Eating Marriage Cake
Some of you may have seen the comments about marriage on my Friday blog post (http://wp.me/pY8MO-jU).
One of the things I wrote was that we should “decide what a successful marriage looks like to us and then create it.”
I wrote that because I don’t like the traditional get married, have kids, woman in domestic role, man as a provider model of marriage. And one of my readers agree with what he thought I was suggesting by my idea that we can create a different kind of marriage and he e-mailed me privately about it. In the e-mail he suggested that I was not only a nihilist, but more specifically an American Nihilist.
And in case some of you thought the same thing, I wanted to share my thoughts on that specific point. I have included and edited version of my response to my reader below:
Okay, I looked up nihilism, and it is a broad concept. I only currently have access to it in the condensed definitions of Webster and the like, so I can’t be completely certain of which aspects of nihilism you feel I exhibit. That being said, after looking into it a bit and reading what you said about it, it doesn’t really sound like me.
I think I can see where you may have gotten that idea though.
My idea that we should “decide what a successful marriage looks like to us and then create it” does not spring from the idea that there is no truth or true way. Nor from the idea that there is nothing concrete about man and humanity. (Or even masculinity and femininity.) Furthermore I am not suggesting that the form or idea of marriage is so corrupt that it should be annihilated.
I believe there are things that a marriage must include for it to really be a marriage (commitment, fidelity, co-habitation, etc.). Just like there are certain ingredients that must be combined in the proper proportions create a cake: eggs, flour, milk, sugar. Despite the demands of the form, there are a lot of possibilities within that form. And in almost everything in life I’m a big fan of the freedoms within the forms.
However, I think a lot of people are stuck looking at marriage like pound cake. It has to have a pound of flour, a pound of sugar and a pound of eggs otherwise it isn’t cake.
But you can make cake without flour. Or without eggs. But you need to replace those ingredients with a similar element; otherwise it won’t become a cake. Furthermore, you can make white cake, red velvet cake or chocolate cake. Heck, I’d consider banana bread to be cake if hard-pressed. It can be done in millions of ways if you are willing to experiment with all of the ingredients and other variables.
And, well, I don’t want pound cake. It was good enough for my grandparents. And my parents iced their pound cake quite nicely. But I’m more of chocolate girl. I’m thinking dark chocolate with raspberry filling and milk chocolate frosting…
I wasn’t suggesting we annihilate marriage and discard or rebuild it, but rather referring to exploring the freedoms within the form. And I do believe that without certain ingredients it just isn’t a marriage.
Furthermore, I was also looking at it more from a historic and societal perspective. My parent’s marriage is incredibly successful in their eyes and very successful compared to other marriages formed at the same point in history. They’ve been together for 33 years and they are happy – both independently and as a couple. But it isn’t the marriage I want. Even though it is so much more than the marriage my grandparents had – which was also considered highly successful compared to other marriages formed at that time in history (they had plenty of sons after all).
As society changes, so must its constructs. And I do consider marriage to be, at least in part, a societal construct. So, the larger force of society must also be considered.
If marriage is to continue to survive in modern society it must serve modern needs, not antique ones – no matter how beautiful those antiques were. For a modern woman who may not even want children, let alone sons, the old, child-centered model of marriage does not serve modern needs. And, more specifically, is unlikely to serve mine.
My dad actually thinks that the only reason for the modern man (and I mean men, not humans) to get married is to have kids. Which is interesting, because my parents didn’t want kids, but they got married anyway. And I don’t even have kids in the equation as I look toward the possibility of marriage. I think I’d like the option, but it definitely isn’t the plan.
Of course, maybe my dad is right. Maybe marriage only happens and works because of kids. Maybe I won’t be able to have the marriage I want and instead I will have to have children to make a marriage work. But if I can’t have the marriage I want, I guess I don’t know if I want to be married.
What do you all think? What elements does a marriage have to include to still be a marriage? And what ingredients do you want in your cake? Are kids the whole point? Or, can a marriage exist in a worthwhile form without children – the way that a cake can exist without eggs – if you add some other bonding agent to the mix?