; it is its own protection. So long as love begets life no child is deserted, or hungry, or famished for the want of affection”). Goldman then goes on to indict marriage as an outdated contract that ought to have been displaced by the advent of industrialization, which made women part of the workforce. Now, she writes, women sentimentally cling to the idea that their work outside the home will be obviated by their marriage vows — even though, for all but the richest among them, their vows are just agreements to begin working two jobs instead of one. Women, Goldman reasons, can’t actually be such dupes that they’ll allow this baiting and switching to continue for very much longer! Marriage will be abolished altogether, she predicts, and the result will be Utopian: “What fancy, what imagination, what poetic genius can forsee even approximately the potentialities of such a force in the life of men and women!”

Almost a century later, poetic geniuses are still struggling to forsee a world without marriage, though some are getting closer. Writing about the importance, in the wake of Prop. 8, to transform the discussion about marriage into one about equal rights, the Gay Recluse eloquently explains why he and his partner of 10 years oppose marriage — not just for gays, but for everybody:

In truth, we don’t ever want to get ‘married’; after fleeing the wasteland of suburban America — where every single house featured two people who were or had been married – we have no desire to return to that sad landscape of desperation and conformity. Along the same lines, we have never liked the words “husband” and “wife” and frankly never want them to pass our lips when describing our relationship partner, because these words are indelibly tainted by association with an outdated, homophobic, misogynistic and bourgeois mode of thinking (and society) that has absolutely no appeal to us (except in campy movies and teevee shows).

Heartening, right? But then there’s this kind of thing — from a novel set in contemporary Brooklyn that’ll be published this Spring by a woman whose author bio is careful to mention both her three college degrees and her husband and son. In this scene, a character wakes up in a hospital bed. She’s broken her foot in the terrible bar where she works a second job to support her crazy sister, and a Nice Jewish Doctor who she barely knows but who has had his eye on her and who happened to be in the bar that night has just proposed marriage to her, though they’ve never so much as had coffee.

“It was just unfathomable. Not, she suddenly realized, that he really, actually wanted her to marry him, but that her life could change in an instant, that the grim routines of the past few years — her whole adult life — could be erased in a moment, simply by saying yes.”

Reader, I don’t have to tell you what she decides to do. And she is deliriously happy for the remainder of the book, of course.


Since she’s a married lady — married to Jay-Z, duh! — Beyoncé can’t very well sing lyrics like “man on my hips/got me tighter than my Dereon jeans,” anymore, so she has had to create an alternate persona named Sasha Fierce. Sasha performs the half of B’s new double album that’s not treacly, wife-appropriate ballads, and the best of the resulting tracks, ‘Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)’ is not going to start getting played by wedding DJs anytime soon. It’s a feminist anthem! Well, sort of. If you want it to be. It’s a classic post-breakup eff you about being “up in the club” and dancing with another guy to make your ex jealous — “I could care less what you think,” ‘Sasha’ sings, which is always a funny kind of line because, hello, you are making it clear that you’re just acting this way for the dude’s benefit. (cf: “You probably think this song is about you” or “Thanks to you, now I get what I want.”) And then the chorus: an amazing, jumpropey chant of “If you like it then you should have put a ring on it.” In the video the chorus is accompanied by an amazing hip-twitching dance that’s capped by this move where Beyoncé and her backup dancers raise and revolve their left hands, flashing what ought to be conspicuously ringless fingers — “All the single ladies, put your hands up!” But Beyoncé doesn’t just have her famous 5 million dollar diamond — hey, what happened to ‘Sasha?’ — on hers, she’s also got on a whole metal-plated robot glove that makes ominous and addictive and comic-bookish kriiiing sounds when she twists her wrist.

‘Sasha’ wants to be up in the club, acting up, drink in her cup — but she also, badly, wants someone to put a ring on it, or at least she wants someone to want to. It’s like that other song, the Joni Mitchell song I think about every time I walk by that gown store on Atlantic Avenue with that really pretty strapless one in the window. This song is about moving to New York after a breakup and being confronted by all these symbols of happily-ever-after — and about the enduring power that those symbols have, even over someone who knows better. “The ceremony of the bells and lace still veils this reckless fool here,” Joni sings. Also: “the power of reason and the flowers of deep feeling seem to serve me, only to deceive me.”

