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Wednesday, 30 May 2007

To single or to marry, is the question....

Someone once asked me, which position I find more preferable. No, we were not discussing sex,( which was a shame considering we spent more time talking about it rather than practicing it, with a partner at least), rather, a less stimulating one the homo sapiens like to call "relationship".

I am a widow of 7 years. A friend, facing a midlife crisis , wanted to know whether I prefer to be married, or single. Oh, that position. Since I have had the taste of both worlds, the latter twice, and since she could not find someone who had both worlds twice over, she reckon that I was the best person to seek for advice. Finally, someone actually asked me for an advice instead of getting the usual unsolicited ones.

I have to admit the question took me aback for a few minutes. Something like the questions the girls who use to share the same dormitory like to ask, which was "are you off for a shower?" when they could clearly see that I was clad in my shower attire with a toothbrush sticking out of my mouth and a shower cap bigger than the lie about men landing on surface of the moon, clad over my head. Totally mind boggling. Not the question itself, but how someone could ask such question given the circumstances....

It's quite a tough question, to single or to marry? I was married to a man, obviously, (unless Anwar Ibrahim was the prime minister back then and may have recognized lesbian and gay marriages), for nearly 7 years. I hate to say it but, we, both my late husband and I, made the classic mistake most young couple would make. We entered the marriage, totally blinded by love and obsession, thinking, we could change each other. Oh boy, were we wrong. Both of us were stubborn by nature. To be precise, "was stubborn" is applicable to my late husband, while I am still as obstinate as a mule. That's why two mules do not tie the knot, they just copulate and not remember each other after that, they don't even have names to forget in the first place, how convenient.. And dare we brand the mules more dumb than us, we humans suffer from superiority complex, really. Our marriage was like two pigs fighting for a small blanket..Well, i have to add, with lots of great things happening under the blanket, that made the blanket more rewarding to fight for.

We ,my late husband, Feroz and I, not the mule,( stay with me people,) had endless of high end squabbles. If someone were to evaluate damages, it would have surmounted to property damage more than those suffered by victims of Tsunami and Catarina, and i am talking emotional and psychological damage. Don't get me wrong. We love each other very much. We were blinded from the start, by choice.
I think it was that the same love that blinded us had manage to get us through the really testing periods, and by god i don’t mean menses when I say the word "period". As Einstein put it in his theory of relativity, one "period" could feel shorter or longer depending on individuals. (that is why some people insist that marriages do not last long, it just seem longer..) Well, at least that is my interpretation of Einstein’s theory, he may have had other parameters in mind.

Love, and our beautiful daughter, Myra, the two elements that we held on to through the life's speed breaker. It's true what they say , children, to some extent, are like the banana in our bowel when we have diarrhea, it holds up the shit together and prevent formation of loose stool. Hey, I am a doctor, I can’t think of any better analogy. But sometimes, in some circumstances, you have got to let the loose stool, along with the toxin that had caused the diarrhea in the first place, go. It may improve the health of the whole body. Divorce. Such a powerful word. A point when all hope to save a marriage is exhausted. The point where two people realized that, they ae better off apart because staying together is killing them. When impatience surpasses tolerance. The major question to do that would be, when is it that enough is enough?


Let's get more specifics. Being single, all in all was fabulous actually. Carefree days of hanging out with fellow chronic bachelors, I must say I had fun, until one by one, everyone started settling down and you finally are made to feel obligated to follow because you tend to feel threatened by society’s alarming ticking of the female biological clock theory, which was made to sound more threatening than the ticking of a suicide bomber's timer. As for male, staying single too long may raise the suspicion of one having preference for non conventional type of relationships....I'm sure you caught my drift.

The idea of having to settle down as soon as possible was imbedded into us ever since childhood ,that everyone should end up married as soon as one can, before we miss the bus. No? Well, let me refresh your memories, ladies and gentlemen... stories and folklores narrated as bedtime stories to us during our childhood days, can you name me one princess that did not end up happily married ever after to princes? I don't remember any bedtime story that depicts the midlife crisis of The Prince and Princess of The Land of Far Far Away.....We were told happy ever after stories where the prince and princess looked beautiful and handsome and charming etc etc etc...Imagine how characters like Quasimodor, the Hunchback of Notredame, ended up...how did he ended up actually? I can't remember. But I am pretty sure in the Disney Cartoon movie, he got ripped off by the Prince who got married to the gorgeous Gypsy lady. Hunchy, on the other hand, had to settle with a peck of kiss on the cheek and a hope that one day, the prince may die at war and leave the widowed gypsy desperate enough to finally fall for him. Sound gruesome? Its not horrid, but as you grow up, you discover those "and they live happily ever after" stories were as real as the existence of Santa Claus.

