Obsolete?

Kate Middleton and Prince William: marriage is not obsolete for  themTwo in five Americans surveyed, or 39 percent, say that marriage is becoming obsolete, according to the latest poll by Time/PEW. In 1978, only 28 percent felt this way. I really wasn’t surprised; so many things I adore and value are going the way of the Dodo. But to call marriage obsolete seems so bleak, especially to someone who has so enjoyed it.  

But it is hard to ignore the numbers. Various experts have opinions as to why attitudes are shifting.  According to Statistics Canada, the trend is much the same for Canadians, with the percentage of married couples declining, and common law unions and single families on the rise.
 Actually, divorces rates have fallen for those with a higher education and income. In the same PEW poll, only one in four Americans say they don’t want to get married. Experts point out that marriages have the best chance of succeeding when couples have a stable source of income and similar goals. Women no longer need to get married to have children or to support themselves. The stigma of single parenthood no longer exists, and many women earn as much or more as their partners — or potential partners.
 
So is marriage becoming obsolete?
 
I don’t think so. It may not be for everyone, but it still has its fans. When I interviewed Dr. Memhet Oz recently, I asked him what advice he would give his three daughters. He talked about marriage. He said people wait too long to marry these days. “… I think getting married at an early age is a very wise thing to do. It gives you a lifelong partner, before you started getting jaded and change your mind, and start feeling the pressure of getting married and start to think that you’re going to marry the perfect person if you just wait long enough. And then you feel the time pressure because you never found that person. Just recognize that there is no perfect person for you. You’re going to find someone that you have an emotional and physical connection to, that you love. But for good or for bad, they’re not the perfect person for you. You’re going to make them the perfect person for you either by changing yourself or changing them and it’s that coming together that makes marriage a remarkable event …”
 
I agree. I have been married since I was 23. These days that makes me a child bride, but I had graduated from university, lived another country, and been to Europe. I knew my husband for five years before we married. We waited until I finished school and we certainly knew each other. And it has been an adventure. I think Dr. Oz was right when he talked about having a life partner. At its best, that is what I think a good marriage is about.
 
Bill and Hillary --through thick and thin --a power coupleSome of my very smart women friends are not married. They have their reasons –and they are good ones. These days more often than not, it may women who shy away from marriage. There are now quite a few successful women in the public eye have chosen not to marry –thus far. Oprah and Condoleezza Rice come to mind.
Yet powerful, brainy women, such as Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama are both very married.
 
The stunning solo actMost of my married friends — with or without children — have very close relationships with their husbands. For all of us, marriage is very much about a partnership and having “someone to be in it with, through thick and thin.” We have all laughed at jokes about husbands who don’t talk to their wives. Our husbands are always talking to us and we are always talking to them.
 
I have a friend who married later in life. She is a lovely woman of independent means. She didn’t need to marry, but she has told me several times how much she enjoys her marriage. She loves her husband, and she also she enjoys having a partner for all of life’s exotic and mundane adventures. She relishes marriage – but she doesn’t need it.
 
In many ways marriage is the adventure. It is not for the fainthearted. If you can’t fight or handle conflict, don’t get married. The best advice I ever got from one of my dearest friends and mentors when I got married was to learn how to fight. I would add that it is also important to learn when to fight, and when to let things go. My friend had a long and wonderful marriage until her husband died. I learned a lot just watching them in action. I have passed that same wisdom along to several younger friends who are newly-married or on the verge.
 
Another friend of mine has been married for 60 years. She and her husband are fabulous together. They have been everywhere and tell the best stories. But the magic is that she still thinks he is brilliant and laughs at his jokes. He still adores her.
 
Another of my friends met her husband in university. “We finished growing up together,” she says. They are definitely life partners.
 
And let’s not forget the romance. It may change over the years, but there is always romance in a good marriage. Recently one of my long-married friends shared that her husband of many years thanked her for being a beautiful woman. That is romantic after all those years together.
 
