Thursday, May 31, 2012

Mare-wage (said in the voice of the priest on Princess Bride)

I just read a piece on Huffpost about marriage, or more specifically, why marriage should be eliminated. Take a moment to think about how you feel about the topic before reading on, because I'm not trying to change anyone's point of view; I'd rather you decide for yourself before I get all pedantic.

In this piece, the author makes a number of sweeping generalizations, ultimately honing in on the patriarchy and government meddling that marriage represents. She also strikes out at those who get married for religious reasons and casts even more gloom over those who are NOT religious and got married anyway (because that blindly supports the government meddling and patriarchy).

Now, as I've said before, I'm not religious. Not even a tiny bit. But I am married, and happily so. Here's why: I wanted to make a pledge, before all the people who were important to me, that R and I were going forward as partners, committed to each other and the life we are making together. Sure, getting a piece of paper from the state of Wyoming (in R's hometown where we had the ceremony) has simplified our taxes, financial dealings, and medical issues; yes, that is because the government has placed a special status on 'married' that makes those factors relevant. And yes, the historical foundations of marriage has some serious patriarchal roots. BUT (and this but is big enough to satisfy Sir Mix-a-Lot), we went into our marriage as equal partners. We wrote our vows, short as they were, to reflect the meaning that our union had. There was no mention of obeying. No one paid for our wedding but us; there was no dowry.

Our marriage was a commitment we made to each other. Would our lives be different without the legal overlay? Maybe. Maybe not. We are very good for one another and very happy. We were both eager to make our union official in a formal and very legally binding sense because it reflected how we felt. We stood up in front of a judge, our family, and our friends and essentially said that we were, from here on out, a monogamous couple who would share our joy, pain, hardships, and strength together for as long as we both still lived. And we meant it.

So why does that hurt anyone? The only reason that I can see is that not everyone is allowed to get married. Since I am very vocally opposed to withholding equal rights from anyone, and I firmly believe that soon all people, regardless of gender and sexual assignment, will soon have that right, I'm going to set that issue aside. Afterall, it wasn't that long ago that R and I would have been refused a non-religious ceremony. Equality is slowly making ground, as many changing state laws demonstrate. Thus, soon everyone will have the opportunity to make this kind of commitment and be able to obtain the legal benefits it provides. I think it's quite reasonable to require this level of commitment to have access to these benefits - otherwise, my ex-boyfriend would have been able to access my accounts, destroy my credit, or make end-of-life decisions for me (shudder).

As for the patriarchal foundations of marriage, I simply offer this little tidbit: monogamy was also a patriarchal notion. Granted, certain religious philosophers twisted the meaning a bit, giving the female role in the equation considerably more weight. That doesn't change the fact that the only known matriarchal societies had much looser (and sometimes no) notions of committed relationships. If the patriarchal line isn't important, than neither is monogamy.

Finally, does the fact that so many marriages end in divorce cheapen the commitment that R and I have made? That is like asking if knowing other people lie eliminates my belief in honesty.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Slow and Painful Death

There is a direct relationship between posting more and people actually looking (and maybe even reading?) my blog. My ego clamors for more, but my head, it is stuffed with cold medicine and snot. I don't know why there is so much snot in there. The rate of mucus production boggles the mind. I'm seriously.
We took a trip back to Ohio so R could defend his dissertation. On the way, I picked up an invisible passenger whose presence made me worry that my throat was bleeding. By the next morning, the mucus. A week later, still mucus. Not only did I have very little fun on our short trip to Ohio, I also had to feel like a jerk for transporting my virus there* AND a work deadline got bumped up so I had to try and work on the plane and in airports while my eardrums thrummed because high altitudes + head cold = unbearable pain.
I have been super cranky and miserable and hating Netflix for dropping all the things I really wanted to see just in time for me to be sick and laying on the couch. On the bright side, I have read approximately 10 pounds of books** and started playing Resident Evil (because, paradoxically, seeing zombies makes me feel better and destroying them is cathartic).
I'm trying to come up with something funny to say to wrap this up, but my mind is blank and all the voices in my head have sore throats. Until next time, may your virus load not reach critical mass.

