After breaking the news of my change in relationship status to my family I heard a funny story.
I have a younger cousin who lives in the Midwest. He fathered two children shortly after graduating high school, has had unsteady employment, and never went to college. I get the sense that he is not very involved in his children’s lives. I have met my adorable little cousins and the last time I saw them, they were starving for their father’s attention.
My aunts and uncles are concerned about him as well. But instead of asking him when he will attend college, settle on a substantive career path, or be a more attentive father, they keep asking him when he is going to get married. He then proceeded to tell his parents that he would get married when I did. I think he will be shocked to discover that hell has officially frozen over.
Now of course the reasons I never thought that I would marry and the reasons he never thought that I would marry are very different. I never thought I would marry because I never thought I would find a feminist man – a man who is not obsessed with gender roles and wanted a truly equal partnership. In short, I thought I would never find a man I would want to marry. He likely never thought I would marry because no one would ever want to marry me (his cousin who thinks there is more to life than eternal servitude to men).
No matter. I tell this story to illustrate a point. People seem to be wrapped up in this idea that marriage can civilize an uncivilized person. Instead of focusing on the things that, in my opinion, do civilize a person – education, a better job, etc… – they focus on marriage, as though marriage alone will make my cousin a more responsible person and a more involved father. That is crap.
It is not my job to civilize my partner. He is a grown man. He is not a toy manufactured by Mattel (“s0me assembly required”). My family thinks that there is some girl out there who will “assemble” my cousin and transform him into a model citizen. This is a big part of the Marriage Myth.
Memo to the Ignorant Christofascist Marriage Peddlers: Marriage will not civilize an immature 29 year old Man-Boy. And having delusions of grandeur that it will, is only going to ruin the life of one person: The poor soul who marries him.