Thursday, October 29, 2009

Lucy Sullivan Is Getting Married

Recently, I picked up an unrepentant chick-lit book called Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married. The basic premise is that a woman, Lucy, who isn't even dating anyone goes with her friends to a psychic who tells her she'll be married in a year. Her friends' fortunes come true, so Lucy starts believing that hers might as well. (Yes, it's silly.) I'm finding, that like "Cougartown", what I expect to be offensive about something is often not at all the thing that ends up offending me. While I expected to be offended about byzantine ideas of sex and romance, what bothered me more was that the vast majority of characters were gross stereotypes of every kind possible. However, I'm not done with the book (it's absurdly long), so there might be byzantine ideas of sex and romance still to come.

At any rate, I'm glad that no man will ever read this book, because between its pink covers is a manifestation of what I am told men fear most about women: That we view every man we meet as a potential husband. True, it's germane to the particular plot of this book. And true, it can't be said that all women do this, and I would wager that the number is lower among asexual women. However, this is one stereotype that I won't argue with...much. I still remember when I told a friend about a huge crush I had on a certain guy years ago. It hadn't even been established whether he reciprocated my feelings or not, but my friend said, "I've met his parents and they'd be great in-laws". Maybe we haven't taken it to that degree, but I think most women have had similar marriage-minded thoughts about men they barely know at some point or another. Following is my attempt at an explanation.

Like so many other strange things that women do, I think this phenomenon can largely be attributed to the double-standard that women are subjected to; the most well-known one being "He's a stud, she's a slut" for being promiscuous. As people, we're told to be goal-oriented. Go for what you want! Visualize success! But when we get off work and commence the romance mission, we're suddenly supposed to go with the flow. Take it as it comes! Don't scare the guys away! True, there are many books marketed to us that advise women to see finding a husband similarly to the way a detective stakes out a house. However, I would argue that this tactic might indeed scare the guys away and defeat your purpose.

From an early age, we've grown up with girls tittering about how their names would look attached to some boy's. Maybe for a few of us, this was a genuine interest. However, I believe that since this interest was a more socially condoned one than, say, science (and noooo, I don't have personal experience with this at allllll), the practice spread to most of us. And gossiping about your glorious future with boys can make science look like a lonely life compared to all the fun the other girls seem to be having, with their bonding, giggling and trying at being "mature". So maybe that's part of it-- a method of female bonding through peer pressure, where it hardly seems to matter what particular boys or men are involved.

I think these premature thoughts about marriage might also be a holdover from an earlier time, which does imply that we might not be doing it forever, unless our old motives have simply been replaced by new ones. I know that in Jane Austen books, women were supposed to be enthusiastic about unions with men they hardly knew. It's a relatively new thing, being able to spend a lot of time with a man who isn't a relation and who you might not end up marrying. But we have yet to start acting like times have really changed. How's that for a byzantine idea? No offense to anyone from Byzantium.


Anonymous said...

I lived in India for a while when I was doing grad work, and the attitude toward marriage there was totally different from the Western attitude.

It is perfectly acceptable for men to discuss how big a dowry they got to marry their wives. It's considered a wise decision to marry a girl for her (parents') money. It's looked down on when couples marry for love.

The owner of the guest house where I was staying once told me that a girl in her caste hung herself to get out of marrying the boy her parents had picked out for her. She was contemptuous of the girl's actions because it brought shame to the girl's family. All I could think of was that the boy must have been some righteously hairy old loser for someone to decide she'd rather die than marry him.

The wedding went on as planned because the groom's parents had a "back-up" girl picked out beforehand. So maybe they also had an inkling that their son was a righteous loser. If I'd said that to the owner of the guest house, I think she would have slapped me. I just thanked my lucky stars that I'm a citizen of a country and belong to a religion that allows women not to marry if they don't want to.

I've had recurring nightmares where I was being forced to marry someone (a nameless, faceless guy) and I was desperately thinking how I could get out of it. I've never fantasized about *wanting* to marry anyone. I'm too conscious of how much I have to lose by consenting to be legally bound to someone.


SlightlyMetaphysical said...

I'm not sure how much that stereotype holds. I know I, as a boy, tend to have premature thoughts about marriage. Not neccesarily mine, because I've never been in a relationship.

I think it's actually to do with my asexuality, and the fact that I've always thought I'd only have one 'true' love, that I tend to think of any relationship of being something that is automatically going to lead to a marriage unless it goes wrong before then.
So it could actually be more common amongst asexuals, if a lot of us have the same strange, uncynical outsider views on romance as me.

Ily said...

True story: I had a dream once where I was forced to marry Russel Crowe, an actor who I don't have strong feelings about one way or the other. It was incredibly random.

You make a good point, SM. Just because women do it, doesn't mean men don't. And I agree about the asexual thing. Because there are so few asexuals, I think we're a lot more likely to get serious about our romantic relationships (if they seem to be working). I don't think there are very many asexuals playing the field. I think it would be great fun to do so, but there have been so few people I've actually wanted to date that it wouldn't be possible.

Fellmama said...

I've always considered potential romantic partners in the context of their long-term suitability. That doesn't mean I wouldn't go out with someone who didn't meet some checklist; more that I'm realistic about what I want in relationships. I don't do casual sex, or even casual dating, really, so if I'm going to date someone, I have to think about whether it's going to be for awhile.

And there are certain things that it's much easier to know about ahead of time. For example, I want to have children, so seriously dating someone who didn't would be counterproductive. (Of course, I've done this very thing, so this is obviously thinking in hypotheticals rather than real world.)

I guess, I don't see evaluating people you meet as potential partners as a bad thing, assuming you don't let it get too crazy-making.

Ily said...

I don't think it's a bad thing, either, just a thing :-) Actually, my ability to go into the future of a relationship that consisted of one date was one of the things that got me thinking that maybe I was asexual. (Which was, obviously, good to know.)