It’s fairly safe to say that I’ve gone on record before as having about as much desire to produce offspring as I have desire to be used as Satan’s colostomy bag, it just aint going to happen. What also tends to cause that non-comprehending head cock in others, is when I inform well-meaning acquaintances that I am also rather disinclined to get hitched. Not that I have anything particularly against marriage, I just don’t feel the urge to parade down an aisle dressed like a scrunched up ball of loo roll and pay a year’s salary for 200 hundred of my nearest-and-vaguely-dearest to enjoy a free chicken dinner.
This little revelation has caused the well-meaning fans-of-the-free-chicken-dinner to emit horrified gasps, and when they’ve finished performing dramatic intakes of air and foppish swoons, they all trot out one predictable question – “Aren’t you afraid of ending up alone?”. The answer I give them is a heart-felt no. A wedding ring is no more guarantee against loneliness than a marshmallow is.
It seems to me that the majority of people out there spend most of their lives in the pursuit of a wedding ring, in the mistaken belief that this will guarantee them lifelong happiness, companionship and loyalty. This results in a booming wedding industry and an almost bigger divorce one, as couples up and down the land throw themselves hastily into a legally binding (expensive) illusion of coupliness, and for what? All so they don’t have to worry about being lonely as they sit throwing another cat on the fire and chewing Werther’s Originals with each other’s false teeth, on a cold dark evening in their winter years. Well, I have to break it to you people, that little band of gold holds no mystical powers and guarantees you not one thing.
I hate to be the harbinger of doom (actually I don’t, it’s one of my favourite party pieces) but you’re going to die. There are but two things in life that we can rely on – one is that you are born and the other is that at some point you will pop your clogs and turn into a meaty maggot farm. I don’t think I spoiled the ending for anyone, did I? Well, tough, there it is. And here’s another spoiler for you; your husband/wife is also going to die.
Now, there are many of you out there, picturing yourself as a doddery old dear, smelling of walking sticks and charity shops, standing at the grave of your doddery other half, just about remembering their name, content in the knowledge that it’s merely a matter of minutes until you fall off your respective perch and join them in the ever after. Ahh, bless. Another spoiler alert; people die young. Wedding rings, no matter how expensive or how pretty, do not give you both eternal life and nor do they synchronise your time of departure from this coil-so-mortal.
There are people who have argued with me that having children is their way to avoid the dreaded old age lonelies. Well, that only works if you’re one of The Fritzls. There are retirement homes the world over, stuffed full of curmudgeonly codgers who have been abandoned like incontinent dogs at the roadside, by the very children they spawned to care for them in their dribbling years. At least in retirement homes they can dribble in the company of other parental flotsam – just think of the years you might end up spending at home, with nothing for company but the cats you didn’t throw on the fire last winter, because your kids hate you. Probably because you throw cats on fires. There’s no guarantee that just because you genetically spawned something, you will like it in 30-40 years’ time, or that it will want to visit you when you smell of wee, produce fluff covered mints from every pocket/furniture item and prefix everyone’s name with a systematic run through of all family members, including the hamster; “Margaret -Barbara-Jane-Lucy-Carol-Mr Fluff-Richard, that’s it, Richard! Have a mint Richard”.
It could be argued that marriage is just the first step in divorce proceedings. That’s terribly cynical of me but hey, I’m the product of what is lovingly referred to in the British media as “a broken home”, so I’m allowed to be. Regardless of my parents’ marital status, it can’t be ignored that saying “I do” doesn’t mean that further down the line, you won’t be saying “I really don’t”, that just because you signed upon the dotted line and cut a big cake, your “till death do us part” won’t turn out to be a “till death, the philandering wife-stealer from down the road or a mid-life crisis do us part”. Let’s face it, marriage, in this day and age, is pretty much just a promise to have a whacking great party and share household bills for as long as you can stand the sight of each other.
There are those of you who are deeply happy in your choice of spouse and I’m very glad to know it, but your commitment, dedication and on-going love for each other have absolutely nothing to do with the piece of paper on which you both scribbled in front of the vicar and even less to do with little round bits of finger jewellery. At any point since you tied your imaginary knot, one or both of you could have gone out for a pint of milk and never returned (unless you’re vegan, in which case, a pint of celery) but you didn’t, you chose to be together and you choose it still. Every day that you wake up and do what you can to make your relationship work, you’re saying “I do” all over again and you don’t need a ring or a big white dress for that, you need only the continuing desire to be together and a huge amount of compatibility, or wine. Your choice.
So, while I think it’s great if you find someone you want to spend the rest of your/their life choosing not to go out and buy milk every day with, I don’t think I want to put all my eggs in that one proverbial basket (again, unless you’re vegan in which case it’s a proverbial basket of tofu) and take the risk that I may or may not find someone who may or may not love me forever and who may or may not die before me (most likely before me – I’m going to live for a reeeally long time as my internal organs have been painstakingly preserved in alcohol). Instead, I have found a much safer plan, one that involves no wedding rings and that guarantees me a number of people who will choose to be there for me when I’m old enough to enjoy queuing at the Post Office, who will still love me when I fart in public without knowing it (ok, that one’s pretty much current) and who will help me retrieve my dentures after I attempt to wolf-whistle inappropriately at the 20-something bus conductor. These people? Not husbands, not wives, not children – friends.