Do you not agree with me now that society expects every person to marry and live happily ever after, and that those who are not, are deemed social failures? Such high expectations. I know the question was quite straight forward. Which do I prefer? To be married or to stay single. I am just elaborating the events leading most of us to tying the knot in the first place. This may help you understand the marriage itself. Try and refresh your memory for a minute. Do any one of those classic stories ever mention how the prince snores at night causing the princesses' sleepless nights hence the bags , if not luggage, under her eyes? Did anyone mention about the endless debate the two love birds had regarding how to differentiate between the floor and the laundry basket, or which is better, let the toilet seat up or down..Or where to spend the first Hari Raya day together, your father's place or mine? Have anyone read anywhere in these books where they mention the Prince having untreated erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation, and the princess had a little help from the royal clown? Why the clown? Well , i guess because he made her laugh. Now that's what i'd call a "bedtime" story.

And I don't recall any chapters on In-laws...how the King and Queen of both prince and princesses have their own ways of interfering? And that the word outlaws originated from inlaws' relationship turned sour... The worst for me, I'd say would be those from the Mill's and Boon's love stories. We're talking about permanent mental myth here. I fell for the "tall, dark and handsome" drill. My late husband was tall, dark Punjabi and debatably handsome (beauty is to the eye of the beholder). Somehow i feel we need more books on "once upon a time, a marriage started.." because, most of us, enter the world of the myth of marriage , rather than an actual reality of it. Marriage, my dear friends, is the ultimate beginning..you choose to not nourish it, it will turn into the beginning of an end. Marriage, people, require time, patience, sacrifice, understanding, respect and the list goes on..

Someone should have warned us that marriage is a mere promise and that promises can be broken. Reality is, when two people take a vow, they should decipher that they are married to mere mortals called the human being, and not this perfect creature we create in our subconscious minds.There is no such thing as the perfect one. Perfect for each other, perhaps, but not plain perfect. Human beings evolve and die. We err. We get more bitter, more happy, we get sick, in short,we change through time, just like everything else in the universe. The ability to adapt to these changes determines the longivity of a marriage. The tool to get through this process is LOVE. Without love, the sleep deprived princess would have smouldered the snoring Prince Charming with her pillow and plead temporary insanity in court of justice .

Happily ever afters do not come naturally but rather, need hard work. Hard work comprises of things that money can't buy.Time, the ability to communicate with each, Compromise and sacrifice. The ability to understand that your spouse need some room to grow and in that process, allow them to make mistakes yet learn from it. Marriage is not about wanting your spouse to be what you want them to be to suit your needs. Its about growing together. These are the pillars of marriage and the basis is love. Without love, it is hard to compromise let alone sacrifice. Love alone is not enough to sustain a marriage, because complying to the law of the universe, every action has its reaction. In turn, you need to nurture the love. Many people think that because they are married, they have entered the safe zone where they can now take each other for granted. This, is the beginning of an end.

Marriage in short, is not "happily ever after", it is in fact the begining of a more challenging chapter. My mother had said it right. First you get the "asking ring" ( a malay tradition of giving a ring to the woman upon asking her hand in marriage), then the engagement ring, the wedding ring, and if you're not too careful, it'll be followed by the suffer-ring......That is why, we should marry someone who not only love us unconditionally, vice versa of course, but also have the ability to grow with us. Otherwise, one fine day, two people might wake up one fine morning staring at each other wondering who exactly is occupying his or her bed and space. They become total strangers even without realising it. It is so easy to do that when there are so many distractions such as outside entertainment and work to keep you away from solving your differences . Many people hide from their marriage , and burried themselves with work, or worse, another relationship, an escapade that may add on to the existing domestic troubles at home.

Situation may get so bad, the truth almost always comes out inevitably, and impendingly, summit of a crisis will force this two victim of marriage-illiterates for a prompt solution. The next level would be deciding whether to make it or to break it. Just like in any institution, whereby many is at stake when it fails to run, we need to decide on the future,pronto. First, i suppose a couple need to come to terms that there is something wrong with the marriage and unless you plan to adopt Bush's approach of state of denial in Iraq and keep looking for weapon of mass destruction while causing a legal mass destruction in the process, instead of admitting things are getting out of hand and where do they go from there, the marriage will end up like exactly like Iraq. This is the trickiest phase and it is ugly. A lot of finger pointing, more of like the pot calling the kettle black. The best would be admitting that both are after all human beings and forgiving is of vital importance. Trust me, it is easier to fall in love and get married rather than sustain a marriage that had gone down the Middle East way.