There’s another song I really like with a great singalong chorus that shifts, from the beginning of the song, from “I’m gonna spend another year alone” to “I’m gonna spend my whole life alone.” When I first heard this song, in high school, I thought this line was just Liz amplifying her earlier point about wanting a boyfriend, all that stupid old shit, letters and sodas. But now I think that maybe this song is about how actually we’re all ultimately going to spend our whole lives alone, even if we’re with someone else. And maybe that’s the most offensive lie of wedding culture, the idea that chanting some spell is going to bind someone to you in a way that makes you permanently not-alone. We come into this world alone and we leave it the same way, and that’s a reality that no vow or dress or $5 million ring can change.

Still, though. Except. However. And yet.

31 comments to Put a ring on it

  • Rebecca A

    I love your relationship with Liz Phair lyrics.

    You’ve presented a rather slanted view of marriage. Not saying the things you’ve shown are wrong, necessarily (although the soon to be released novel was completely over the top and the Gay recluse’s summation of all of surburbia as a ” sad landscape of desperation and conformity” was not so much eloquent as tired, overly prejudiced, and cliche). Just saying they are so one sided…you are showing one very extreme side of a picture that is much more colorful and diverse than you seem to have realized.

    And also just that you could actually not be a complete dummie and still enjoy having a life partner.

  • dawn slawta

    the whole marriage thing is…weird?

    not only do we not have rings,(omg! why’d i even get married if there was not a fabulous ring…) i didn’t change my last name.

    although we’ve sort of recently thought about ‘just giving in’ and getting something,mostly because it’s really hard to direct the disapproving grandfather’s glare to our ‘wedding tattoo’.

    but i would like to say…
    especially concerning the ‘gay marriage debate,’ even though,i guess it can be(and of course,is to some) way ‘more’,when i was in portland,and in a friggin’ coma, there would have been zero people allowed in to see me,for months,even after i came out of said-coma. husband was the only one ‘related’,therefore allowed to visit. on that entire coast,so there was/is a lot of importance,to me,put on the whole marriage thing. that whole experience put a new twist on the whole deal.

    sorry for just mentally vomiting on your blog!

  • emily

    Ha, that’s ok, Dawn. I sort of established a precedent up there for mentally vomiting.
    And re: Rebecca’s comment, I mean, I was being purposely extreme I guess, just because there’s so much out there that’s extreme in the other direction … I haven’t figured out what I think about this, and one of the nice things about having a blog is that you can use it to try and figure out what you think.

  • sarah

    You know, marriage is fine for some people but has never been something I’ve been interested in.

    That being said, I am very sad for the young women (and men, I suppose, although let’s be honest, mostly women) who believe that marriage is a) a guarantee for life or b) the answer to their prayers.

    Statistics alone demonstrate that a huge number of marriages end in divorce but I can also tell you anecdotally that almost every person I know over the age of 35 is either divorced or on their second marriage.

    And not just that. The people I know who have stayed married (especially the ones with kids) are miserable. Once the kids show up you can pretty much kiss the romance goodbye. Sorry, I know that sounds horribly negative but it’s true.

    Unscientifically, I’d say your average couple who starts their marriage in a good place, communicates well and doesn’t have any unrealistic expectations about what to expect has about 10 good years ahead of them. After that things get tough, you can go through years of absolutely hating each other and you have to be prepared for that if you want to stay married. Or…you know…just get a divorce and move on. Or don’t get married at all. Whatever.

