It's not all that often that I don't blog about pop culture - or mainly, the state of my television screen. But this morning, I found myself reading through an article written by Tracy McMillan at The Huffington Post, and the responding article from CNN's Jessica Ravitz. You'll notice that these are two lady writers. So, naturally, the articles are about - you guessed it! - getting married.
Tracy McMillan's piece is titled "Why You're Not Married," wherein she proceeds to list six reasons: either you're a bitch, you're shallow, you're a slut, you're a liar, you're selfish, or you're not good enough. What's unfortunate is that she raises a lot of good points about marriage within the article, but she's framed them using these somewhat demeaning accusations and so the message is kind of lost amidst the insults.
Consequently, Jessica Ravitz responds mostly to these charges, and defends that sometimes women aren't married because life gets in the way - and that's okay.
But I really can't say I fall on either side of this argument, because, ladies, why is the goal to get married anyways? It's ridiculous. This is not an issue of why some women just can't seem to snag a man. This is an issue of the expectations we're placing on ourselves because society has a long-standing history of telling us we only need to get married and have babies to be fulfilled human beings.
Even if the constant nagging from our parents about giving them grandchildren weren't evidence enough, we have hundreds of movies that seem to tell us that the journey ends with finding True Love. How many romantic comedies - and dramas - have a female lead who is unhappy, and unfulfilled, until she is able to find the Love of a Good Man? It doesn't matter if she's got a successful job or a happy social life; the message is that There Is Always Something Missing. Her character arc is about finding love and being happy. Onscreen, they go hand-in-hand.
It is true that there are also many movies in which men are subjected to this trope - hell, all of "How I Met Your Mother" is about Ted's search for Mrs. Right (if you'll excuse me for citing a TV show in this particular instance). But the difference here is that there are so many other types of leading roles for men. Men can be action heroes, anti-heroes, romantic leads, loveable cads, loveable clowns, conflicted villains, depraved villains, wise-cracking charmers, or world-weary sages.
But if you are a lady and want to be the lead in a movie, you better damn well be ready for the last scene to involve a significant other and some sort of smooching.
Should we blame Shakespeare for this? Comedies end in marriage! Or should we blame the history of gender roles that have kept a women's sphere limited to her home, husband, and children?
It's probably best not to blame anything, truthfully. Because there's nothing really productive about that, and also that would mean that perhaps I'm not married because I'm a bitch and I'm selfish.
But the point I'm trying to make here is that unlike in the movies, marriage is not the last scene. It shouldn't be a goal to work towards. It's 100% okay to want to get married, don't get me wrong. But ideally, shouldn't you want to get married to another person? A physical, tangible person? The idea of wanting to get married just for marriage's sake worries me. It's putting all your eggs in one basket (forgive the pun) and putting your future happiness in the hands of some unknown dude or lady who may or may not be able to live up to the standard.
You know that line in Jerry Maguire? No, not "show me the money," or "you had me at hello" - although both are ridiculously quotable. No, I'm talking about "you complete me." "You complete me" is a lovely storytelling device because it tells your audience they should be rooting for this couple to succeed. It's simple and straightforward and charming and it works when you've got the narrative all planned out.
But in real life? "You complete me" is probably a bad idea. I had a teacher once who, in response to this, said, "Complete yourself, and find someone else who will complement your completion." It's seriously one of the best pieces of advice I could have ever received.
Because life is not one long walk down the aisle while you're waiting for someone to stand up at the altar. Be happy now. Don't wait for someone to come along and do it for you. Because chances are they'll tire of trying to make you happy when you won't do it yourself and then you'll be in a spiral of low self-esteem. It won't be pretty.
I don't mean to diminish the power of love or holy matrimony. If you're married and you love it, that's great! It takes a lot of work to be married and I wholly respect anyone - man or woman - who puts forth that effort for the sake of their relationship. I'm really not trying to knock the wind out of anyone's sails.
But I do mean to point out that society and the media put way too much needless emphasis on the Ideal of Marriage, to the detriment of many a young lady just trying to find her way in life. You know what? Marriage may not fulfill you, and that's okay. Loving another human being and promising to be with them until last breath is a beautiful thing, and if that makes you happy, that's wonderful. But it's really not the only option, and truthfully, it's not for everyone.
Contrary to pop culture belief, fulfillment is not just a ring on your finger and a long white dress. It's not the end of the story. It'd be nice to get this message out there through the media, frankly, with movies where women can also be action heroes, anti-heroes, romantic leads, loveable cads, loveable clowns, conflicted villains, depraved villains, wise-cracking charmers, or world-weary sages. But until then, we're weighed down with this misconception about what it takes for a woman to be happy.
If you're not married, don't fret. I promise, there's nothing wrong with you.