Consumed by Marriage

Yesterday, while having lunch with a bunch of girl friends, the conversation turned to chick lit. I've disparaged the use of the term "chick flick" in the past, for its illogically negative connotations; I am not offended by "chick lit." Why? Perhaps because I think the limiting sound of it fits the writing style.

Before any chick lit fans start rolling their eyes, relax, this is not a bashing post. I'll be the first to concede that I probably haven't read widely enough in the genre to form a fair and accurate opinion. So any chick lit related comments that follow are based solely on what I have read to date.

My main problem with chick lit is that it seems to paint women with very narrow brush strokes. And this is what I stated at yesterday's lunch. I explained that in my limited chick lit experience, the female protagonist's desperation to get married always seems so disturbingly extreme. You know how they say men think about sex every seven seconds? Well, the books I've read would have us believe single women think about marriage at an equal frequency, with expensive footwear and/or losing weight dominating the intermittent seconds.

Anyhow, around the table came varying responses. One friend professed to having never heard of chick lit. A few said that they enjoyed the genre (but as a somewhat fluffy, guilty pleasure). Then, a lady who I'd only met that day smiled at me and asked, "Are you married?" I said yes, and her smile widened knowingly as she assured me that that was why I couldn't possibly understand the appeal of chick lit. She then added that she and her fellow single sisters were indeed thoroughly consumed with thoughts of finding that special man and could readily relate to chick lit characters.

Is this truly how the majority of women feel? If so, why? Because of the security marriage brings? But a husband could die tomorrow. Or meet a woman and think, "Oops, actually I think maybe this one's the love of my life." Sometimes I wonder if human beings were meant to pass such an extended amount of time in the exclusive company of one person, or even a handful of specific people. For example, if we're forced to spend more than two weeks together under the same roof, my family begins plotting ways of killing each other.

Then why did I get married? Before I met my husband, I'd been dead-set against it--mostly as a result of long-term observations, and thanks in part to my dad's enthusiastic accounts of his own friends' marriages in all their gory detail: infidelity, resentment, abuse, loss, and not a happily wed pair in the lot. If I found a nice guy, wonderful; but marriage was to be avoided if I had any sense of self preservation. Unfortunately, I never foresaw the obstacle called Japanese immigration. But that's another story.

On the other hand, at one time or other, many of my single friends have admitted concern that they might never get married. And I sympathize. I do remember what it feels like to be single. But while my views on marriage may be a bit extreme (and outright hypocritical now, given my marital status), I'd like to think that the woman at yesterday's lunch wasn't entirely correct, that not all women are wholly consumed with the Quest for Man, and that most realize that finding a guy is only one of life's many satisfactions. And maybe I don't want to believe that real women can actually relate to the chick lit characters I've encountered.

Am I being an insufferable, arrogant married lady again?

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No I don't think you are wrong. There are better things in the world than constantly thinking about men, or getting a man, or whatever. I've been married before. It is not a foolproof recipe for hapiness. 

from Ana

7/27/2005 01:11:00 AM  

Imteresting.. when you ranted and raved about chick *flicks*, I felt an urge to deefend them... chick lit? Nope, not so much. Rant away!

You don't talk about your husband much on your blog, so naturally I am intensely curious! :-)

7/27/2005 01:31:00 AM  

While I must admit I have read chick lit myself and still enjoy it upon occasion (even though I am married) I think for the most part it will only build resentment. I love my husband, I do. He's sweet, he makes me laugh, he's crazy in a way I couldn't live without. But it's like watching too many many chick flicks-they never show the towels on the floor, the soda cans EVERYWHERE, the farts, money wasted on stupid golf crap. It will just build into an image that doesn't exhist. But who are we to squash their dreams? 

from Becky

7/27/2005 03:28:00 AM  

Oh, the farts, the FARTS! Yeah, chick lit always talks about those dashing, darkly attractive, virile males that are also sensitive and emotionally in tune with the women they love. What's up with that? They don't exist!!

