What kinds of images come to mind when you think about it?
Weddings. Flowers. White dresses. Ceremonies. Everlasting love…
A lot of people spend a lot of their time thinking about getting married. That’s why there are wedding magazines. Event planners. I’m pretty sure Pinterest would have gone out of business by now if not for people using it to virtually plan their wedding. Or more realistically coming up with ideas for more than 20 weddings, the plans for most of which will never see the light of day because you probably won’t use most of the stuff you save.
The only thing that people seem to love more than their significant other is marriage.
I’ve got to be honest, though. Are people really still THAT excited about getting married? I know. I know. The answer is a resounding “yes.” And that –for real!– surprises me.
Let me preface what I’m about to say with the acknowledgment that you should be able to do whatever you want with your life. If you don’t want to get married, then please don’t. If getting married has been your dream since you were a little boy or girl, then that’s your prerogative. Now, however, you’ll get to hear about the reasons I think marriage is pretty much bullshit. I know that’s not romantic, but let’s get real here.
Somehow, people are surprised when I critique marriage (I know this because people are not shy to let me know that. — “You’re not truly against marriage, though, right?”). I think it goes to show how ingrained marriage is in our ideology. It’s easy to theorize about moving on past it as a culture or “not getting married until everyone can,” but a lot of that is just talk. It’s still expected at some point. (This is a common pattern people who don’t want kids also experience. Social pressure is a bitch).
One of the first defenses people make about marriage is the tax breaks. Okay, yes, those certainly are nice. But why does having a piece of paper issued by the government mean that you should be treated better than everyone else? I can see why the hardship of having two paychecks to support your family really needs to be incentivized. Or is getting married to someone so difficult that you need some type of benefit to make up for all that you give up for getting married? I get that you want more out of your relationship, but wouldn’t an even better thing be to help dismantle a system that keeps fucking people over? Tax breaks shouldn’t be some club benefit for people who are allowed to get married.
But the wedding! It’s so fun to share your love and make a commitment to each other in front of everyone! First off, weddings are honestly usually just a HUGE waste of money. Think of all the money you’ll spend on mediocre food. Alcohol for a bunch of people you haven’t seen in years, most of whom you don’t even like – because let’s be real, if you liked them, you’d see them more often. The venue. The planning. Sure you can do it on the cheap, but most people don’t.
Also, isn’t the whole idea of publically declaring your love for one another a bit wrought and overdone? Doesn’t publically declaring your love in front of your friends and family make it more difficult when the relationship ends. It’s one thing to tell your family why A’s not coming to Christmas anymore, it’s another thing to tell your great aunt why you’re getting married to B three years later. (I’ll make a caveat here, we do know some of those couples who everyone knows will stay together, but these are more like unicorns in their rarity.)
And let’s talk about the actual institution (I’ll make this brief). We all know the history of marriage. I’m not going to recap it. If you don’t know it (who the fuck are you? Step into the 21st-century, please.) then you can Google it. You’ll get up to speed real quick. WHY is that a tradition you want to buy into? Sure there are certain benefits (though mainly just if you’re already privileged in some way), but do you really have to partake?
I guess you could say that I don’t have a problem with marriage in terms of an individual sense, so I don’t care if you get married. My issue is more on a structural and capital sense. What can we do to change the system so everyone gets some benefits instead of just sharing among the people who think that they maybe want to spend their life with someone forever — assuming, of course, neither of them change.