Monday, 3 March 2008

Love and marriage...

Did anyone read Hannah betts piece "Is this the beginning of the end for marriage?" in The Observer Magazine last weekend? No? Well nevermind. It really annoyed Kate though and she brought it my attention, hence the following piece which was written more as a writing excercise for myself (I need the practise) than a serious rebuttal - I hope it makes sense if you haven't read the original article.

"Dear Sir/Madam,

Hannah Betts makes an entertaining argument for marriage's lack of relevancy in today's world. She writes well and wittily, punctuating her prose with pop references in a way that is oh so now. But, rather like a promise of love that is never fullfilled, her argument lacks substance. Pathological fear and trite anecdotes of childhood nightmares aside, she lists four key objections to tying the knot: “atheism; feminism; a loathing of state and/or public intervention in matters I deem private; and something more oddball regarding the close-down of narrative possibility.”

Let's take them in turn.

Ms Betts presents an excellent argument against the intrusion of religion into love and the hypocrisy of non-believers making their vows in front of a God they do not believe in, without allowing any consideration for the validity of non-religious ceremonies.

Ditto feminism: as befits the sole male on my MSc course in Feminism, I was incensed to discover that the registrar wanted to know my father's profession in order to grant my betrothed and I a wedding license. What of my mother's profession, or of my partner's parents? Why is it even relevant? But that outmoded requirement on the statute book aside we've stripped our non-religious wedding of all gender bias, written our own vows, are keeping our own surnames and put women at the centre of the ceremony. We have a female celebrant, a best woman and my sister is making the rings (as she did the engagement ring, which most certainly didn't cost 3 months wages). Tradition dictates that weddings – though it spoils her argument that Ms Betts seems determined to equate the wedding with the marriage – are religious and patriarchal, but the law doesn't require it and it certainly makes the occasion no less romantic to design one's own celebration. For it is a celebration, and so what? Why can't a wedding, and a marriage, be both a celebration and a lifelong commitment? The two are not mutually exclusive; rather they are fairly complimentary.

Ms Betts is quite right to assert that the state has no business sticking its nose into the bond between two people, but if two people are so overjoyed with each other's company and the love they share together, then what better way to celebrate and affirm than in a romantic demonstration of love in front of friends and family?

I am trying desperate hard not to sound smug and patronised (though it is hard as I do feel very smug at being engaged to such a truly wonderful woman) but neither my partner or I were much enamoured by the concept of marriage before we met each other; a mere 18 months ago I would have had no quibble with Ms Betts article. Yet after some wild adventures and huge life-changes in a very short space of time we can think of nothing we would rather do than to get married to each other and express our joy in a public demonstration of our love, before heading off for more wild adventures on a 12 month European honeymoon. So maybe it is just a case of finding 'the one'.

Yours faithfully,

Theo Berry"

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