In the summer of 2002, I worked in an office with women who were about ten years older than me and all of them were getting married. We spent June, July and August rattling on about their dresses, their up-dos, their bouquets…and I was hooked. I have been on theknot.com since that fateful summer day, and now that I’m actually engaged I’m hesitant to add Carlos’ name to my profile because “Welcome Alicia and _______” has stared back at me for so many years.
I get why weddings are exciting. You get to go crazy pinning things on Pinterest, you get a free pass for whatever stupid, immature things you do at your bachelorette party, and it’s the only time it’s socially acceptable to literally tell people what gifts you want. I love a good wedding. Marriage, however, is a little murkier.
It’s an institution shaped for a time in which we needed an agreed upon arrangement to manage our land and our goats and our reproduction, and to find safety in numbers. If you’ve ever watched Game of Thrones then you understand all of this. But in today’s society, those reasons don’t hold up, and for women there are plenty of statistics that should make us run the other way.
While men win big for marriage: married men live longer and accumulate more wealth than single men, and report being happier than single men, quite the reverse is true for women. In fact, married women are more likely than single women to suffer from depression, and more than 10% of women have experienced a forced sexual encounter with their husband.
Yet no matter how outdated marriage is (I don’t have any goats or direwolves to protect me from the Lannisters), it’s still a socially agreed upon sign of commitment, which is silly because my boyfriend, who I intend to marry (fiancé sounds very French), and I are committed to each other, and have been for four years. We’ve lived together, signed various leases, almost adopted a dog on at least three occasions, attacked the mold in the closet, and developed a shared sense of purpose and commitment while still remaining very much two individuals. I’ve trimmed his ear hair; he’s watched so many episodes of Say Yes to the Dress that he can name all the consultants at Kleinfeld’s. If that’s not commitment…I don’t know what is.
But growing up during the struggle for marriage equality I, like many members of our generation, have been forced to realize what an immense privilege a legally recognized marriage really is. Listen to the stories of gay couples who’ve been committed to each other for several decades but still cannot visit each other on their death beds, and you begin to understand why that paper means something.
It means tax benefits, medical benefits and estate planning benefits, and government benefits, like receiving veteran and military, social security, Medicare, and disability benefits should something happen to the person you love. It means protections for the things we never think about at the beginning, like having the right and the dignity to make final arrangements when you lose the person you love.
The seriousness of marriage, the legality of the contract, the weightiness of “’til death do us part” makes us understand why the distraction of tulips and tulle is so, so, appealing.