October 11, 2008
Cynical about cynicism?
Fed up with being fed up?
“WE’RE NOT DEMANDING ENOUGH
of our political system. We have very low expectation levels and we call it cynicism. Cynicism means withdrawal. Cynicism is the easy way out.”
So said Ralph Nader at the Commonwealth Club this month.
IS THAT MY PROBLEM WITH MARRIAGE?
That I have low expectations, of both men and myself, that I’m too cowardly to deal with the challenges of an intimate relationship? I’d rather just withdraw from life and flip the whole thing off?
I think not. Because as Terry said to Sal Paradise in On the Road, “I love love.” I’m all for it. Bring it on. Hit me with your best shot. It’s more a matter of to mine own self being true. Blogger Jennifer Saylor of Asheville, NC, had this to say, via Twitter: “This woman [me]…is [n]ot a hater of love, just some hard, strong truth.” My truth, at this time, is that I need solitude more than I desire a life-companion. I like being by myself and with myself. The older I get, the less I daydream about a soul mate. I am my own satisfaction. Hooking a husband has never been an ambition of mine; in fact, I remember as far back as grade school, telling someone on the bus, “I don’t believe in marriage.” That was when I had only my own parents’ odious example to go by. It wasn’t very pretty at all.
I WOULD QUALIFY THAT
as well, as being not the marriage partnership I eschew, but the pressure put on people to marry, and the inherent risk involved in putting oneself in a position of feeling trapped, or stuck–by children, economic pressures, or domestic abuse, etc.–in an intolerable marriage not easily dissolved, because the partnership was not genuine to begin with. Certainly, one doesn’t sign up for that with the license, but how can one know what one has signed up for until it happens? I’ve always loved the line from Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” “You know you can’t hold me forever; I didn’t sign up with you.” I guess even in childhood I was promising myself an escape clause.
No, my cynicism around marriage is not at all about the choice two people make, God bless, to live together in trust and love for life, but the overarching “happily ever after” scenario shoved down our throats from fairy tales on, that reality often simply can’t live up to. When it compares unfavorably with the fantasies, expectations and preconceived notions we bring to it, our ideas of what our marriages are supposed to be like, it may feel like one of you is at fault. But the fault lies in dealing not with the here and now, but the way you want it to be. You might well find it easier to shed a husband than the notion of how he’s failing your fantasy of how a husband should be.
I WILL CONGRATULATE ANYONE
who’s found the love of a lifetime. I will break a bottle of champagne on the maiden voyage of your union. But I find the conventions of romance and marriage that our culture imposes on the social order oppressive. Why, for instance, has my (partially out) Lesbian friend had to spend her adult life tormented by the question, at all family functions, “So when are you getting married?” Same as, “Why aren’t you married?” Same as, “How dare you not be married?” Not a question–a challenge, a challenge to come on already and conform to the status quo, and an implication that there’s something wrong with you (gay, mentally disturbed, syphilitic, unmarriageable) because you haven’t.
I’ve heard from a few of the “plenty” of people I know with good unions, confirming their lucky status as “happily married.” I know others have something I do not, something precious and supportive and rare, perhaps–except that I don’t care. Because I too am happy. I don’t feel like anything’s missing. Perhaps something will later be added, bringing a new depth to my life, but why waste time yearning for a different kind of happiness than I already have? It would only serve to distract from being present. When you’re present, you’re in a constant state of readiness to experience whatever comes your way, including being surprised by love, like a lifelong dérive. I think to myself, what a wonderful world. I don’t enjoy being cynical–but divorce rates are real; it’s just some hard, strong truth that people change over time in unpredictable, even by themselves, ways.
If my last column, “Marriage is a Great Ride” [until you puke] was a Doggie Downer, here’s a Puppy Upper for you. Fortuitously, Reverend Billy has provided the perfect antidote to that tirade. Don’t know who he is? Get with it. He is, fyi, the evangelical preacher of the Church of Stop Shopping, Start Loving, author of What Would Jesus Buy? (PublicAffairs, 2006) and subject of the Morgan Spurlock/Rob VanAlkemade film, “What Would Jesus Buy?” As part of his recent Tour of a Thousand First Amendments, he read a passage at City Lights from his upcoming book, The Day the Earth Stopped Shopping (Univ. of Michigan Press, due out sometime next year), co-authored by his wife and Church Director Savitri D.
