I’ve always thought it terribly pretentious to gather all your loved ones in one place in order to say: the two of us, right here right now and in spite of the overwhelming statistics, declare that we, temporarily bonded by the illusion of eternity, we are FOREVER. And we’ve asked you to spend time and money to be here today because we — We — we shall elude whatever it is that dissolves other loves. Aged twenty-three, we are certain of this and want to share our conviction with you. We’re neither convinced nor frightened that the vast majority have stumbled before the implausibility of this oath. Our love will endure because our love is special. Our love is not like other people’s. Our marriage will survive.
But at nearly every wedding reception, more or less all of them drunken affairs, guests flood the dance floor to shout, doing their best to drown out Gloria Gaynor, that they have survived the death of their own illusions. I’ve seen them, women of a certain age clutching their imaginary microphones and awarding themselves a sense of invincibility as they belt out the only lyrics everyone remembers from the song: I will survive, hey, hey! Yes, they survived, despite their divorce. Heh, heh.
All in all, there’s really only one problem with marriage, and that’s the exchange of vows. You can’t take them seriously, these promises to love from this day forward, in sickness and in health, until death do you part. For the sake of being honest with future generations who insist on getting married, I propose we rewrite the script to give it more of a twenty-first-century, less fairy-tale feel: “I solemnly swear to love you, blah blah blah, until I stop loving you. Or until I fall for someone else.” Because there’s no denying it: the steamroller of everyday life is bound to quash even the strongest, most ardent passion.
Sure, everyone knows couples who have been together sixty years through thick and thin, perfect metaphors that for centuries have magnified the distress of spouses held captive by their promises. More children are born with a sixth finger or toe than there are couples who have truly spent a lifetime happy with each other. And yet while having an extra digit is deemed an “exceptional anomaly” by science, marriage remains a bedrock of society. When’s the next Sixth Finger Expo?
Me, all I ever wanted was to live with the man of my dreams and have his babies. We would raise them and cherish them, supporting each other as best we could, for as long as we could. I’d have loved my little bastard children so much. And my husband too, even if he’d just stayed my boyfriend. Perhaps I’d have loved them even more, free of the girdle of marriage that prevented me from realizing our love had crumbled from within.
I married because my in-laws thought my love was too simple. Before that, I’d never thought of simplicity as a flaw. They’ll have their fill of complexity now. Divorces are never lacking in that department.
I spent years building myself back up after he announced, “I’m leaving, I’m in love with someone else.” It wasn’t me he killed with those murderous words, but all the notions of myself I’d constructed through his eyes, through the sacred union that completed and defined me. A union to which I’d surrendered myself entirely, seeing as we’d sealed it with holy vows and blessed rings.
When he told me he could no longer keep his promise, I came undone. With just a few words, I lost my bearings. And during that dizzying descent into hell, everything I grabbed for purchase slipped from my fingers.
You might think I resented him for no longer loving me, but you’d be wrong. We can’t control our feelings — everyone knows that. And that’s a good thing. We might be blinded by anger momentarily, but we all come to terms with it at some point. That was something even I could understand, looking beyond the complete devastation I was enduring. And, besides, how could I have forced him to keep on loving me? Wouldn’t he have preferred to still be in love with me? Everyone’s lives would have been easier, starting with his own. He wouldn’t have needed to explain, apologize, justify, and defend himself to so many people and for such a long time before wishing for a return to peace. To be honest, I never envied him once.
I wanted him to pay for all the marks that time, unforgiving, had left on my body. Though I can’t blame him, I’m still bitter that the years did him nothing but favours given today’s tastes in men. Male movie stars are even more attractive in their fifties, but you’d nervously piss your pants if you saw Monica Bellucci play a Bond girl. It was for this dirty injustice that I hated my husband, him and his little bimbo, him and the power he had to start over at an age when my reproductive organs were announcing their retirement. Soon I had so much bile in me that I started to hate myself, body and soul. If Jacques had needed a few more reasons to decamp, I could have provided them by the dozen.
Whatever. Like all those other women, I survived.