  • polly

    hi emily, love your blog!

    as a woman who has been happily married for almost 10 years (i am 36), i definitely don’t see marriage in as the horrible institution you guys are describing here (obviously).

    to begin with, my husband and i have two children who we love dearly and, although they do take up a lot of our time, we are not miserable and we have not had to “kiss romance goodbye”. not only do we manage to find time for traditional romance, but there is also something incredibly romantic and wonderful about rasing children with someone you love and respect. building a life together and working hard to keep it happy and functional is also romantic in its own way. in a mature and lasting way, i think.

    and as for being “branded as chattel” by a wedding ring: firstly, dawn, surely a tattoo is much more like the branding of cattle than a ring?

    i’ve worn a wedding ring since my wedding day and so has my husband. i don’t feel that it brands me as “belonging” to him any more than i see his as branding him as my possesion. we chose to wear rings as a symbol of our commitment to each other and seeing his on his hand never fails to make me happy. no, it is not necessary, but it is a nice gesture.

    finally, claiming that supporting the marriage of a heterosexual couple is offensive to gay couples seems just as silly to me as the argument made by straight couples who claim that allowing gay couples to marry would belittle or destroy their own marriages.

    marriage is a lot of work and it is not for everyone, but if you want it and are willing to put in the effort i think it can be a true partnership and CAN last a lifetime. especially if you are surrounded by loving friends and family who support you in your decision.

    it seems a little rude and ungracious, emily, to so harshly criticise your friends for their choice of making a public commitment to each other, and still take advantage of their hospitality and attend their celebrations.

    that’s all!

    i am from sweden and so i apologize for my grammar and spelling mistakes.

  • Rebecca A

    @ Sarah: Funny, my own anectdotal evidence is of mostly happy couples. I myself have been married for 15 years and am still content with my life and my partner.

    I do have to admit to just recently telling a single friend (And Emily, see how you feel when you are 40 and still single, if that actually does happen! I very much hope that your generation, only a few decades behind mine, can sincerely avoid the sense of dispair that seems to plague women my age who didn’t end up getting married) that marriage is not all it is hyped up to be. What I meant was that when I was in my 20s, I thought I just HAD to get married. I really did, even though I was fairly progressive, in grad school, and stuff like that. I would not have admitted it, even to myself, but when I look back at that 20 something I was, I know it’s true. And now I think WHY??? Not that being married is so horrible, but the truth is, being married is still just living your life. And life sucks sometimes, and then it gets better, then it sucks again for a while, you know how it goes. I like what you wrote about ending up alone anyway. In the end, I can’t say I know anyone who has a “soul mate,” and who feels connected all the time in their innermost soul…blah blah blah. In the end, we ARE all alone. Maybe I’ll go pick up a Liz Phair cd or something…

    I do know what you mean about being surrounded by the opposite kind of propoganda, the pro marriage, pro suburban life kind of propoganda, even if it is only from your parents or something (although I think it’s more pervasive than that). Still, I hate the “marriage is just slavery” kind of thing. I do. Maybe just because I do have grad school friends who like to poke fun here and there of the suburban lifestyle I have right now and I feel sensitive or something…..

  • Mike

    The thing that gets me about that video is it’s supposed to be this empowering kiss-off song, but then both backup dancers have the exact same body type as Beyonce. It’s like they all came off a factory line. I mean, this isn’t a new thing in music videos but it struck me as particularly strange to do that for this song. It undercuts the message. Eh.

  • Ben

    Wow, not only do you write like a college sophomore (“I wasn’t supposed to mention the Maryland wedding here…”) but you also have the same pointless sociological musings as a college sophomore. Maybe you should consider reading more things that aren’t listed on a “Feminist Theory 101″ course syllabus and you might start becoming an interesting writer.

