Butterfly Cauldron

Friday, August 25, 2006

I think I've reached my expiration date

Marriage has come up on a couple of blogs I read and it got me thinking. They're talking about marriage over at Feministing and Pandagon, among other places. One of the questions to come up is -- are you getting pressure to marry?

And I used to. I really did. My family was all about me finding a man and settling down, even after my baby brother got married. (He got married at 23, for gods sake!). And they were always 'well, you know, when you have a baby of your own...' whenever I expressed a desire NOT to have children. They just went on and on about it....and then, suddenly, they stopped. Just cold stop. I haven't heard a word about marriage or children from my family in nearly two years. Since I turned 30.

So, I'm wondering, do they just assume I've hit my expiration date? That now that I'm over 30, well, I won't be getting married or reproducting even if I want to?

I don't really think that's the case, but....I don't know. Everyone in my family was married well before they hit 30. And we are Southern, which has its own baggage for women past 30. I like to believe they finally just got it. They finally just realized, 'Hey, she's been saying since she was 12 that she didn't want to get married or have children. Do you think she actually meant it?'

Amanda over at Pandagon also brings up the social pressures, outside of family, on women who marry. I think she's a bit extreme, believing there's no way for a woman to opt-out of the cycle and still marry, but I do take her point. It's one of the reasons I've been resistant to marriage my whole life. Given the way our society prescribes the proposal, the wedding, the spousal roles, it really does put women in a position of subserviance, even if the man she marries isn't into power trips. I felt that, instinctively, as a child, even though my parents have a remarkably equal marriage. (Particularly for people in their faith, it's amazing how equal it really is and how utterly feminist my father is. But gods help me if I ever told him that. I think my father would pass out if I told him he's a feminist.) Inside my home, my parents were equals. Outside? Well, I noticed that my mother was always referred to as Lee's Wife or Zan's Mother. I noticed how people just assumed she was the one who did all the housework (She was, alas, for quite awhile. But my father had a job that took him out of the house for over half the time so she took on a lot more responsiblity than usual.) They assumed she would adjust her schedule for him, that she'd just do whatever he wanted her to do. Why? Because she was the Wife.

I never wanted anyone to call me that. I never, ever wanted anyone to assume I'd just turn over my life to someone else. And, being the stubborn and completely-incapable-of-keeping-my-opinion-to-myself girl that I was, I announced that. Loudly and often. Did I want a boyfriend? No. (Well, I did. But not on the terms I had available to me.) Did I want a husband? No, I did not. Did I want a baby? Hell no! What I wanted was to get good grades, go to college, earn my degree and live my life on my terms.

Thing is, my parents always encouraged me to do just that. Sure, they wanted me to get married too, but they were almost as insistant as I was that I was going to go to college and get my degree and be able to take care of myself, dammit. Part of that was they got married extremely young. My mother was 17 and my dad was 19. They had me when mom was 20, and my brother was born 18-months later. They had it really rough starting out and they wanted better for us. And never, ever, did either of them suggest I couldn't do what I wanted because I was a girl. (Partially because they honestly believed that, partially because they didn't want to piss me off.)

So, my parents have this amazingly equal marriage. So does my brother, come to think of it. Both of them subvert gender roles in their own ways. My brother is much more willing to do his share of the housework and spends lots of time with his daughter. He's not one of those men who 'babysit' their own children. So, I've got this solid image of equal partnership and I know it can work. So, what's my hangup?

It's that social thing. I know that, should I ever get married, I wouldn't marry a man who would see me as anything but his equal and full partner. I also know that it won't matter how we see each other, in the eyes of society (especially down here in Southern Jesusland) I'm always going to be the lesser partner. People will assume I have to be manipulative to get my husband to do what I want. They'll assume I make demands on him that are unreasonable, but 'that's just what women do and really, you can't live without 'em'.

I'm finding, as I get older, that what society thinks of me and my relationships matters less and less. I haven't been able to completely shake myself free of that fear/pressure/whatever you want to call it. I'm at the point where I can see a time, maybe in the distant future or maybe not so far away, where I'll be able to. It feels like a big step to me, the realization that -- maybe I could handle being married. I'm still not sure, honestly. And I'd have to be with someone who understood that. Someone honest and authentic, who doesn't buy into all the romantic claptrap we're sold.

A huge diamond ring? Why? Buy me something simple. Silver, with amber or pearls or orange topaz. Or a simple band with interesting etching. The rest of that money can go for a downpayment on a house. A huge wedding? Why? Let's elope, make it a combo wedding/honeymoon and save some money. Which can be used for a downpayment on a house. Or whatever we decide to spend it on.

I'm a thoroughly non-traditional girl. Give me a beach at sunset, let me go barefoot, throw some flowers in my hair and bring out the JP. We'll have a bar-b-que afterward and dance around the fire. My friends, my family and that's it. Simple, easy and perfect. And none of that holier-than-thou religious crap either.

Then again, maybe I have reached my expiration date after all. Which isn't so bad. At least my parents don't seem hurried to get me married anymore.

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posted by Zan at 7:15 PM

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