You know those moments when the generation gap has opened so wide--so absurdly wide it can contain something as large as, for example, the amount of shit Tyler Perry has produced during his miraculous career--that you KNOW there's no point trying to convince your elder to see it your way?
I had one of those yesterday, while riding the N. We get to 42nd and a very pleasant, very affluent looking yenta of 60ish boards with her friend. Their conversation, which continued in raging stereotyple all they way to 5th Ave (surprise surprise), went like this:
"I know it's not PC or whateva, Barb, but I think it's disgusting. [Barbara nods in sympathetic agreement] Behind closed doors, fine. But outside of that--have some shame! Gay marriage will be the last nail in the coffin for marriage. Getting married doesn't mean anything anymore! It’s supposed to be sacred, but its not. Young people, the sluts, gays, MTV, all of it, they're ruining it, they don't respect it. It'll be like Sodom and Gomorrah soon. "
[Note: No cliched dialogue was added to this transcript. Some stereotypes exist for a reason]
Okay, she's right: Traditional marriage is in trouble. (Clearly). But I wanted to start screaming paraphrased sections of a recent dialogue between blogger Wades the Tides and myself:
50% of AMERICAN marriages fail NOT because of "the gays," or MTV (who even WATCHES MTV anymore?), but because our current approach to it is all wrong. "Young people" should not be lumped in with what you see on reality TV--and it's mainly the "middle aged" or "old people" doing the divorcing in the first place.
We have to change our expectations about what a realistic marriage--a partnership by definition--IS. (And PS: Marriage is not the wedding day itself. It's what comes after. And "young people" know what.)
In other cultures, various people form a team to fulfill you, some members covering you emotionally, some sexually, some psychologically, some intimately, some creatively...you get the point.
Now, I'm not saying we should have a team of individuals assigned to each category of neediness. What I am saying is that today, many people (not everyone) expect our mate to be everything: they must be our lover (and the best sex ever), friend (besties!), soul mate (the one God himself crafted from clay for us specifically), muse (who inspires us), the validator who understands the complex souls we are (hey baby, I get you); they must be good with finances, juggling social circles, cleaning, cooking, child rearing and all other household tasks; they must listen to our every gripe and know the right thing to say, challenge us intellectually but never make us feel stupid, never think of doing the nasty with anything but us and never make mistakes beyond forgetting the dry-cleaning.
Women must come home from a 12 hour day at work and cook risotto from scratch in an apron and four inch stilettos while teaching the children SAT words and maintaining a 24-inch-waist. Men must maintain our chosen lifestyle, surprise wives with gifts and gestures and monologues of love stolen from films like Jerry Maguire and 10 Things I Hate About You (but Heath singing on those stadium stairs? Whoo-boy, come to momma...) and keep all the hair they had when we started dating. They must make our friends laugh, our wingmen jealous, our parents proud...
...and do ALL of this (it's a package deal) happily, as if energy and patience were as abundant as bad Tyler Perry movies (I'm sorry, I just HATE him so much). If they violate these items (and these are just a FEW of the things we require), we divorce.
When you heap all that crap on one individual, they're going to disappoint you--because no one is that perfect. THAT PERFECT PERSON DOES NOT EXSIST. You will fight, disagree, make mistakes, hit rough patches. But fewer people are willing to weather the real BULLSHIT. Illness, job loss, career disappointments, epic mistakes...it's all coming. And it's going to suck.
Until we start balancing realism with desire (and peppering desire with realism) we're screwed. And don't even get me started on “traditional,” ball and chain monogamy...that's a post of a different color.
That was a rant and a half. I apologize.
But I believe it's time to propose a new business model for marriage. Like iPods, the 1950s standard must be revamped and clunky features discontinued. Or else Yenta and her Barbara will be right...and no one wearing acrylic bangles and that much tarantula mascara should be allowed to be an authority on human unions.