My mother was recently accosted by a distant friend or family member, demanding to know what was wrong with Mark and I; what was standing in our way; why, after so long together (ten years in September), we hadn't "taken the next step"? Why, this person was anxious to know, aren't we married?
Mom, God bless her, gave the party line--that I'll think about getting married when everybody can, and not a moment sooner. I think that's a good answer, and generally has the benefit of steering the conversation away from my personal choices and towards a greater political analysis. But, in truth, at this point in my life, my political reasons for not getting married barely scratch the surface. Even if there was a universal law protecting the right of same sex couples to marry, I still wouldn't do it.
The truth is much simpler, much more basic: I don't want to be married. Mark doesn't want to be married. We're nearly ten years into our relationship, completely committed to each other, a family--but neither of us feels any need to formalize that by way of marriage. Actually, that's not exactly right, either--it's more than not feeling a need, it's that we are put off by the idea. We have put in place the legal documentation necessary to take care of each other in case of a tragedy (well, most of it, anyway), but beyond that, we prefer our relationship as it is--organic, without any name, without any state-or-church mandate. Marriage doesn't symbolize anything good for us--it has a history with which we're not comfortable, and a present with which we see leagues of problems. Marriage isn't a next step we're dragging our feet on--it's a step we've consciously chosen to move around. We're not pre-married; we've created an alternative to marriage, one that works better for us.
This is a legitimate choice. In fact, it's ridiculous that I feel the need to justify it, or that my mother feels the need to justify it for me. Are the married majority asked to defend their choice to take part in that institution? Not often. It is, in the great majority of cases, a choice that is supported, celebrated, and even treated as an accomplishment. Well my healthy, happy, decade-long relationship is just as deserving of support and celebration as any marriage. We don't need it--we're doing just fine on our own--but we deserve it. I am proud of my relationship, of my family. I don't appreciate it being denigrated for not following the prescribed path.
In recent years, I've more or less ceased evangelizing about why I think marriage is a bad idea. When I look back at the last post I made about why I'm not married (in 2006!), I find it a little bit cringe worthy. I no longer correct people who assume Mark and I are married, at least not unless I am likely to have a long-term relationship with them. Mostly, I don't care if the world assumes we're married--that's the model we typically work with in this society, and married is indeed how we appear. Though I still think there are social and political consequences to marriage far beyond what most people consider, I am also more honest with myself than I used to be. If I wanted to be married, if marriage appealed to me on any emotional or visceral level, I would probably talk myself into it--politics be damned. It simply doesn't. The decision to opt-out of marriage is a personal choice, and it's one I am happy enough with that I feel less and less need to defend it.
As Mark and I move into our second decade of couple hood, and into the firmer, more adult footing of our mid-30s, I rarely think about us not being married. It's simply not important anymore. I see no way in which our lives would change if we were legally wed, except that the occasional nosy friend or relative would have to get worked up about something else, and we'd have nicer towels. Though, never having been married, I can't guarantee that a wedding wouldn't be a magical threshold, the other side of which would look completely different than my current reality, I just don't buy that it would. And frankly, if I thought marriage would change anything between Mark and I, that would be one more reason not to do it--we don't need changing.
So, I'm thinking of putting together a registry, as if Mark and I were going to get married. That way, the next person who asks can be directed there and told that, if it would make them feel better, they can get a present for us and pretend we tied the knot. It will be very convenient--the wedding date can be whenever they'd like, and there will be no obligation to actually show up! What do you think?