On Friday I heard a great thud, one of the many that I have heard recently, of yet another one biting the wedding dust. The number of people I know who are single, and planning to stay in the same slot for a while to come, are rapidly dwindling. I don't have any problems with the ones who have made the progression. More power and all the joy in the world to them, but it is unfair to make us, the ones who still hold out for various reasons, feel like we are some sort of abnormal beings to not want the same or to have the same priorities as others. I would not even drag in my usual "there should be more to life" line here. Even without it, this is just plainly unfair.
But, is the lesser beaten path a real alternative? Can you really exist in this world sans the padded walls of a formally/legally/socially endorsed and certified relationship surrounding you, or are we just deluding ourselves and, like the ones who have made the transition often claim, only biding our time till we sign up for the regular programming? In that wall-less world, there are two possibilities: The first is where you are essentially the lone wolf, living without any long-term commitments, footloose and fancy-free, but always on the edge. The second is the classic live-in set up or even the case where you are married for all practical purposes, but without any of the formal problems associated with an actual knotted situation.
The problem with this logic is that you are naturally assuming that the marriage option is a non-starter or that it is a bad one, which is not really the case. There are other reasons too as to why marriage does not work for some. Speaking for myself, the primary reason is that marriage often brings forth an implicit degree of exclusivity in the relationship. A certain number of feelings (and I am not talking sexual ones here, open marriages are paradises where only fools reside) are not allowed outside of its boundaries as a hard and fast rule, which is based more on mistrust than trust. Additionally, as a person who has major trust issues, there are not many avenues of workarounds available for either problem.
Then there is the issue of validity of the institution of marriage itself. It is tougher these days to stay married than to stay single or attached and unmarried. Almost every couple that I know are having problems (yes, you can justifiably ask who does not have them?) and it harder then to ascertain whether the padded walls actually help in improving the situation or whether they actually end up worsening it. A lot of the problems are swept under the carpet and indiscretions are fine as long as they happen away from the public's view. Everyone admits to problems in hushed tones, but they speak of everything being fine and dandy when they speak in a clear voice. Is there not something wrong about that, or is it just my lone perception that it is just not right?
Why is it not right? Well, for one, an institution like marriage should ideally be built on a lack of pretensions. There should be absolute honesty and clear communication and there should not be the involvement of a gazillion 'experts' on the matter, ranging from relatives to numerous friends, who end up making a mess of even fixable issues. Is marriage not meant to be something very personal -- a celebration of something special between two individuals, than a reflection of the collective will of a group of individuals? In this age and time it should not be too hard to block out the unwanted elements from a relationship. If you can make something that involves factors as tough as the collective will of many work, why is it impossible to make something much simpler work outside the confines of the same padded walls?
Of course, you can rightly accuse me of highlighting only the problems in marriages than the positives, but the same works in the opposite direction too. But somehow the thought of involving hundreds of people in something that is extremely personal disgusts me. Why would I want to have random people commenting on and criticising the handful of people I love and care about, after having spent copious amounts of money and effort into putting up a grand 'celebration'? There is so much more you can do with that money. If you feel charitable, give it away or set up a trust fund. If you want to enjoy it, go on a cruise somewhere or invest it in your own future. But for heaven's sake can't we do this differently?