Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Grow old(er) with me

Ah, middle-aged love. That's me and my boyfriend, who can't even pretend to be in the first flush of life. My birthday is coming up in one week and I'll be 41. We moved in together this past spring and co-workers have asked me if we'll be getting married. Is that question only strange to me? I thought most couples either got married OR moved in together. We've moved in. I've also heard that couples who move in together might be great for years, but if they get married later the relationship goes to hell and they end up divorcing. I've witnessed this. It's like their relationship stablizes and thrives when they live together, but then getting married changes the dynamic and -- I don't know -- fear takes over? The horror of staring "til death do us part" in the face?

I'm ambivalent about marriage, by which I mean that I feel pretty strongly in both directions. I feel strongly that marriage would be a noble goal for me since it would mean I am lovable, normal, mature, a full adult. I want to be all those things. At the age of 41, I'd love to be able to say, "I am an adult." I can't do that while I'm still referring to "my boyfriend" instead of "my husband." The two of us are certainly OLD enough to be husband and wife. Why don't we get on with it?

I also feel strongly that marriage is a cultural construct, used to organize societies and establish paternity, inheritance, familial ties, political alliances, etc. It's a legal arrangement that may or may not be useful to me personally. I'd be eligible for my man's health insurance coverage, but I'd also take on his debt. Practically speaking, I'd do well to consider all the legal and emotional consequences of becoming a "Mrs."

I also feel strongly about the title "spinster." I like being a spinster. I like startling people with it, since I think of it as a positive (or at least neutral) term. Why not spinsterhood? Let's all (women) remain single for as long as possible until we are reasonably sure marriage will bring us more benefits than problems. Let us all view the altar with skepticism and clear eyes. Falling in love is an emotional experience over which we have little control. Getting married is a legal state we should consider with level-headedness. Oh, that more people did.

Although being countercultural appeals to me, unfortunately the myth of marriage - that it leads to happily ever after, establishes your adulthood and is a goal worthy of all your time and effort -- has worked on me, too. I fear I remain stunted and arrested in my life progress as long as I wear no wedding ring. No wedding ring?! Also, one of the main reasons people get married, to have children, doesn't apply since neither my boyfriend nor I wants kids.

Are my (44-year-old) boyfriend and (41-year-old) I going to get married? My question back is, how long should we live together before we decide?

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