Alone in My Beliefs

Alone in My Beliefs - 614 eZine - Vol 6, Issue 1

My opposition to marriage has been steadfast, but I sure could do with the company of other women who feel the same.

by Chanel Dubofsky

M, a beloved friend of mine is getting married, so last week, we visited a bridal salon, as I suppose they are called. Around us, women wrapped themselves in tulle and sparkles and giant skirts that whittled their waists and hips into curves that I can only associate with Scarlett O’ Hara. As M hopped around in several cumbersome dresses, I said to her, "I just think you should look like yourself." She agreed. In the end, she found something she liked, maybe. "You haven’t found your dream dress yet," said the consultant. "When you find it, you’ll just know."

On the way home, I pondered this idea of instinctually knowing about a dress. M is not a person who loves clothes, so the likelihood that she’ll fall into a state of rapture over this particular piece of clothing seems slim to me. It’s interesting, though, that we apply the same language to a potential wedding dress as we apply to a potential spouse. It’s key to relating to the idea of marriage&#8212you will want it, you will know, it will be right, if you’re lucky. But try not to think about the ‘if.’

In seventh grade, I wrote in my English class journal that I did not want to get married. In response to this, my English teacher told me, "You’ll change your mind." For years after, I’ve said the same thing, only to be greeted by the same assertion that someday I will change my mind. After college, when I mentioned to a relative that my friends were getting married in droves, he said, "Don’t worry, your time will come." I didn’t explain to him that the issue was not my time coming, which I hoped it would not, but that I was frustrated by my friends making the decision to enter into what is a deeply sexist and problematic institution, to say the least. I was, and remain, exhausted by the idea that marriage legitimizes a relationship, that all relationships that do not culminate in a marriage are a waste of time, and that as a woman, I should not only aspire to be married, but devote my time and energy to the task of finding the "right" man.

In my Jewish communities, it seemed impossible to find women who felt this way. Whenever I met another woman who I felt could be a role model to me in not getting married, she got married—ring, white dress and all. Although I remained steadfast in my conviction about marriage, I still longed for these feelings to be reflected by another woman. How was it possible that no other heterosexual women were opting out of marriage? Was there possibly a way to imagine a relationship, or a life, without it? Would I eventually capitulate as well? Was I crazy?

It seemed that if I was going to be searching for a female role model of this sort, the mainstream Jewish community was the wrong place to go. (However, if you’re out there, give me a call.) I had to search more deeply and widely, ask different questions to ascertain why marriage was so attractive to so many people. For myself, I know—I like being single (a term that is problematic at best, assuming that you exist in only two forms: totally alone or coupled). I have many relationships—long term, significant—with people whom I consider to be family, but I choose to remain in a space where I can travel, write, and not be bound to anyone legally, especially in a way that limits my autonomy and asks me to buy into a culture where straight coupledom is valued above all other relationships.

I decided to ask other women—Jewish and otherwise, in my age group, younger, older, married for years and newly married—why they got married. I began the Marriage Project in August and have since posted 16 interviews from straight married women, all of whom have different thoughts on why they got married. In an attempt to understand what being married is actually about, I also ask about feelings on the word wife, where folks got their perceptions of marriage, and if they feel their relationships with themselves and their partners have changed. Every woman is incredibly reflective, forthcoming, and earnest in her dealings with the questions, although many confessed that they had never thought about these sorts of questions before.

On the one hand, lovely. I always strive to provoke thought and to encourage people to confront that which we’re taught to gloss over—be it issues of gender, sexuality, class, race, etc. On the other hand, it terrifies me that we could be entering into an institution like marriage without really thinking about why we do it. There is a map that we are to follow, but not actually consider if it’s what we want to be doing. There are no choices that we make outside of a social context, in spite of the fact that we insist, famously, that we are "choosing our choice."

(At this point in the project, I’m continuing to accept interviews from married women, and am still searching for women who reflect my thoughts and feelings on the subject of matrimony. If you are interested in being part of the Marriage Project, you can email me at chaneldubofsky@gmail.com.)

About the Author

Chanel DubofskyChanel Dubofsky
Chanel Dubofsky writes for the Sisterhood, Jewschool, The Los Angeles Jewish Journal, and the Pursue blog. You can read about her adventures in feminism and other audacious notions at Diverge (www.idiverge.wordpress.com). She lives in New York City.

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