There must be something about turning 25 years of age... just about everyone you can think of starts asking you questions structured directly or indirectly to elicit information on your plans for marriage, or as I prefer to call it, Marriage...
As I walk in the penumbra of my 26th birthday, I find myself inevitably drawn into conversations, where I am required to answer questions ranging subtle queries that skirt the topic quite guardedly, to pointed inquisitions that throw discretion to the wind! When all that has to be said has been said I am left with just a few basic questions - When will it be? Who will it be with? IS there Anyone? Why not? How long will you wait? Don't you think it's time you started thinking seriously about this?
If you're thinking this is going to be a rant against marriage and all the people who are thinking about getting me married someday, don't worry, this is certainly not going in that direction. I'm the last person to denounce the institution and I accept the interest and concern shown by people who care about me, when they quiz, cajole or tease me with respect to the 'M'-Word, as I've grown to call it.
What I want to talk about is what I think a Marriage should be, and why I want to wait for as long as it takes before I find someone who shares this vision and my desire to manifest it. A perfect example of what I think about came, as it usually does, quite unexpectedly, just a week ago as a colleague was driving me around a suburb in Concord, San Fransisco. As she proved to be a delightfully engaging conversationalist and a very attentive listener, we ended up discussing a wide range of topics, which meandered over to how she and her now husband committed their lives to each other.
Her husband is an uncommonly gifted man, combining cutting edge software development skills with a natural talent for music (he has a knack for just picking up an instrument and being able to figure out how to make music with it... and not in the usual amateurish way) and several other skills. While they both fell in love at the proverbial "first sight" and spent several years in happy courtship, it was difficult for him to envision how married life would reorder his life... would he be able to pursue his various interests and continue to grow in all those directions... or would married life lead to a series of compromises, restrictions and limits to his freedom and personal development?
As she described the situation, I found myself empathising completely. The same thoughts have crossed my mind on many times, and on occasion, I've expressed them to find that many people, unwed as well as married, understand my speculations and say as much... However, my colleague told me something different. Referring to her own case, she recalled answering her husband's hesitations by saying something like - Honey, my commitment to this marriage is that you should have even more freedom to grow than you had before...
A minute rolled slowly by as I gazed out of the car window, slowly assimilating what she had just said, even as she went on explaining more... without knowing it, she had shown me what transforms a regular marriage into a Marriage... not just a given in the social life of humans, but a pledge to help each other achieve individuation... to reach their full potential as unique people and to go beyond even that.
I've often heard people express a fear of losing precious pieces of their personalities or Selves in a marriage, and I've heard married people confess that it does happen, both unwillingly and also as the result of willing sacrifices for the sake of creating and maintaining a family and preserving their togetherness. I must confess, it is the same apprehension that often made me question how happy I would be to make 'space' for someone in my life, when there are so many things that I devote time to, and would be loath to give up if that someone wanted that time from me... I often gave up on myself as being hopelessly selfish, until I heard many other voice the same concerns (an illusion of uniqueness I was delighted to dispense with!).
But now I know... marriage does not HAVE to mean this! With her simple narrative of how she and her husband lead their lives today, she showed me how loving awareness allows them to devote time to carefully nurture all things good in each other. They've worked to develop an understanding of all the things they value in themselves as individuals and now make sure that each is able to develop those aspects of themselves, even as they lead a very happy married life. They are unwilling to let each other compromise or miss out on the little things that make them special... the things that drew them closer together... and in this respect they help themselves transcend. And THAT's what I think a life partner should be... someone who agrees to join you in co-creating a life geared toward actualisation... where marriage doesn't mean losing, but Finding oneself.
This is what I want and I am unwilling to settle for less... AND I am willing to wait for as long as it takes till I find it.
I hope you find it too.
PS: On a lighter note, apparently, I'm not the hopeless hermit I'm often made out to be... a friend I recently caught up with after 12 years, told me (MUCH to my amusement) that I had asked her to marry me when we were both about 5 years old! We both have no memory of the incident ( it is her mother who remembers her indignant reaction - her answer to my impudent question was that we were too young to talk about such matters!) To my credit and in some small measure of my defense, I recall she was a delightful child, so I'd like to believe I had very good taste... and hope that the same will lead me to my ideal realization of the 'M'-word someday.