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ding dong the bells are gonna chime

So the other night in the Stag's, a friend said something about wanting her boyfriend to propose before she was 35 and started joshing me and P about when P was going to make an honest woman of me, etc. She certainly didn't mean to be obnoxious, but I found it slightly irritating. And no, not because it touched some secret, instant-marriage-craving nerve. Because it seemed to be based on a bizarre expectation of what women want. And what we want is for our boyfriends to ask us to marry them, the sooner the better.

Lest anyone misunderstand my feelings here, I must say that I am, very definitely, not against marriage - as anyone who has heard me squee with delight at the announcement of my friends' engagements will know. I'm against the idea of traditional marriage, yes, and I'm against what marriage has meant for women throughout history. But I don't see any connection between a woman being essentially sold to her father's friends as part of a land deal (as was commonplace in Ireland all too recently) and the happy marriages of my friends who have made their own, new sort of marriage. A sort of marriage which is about loving commitment to each other rather than the female half being the Angel in the House who's given up all autonomy to her husband.

However, what I am bewildered by is the assumption that, as a 29 year old woman in a stable, happy relationship, I am automatically dying to be married as soon as possible, and that I think my boyfriend is somehow to blame for not asking me yet. The whole thing seems such a bizarre, Cosmo way to carry on - and view gender roles - that I am amazed that someone in my social circle could even bring it up. Has anyone else actually encountered this sort of thing outside crappy magazines? And should I expect more people to start asking me when P and I are going to "give us all a day out"? Don't worry, I don't suddenly feel under pressure to oblige, but I am still somewhat aghast at the whole thing. Not least because I don't particularly like getting oddly defensive about my currently unmarried status during a nice night out in the pub.

Comments

stellanova
Mar. 7th, 2005 03:06 pm (UTC)
Hee! I suppose I did say " all too recently", but by that I meant "40 years ago". Actually, technically I do know someone who was more or less married off - my grandmother's sister was basically married to her father's friend, not for land but because she apparently was "too wild" when she was up in Dublin working in the civil service. That was in the '40s, though.
clanwilliam
Mar. 7th, 2005 03:24 pm (UTC)
I do know of a situation where someone I know was going out with a particular guy whose father was very keen on their getting married so he could get the outstanding bit of the townland that her family owned back into his farm (this was the early 1980s). Both sides laughed, treated it as an enormous joke and in time were happily married - to other people.

And I've heard of a few suggested ones, but no-one in the past few generations has dared to try and force that one on the women of my family. For a start, they sensibly decided that living was more important.
barsine
Mar. 7th, 2005 03:38 pm (UTC)
I suppose I just mean that both our mothers, to take two examples ready to hand, got married more than thirty years ago and still certainly never became 'the Angel in the House', and have jobs, financial autonomy etc. etc. I agree in theory with some of the things that people have said about the oppressive nature of marriage, but I don't really have any personal experience of the great Irish Mammy that we know so well from literature, hiding the housekeeping money so her husband (who probably works for Guinnesses, or Boland's Mills) won't drink it!
stellanova
Mar. 7th, 2005 03:45 pm (UTC)
Heh, neither do I - also, I didn't mean to imply that Ireland's marriage history was worse than anywhere else's. I just mentioned the arranged marriages here because it was a relatively recent phenomenon and it's also something people in western Europe like to think only happens "somewhere else". But obviously, an awful lot has changed since then and I think that's why I don't have any problem with marriage, because although its history as an institution is very dodgy, in my experience it simply hasn't been like that and doesn't really have any negative connotations.
hfnuala
Mar. 7th, 2005 03:45 pm (UTC)
My mind is boggling - just how wild could someone be in 40s Dublin while working in the civil service?
yiskah
Mar. 7th, 2005 04:20 pm (UTC)
I'll have you know that civil servants are notoriously WILD AND CRAZY.
clanwilliam
Mar. 7th, 2005 04:37 pm (UTC)
Not the ones who were living in the Virgin Megastore when I was incarcerated there for a term in 1991.
hfnuala
Mar. 7th, 2005 05:12 pm (UTC)
Maybe in corrupt, godless Britain...

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