That said, I think a good percentage of our half of the human race is quite fixated on the idea of getting hitched. I was one of them! Goodness knows I'd be a nervous wreck if I weren't married by now. Perhaps it's just societal pressure, but one does get that what's-wrong-with-her look if you're not married by the time you hit 30. I'd get married just to escape those incriminating looks!

7/27/2005 02:06:00 PM  

I have a few friends that are obsessed with finding the man that they're going to amrry and I'm all with Hsin, they all think that the perfect guy is out there. Being married there are a whole bunch of ocassions that I've been very glad to be married but I did wait almost nine years for the proposal and I was never desperate for marriage during that time (ready, yes; desperate no). 

from Jaime

7/28/2005 12:14:00 AM  

Nine years? NINE YEARS?

7/28/2005 12:23:00 AM  

Hi Ana, it's nice to know I'm not the only one who thinks so.

Jessica, no, no, I have nothing against so-called chick flicks. I just don't like the tone with which the term is often used, as if movies that a "chick" might like are boring or silly or too emotional.
As for my husband, I actually *try* not to go into too much detail about him because he's a shy guy, and while I may be perfectly willing to share details of my life with others, he is not. (But what are you curious to know?)

Hi Becky, yes, I guess every girl has to get married and be disillusioned on her own. All part of the adventure, right? Ha.
I'm pretty sure (or at least I hope) that most women read these books and realize it's all a lovely fantasy. I for one have nothing against a little escapism. In fact, we married ladies probably need it a bit more than the single girls.

Hsin-Li, as I wrote in my comment to Becky: fantasy. We girls need a dose of it from time to time, and there ain't no shame in that. Just as long as nobody actually believes that men are anything like the heroes in the books. After all, those guys are all created by female authors--of course they're perfect. And totally unreal.
I'm totally surprised though that you were one of those girls anxious to get married. I guess the pressures in Singapore are something I can't imagine. Growing up, I rather cherished the idea of maturing into a prickly, invinsible spinster.

Jaime, but would you have been upset if the proposal never came?  

from Rachel

7/28/2005 01:19:00 AM  

it's good to know there are other married women who are marriage-averse and not mate-centric out there. i never thought i would get married until the tax man cometh and after three years am still not wholly comfortable with the concept. i suppose it's every bit as dull to be at either extreme of the spectrum, no? 

from rae

7/28/2005 11:22:00 AM  

Jess, yes, nine years. As for Rachel's question, I think that I would have wanted marriage when the whole having kids thing became a topic of conversation, other than that...no I don't think I would have minded, I mean I didn't after nine years.

7/29/2005 06:43:00 AM  

I think I can give you some insight into this as someone who was until very recently single in an almightily desert like manner but is currently dating someone (the status of the relationship is as yet undefined, given it's only been four weeks). I think it's not necessarily marriage single girls are dreaming of, it's meeting "the one" or however they'd like to phrase it, but yes they do spend a lot of time thinking about that, or at least I and my single friends do or did.

Suddenly when you're dating though it all becomes different, and though there are obviously lots of women out there who are hanging out to be proposed to, I think there are also lots of women out there (and I know a few personally) for whom whether they want to get married some day or not, a proposal is not something they're in any rush to receive. Single women are daydreaming, so might well end their romantic fantasy with themselves walking down an aisle, but women in relationships have the reality of their unperfect because human partner staring them in the face, and actually some of them idealise being single. It used to infuriate me when people told me I was lucky to be single, but it was so long ago that I'd been with somebody that I'd forgotten where that impulse came from. I'm on the divide at the moment and I can see both sides, and they've both got their plus points and their minuses. At the end of the day I still think, weighing it all up, it's a good thing to have someone else around who you come first with, but I think I'll also be less despondent about being single when I go back to it because I'll appreciate the benefits and the excitement of it that much more.

By the way, don't women fart in relationships too?! 

from The B

7/29/2005 10:13:00 PM  

Hey B! Sorry it has taken me this long to reply.

Congrats on the change of dating status, thank you for sharing your insights, and yes some women fart. But I know there are some who don't. They're kind of anomalies, like those women who don't have any hair on their legs and don't need to shave ever.

9/02/2005 11:58:00 PM  

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