MARRIAGE: A FRAUD AND A FAILURE? (I)
LOCO DEMPSEY: Listen. The first rule is, gentlemen callers have got to wear a tie. If we begin with characters like him, we might as well throw in the towel… The thing to remember is, a man in the cold cuts is not as attractive as one in the mink department.
POLA DEBEVOISE: He was cute.
LOCO DEMPSEY: Sure he was. I never met a gas jockey that wasn’t.
POLA DEBEVOISE: Is that what he is?
LOCO DEMPSEY: You bet your life he is. I know, I married one once.
—How to marry a millionaire, 1953, Jean Negulesco.
ONE DAY, when I used to suit up, I went to an important meeting. I took the elevator up to the last floor, where a hostess was already waiting for me. She walked me through what seemed to be an endless maze of rooms. The conference room had a breathtaking view of the city. Four men and I were standing, waiting for the bigwig of the company. Soon he came in, greeted everybody and made me sit down next to him.1 My butt had not touched the chair when I heard:“Are you married?”
I managed to sit down realizing that this was a very personal question, completely inappropriate for that setting. But right away I considered it was inoffensive, that I had no reason to make such a big deal out of it. I gave him the short answer.
To my astonishment, he blurted out, “You are very intelligent.”
I must confess, my Dear Readers, that these words have been dwelling on my head since then. So this man of experience was telling me that single is a synonym for intelligent. And who doesn’t want to be intelligent, huh?
Tell you the truth, I have never been in such a trouble. No boyfriend ever popped up the question. Neither did I. But, looking back, I’ve noticed that over the years my understanding about marriages has drastically changed.
Is marriage a fraud and a failure?—as Mortimer Brewster (Cary Grant) declared in his book in the film Arsenic and a lace.
Is a single woman smart?—as the bigwig rushed to shout.
To play sociologist here, I can’t say a categorical yes to any of them.
Sure enough, men and women are driven to get married, but for different purposes. Men usually tie the knot in search for a status, and they look for a companion when they are financially secure. Besides, when they start to see his friends walking out the aisle, social pressure starts to hit hard—though it usully comes later for men than for women. On the other hand, women feel the need to get married for biological matters: to procreate; aside from getting the emotional support. So when a man, who has already a certain position in society, likes a girl, who has received the baby waking call, they sign the deal that comes with ‘till death do us apart’. Voilà.
Nevertheless, this well-trodden circuit has exceptions. Of course. For instance, now women are delaying marriage to pursue their careers; and some bachelors, who lived The War of the Roses in their childhood, most likely they will leave holy matrimony for the old age, or even for the next life.
So, yes, my Dedicated Readers, people from all walks of life get married because of a mix of love and social pressure.
From the outset, it becomes obvious to me that those reasons are too weak. You can pull your gun in your sleep, but one thing you got to admit: Not everybody hears the same drums; not everybody dances at the same pace. I am not against marriage, but I am against conventional marriage. I might or might not marry my companion. This is not an important matter. The nub of the question lies on the foundation that underpins the relationship. Next week, I’ll throw my thoughts. At the meantime, I’ll say a little prayer for you.
1 Although that was not a meeting of friends at a bar, I understood that a man—he could have been my grandfather—prefers to sit down next to a young woman.
Copyright © 2012 by THE PYTHAGOREAN STORYTELLER. All rights reserved.