Saturday, September 19, 2009

Esposas, Posas

That's an old Spanish saying my grandfather was fond of reciting - usually when my grandmother was safely out of earshot. Then again, he lived a full century, while abuelita took advantage of the "till death do us part" escape clause at 87, so I guess he wasn't the only one chafing at the bit.

Making fun of my dead grandparents aside, I'm often curious and fascinated to learn about what it's like on the other side. No, not that other side - I mean what it's like being married. To someone whose genitals are different from yours.

We often work very late in my field, and while we have been doing this for years, it still amazes me when I overhear the production staff arguing with their wives on the phone over why he's still at the office and what time is he coming home and why,why,why does he have to stay so late. I'm pretty sure this is a conversation repeated ad nauseam all over the world, regardless of whether one is a garbageman or a senator - not that there's a world of difference between the two, except one takes out the trash, while the other generates it.

But I digress.

So during a smoking break in that recent all-nighter we pulled, I asked my PM and my editor this question: "What's the one thing you miss most after you got married?" Their answer was quick and it was the same: "My freedom."

Pressing further, I asked if they meant freedom in the sense that they can't see other people anymore. But then again, marriage vows have never been a reliable deterrent to extra-marital affairs, and men will always be boys. So that wasn't it.

An object in possession seldom retains
the same charm that it had in pursuit.
~Pliny the Younger, Letters

What they lost when they gained a family was the freedom that marks singlehood. The general kind of freedom to do whatever the hell you want, whenever you want, wherever you want, with whomever you want, as many times as you want. They lamented that even a totally innocent, stress-relieving couple of beers with the boys will inevitably become a raging issue with the raving missus. And it doesn't seem to matter whether the spouse is a housewife or a working woman, as their respective wives are. I imagined the stay-at-home missus, weary of being trapped at home living a life of monotonous domestic drudgery, would be the kind more resentful of a husband's relatively more colorful day (and occasional night.) But apparently, keeping tabs on a husband's whereabouts and demanding his soonest return to the coop is as hard-wired into a wife as the daily litany of bitching over the household budget.

Any intelligent woman who reads the marriage contract,
and then goes into it,  deserves all the consequences.
~Isadora Duncan

They shook their heads wondering what became of the sweet, understanding girl they once wooed, and why and how that shrieking harpy they wake up to in the mornings took her place. I wondered if this was a strictly-feminine thing, or whether it went beyond the battle of the sexes and crossed gender and sexual orientation.

That's the funny thing about what's meant to be a lifelong commitment. I don't think the guys understood that the person they made those vows to would not be the same person years down the road. She would become a mother, and her priority would no longer be them but their progeny. They themselves did not anticipate that they would not be the same person, either. From being carefree bachelors, they have chosen to fulfill multiple roles long played by many others before them : hard-working breadwinners, fathers, hen-pecked husbands, besieged son-in-laws. Marriage is certainly a life-changing commitment, but how dramatic - and acceptable - those changes might be is anyone's guess. Hence, the gamble.

When two people are under the influence of the most violent, most insane, most delusive, and most transient of passions, they are required to swear that they will remain in that excited, abnormal, and exhausting condition continuously until death do them part.
~G.B. Shaw, Getting Married, 1908

We, on the other hand, rail on and on about why gay marriages should be allowed, but I've never been too keen on formalizing my relationships before Church, State, and Society. Neither am I eager to seek their benediction. The beauty of a gay commitment, to me, is that it is precisely not legal nor religious ties that bind you. It is not the power of Christ nor the edicts of Caesar that compel you to stay together and stick it out through thick and thin, in sickness and in health. You are bound only by your mutual, conscious, and voluntary decision to choose to stay with someone, tempered with the freedom to walk away any day with no guilt over collateral damage such as innocent offspring. This freedom to stay or go away on a moment's notice is also what makes a gay commitment a double-edged sword of Damocles. It hangs by the merest of threads, the strength of which depends on the commitment of the two individuals involved.

Marriage is a great institution,
but I'm not ready for an institution.
~Mae West

This is in no way an indictment of marriage. It's an enduring institution and by Darwinian law, there is a reason it has survived for millennia. But even the fittest institution is not fit for all. Not all straight men are the marrying kind. Some notoriously fear commitment. Some fear making a big mistake that would be costly and difficult to get out of - if getting out is an option at all. And others fear finding out that, after all's said and done, love may not be enough in itself.

At family reunions, whenever I am asked that inevitable "When are you going to get married?" question, I have found a new stock response: "Bakit ako magpapakasal sa isang taong di ko naman kaanu-ano?"

Marriage means commitment. Of course, so does insanity.
~Author Unknown

All our lovers began as strangers; I wish they would not end as such. When you wake up next to a total stranger and it's not a one-night stand, then you know your relationship is in trouble. And not all of us have the freedom to just walk away. It's hard enough to uncouple from a lover. With a spouse, the knot you have to untie is of Gordian complications.

But lest you think I'm such a jaded old sourpuss, let me just end this ramble with a final, uplifting quote on the ties that bind. It applies to us all - single, married, gay, bi, straight, man, woman, mineral:

Chains do not hold a marriage together.
It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads
which sew people together through the years.
~Simone Signoret

As you sew, so shall you reap.


  1. there are days I think about getting married as well. there's something attractive about waking up beside the one you love everyday for the rest of your life.

  2. @gillboard: I myself have not, at this late date, discounted the possibility of marriage. I've pretty much sown my wild oats but I am presently content with my solitude.

    Marriage sounds like a nice romantic notion, but I have few illusions about how much work must go into it.

  3. your ramble makes a great dissertation. im agreeing with your arguments. it goes to prove how humanly insatiable we tend to be. :)

    missus and baby ash is away for three days already. and while i have been enjoying this short-lived singleblessedness, im struggling not hearing the litany of her whine. i miss her and her badly.

  4. @ash: Hey, you. Know what? When I was composing this entry, I was actually wondering what your reaction would be. Baka kasi ma-misinterpret ng iba na sinisiraan ko ang institusyon ng kasal.

    I'm not surprised that you still miss your wife and kid terribly, even though you have a few days of single-blessedness. The guys I spoke with are the same. Even if they bitch and groan, family means everything to them. The kids, especially.

  5. why would i argue, when that is the reality? haha

  6. " When you wake up next to a total stranger and it's not a one-night stand, then you know your relationship is in trouble. "

    reminds me of this jewel song (around the time she was trying to win back the fans she lost) called 1000 miles away. sometimes i wonder what would happen if gay people were allowed to get married. people grow. people change. it's inevitable. it just sucks when people grow apart.

  7. @ citybuoy : If gay people were allowed to get married, they'd get separated and divorced just like straight people. The divorce rates would probably be different, though.

    Going back to those two straight colleagues who, oddly enough, I am again doing O.T. with as I write this: their complaint was just that they needed some time away from family. Some personal space. Some breathing room from the daily demands of a lifetime commitment. That was all.

    Reminds me of your last statement and a quote from a marriage manual I once read: "Going apart is not bad. Growing apart is very bad."

  8. "If gay people were allowed to get married, they'd get separated and divorced just like straight people. The divorce rates would probably be different, though."

    but since all we can do is hypothesize, it's kinda irritating no?

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  10. @ citybuoy : Ah, but Nyl, some things are self-evident from observation alone. One does not have to throw oneself off a cliff to predict the outcome. :P

  11. true true. eh kung wala pa ngang marriage, marami na naghihiwalay, pano pa kaya kung meron.