I recently came across an article titled “Marriage is made in Hell” by Laura Kipnis, a Media Studies professor at the NorthWestern University. She presents marriage as an outdated and in some respect constrictive institution. I hate to think that I am as cynical as Kipnis, but I found myself agreeing with her observations. I came to the conclusion that marriage must experience a major overhaul to remain relevant in our ever changing society. A report by the Globe and Mail showed that in 2008, more than 40% of marriages ended in divorce, a 2% increase from the previous year. Marriage has its advantages, some of which are highlighted by Kipnis, but it has also proven to be a prison of broken dreams and desires for many people.
Kipnis suggest that a successful marriage requires the denial of personal desires and goals for the union. She identifies some of the sacrifices that marriage demands, and I know many women and men who have endured discomfort to honour their wedding vows. My parents are an example, as they struggled for many years to keep their union together. Being leaders in the church, they felt they had a duty to set an example and fight for their marriage. Their stubborn attempt to stay together made home a living hell, and my sisters and I had to endure many fights between our parents. When they finally separated, we experienced a side of our parents we never saw before; they morphed into real people who loved every day of their new lives. Dad bought a red car, a colour my mother hated and mom travelled to Haiti, a destination my father forbade. It was clear that being single allowed them to fulfill desires they were denied when married. I would go even further and say that the separation had released them from a match made in a personal hell.
The comedian Chris Rock jokes that the wedding reception is a set up, as couples will never again experience “the high” felt at this ceremony; it is all downhill after this point. However the ceremony is not alone in creating a false sense of reality. Women who grew up with images of Disney princesses riding happily ever after into the sunset with Prince Charming, are given a rude awakening when the glass slipper does not fit. Men who are caught up in the world of sitcoms, where every problem is solved within 20 minutes, will also find reality to be bitter. The very idea of being husband and wife harbours unrealistic expectations. There are many instances of couples who have lived together for many years separating soon after they get married. This is an indictment on marriage, as the couple proved that they had the ability to stay together outside of wedlock, but having made it “official”, heightened expectations and ruined the union. These couples can be accused of bringing damnation upon themselves by getting married.
With marriage rates on a steady decline and divorce rising, it is safe to say that many people have opted out of this institution. Its benefits are easily duplicated, making marriage redundant. The society is changing along with our values, and marriage still holds true to its core which fits perfectly in the Victorian era. The celebration of individualism, education, capitalism and “singledom” has allowed people to aspire for more than the title afforded to them in wedlock. Is it hell? I wouldn’t go as far as saying that, but I know that unless you are masochistic, discomfort and sacrifice are not appealing…and it R the truth.
Prince Charming slays the beast, kisses the princess awake,
yet only alarm clocks summon this queen from her fairy tale
to an ungrateful job of 6-2, 2-10, 10-6 that has failed to germinate
like the pea planted deep in her mattress.
With hair dark as hardship,
skin rooted in oppression
and standing tall as a dwarf
her foot plagued by varicose veins make her glass slipper uncomfortable.
She approaches her mirror, mirror on the wall,
the mirror, mirror that has lied to her for 26 of her 48 years
and with cocoa brown eyes,
loaded with hope for her prince and princesses,
she looks in.
Her past is just that,
a past filled with pain and pleasure.
A childhood of broken tiaras
and forgetful fairy godmothers,
consumed poisonous apples cultivated in her backyard
once upon a time.
Her world is one with deadly discriminating dragons,
a world where the fabled frog lays asleep in her borrowed bed after 26 years of empty kisses.
Robbed of her voice to request a fourth wish from an unwilling genie,
she looks for a father buried deep within his own ocean,
farther from the time when crabs and fish were friends.
Who will rescue the queen after the princess has ridden off into ever after?
She stands here, even after the colours have fade from her ill fitting ball gown…