  • Emily: Wow–quite a post on marriage. Really made me think, and then re-think. As to the comments: Yes, mental vomitting is allowed, but it is nice when that vomit is intelligible (which I think Sarah’s actually is); Rebecca A has her point, but the point of your article was not the same as hers. Your purpose was not to look at the bright side of marriage. (And considering the divorce rate, that bright side is NOT the majority view.)
    By the way, I found you, Emily, from The Gay Recluse (TGR), which I read regularly and am thankful for. As a 68-year-old gay man who was married to a woman for 20 years (we remain close friends) and has a grown daughter, who now has two kids of her own, I can look back at life — marriage, sex, love, men and women — with some distance. Whatever we end up calling our significant other — husband, wife, life partner — we won’t actually know if s/he WAS that life partner until our life is mostly over. That’s the thing about life — it always seems to change, and in ways often unpredictable. You don’t KNOW these things until you’re looking back on them.
    I think TGR is right about pushing for civil unions and leaving the “marriage” thing off the table. It’s really all about semantics, anyway. Do children really care if their parents are married — or civilly union-ed? If the “family” is relatively happy and the kids are provided for, it probably will not matter.
    Despite all the f-ing (that stands for both fucking and foolish) time, energy and money spent on weddings, rings, rehearsal dinners and the like, and all the gooey declarations of “love” from bride and groom (however well-meant), it’s for the children, should there be any, that marriage, by its own or another name, exists. If history is any guide, children will keep being born. And there has to be a legal way of providing for their protection. The rest is mostly frou-frou.
    Love exists. Or it doesn’t. No matter what name you choose to give to it, to each other, or to the relationship you’re in.

  • “I can keep my cool at poker
    But I’m a fool when love’s at stake
    Because I can’t conceal emotion
    What I’m feeling’s always written on my face”

  • “I haven’t figured out what I think about this, and one of the nice things about having a blog is that you can use it to try and figure out what you think.”

    Depending on your point of view, it’s either fortunate or unfortunate that marriage, and about a billion times more profoundly, child-rearing (see previous post), are impervious to any amount of contemplation. Even experience will be a lousy teacher.

    You may not think that marriage is almost exclusively about child-rearing, but even if you choose not to have children, it will be all about child-rearing. Just you wait, Eliza.

    Or, to put it another way, you can’t know what you will think about these things until ten, maybe twenty years after you do (or don’t do) them. Maybe several times. Whatever you think you think about them beforehand will have been wrong. Your perspective will change dramatically as you age. You may hold strong, well-reasoned opinions based upon careful observation, research, and the cultivated advice of caring, older, more experienced friends and family…but they will be useless.

    Oh man, good luck!

  • owapapercut

    My reaction is that this is more about process (how you go about making the decision) than it is about content (should you do it?).

  • Niall, New York

    I think I’ve seen many different sides to marriage. I think there are many different sides. And whether or not we die alone, I think most of us want to try not to live that way. Ms. Goldman was absolutely right that marriage is a complete “failure” but only when measured against the entirely unrealistic, utopian expectations that have historically smothered it. And from a feminist perspective, marriage has been a disaster. But it is, finally,like any other human endeavour – an entirely mixed bag, succeeding as often as it fails.

    My first marriage lasted eleven months. We had lived together for a six years before that and we had what I thought was a fairly good, stable relationship. We were great friends. We made each other laugh, we were there for each other, we travelled the world together and made a home together in 3 different countries. And for at least two years before we actually got married, I didn’t love her. Of course I didn’t realize that at the time. Instead I thought that it was the nature of love, or love over time, to plateau for long periods and that a committed couple sustains love through these periods by dedication to each other and the shared enterprise of marriage. The marital equivalent of faith and good works. Things started to strain and, in a ridiculous act of hubris, we (or maybe I alone) actually got married to shore up the foundation of our relationship. As if the force of public committment would restore us. It didn’t work. Only later did I realize that was was really holding us together was my own revulsion at the thought of destroying someone else’s life, someone that I really did care about and grew with, someone who supported me through ALOT, by saying “it’s not you” and walking out. Which is funny because I never thought of myself as sensitive. Anyhow, that’s what ultimately happened. She got the car, eleven hundred dollars a month in support and I have absolutely no idea where she is now or what she’s doing. She wasn’t really interested in staying friends.