* I promise that I used copious amounts of hand sanitizer. This wasn't enough to save me, but I hope it cock blocked the virus from infecting my friends.
** I'm a Stephen King fan.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Dark Blogging

Yesterday, I was telling our friend a story about how I refused to babysit for Hutterites when I was in high school because, on my first day, they told me I had to wear a dress, take off my makeup, and then they proceeded to teach me how to churn butter. I ended this story up by saying that I was "much more" goth then, and assuming that I would remove my makeup was obviously ridiculous. (You know, because forcing a teenager to churn butter in the late 1900s is not crossing a line or anything.)

But THEN, you guys, R turned to me and said, and I quote, "Please, you're not at all goth anymore - except for your penchant for Marilyn Manson." I was mid rebuttal when I realized he was right!

Now, this is shocking because (ladies, back me up here), my husband was RIGHT. Even more shocking, I'm not goth anymore. The horror! I have - wait for it - grown up!

Admittedly, my level of goth was always mild: black clothes, uber-pale complexion, black nail polish, knee-high, platform leather boots, too much makeup, etc. Nothing too shocking. And it was always mixed up with a little punk, a little geek, a little grunge - you know, eclectic, in black. But now I own polo shirts.

I could try to convince myself that I am still edgy. After all, I recently dyed my hair blue. My nail polish is green. I have 8 piercings and 2 tattoos. But even I acknowledge that this is a sad and desperate attempt at rationalization.

I tried to step back and ask myself why I care and I don't have a good answer. I'm happy with my life now. I am no longer riddled with angst, so it makes sense that how I represent myself would no longer reflect those dark emotions. I guess I just attached 'goth' to my self-concept and haven't bothered to reassess in a long time.

On the other hand, I still have striped tights and those boots are down in my closet...maybe it's time to pull out the black eyeliner and dance around in my bedroom. I don't know where else I could rock that look. But, as R pointed out, I do still love Marilyn Manson.

Friday, May 4, 2012

A Body of Work

I read this essay called Taking My Body For A Walk. It's about the ownership, disconnect, and acceptance that a young woman has for her body. It's quite good. Very elegant.

Then, in a misguided moment, I scrolled to the bottom and read the comments*. All the comments, at least at that time, were from men who completely missed the boat. They fixated on the issue of physical attractiveness, or the questioning of it, inherent in the piece. Missing the observer/observed quandary completely. The writer certainly questions the attractiveness of her body, mentioning ways it could be improved and wondering if others found it attractive, but that's only one layer of the writing. A couple of the commenters remarked that men don't feel this way about their own bodies, and after my initial reaction (bullshit, if that were true we wouldn't have Nordic Track commercials and pec implants), I reflected on my own feelings about my body.

*Why haven't I learned better? You'd think that the repeated unpleasantness associated with spiking blood pressure would eventually lead to avoidance.

I have heard other women express this same sentiment, but it is ironic that as I get older, and my body's imperfections start becoming more numerous, I am more accepting of my physical self. I am not perfect, but I'm mostly pleased with my body. I like the strength I feel after exercising. I like that I am capable of keeping up, even outperforming people who are much larger than me. I enjoy moving in a coordinated, confident way, especially on the dance floor.

Sure, I can imagine a more perfect physical form. I will never have long, lithe legs. I will never be described as waif-like. I am curvy, though my personality and clothing tastes are better suited for a boy-like frame. I am so pale that I shine like an incandescent lamp; a complexion that would have been much admired in the Victorian era, but I was born into a generation of Jersey Shore tanorexics.

However, I know my body now. I spend less time wishing that it were different, wanting to be like someone else. Sure, when I look in the mirror I think I'd be happier without the extra jiggle around my waistline and inner thighs, but I'm not as critical as I was ten, fifteen years ago...when, ironically, there was no jiggle. I have dropped my insecurities and accept that men find me attractive - and I've been trying to take a bit of pleasure in that as I become more aware of a looming expiration date. Twenty years and a couple kids and I won't be turning nearly as many heads. I hope I will be okay with that when the time comes, but I'd like to enjoy the attention while I can still get it. Bottle it up in my memory so I can  think back fondly upon my youth rather than regret that I didn't take the time to acknowledge it.

But most importantly, love your body for what it can do, not what it can wear.