I think I was scared to share this excerpt before now. I don't want to admit that when I read this, I felt like someone had read my mind. If I admit it, I'm admitting that I have serious doubts - about men, about women, about relationships, love, sex, marriage...and me. I have serious doubts about me, and if I'm even any good for what I say I want.
But then I read the last paragraph and my eyes start leaking. That is my dream.
"But what was so great about marriage? I had been married and married. It had its good points, but it also had its bad. The virtues of marriage were mostly negative virtues. Being unmarried in a man's world was such a hassle that anything had to be better. Marriage was better. But not much. Damned clever, I thought, how men had made life so intolerable for single women that most would gladly embrace even bad marriages instead. Almost anything had to be an improvement on hustling for your own keep at some low-paid job and fighting off unattractive men in your spare time while desperately trying to ferret out the attractive ones. Though I've no doubt that being single is just as lonely for a man it doesn't have the added extra wallop of being downright dangerous, and it doesn't automatically imply poverty and the unquestioned status of a social pariah.
Would most women get married if they knew what it meant? I think of young women following their husbands wherever their husbands follow their jobs. I think of them suddenly finding themselves miles away from friends and family. I think of them living in places where they can't work, where they can't speak the language. I think of them making babies out of their loneliness and boredom and not knowing why. I think of their men always harried and exhausted from being on the make. I think of them seeing each other less after marriage than before. I think of them falling into bed too exhausted to screw. I think of them farther apart in the first year of marriage than they ever imagined two people could be when they were courting. And then I think of the fantasies starting. He is eyeing the fourteen-year-old postnymphets in bikinis. She covets the TV repairman. The baby gets sick and she makes it with the pediatrician. He is fucking his masochistic little secretary who reads Cosmopolitan and thinks herself a swinger. Not: when did it all go wrong? But: when was it ever right?
A grim picture. Not all marriages are like that. Take the marriage I dreamed of in my idealistic adolescence...I wanted "total mutuality," "companionship," "equality." Did I know about how men sit there glued to the paper while you clear the table? How they pretend to be all thumbs when you ask them to mix the frozen orange juice? How they bring friends home and expect you to wait on them and yet feel entitled to sulk and go off into another room if you bring friends home?...
I know some good marriages. Second marriages mostly. Marriages where both people have outgrown the bullshit of me-Tarzan, you-Jane and are just trying to get through their days by hoping each other, being good to each other, doing the chores as they come up and not worrying too much about who does what. Some men reach that delightfully relaxed state of affairs about age forty or after a couple of divorces. Maybe marriage are best in middle age. When all the nonsense falls away and you realize you have to love one another because you're going to die anyway."