    Okay, that’s the boo-hoo version of marriage. And god knows there’s much, much worse. As for the good part, I got married again about a year ago and I don’t think I have the words to describe how different and how complete it is. I know, it’s still the honeymoon period, but it is different. So different. And I don’t think this marriage would have been possible without the last one. I think all of those cliches about living more deeply and more meaningfully when we live in and through someone else are true. You discover as much about yourself as you do about your partner. It takes phenomenal courage to achieve, because it is as dependant on honesty and mutual surrender as it is on mutual inspiration, respect and committment, but it opens the world up wide. My wife and I are very different and we often drive each other crazy (we have one good fight per week, easily) but she’s made a place for me and I’ve made a place for her and I’ve never felt anything like it. It’s like….not being alone.

    And now she’s ten weeks pregnant with our first child. And it feels even more not alone. It feels the opposite of alone. To an extent I didn’t even know I could feel not alone.

    But will I still die alone? I don’t know. But I’m sure I’d rather not live alone.

    I was with my dad when he died. I made it to his bedside literally minutes before he died, having flown two hours to be there and taken a cab straight from the airport. My mom and my brother were waiting in the hospital room and he died maybe three of four minutes after I arrived. I always think it was remarkable – like he waited. And I think he did. I think he wanted to say goodbye to his whole family before he died and he waited on me to arrive. It doesn’t seem to me like he felt he was dying alone, but I won’t know until I do it.

    But I do remember this. My dad was maybe the toughest, most self-assured person I have ever personally known. He had lived in the world, was literate and well travelled, and had spent ten years in prison. He was smart, in an old fashioned kind of way. The playwright David Mamet said wisdom is knowledge perfected by pain and that saying always reminded me of my dad. Anyhow, once, when I was still with my then-girfriend, soon-to-be-first-(ex)wife, my dad and I were in the kitchen alone after Christmas dinner and he started quietly cajoling me about getting married. I dodged and demurred, and he said to me, while gesturing towards his noisy family assembled around the table in the dining room next door, “don’t you get it? This is it.” And by “it” he meant “IT.” Like he finally found what mattered.

  • It’s funny (or perhaps not at all), that I find my political opinions regarding gay marriage (i.e., that the right to do so should be extended to every citizen) so opposed to my own personal beliefs and desires regarding the institution itself (i.e., “You’re more than welcome to get married, but I do not need a piece of official paper to validate my love,” etc., ad nauseam). And I think it’s not at all funny when I work through those more personal beliefs of mine and allow myself to see (and to admit to myself) that they are so much a product of my past experiences in love and relationships, and perhaps more over-confident bravado than any real, honest beliefs that I would never succumb to the tradition of marriage.

    Perhaps that is why your concluding words here resonated so deeply with me.

    Amazing piece, as usual, Emily.

  • thecreampuff

    Yikes. I can only assume that you don’t much like the friends whose weddings you speak of here, or it really ticked you off that they dare ask you not to blog about their events, because language like “they’re not going to settle for anything less than fawning, controlled coverage of their Most Special Days” and their “weddings represent yearlong festivals of It’s All About You” is pretty caustic and paints them as self-absorbed and terrible.

    I can understand that maybe you got caught up in the subject and the strong emotions it tends to invoke. I’m single, and I find myself alternately and equally horrified at the thought of my life with or without marriage. That confusion sometimes complicates interactions with friends that are married or getting married. It pains me to admit that, since it makes me more similar to the shrieking Bridget Jones-esque caricature of a single woman than I think of myself, but I would be doing myself and them disservice not to be honest about it.

    Thanks for the thoughtful-provoking and beautifully-written piece.

  • saving grace

    what i don’t get about marriage is: what do you get with marriage that you can’t get outside of marriage? you can have a ring, you could have vows (if you wanted them), you could even throw a party, but maybe not one that costs tens of thousands of dollars. You can’t get divorced though…
    None of the things people say they like about marriages you need to be married to enjoy – certainly not kids. not commitment or lifelong love…

  • JMc

    All this blather, or, I’m sorry, starry-eyed discussion, only leads me to the thought that marriage, and its precursor, love, are just products of evolution.

    Stable family situations are the best scenario for children. Whether marriage needs to be involved is I guess the issue,
    it probably doesn’t, but only in the best cases.

    In the real world, when I was in my twenties, I could barely count the female friends who weren’t getting married, and more, weren’t having kids.

