First published on Friday the 12th of June, 2015, this piece comes in at number 8 in the top 30 Villainesse stories of 2015.
Blame it on Cinderella, or Sleeping Beauty, or Snow White. Women grow up being conditioned to believe that marriage is one of those things that just happens.
The modern-day narrative goes something like this: you get an education, work for a while, get married, have babies, raise them… and then wither away into invisibility (because according to the media, women cease to exist after the age of 50). Dare to want something different and there must be something wrong with you. I’m putting my outspoken-Millennial hand up right now. I call bullshit on this whole marriage thing.
The motives behind marriage have been playing on my mind a lot recently, and not for the reasons you might think (my love life is currently drier than the Californian desert). The relationship landscape in 2015 is vastly different to what it was 50 years ago. Women are playing a larger role in the workforce than ever before, technology has flipped modern dating on its head, and we’re living a lot more for the here and now. We’re progressing exponentially; faster than at any other point in history, so why is it still so taboo to question the institution of marriage?
The nation’s engagement with wedded bliss has been on a downward slope for quite some time now. In 2013, the number of people putting a ring on it in New Zealand dropped to its lowest number in 13 years, a clear sign that our values are shifting. Having the perfect nuclear family is no longer topping people’s agendas, and as a progressive society we need to stop acting as if people who don’t believe in lifelong monogamy have got a screw loose.
Millennials are constantly being told that the world is broken. It’s a wonder that we somehow manage to remain so optimistic. We’ve been told that climate change is going to cook our grandchildren, that it’s only a matter of time before someone fires a nuclear weapon at the United States (or more likely, the United States fires a nuclear weapon at someone else), and my personal favourite, that our ‘hook-up culture’ has ruined true love. But has anyone stopped to think that our seemingly cynical outlook on commitment isn’t that at all? It’s merely realistic. People grow apart, they grow comfortable, and they get bored. It’s just how humans work. Approximately one third of all marriages end in divorce. If anything, we should be congratulated for recognising the warning signs and preventing future upheaval.
So go on, call me a radical, or blame it on my broken home, but the truth is, I just don’t like the idea of being tied to one person for the rest of my life. Sure, I’d love nothing more than to find my slightly alternative, inked-up Prince Charming, but I don’t want to be legally bound to him for all of eternity. I want someone to be with me because they’re deeply in love with me, not because some piece of paper says that they can’t ever leave. I want both of us to be in a position where if things turn sour, as much as it might hurt, we can walk away and be done with it. Without legal fees and name changes and being labelled a divorcee.
Feminist trailblazer Gloria Steinem somewhat ironically provides a perfect example of how society favours the wedded. In the years where most women her age were settling down and having children, Steinem launched Ms. Magazine, worked as a freelancer for the Esquire and New York Magazine, and became an activist for women’s rights. In choosing not to follow tradition, she was able to touch the lives of millions in a way that may not have been possible had she chosen a different path.
When she did finally decide to get married (at age 66) it wasn’t because she suddenly wanted to, but because of the perks that came with marriage (in particular, the visa it would grant her significant other). Her marriage certificate worked its magic again just a few months later when her husband was diagnosed with brain cancer and the legal status of being ‘married’ allowed him to claim treatment under her insurance. There was never a desire to marry, but a need that was imparted on them by out-dated legislation. De facto relationships are increasingly being recognised by government institutions and organisations, but the fact that in many cases you still need a piece of paper to prove your commitment to someone is astounding. Like seriously, it’s 2015.
With that being said, I do believe in true love, and I believe that for a lot of people, marriage may be right for them. But, I also think we need to challenge the idea that finding love and being in a relationship is the one validating factor of our lives. It’s time for us to stop being so hung up on what society expects of us and start living our truth; in whatever form that may take.
So what do I want? Well, thanks to Disney I do want some kind of wedding-esque party in the very distant future. But one thing you won’t be finding at said occasion is a piece of paper binding Prince Charming and I together for eternity. Because no one really knows what will happen after ‘happily ever after’.Support Villainesse