This post is inspired by a good talk that happened a couple of weeks ago between me and a couple of good friends on a good Saturday afternoon. Said people might have seen this one coming. In retrospect, it was truly an interesting conversation, that I decided to write an extended version of my opinion on the topic that was being discussed at the time.
It was a low-key kind of hangout among friends who were just trying to catch up. We met, we talked, and somehow, somewhere along the way we talked about marriage. And I’m not talking about the usual “when are you gonna get married” kind of talk, but more about the fundamental question that people rarely asked, and that was “why people marry?”. (Yes, my people actually talk about deep shit when we meet, because a wise woman once said, “ain’t nobody got time fo’ small talk.”)
Obviously, within the group, each person had a different opinion, all of which was equally interesting. But I can’t speak for them. Therefore, in this post what you’ll get is an extended version of my perspective on the subject. Bear in mind that I am not saying that I have the answer to the question. What I am writing is my personal standpoint on marriage based on my idiosyncratic observations.
Let us begin by ensuring that both the readers and I are on the same page regarding marriage, and use an anthropological definition of it:
“marriage is a culturally sanctioned union between two or more people that establishes certain rights and obligations between the people, between them and their children, and between them and their in-laws.”
The definition mentioned above, is the answer to the question: what is marriage?. I believe that we should not have a problem on agreeing upon this definition. Unlike the questions of who (to marry), when (should people marry), where (can people marry), and how (to marry), I think we all can agree that the answers to these questions are highly dependent on each person’s circumstances. These quotidian questions are, of course, more frequently asked by people, as opposed to the one most important question of all, that I think everybody should pose introspectively.
The big question is why people marry. And please note, if your immediate answers are things such as “because I want to reproduce” or “because I don’t want to be alone for the rest of my life” or “I need a partner in life”, you are just giving answers to an entirely different question, because these are answers to the question for “what purpose does marriage serve?”. You know, there is a big distinction between the question of “why does the sun exist?” and “what purpose does the sun serve?”. The former is a question of what brings the sun to its existence, and the latter is about identifying what benefits it gives. Of course these questions looks similar, but in hindsight they are not.
Please, stop right here if you think I am going to give the answer by the end of this writing, because again, I am not. I, too, do not know the true answer to why people marry. This is a question for anthropologists or philosophers to answer, and I am neither. But if you decide to proceed, do so under your discretion.
What I know is that marriage is not an innate thing. What I mean by innate is that, the idea of marriage is not something that comes inherent in Homo sapiens. Marriage is a social construct created by people*. Mating, reproducing, surviving–these are natural things. These things are mechanisms driven by natural human instinct that we have since we are born. Marriage? Not so much. It is constructed by the society because it serves a certain purpose to the people partaking in this institution.
The purpose used to be that marriage was done for political and economic reasons (i.e. territorial expansion, unification of kingdoms, trade, etc.), in which women, more often than not, became the sacrificed objects at the expense of said political/economic gain.
Time has passed since then, and norms have been adjusted. Today, people marry for love. How awesome.
I am more than grateful that the norm has shifted, and I get to be born in an era where marriage can be a personal choice. And I want to be clear, first and foremost, I am not against marriage.
In fact, I do think that two people making a fuss out of their commitment to love and to cherish for better for worse ’til death do us part is something really profound and beautiful and hopeful. It’s a beacon of light in an otherwise morose world. And I hope that I will be able to experience such feeling someday. But I do not think that marriage is something that every individual must do in life to be complete.
This is where my Uberpool analogy comes in**. If you are not familiar with Uberpool, it is one of Uber’s services that lets you share a ride with other people who are going or passing in the same direction as you are. Basically, you punch in your pick-up and drop-off locations, and the algorithm will do the work and find other people to share your ride with. I have been using Uberpool like a maniac because it’s convenient and cheap, so I have experienced a couple of different scenarios when riding it.
There are times when I am the first passenger and other people hop on along the way and they hop off first, leaving me alone for the rest of the trip. There are times when I am the first passenger and I am the one that hop off first, leaving the other passenger probably alone for the rest of their trip. There are times when I am the second passenger, meaning that when I hop on, somebody’s already inside. On longer trips, sometimes I would get more than one other passengers, hopping on and off at different places. And there are times, when I am just by myself, most probably because nobody around my pick-up area is heading towards the same direction as I am.
In one of my Uberpool trips, I had an epiphany about how life is just like an Uberpool ride. I had been keeping it to myself, because why would I think about sharing a silly analogy with other people? Lo and behold, the universe has a funny way of unearthing personal anecdote when it’s needed. Anyway.
In life, we cross path with so many people. There are people who are with you from the beginning, there are people who come in halfway in your life. There are people who last and outlive you, and there are people who leave you. Sometimes, life can make you feel like you are on your own, and there are no other people at all.
Most of the time, the people that we cross path with affected our life significantly, sometimes it’s a good thing, other times, not so much. A lot of the times, we are troubled by the negativity that people bring to our life (just like sometimes I would get a bad Uberpool match and it’d ruined my day). However, if we look at the bigger picture, it does not really matter.
Because the most important thing is that you get to the destination that you pick for yourself in life. That destination varies from person to person. Now that we live in the twenty-first century, I think we should embrace the freedom to choose what is best for us, and by ‘choose’ I mean make informed decisions. It is perfectly fine if some people’s ultimate life’s destination is marriage. What I think is unfortunate is that a lot of people make this decision either with obscured judgement or without having adequate information/knowledge. Consequently, the good intention embedded in the decision results in an unpleasant ramification that people have to deal with, whether they like it or not.
I have my own life’s destination, it is something that drives me, something that keeps me going, something that is a story for another time.
Personally, marriage is like one of the boxes that I would love to tick off along the way of me reaching my destination, IF, and only IF (please take note of this bolded, underlined, and italicized word), I am lucky enough to find the one that is going in the same direction as me, whom I will love and cherish for better for worse ’til death do us part. If not, then I am sure I will be sufficient enough with just myself, as long as I am dropped off in my destination of choice.
*Another interesting subject that should be reserved for another post. For the time being, let me provide a definition for social construct: “a social construct is an idea or notion that appears to be natural and obvious to people who accept it but may or may not represent reality, so it remains largely an invention or artifice of a given society.” (“Social Constructionism Facts, Information, Pictures | Encyclopedia.Com Articles About Social Constructionism”)
**I am not in anyway trying to promote Uber’s service, in this paragraph I’m just trying to explain how the service works, so that I can set an analogous description later on.