    Ninety percent are and have.

    G-d bless ‘em.

  • Rebecca A


    It seems to me that what some are saying is that they can have that kind of relationship and committment without the benefit of a wedding or a marriage etc. As a married person, I was/am very happy with my decision to make it official. But still, some don’t want that but I don’t think it means they don’t want the kind of close relationship you are talking about.

  • Rebecca A

    Also, by dying alone, I think I mean something different than you do. I mean it is something you have to do alone, as in all by yourself. As in, it’s a journey you make solo. As with so many difficult things in life, we can talk to others, be with them, share, all that. But in the end, we deal with difficult things in our own mind, in our own way. When my husband’s father died, he was so grief stricken. I was there with him comforting him. But was I inside his grief with him? No. Do I wake up crying at night over that loss? No. If I wake up with him, am I really “with” him in his grief? No. I am a witness to it. And it is nice to have a witness in difficult times. But he is still alone. We all are.

  • No one can touch your pain, as they say, but there’s no question the soul, the heart…can be touched.

    There’s a world of difference between being alone and feeling abandoned.

  • Niall, New York

    Yes, Rebecca, I’m not saying people can’t have all of that without getting married. I’m sure they can. But I doubt most people can have all of that without real, sustained committment to one other person. There are exceptions to the rule, sure, but let’s be frank – you can’t really build a life with someone else without a mutual assurance as to the (at least putative) permanence of the situation. Everything gets mingled and mixed and shared – hopes, dreams, expectations, successes, failures, money, property, genes, etc., etc. – call this sharing. Generally, the less we share in our relationship the less intimate and whole we become as a couple. (Obviously we don’t have to “share” everything – a couple with separate checking accounts is not necessarily heading for trouble). For a lot of good reasons, people don’t embark upon this sort of thing without some outward manifestation of a promise that their exposure is limited and they’ll get back, over time, if they give. For some, a personal promise to each other, even implied, is good enough. Good for them. I think for most people they want more though, and it’s a reasonable desire. A public declaration of committment has an undeniable power to make something real and more tangible. And once that happens, it’s easier to build something together in a truly shared way.

    I think I did know what you meant about dying alone. My question is, even if your not feeling the exact same thing as your husband, if you if you suffer when he does, I don’t think he’s alone.

  • dena

    “We come into this world alone and we leave it the same way, and that’s a reality that no vow or dress or $5 million ring can change.”

    Or maybe the “i’m going to be alone no matter what” is what people say to feel like they have no control or choice in their loneliness, because it is so. much. scarier. to know that yes, you have a choice and can work and strive to be with someone or many people and not alone and that you might fail at it but you also might get it right and actually be happy.

    there is such a thing as failure at love, and failure at finding companionship. and failure is what people are really scared of, not loneliness.

    so the point is, no, you won’t NECESSARILY die alone (and while you were literally ‘born alone’ [unless you were a twin], you had your parents and maybe even siblings and to say you were alone is melodramatic and untruthful). you might die being loved and loving someone else, and in that sense, you’re not. but whether you work for and find that love is up to you.

  • emily

    Dena, I think you’re being literal to a fault. What I was trying and maybe failing to get at is that no matter how hard you “strive to be with someone” — and even if you are able to “get it right” (eesh) and “be happy” — you’re still alone in your singular consciousness. No matter how deeply in love you are you can’t have someone actually WITH YOU INSIDE YOUR OWN HEAD and in this sense you are always alone, everyone is. And I think people maybe misguidedly think marriage changes this and it doesn’t and then they’re disappointed. Like what Rebecca said about her husband being along with his grief — she was with him but he was still alone.

  • JMc

    Of course we arrive alive and leave dead, duh, anyone proclaiming otherwise is denying reality.

    What happens between the former and the latter, and how rich or bleak it is, is I think most folk’s issue.

    As far as the ring goes, I think it is a convenient way for singles to know who is fair play.

    As far as the chattel argument, I think it’s sad any woman would think she is “chattel.” With today’s laws, I think the sexes are equal.