Darlings, marriage certainly isn’t for everyone. That’s obvious. But it can be a grand adventure, and it is far from obsolete. Many of our best and brightest still do it or hope to. Sixty-four percent of all college-educated Americans are married, and of those living together, 64 percent consider it a step towards marriage.
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Eternal passion

Patricia Clarkson and Alexander Siddig:Passion, friendship and honour in the searing desert heatHave you seen Cairo Time, the small independent film starring Patricia Clarkson? It is the story of Juliette, a Canadian magazine editor who journeys to Cairo to meet her husband. He’s a United Nations adviser, who is endlessly delayed by a crisis in Gaza. His friend, the dashing Tarreq, played by Alexander Siddig meets her at the airport.

The very blond Clarkson cannot move about Cairo without being harassed. She is forced to seek out the tall, mysterious, and attractive Tarreq as her guide.
 
Patricia Clarkson glows against the white heat of the desert. Her clothes, in jewel-like colours, make her look frail, beautiful, and desirable, even when she’s next to younger women. Stuck in Cairo for a week without her husband, she wants to “explore”, and with Tarreq at her side, she does. They roam through the scenic marketplace and cruise up the Nile. They attend the wedding of the daughter of the attractive widow who was Tarreq’s fist love.
 
Juliette discovers the strange differences that separate men and women in Arabic society. But, she is a quiet foreigner, who listens, looks, and occasionally asks a question or two. She is neither brassy nor opinionated.
 
The movie is tense and flirtatious, but restrained. A lot happens in a short time. Juillette is astounded that young men would follow and bother a woman over forty. There is nothing attractive about their crude attentions, but as her relationship grows closer to Tarreq, it is clear there is an attraction between them. She also learns he has never married because religious differences when he was younger kept him from the woman he loved.
 
The movie is visually arresting, with fabulous costumes and sumptuous photography. It is mesmerizing to watch two fine actors play out their scenes. It was even more delicious to watch two attractive people act with honour.
 
The Juliette character has been married many years and loves her husband. She brought up children with him. She is a busy woman in North America. How delicious it must have been to fall in love with Cairo. And darlings, that sometimes happens in a romantic foreign place — you fall in love with the place – and that can be confusing.
 
When people talk about this movie, they forget Juliette got on a bus and tried to go to see her husband in Gaza. She was turned back by the officials, but she did try. She was looking for nothing in Cairo – but her husband. He was the man she wanted to share her romantic adventure with.
 
I think the marvelous thing about this film is the adult way Juliette and Tarreq knew “not to go there” with each other. How delightful life would be if more people could behave well. Tarreq respected his relationship with Juliette and also respected her as a married woman. Juliette was swept up in her Cairo adventure and her romantic new friend, yet she managed to enjoy herself  without forgetting her husband and family. It was delicious and satisfying to see Juillette and her ruggedly handsome husband drive off in a cab to see the pyramids, laughing and talking as old marrieds do. I hoped that Tarreq would call his widowed long-lost lady love and take a chance in finding his bliss, too.
 
It amused me that on a Facebook discussion of the movie, one man stated that seeing the pyramids with Tarraq was her infidelity, as she had agreed to see them with her husband. I can only wonder if that man has ever been married, if that is his idea of infidelity after 20 years of marriage.
 
He reminded me of a young and annoying expat couple I met in Russia. They knew it all. They went on and about how they never watched TV at night, they dined and bathed by candlelight, and called each other dear. They were truly nauseating. They were divorced before their next posting.
 
Marriage can be tricky business. See Cairo Time for a love story as eternal as the pyramids, and a passion that is as hot and eternal as the desert.
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Never settle

Wait for what you wantHigh school and college used to be the ideal time to find a mate, especially for women. The assumption was that women would work until they had their first child and their professional husbands were established in their well-paying careers. It’s an option many educated women have always liked having, always holding open the option of returning to work after their children enter school.

 
In the past 20 years or so, women have begun to outnumber men on campuses as well as in the workplace. During this past recession, women have suddenly replaced men in many families or couples as the main breadwinners. Now that women “have it all,” they often find they no longer have all the options the once counted on.
 
Suddenly, some college women find they may not even be able to find a date, never mind a help-mate. On many college campuses, women now outnumber men, in some cases by 20 percent.  This has changed the rules of dating. According to a recent article in The New York Times many young women can’t find men to date or who will commit to relationships. Many even feel they must turn a blind eye to cheating to hold onto a guy. 
 
