A column in a leading British paper said that though marriage is down in the dumps, it is still highly recommended for people try it. Now it is written by a man. I am sure I get it. I know umpteen number of happily married people and I truly believe in it and how wonderful it can be. But it is not for me. I am not the marrying kind. That leads to a shocked silence in social settings, as if I have just burped in public.
Yet, I am a mother and a pretty determined one. Except that marriage for me is a bit of "getting lost on the way" kind of moment. The divorce decree filled me with such utter relief. That I could just hitch up my socks and get on my way, of what I wanted from life and so on. That I was able to see and design my own journey, baby on the hip no doubt, but I saw myself as a solo traveller. I tried the marriage bit and I can say firmly, it is not for everyone. If we look at all that psychobabble, children of divorced parents end up being in broken relationships more than others. But I came from a home with firm and unshakeable foundations. My parents could well write a manual on how to be married forever and it would be a bestseller. I saw everything that makes for a great marriage, commitment (of course), mutual respect, friendship, togetherness and the partnership of making it through thick and thin.
How to support each other through good and bad times when two people ride the crest and the crevice, taking the high with the low. These are people who care to share. Who come home from work and talk to each other and find pride in each other's accomplishments, be it at an office or inside the house.
What do you say to a woman (moi) who found it all pretty claustrophobic and a chore to boot? Who has no shame in saying that when it comes to that thing called marriage, I am an unqualified failure as a candidate? I cannot breathe in a collective, community let's-make-our-own-world set up. I don't need constant attention and neither am I insecure enough to feel dejected or rejected if I don't have some man's total attention. And that itself is not saying much. He could be giving me all the right marriage signals but his mind (or his body at times) could be elsewhere. What I am is rather trying to explain to nosy aunties, party goers and relatives at large. It came to me as an epiphany! I am not the marrying kind. Period.
Don't do it.
I didn't like it, I didn't enjoy it and I never felt any part of it. Therefore my gladness at its demise was limitless. I felt it had left me bound in ways I did not think possible. Yet, I have been a happy and delighted parent. I do not, hence, lack the 'belong-to-someone-in-totality gene since my daughter can pretty much get me to commit murder if the situation demanded it. What was it about marriage that I did not lift even the nail of my little finger to save it? There were many ways it could have been, but I just wanted to escape it and wonder how women, one disastrous marriage later still find the need to go out and try another time? As the erudite British author advised everyone to try it out, surely once is enough? Would anyone drink from a poisoned chalice again and again so what do these serial marital types know that I don't? Clearly a rare need that just doesn't exist in any of my cranial lobes.
Where does that leave social aberrations like me? I have been to parties where the moment my status as a divorcee becomes apparent, sundry wives start hovering around their husbands with overt gestures of love and attention, "Jaan, see that prawn tempura, your favourite," and will lovingly plate it up while casting sidelong glances at me. What does that say? A) Look how happy my marriage is and how much I love my husband and B) Oh you poor pitiable thing! C) Hands off, he is mine! It doesn't seem to matter that I have no interest in their husband or in one of my own.
Not once has a single person in my life has ever bothered to accept that I un-bound myself from marriage by choice. I once had a friend who was convinced I was eyeing her US-returned brother in the hope of marrying him. What action on my part gave her the idea I will never know but it was so hard to convince her that nothing horrifies me more that getting married. All I got was a sceptical turn of the eye as if I had given this bizarre explanation. I gave up.
Those who are close friends get it and have an insider joke that the only way to get me up and running in the opposite direction is to mention the word marriage. Still I have been told that I send a very wrong message to my daughter. How so? I think I have communicated very clearly how important it is to nurture relationships and that each one: parent and child, lover or husband; come with a set of rules and responsibilities. Why do people blank out when I just say that they are just not for me? At work, smug marrieds, a la Bridget Jones, have been known to say I put in longer hours and get into my boss' good books as, "I have no family to get back home to." It is conveniently forgotten that putting in extra effort was something I did when single and any ambitious rookie would do to get ahead. Or worse, that I am so coldly, career-minded I do not care if I am separated from my kid for months on end - through boarding school, college and university. I just want her to be independent, educated and focussed does not seem to mean anything.
Now that I am convicted of being a brute, I have started giving a brutal answer half in jest and half in all seriousness, "I am a selfish person," I say when I am probed. I do not wish to share a life 24/7 with anyone, I like the whole bed to myself and both the side lamps. I do not want to think of dinner menus or extended family festivals. I'd rather read a book, all by myself. If that makes me a freak, so be it. Marriage is great, do try it and if you find out that you are the more solitary type of person, start walking. I can guarantee you will be alone forever... but you will blame yourself for the mistakes you make rather than pay for someone else's too.