I mean, listen — I wish I cared. In fact, just before I wrote this I was browsing YouTube and I stumbled on Sara Bareilles’ music video for “I Choose You” where she spontaneously shows up and sings for two couples getting engaged.
It was super cute, and I even had some feels.
I think expressions of love for other people is amazing, and I love creative engagement ceremonies for that reason — love is great, creativity is great. Marriage sucks.
But before I rant about marriage again, let’s just look closely at the engagement celebration. Are we actually happy for people when they get engaged? The obvious answer is “yes, because I feel happy for them” but is that just social programming? Are all of us so desperate to get married that we project our desires onto other couples?
It’s the same with divorce. We pity people who get divorced, but that’s because we’re either following a habit, or projecting our own worries about being divorced on to them. We never stop to think whether pity would be an appropriate response, given that person’s circumstances.
Culture says “divorce = bad”, “engaged = good” so we just follow along, but anyone who’s lived a few years on this planet knows that often a divorce brings with it a lot more happiness than an engagement.
Wait a minute — I’m getting a message from future readers of this who are annoyed and want to make a comment. Let’s see what they have to say.
“What’s the problem with people celebrating marriage if they want to?”
“Why do you have to question everything?”
“Can’t you just let this go?”
In case you were wondering, I’ve gotten my share of eye rolls in my life. It started back in grade school when I wouldn’t let something go if I thought it needed further investigation. I would go back and forth with the teacher (who was often happy to have a more nuanced discussion) while other students would look over and groan.
Now here I am questioning “The Institution of Marriage” and making people think about their life and their relationships. What a dick move!
So here’s a quick message for anyone who doesn’t want to think about this — go away, this blog isn’t for you. There’s nothing wrong with accepting things just the way they are. You’ll be fine.
This blog is for the people who got eye rolls in school, because now that we’re adults there’s even more to question, and it’s become clear to us that reading the script of life is a great way to survive, but a terrible way to be happy.
Stop Making Stupid People Famous
Here’s the funny thing about stupid celebrities (and presidents). We made them famous. We choose to pay them with our attention and reward their actions. That’s why that Banksy quote “stop making stupid people famous” is so poignant. It’s true.
The same can be said for our aspirations. Whatever we celebrate will then become valued by society, so it’s worth considering where we put our attention.
Just recently a friend of mine broke up with his girlfriend of several years. They were a respected couple in our community and everyone was surprised to hear the news. Shortly after I saw him at a party and pulled him aside. I asked him how he’s doing after the break up and he said it was hard, but he’s doing okay. Then I said to him this:
Congratulations on a successful relationship, and congratulations on having the courage to make the hard decisions.
I decided that in my small little way, I’d like to use my voice and my attention to incentivize something different than the standard narrative. I wanted him to know that in my eyes, what he did was worthy of praise, not pity.
I think we can all do this. Instead of automatically clicking the “like” button on that engagement photo just because it’s easy, we can go out of our way to reward the things that actually match up with our values.
I’m not asking for us to all reject marriage, I’m just asking us to stop for a minute and think about what actually matters to us, and have the courage to respond honestly.