 
Popular books such as, “Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough by Lori Gottlieb, are even more depressing. In a recent Washington Post article Gottlieb pines for a partner: “Here comes another Valentine’s Day, and oh, how I wish I could spend it with a husband. Not an Adonis with the humor of Jon Stewart and the bank account of Bill Gates; just a good-enough guys.” I see her point and it seems reasonable, but as she goes on about her plight I think she is clueless and even a bit self-aggrandizing. She is a single woman who expresses her regret at not marrying, “but apparently, it makes me a throwback to the ’50s: pathetic, desperate, needy, immature, creepy, weak, Ann Coulter meets the Devil and a few other phrases I can’t print in a family newspaper. I know, because I’ve made this confession before”.
 
Really!? Who does this woman associate with? Obviously not happily-married couples or she would not encounter such outré opinions. Does she, I wondered, exaggerate her plight in a bid for attention and pity? At the start of another article, Gottlieb discusses how she and a friend — another single mother by choice — long for partners. So does this friend consider her a pariah for wanting a partner? It turns out she is referring to email messages from strangers replying to an article she wrote advocating “settling”. Please! You can generate hate mail on any topic, bar none. As I suspected, she exaggerates in a bid to make her point and push her book. How sad and misleading.
 
As I read through Gottlieb’s comments about herself and her other single friends, I found a litany of what these women thought they needed and wanted in a mate to complete and complement their lives. Not once did she paint a picture of women open to love, romance, and fun. Is it a surprise that fabulous men were not lining up to go on fun dates with these self-centered women?
 
My romantic soul was particularly offended by her statement “that husbands and wives actually spent little time together”. Wives and mothers, in Gottlieb’s ideal world, spend most of their time with the children and other mothers and children. The more I read, the more I wondered if she was looking or a husband or “breeder-provider”. It was off-putting. For the first time I understood exactly what men meant when they described how frightening it was to sit down on a first date with a ticking biological time-bomb.
 
I don’t have children. I didn’t want them. I know motherhood is a deep visceral drive for many women, and I respect that. Many men want children too. But does it justify taking love out of the equations of marriage?
 
Children are only part of marriage. Marriage is also about love, passion, companionship and many other things. Children do, after all, grow up. What bothers me about Gottlieb’s book is she talks about passion and chemistry — and then about doing without them. Gottlieb is more comfortable talking about learning to love than falling in love or loving.
 
As she advocates settling for “Mr. Good Enough”, I can’t imagine what would attract any man to a woman who sees love and marriage in such a light.
 
Ms. Gottlieb is the polar opposite of the young ladies who toss themselves too easily at young college boys on campuses where males may be scarce. She advises women to be realistic and use sensible criteria for choosing a mate before it is too late to breed. It sounds sensible, but it is cold and lacking in passion. I assure you there is more to love and marriage.
 
Darlings, if you think that I am telling women to give up on romance, nothing could be further from the truth. Respect and cherish yourself. Wait for what you want. If you are ready to meet someone, don’t necessarily wait in your room. It isn’t the best place to meet anyone. Get out and do interesting things that you genuinely enjoy. Be the intelligent, delightful, and compassionate person you are with everyone, including men. One of my friends met her husband at her own yoga studio; they were both over 35. Another friend met her husband at their engineering association.
 
Contrary to what you hear in the media, eligible men are everywhere. To weed out the bad ones, focus on what do, more than what they say. Players tend to talk a good game, but behavior is telling. Watch how men treat you and if they let you down or treat you badly, drop them.
 
If you or anyone you know got to a school where there are fewer men than women, focus on academics instead of joining the harem. You may excel as something that will give you a boost later. Consider a semester abroad or a transfer to an Ivy League School where the odds are better.  Darlings, most men are hunters — they value what they have to work for, but then again, don’t you?
 
Love really does come to those who wait and work it intelligently. I have seen it many  times. My husband can tell you the phrase “good enough” makes me crazy. Good enough is good enough for no one. So darlings, have a Valentine’s Day and never settle for less then fabulous!
 
 
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