The Royal Wedding and The Matrix of Marriage
This morning, the Anglosphere was in a collective moment of batshit crazy. Tweets, posts, radio and TV - there was a ubiquitous and species-wide insanity taking hold. Over a wedding. The BBC breathlessly tweeted "find someone who looks at you that way Harry looks at Meghan." CBS News helpfully advised brides everywhere with news that Ms. Markle's gown was deigned by Claire Weight Keller of Givenchy. As I drove to and from a youth soccer game, I flipped on the BBC World Service for world-spanning reportage providing details of Royal Wedding celebration-dinners in Australia and on the scene interviews with women waving Jamaican flags in England. On ABC, David Muir and Robin Roberts seemed to have that kind of thrill in their legs with which only Chris Matthews heretofore had been afflicted. Indeed, a sizable plurality of journalists, that crew who keeps Twitter in business (in tandem with POTUS) via their cool-kid, ironic self-referential circle jerking, all dropped their pretenses and found (albeit mawkishly) themselves operating as collective society columnists for a day. Almost to a one, they gushed with love for two beautiful and wealthy people who are having an expensive party with other other beautiful (some of them) and wealthy people (most of them).
Now, I am not down on Harry and Meghan. Not one bit. I don't know them - obviously. My invitation got lost in the mail it seems - but no matter. So, I can't speak to their relationship or anyone's really. I hope for them (like for anyone) all of the best and whatever it is that they want from life and each other. I also know that despite us all being here in 2018 - we can't seem to shake the need for fairytales and love stories and spectacle. Some of that is probably adaptive and good for us. It takes our minds off of a lot of bad stuff like 10 kids getting killed in a Texas school yesterday. Or our past due bills, the laundry, that cracked molar, our own marriages and lives, and the dog poop in the backyard.
I certainly do not want to be the curmudgeon here - but I think we need a corrective. Not just with Harry and Meghan. But with weddings and marriage and divorce generally. Every weekend when I happen by the office downtown (which is not to say I am at the office every weekend - thank god), there are folks getting hitched at Marriage Court. A lot of them are regular Chicagoans - Latino/as, African-Americans, Poles and Russians, Asian-Americans and regular people of every stripe. They have their own kind of fancy dresses (usually not Givenchy). They have some ill-fitting suits for the guys and little kids with flowers (often artificial ones... Ed.-- which is also a great Bobby Darin song btw).
These people are doing their own "royal wedding." And I have a little bit of the same feeling when I see that as I did this morning. We have ridiculously absurd notions surrounding weddings, marriage and divorce. All three words carry so much freight and weight. Centuries of literature, cinema, music, theology, psychology and history. We tend to make all weddings royal regardless of whether we ourselves are royalty. The fact two people decide to engage in a joint-venture in life is itself - just a thing. A big thing but a thing all the same. But we seem to have a unique itch that needs scratching with weddings.
We seem to need to make that event or moment into even more. And in making it even more - we unwittingly make less of what is to follow -- the actual marriage. And even then - in the marriage - those centuries of accumulated culture weigh on us and in our marriages. "Married people don't do...." "Married people must do..." "Good marriages are about...""A marriage will fail if..."
We have articles, books, shows, podcasts, counselors, therapists, coaches, industries -- all designed to tell us the Secret Sauce, give us the Magic Key, illuminate the Hidden Path and unlock the underground vault to The Great Marriage. And yet, so many of our marriages fail. WHY? Despite all of the naval-gazing focus on marriages - a sizable number of them still end. WHY? And moreover, WHY do we care? Because of the kids? Because of religion? Because of our parents and grandparents? WHAT exactly do we mourn when marriages end and why is it that we should at all? These are very interesting questions that deserve more than the customary short shrift they get. I know I don't have the answers for these questions and I'm fairly sure neither do you.
But, I would encourage us all to really think hard about dropping out entirely of the entire matrix of marriage as it exists today. By this, I'm not suggesting that people don't marry. I'm not suggesting people should not have parties - even obscenely over the top ones. What I am suggesting is that the frame within which we place weddings and marriages and divorce into needs a fundamental reconsideration for the complexity of human experience and life-as-lived.
I see a lot of unique relationships and partnering structures. I kind of have a quasi-sort of unique one myself. There are married people who act divorced and divorced people who act married. There are open marriages. Sexless marriages. Marriages of convenience and arranged marriages. There are never married couples who seem totally married. There are singles who have friends that seem like spouses. There are spouses living like singles some/most or all the time. In short - life is rich, multifaceted, messy and complex and confusing.
I think the wedding and marriage norms we all swim around and bathe in from birth make living the life we want to live and having the relationships we really want (instead of the ones we think we should or must) a lot harder. As social beings, we consume and internalize a lot. We see all of this wedding and marriage "stuff" and we come to think we need to or should be operating like that. But we don't. And in thinking this way, we foreclose to ourselves (and to others) the ability to actually have what we truly want as opposed to the appearance of things as they "should" be. We elevate forms over substances and then we suffer from within prisons of our own making - even when comfortable.
We make the style of the start more valuable than the substance of the thing as lived. We make love at first sight, true love, weddings, marriage and a lot of other things (and all good things, in a way, if kept on a leash) - become the tail wagging the dog of our lives.
I have much more to say on this - but for now - let us do this. Raise and glass and cheers to Harry and Meghan. May they truly be happy and have the relationship they each want. May they be a great couple however it is they want to be that. Regardless of the pomp and pageantry. May we all have those relationships - if that is what we want. And if we don't - let us have that too. But make no mistake - let us never confuse substances with styles. Let us not accept that our fairy tales are instruction books. Let us not believe that what we really want and need deep down is the same as what we believe is good for us.
Let us have the courage to define for ourselves what love and life will mean. Let us be able to be ok with being always not ok. Let us engage in the personal life version of #NoLabels. Let's just be. Let us shed the bad things we've carried along for centuries - to the extent we can. And let us preserve the good parts. Let us not be beholden to carriages and costumes, custom and courtesy.
So enjoy your glass for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Just make sure to take your relationship redpilll with it.