Ever watched Revolutionary Road?
I have. I watched it on a cold winter’s day, safe in the theatre from the cold outside. I watched it and I wondered if my life would be like that.
I too felt like I was in a couple that was different. We were ready to take over the world, stand up for what we believed in and pursue our dreams. But six months later we were both working the 8 to 5, getting by, being angry at one another, taking all of that petty work stress out on the one we loved the most. We were really angry at the fact that we weren’t different. We had to get by.
Fitting in our imagined ideas of our difference became harder and harder. Slowly we let that dream become weaker and weaker. Slowly things got better. We resolved petty fights and resolved to have less of them. We resolved to love one another. We grew stronger, got along better, the sex got better and better. It seemed like it was all going to work.
I grew up promising never to get married. I didn’t want to. My parents got divorced when I was young and I suppose all I understood of marriage was that it was complicated, it caused a lot of financial stress and paperwork. It didn’t seem like something I wanted. During university I became more committed to this. Marriage was something damaging for women. It held them back. It limited their options. It wouldn’t let me achieve what I wanted. It too would become a noose that trapped me into ‘normal’ middle-class life.
But as our dreams of being different started to become more difficult to negotiate, it began to be something that I wanted. If we were going to be ‘normal’, I wanted to be the best normal that there was. I wanted to get married. I believed that we could make it work. We would be the ones to show how it could last, could be self-affirming, mutually fulfilling. It could be a foundation to build our life together on.
I began to struggle with myself. How could I want something like this when I knew that it did little for women? How could I want something like this when it reinforced all the things I didn’t believe in? This could not be the thing that affirmed me. That would make me the woman that I didn’t want to be.
I realized that it was not only the marriage that I wanted. In fact, I wanted something more than the marriage.
I wanted the sparkle in his eye when he asked me to marry him. I wanted to dream about all the planning and anticipation that he had felt – that warm glowing bubble that was inside him waiting to ask me to stay with him forever. That surprise moment. The excitement. The hopefulness. The commitment that it takes to open your mouth and ask. The sheer power of the belief that it is worth asking. I wasn’t sure I could live without that.
But a proposal takes two people, no?
He said he didn’t believe in it. Marriage meant nothing. It was just something that people did for legal purposes, to reinforce their place in our problematic society. Perhaps it was something that lacked credibility for him because of his parents’ owned failed attempts. We are all broken children, we the generation after the divorcing ages. He was adamant.
The surprise moment will never happen. I should stop waiting for it. I am heartbroken.