That's the use of divorce. When two people cannot tolerate each other's metamorphorsis, and that earnest attempts to save it fell into an abyss of hopelessness, then the only logical solution would be that they take a bow, shake hands amicably and say their goodbyes. Divorce is a devastating phenomena, yet it is necessary as a chanel out of an unhappy situation. It is not easy especially when children are involved. It is however, the last solution for couples who have exhausted trying to adapt to each others' changes through time. You can love someone forever, but living up to the expectations of a vow we call a marriage is a whole different ballgame, more like entering the twilight zone where you have to constantly expect the unexpected. When two people have realised, painfully that the marriage is not working, which is a more brave thing to do? To stay for the sake of pleasing the society in the name of protecting the good name of marriage, or would it be more logical to finally realise that, after all the effort plunged into salvaging what is left of the marriage, it is better to bid farewell before things turn really ugly, and believe me, they will if love have abandon both hearts.

The problem with some culture, the word DIVORCE arouses such a taboo that some prefer to accept unhappiness as part of their fate rather than going through it. In the eyes of our society, divorce means failure. To me, divorce is something anyone should work harder than their carier to avoid, but should two people decide that they would be happier being apart than living together in hypocracy, it is not a failure, rather a lesson in this journey called life. Failure would be not learning anything from the mistakes and shortcomings we made. Failure to me, is to sustain that marriage in order to please society. When we do that, we fail to recognise our elements of being human who are capable of making mistakes. Not learning from those mistakes is definitely the ultimate failure. Sacrifice and stay for childrens' sakes? Don't think you are doing the children a favour by staying in a marriage that does not work. I would rather have two parents staying apart and visit them in their happy environment rather than having them stay together but screaming at each other or looking as miserable as hell.

Well, there are some lucky couples that made the mile, but statistics tells a different story. One that do not end up with the word "happily ever after". I happen to contribute to the statistic figure, but in my case, it was till death do us part. Maybe this is why my article sounds more tragic than the "American Idol freaky contestants". But unlike them, i am not delussional.

Up to this point in my essay, newly weds who have read this may now develop cold feet, hence the bridegroom to be may try to have sex with someone they absolutely do not care for while the bride to be, would have called for an emergency group support meeting. Let me now bring you to the beautiful side of marriage. Marriage is great when it works out. I miss being married. I miss my backrubs when I am weary of the day's routine. I miss running home to be greeted by that warm smile. I miss having someone to talk to about whatever it was that made me upset or excited that day. I miss knowing that someone will be there for me when the going gets tough. I miss the struggle over who gets to remotely control the TV remote control and the pillow fights. I miss the love making, the cuddling after that, the midnight snack that followed with light conversations, the laughter. I miss the idea of growing old together, the thought of having him hold me close, just sit on the bench, holding hands and watch the sun set. I miss having a fight and the making up after. I miss having someone to pamper and be pampered. I miss calling him lovey dovey names that will make many reach out for the vomit bag. I miss loving him, and being loved by him. I had the greatest gift of all, once upon a time.

I guess despite the cynical view of marriage, I guess my preference would be to be married, only but only if i find the right man to marry, and I did. Being able to do it the second time would be a miracle from God. It is better to stay single rather than jump into a marriage for the heck of it, because being single is quite marvelous too, if you can put up with society's scrutinies. Trust me when i say, there are many married people out there who wish they aren't.

Marriage is a vow two people in love take when they've decided that they can take each others' good and bad side, and decided that the happiness they are experiencing when they are together should continue for as long as it takes, and that they are prepared to grow together. I think the secret to marriage's longevity, the ability to go the extra mile , is the ability to communicate, good conversation, and the understanding that , just like a little plant, love needs to be nourished on daily basis. Who knows.

So, to answer the question of which position do i prefer to be in, whether married or single, I would say that I would definitely like to be married, only if i find someone, not just perfect for me, but perfect for each other. I was lucky to have found my Feroz.I'd be damn luckier if love happens twice.

Did I answer the question? Maybe I did, then again maybe I am confused. Who knows. Stephan Hawkings got it right though,

"we run in circles and suppose, when the truth sits in the middle and knows"

2 comments:

Hazidi said...

Being single simply means that you don't have someone to share the blame when you fuck up.

pah nur said...

tee...hee...hee...i have to agree...i had fun blame shifting and sharing blames with my late hubby. Now, i make sure i don't get blamed for anything...