Friday, September 2, 2011

Bertha’s Bakers Dozen ™: What Marriage Is Not

     Hundreds of books hit the shelves every year touting the miracles of marriage.  What it is, how to get it, how to improve on it, how to keep it, how to let it go, etc., but no one ever seems to tell us what marriage isn’t. 

     Well, Letterman has his ten; Bertha has her Bakers Dozen … and this time, it’s the What Marriage Is Not list.  Whether you think of marriage as floating down the aisle in yards of white tulle or find the entire prospect an outdated waste of time, here is my list of common misconceptions about the mystery of marriage:

13) A ceremony.  How many times have you watched those wedding shows on TV and thought, “These people have no idea what they’re getting themselves into!”  The wedding ceremony is such a small part of the marriage, it’s borderline negligible.  I’m all for a personal, deeply spiritual, yet jubilant party to celebrate the union of two individuals, but going into a marriage with the feeling that you will forever be a bride, be greeted each day with flowers and expressions of love from a hunk in a tux, and an exciting adventure at every turn is just setting yourself up for disappointment.  There’s a lot of penny pinching and dryer lint between “I do” and “’til death do us part”. 
12) A partnership of equals.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  When you get right down to it, we’re all 12 years old at heart.  Immaturity reigns supreme when tensions are high and the door is shut.  It is a partnership of two people who like to think of themselves as equals but secretly vow to melt that “equal partner” if he or she even thinks about taking the last fudgy donut.
11) A romance novel.  You aren’t “Valentina St. John, the stormy, voluptuous damsel with hair like a glossy raven” and he isn’t “Demetrius Harmon-Davies, the stubborn, strong warrior with a chiseled jaw and a primal desire for the damsel who refuses to be tamed”.  Puh-leez!  Maybe you’re Hortense, the pre-school teacher with horrible eyesight and an oversized collection of dolls.  Maybe he’s Larry, the pudgy plumber with a comb-over and this stupid, annoying, totally made-up aversion to onions.  Maybe you’re both so weird, you have the perfect relationship.  Whatever your story, just keep it in perspective.  Valentina and Demetrius live in a fantasy world that will never know the horrors of spoiled meat, annoying in-laws, furniture dust, poo-poo, empty bank accounts, or body image issues. 
10) A dictatorship.  Whenever two people are together, one person tends to be a bit more dominant than the other.  This is fine as long as no one person takes advantage of it.  I remember once a girlfriend of mine yelled in the next room to her husband, “HEY! Bring me some COFFEE!”  I looked at her, dumbfounded.  “Aren’t you at least going to say ’please’?” I asked her.  She snarled her lip, “What for?  It’s only him.”  And she wonders why he looks for any excuse to head out on his boat.    
9) A ledger book.  Yes, you’ve washed a million loads of laundry and he’s done exactly zero.  Yes, you’ve taken the garbage out every night for 35 years and she doesn’t even know where the extra bags are kept.  Yes, this one earns more money than that one and that one stomachs dog poop better than this one … but the point is NO ONE should be keeping score.  A marriage is about working together for the good of the household; not working to fill some points bank and see whose account balance is higher.      
8) A disposable diaper.  Marriage is not for us to unload our miseries, nitpick the flaws of the other person, scream when we don’t get our way, and then toss it aside for a shinier, newer relationship.         
7) A competition.  People get competitive over the stupidest stuff.  Who’s wound hurt worse.  Who has uglier feet.  Who’s mother is the biggest complainer.  Who cooked more dinners, who brought in more money, who squeezes the toothpaste wrong.  The point is, the more competitive you become, the less “us” there is to cherish.
6) A career.  Marrying for money?  Are you kidding me?!  Why not just sell babies on the black market … there’s more money to be had and it’s almost as cruel.   
5) A romantic comedy.  Chances are: he’s not going to stand in the rain and tearfully scream his love for you in the middle of a crowd as he begs you to love him back.  She’s not going to give you a half-dozen strapping sons and one of her kidneys and still look like one of the Spice Girls at 55.  There’s no background music, no quirky neighbors to bring you to your senses, no heart-wrenching, whispered soliloquy to be overheard at just the right moment.  This is real life and it is comprised of the choices we make.    
4) A cruise ship.  Marriage is an adventure, yes, but moments are not planned out for you.  There will be moments of mind-numbing boredom and monotony so oppressive you’ll pine for the excitement of a long line at the DMV.  Expect those moments, plan for those moments.  Do not use those moments as “proof” that your marriage is doomed. 
3) A piece of paper.  This argument just makes me laugh.  How many times have I heard someone say, “Marriage is just a piece of paper.”  Baloney.  Marriage is a contractual agreement between two parties.  Besides the usual stuff like love, respect, and friendship, it is the glue that holds a marriage together.  And believe me, there were a lot of times when that “piece of paper” was the only thing that kept me from throwing my hands in the air and screaming, “FINE!!  You deal with it alone then!  I’m going on a singles cruise!”       
2) The end.  OK, I’ll grant you it’s the end of dating, the end of living for yourself, the end of being alone.  But it isn’t the end of adventure.  It’s not the end of fun.  It’s not the end of excitement.  If anything, you have another person there to help in a bind.  A shoulder to cry on.  A buddy to laugh with.  A second income should you lose your job.  Yes, there will be boring moments and difficult times, but they are far from “the end”.     
1) A bad idea.  It takes work.  It takes commitment.  It takes work.  It takes a fierce determination.  It takes work.  Did I mention how much work it takes?  It’s a hard job, but it is not a bad idea.    

© Bertha Grizzly 2011.  All Rights Reserved.  No duplication or distribution.

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