    Aren’t we beyond that?

  • Rebecca A.

    Emily wrote: ” …you’re still alone in your singular consciousness. No matter how deeply in love you are you can’t have someone actually WITH YOU INSIDE YOUR OWN HEAD and in this sense you are always alone, everyone is. And I think people maybe misguidedly think marriage changes this and it doesn’t and then they’re disappointed.”

    THIS is the heart of it. THIS is what some people are led to believe will happen. They’ll just magically be merged with some one’s consciousness. They’ll never be lonely again! And all their problems will be solved, or at least will not seem nearly as bad, because they are NOT ALONE, not alone deep down, in their core being! They are always going to be with someone who REALLY understands and cares in a special, unique, one of a kind way.

    Augh. It’s the Cinderella story, alive and well, thriving even.

    You all who are going on and on about how great it is to be in love and have a commitment, I do believe you are preaching to the choir. I don’t think anyone here would argue with that. The interesting point, at least to me, hinges on the limits of the kind of support one person can actually give another person. How close one person can actually get to another person. I won’t get all religious on you here, but for many people, the only kind of connection you can actually have that is complete, unending, “TOGETHERNESS” is a divine one. But then (okay, I’ll get all religious on you guys for just a second…), weren’t even some of Jesus’ last words “My God My God why have you forsaken me?”

    Of course, having a companion who loves you and has made a wonderful permanent commitment to you is a great thing. And I won’t even go into (although I was tempted to, Niall, reading your last post) how the marriage ceremony and marriage contract now a days do nothing to guarantee you’ll have anything of the kind.

    Dena, you seem to be saying its a defense mechanism, to say we are all alone anyway. A defense against having to try to get the kind of companionship some people have written about here. I just don’t really think it is; I don’t think people ever stop trying to connect, at least not most people. It’s something about the human condition.

  • annoyed

    this is an incredibly straight, ridiculous discussion. marriage gives you 100’s of rights under the law the gays don’t have. period. end of story.

    jesus fuck. get your head out of your asses.

  • Rebecca A.

    @annoyed: duh. That’s the whole problem isn’t it? That’s not really fair….

  • liz

    Marriage is about choosing someone else. The institution and ceremony provide the legitimacy and recognition that give ones choice meaning. In an ideal world where our word is our commitment, to declare in front of your peers “I choose this person and please support me in my choice,” can be very powerful. It can be a creative act that brings a partnership into being that didn’t previously exist – in the same way the declaration of independence can be viewed as words that created a country that didn’t previously exist. Before it was a land mass – after it was America (with all its inevitable complications and injustices and wonders) (And of course I feel strongly that anyone who takes the act seriously should be permitted to marry.)

  • [...] maybe not, maybe you’re a hater.  ok, let ’s look at it from a different angle and through another pop cultural lens, maybe one you’ll find less objectionable.  think about the office, the british one, think about that incredible moment in the last episode when dawn is in the car on the way home from the party and she unwraps the art set from tim and then goes back to the party and kisses him and they love each other and everything is wonderful and everybody cries.  you cried, right? it was beautiful.  the US version of the office has just had its own art set moment, last week, in the house jim bought for pam.  when you see the easel that he’s set up in that shabby garage, the american analog for the art set, you cry but in a different way.  you cry because even though it’s romantic, it’s sad.  there is this horrible pause between the reveal of the easel and pam’s reaction and in it you can feel her suppressing something inside herself in order to make jim happy because she thinks doing that will make her happy, too.  it’s her trying to fill the round hole of her creative desire with the square peg of love, which for a real artist seems like a tall order no matter how true that love is.  in a recent post on marriage, emily gould writes, [...]

  • kelly

    just got back from mumbai. am a bit a mess about how lucky i am. have been following your blog for awhile and feel compelled to tell you to keep fighting the good fight. you have talent and insight. best, kj

  • [...] in the two lead singles “If I Were a Boy” and “Single Ladies.” Best? Emily Gould’s: It’s a feminist anthem! Well, sort of. If you want it to be. It’s a classic post-breakup eff [...]

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