Wednesday, October 19, 2011

on love and independence.

From Shel Silverstein's "The Missing Piece Meets the Big O."
"I wouldn't want to raise kids in the city," a friend and I agreed on the metro the other day. But, then again, I don't think I'd want to raise them in the suburbs either. At least, not right now, when family living comes at such a price. Though I suppose if I were to imagine life with a husband, white picket fence, granite countertops and a minivan in the driveway for those 2.5 kids and that dog, I would see it in the suburbs--not somewhere like downtown D.C. In the mornings, whenever I ride the metro and see exhausted mothers in business attire accompanied by a crying, screaming baby, I can't help but think that postponing family life for another decade is a wise decision for my generation.

Not that I have wedding envy or baby envy or anything like that. You all know me--I'm a commitment-phobe with a penchant for over-caring. When this point of discussion comes up, as it has surprisingly often lately, I'm firm in my stance: I don't want to get married anytime soon. My parents were incredibly young when they got married, and it isn't that I'm avoiding it because of them, but because I haven't found myself in a position in which independence and a commitment to another person have existed in harmony--at least, not enough to the point where I feel comfortable with it being legally binding.

A recent article by Kate Bolick in the latest issue of The Atlantic takes a look at this perspective and raises an interesting question: "Now that we can pursue our own status and security, and are therefore liberated from needing men the way we once did, we are free to like them more, or at least more idiosyncratically, which is how love ought to be, isn’t it?"

True--we should be marrying for love, not necessity. Not because we want to have children or we're attracted to the security and stability they can provide. Additionally, the institution of marriage is (or, at least, should be) changing as well. But that's a tangent for another time.

Bolick's article is incredibly in-depth and fascinating on many levels (and you should read it, even though it's really long and might not apply to you): from examining cultural and social trends to personal anecdotes, she captures the importance of independence. The point: you shouldn't feel the need to get married.
We are far more than whom we are (or aren’t) married to: we are also friends, grandparents, colleagues, cousins, and so on. To ignore the depth and complexities of these networks is to limit the full range of our emotional experiences.  
Personally, I’ve been wondering if we might be witnessing the rise of the aunt, based on the simple fact that my brother’s two small daughters have brought me emotional rewards I never could have anticipated. I have always been very close with my family, but welcoming my nieces into the world has reminded me anew of what a gift it is to care deeply, even helplessly, about another. There are many ways to know love in this world.  
This is not to question romantic love itself. Rather, we could stand to examine the ways in which we think about love; and the changing face of marriage is giving us a chance to do this. “Love comes from the motor of the mind, the wanting part that craves that piece of chocolate, or a work promotion,” Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist and perhaps this country’s leading scholar of love, told me. That we want is enduring; what we want changes as culture does.
There is no clock ticking, telling you your time to connect with others is ending. Don't break your back putting in overtime in relationships that don't contribute to your personal growth because you feel the need to prove something to yourself and to others about the kind of person you want to be perceived as.

A late night conversation with a friend once led her to ask me what I thought the key to successful relationships were. "Being happy single," I answered. Which sounds like it defeats the purpose of integrating your life with someone else's, but I still believe that's true: in order to make a relationship work, you should be content with yourself as a whole person. After all: "You cannot roll with me, but perhaps you can roll by yourself."

Perhaps, indeed.

1 comment:

  1. Great article and great post. People who spend their lives searching for someone to marry will end up not living for themselves. And although i love Matt, we both tell people that marriage is overrated! :)