Photos c. Fred Askew
LOVE’S THE ONLY ENGINE FOR SURVIVAL
wrote Leonard Cohen; or as James Joyce put it, “yes I will yes I said yes.” Or as the Reverend put it, in What Would Jesus Buy? “Love is the force in life that will survive if life is loved….Love in Life knows Life lives on.” In these frightening, threatening, tumultuous, unstable times, one does indeed need to say yes, yes I do, to love, to life. Cynicism doesn’t really cut it at this time. You can’t just withdraw from the world arena; it will find you. To shield against the outrageous disrespect our government has for its citizens–for us–we ought to encircle ourselves with love, which multiplies exponentially. Also get out on the street and yell about something that needs to be said and heard. A section of the Reverend and Savitri’s book is called, “The Precise Moment of I DO.” He mentioned that he is “besotted with weddings,” which he often officiates at. One passage in particular has lodged in my brain pan like a dart.
Reverend Billy and Savitri D–now there is a case of the “marrying being real.” Theirs is a marriage to be envied, a real partnership. First off, the two of them are tight as a cork in a wine bottle. And they share common passions and causes, traveling the world together spreading love, laughter, music, friendship and consciousness around civil rights and social justice. They are united in love and in purpose and protest.
Is that perhaps the crux of the marriage paradox–that some take the vows but do not really marry the other? If you want to describe how close you are with someone, you might cross your third finger over your index finger and say, “We’re tight like this.” But crossing your fingers can also mean you’re lying; hence the paradox. What if what should be the most profound moment of “meeting and melting into one another,” as Plato described it, “this becoming one instead of two,” was instead a hollow presentiment that this was not a real marriage of minds and hearts?
I HAVE NEVER MARRIED
because I have never met and melted together both soul and sexual connections with any man I’ve been in love with, and most certainly not the guy I briefly was engaged to in my twenties because I wanted to know what it felt like to be married. If I didn’t like it, I reasoned, I’d bow out. I’ve been in love all over the scale from one to ten; I’ve had soul connections that weren’t sexual, and sexual connections that weren’t soulful. But it’s never come in one package; I’ve never felt that magic electric spark, the “Fabulous Unknown,” the Reverend calls it, that might truly bond me to another person. How many of us do, I wonder? No one has come along who has made me feel that the marrying would be real. And I will not settle for less. That’s why I consider myself to be a 53-year-old virgin.
To be frank, I don’t know if I’m able to sustain a romantic or sexual interest in a man over a period of time. My first and longest relationship (with my high school creative writing teacher) was for four-and-a-half years, and I was so needy and dependent back then I wouldn’t even call it love, though in my teenage naiveté I thought it was une grande passion. Now, in my independence, perhaps I deceive myself that I don’t still seek this connection.
Some friends of a friend recently wed in Golden Gate Park. My friend came back from the ceremony as if it had been her own wedding, radiating a “contact high” with joy spilling out of her and over into me. “They did everything right,” she said.
THIS IS THE GLORY MOMENT
when the marrying is real. When the world seems saturated by the love emanating from just two people. It envelops us all as we, too, believe love will prevail.
Now that is a wedding vow.
In my column “You Are So Full of Shit!” I fashioned a drunken vow I thought I could live with: “I love you now, and I want to love you for as long as now lasts–which is forever, because it is never not now. Which metaphorically is forever, but if the time comes when metaphor does not stretch far enough…” Well, then what? I think it was Emily Dickinson who said, “Forever is composed of nows.” I just joined and received my stainless steel membership card from The Long Now Foundation–their mission, to “foster long-term responsibility,” we’re talkin’ the next ten thousand years long-term. That’s what marriage, ideally, is, a forever composed of nows; a now that takes forever to unfold. Just like a lifespan.
ONE MAY FEEL INSPIRED
to claim and exclaim, I continued, at the precise moment of I DO, “I will love you forever!” It sounds good, but no one can know that. “I feel like I’ll love you forever,” would be more accurate. “At this moment, I can’t imagine not loving you forever. The time may come along when I no longer love you–I will love you until then–OK?” Or something along the lines of, “It’s my hope and intention to love you forever. Right now I’m convinced I can do it! Marry me!”
This is when declared love becomes social change.
THANKS TO THE REVEREND
for generously providing this healthy chunk of his manuscript. I thought I saw some of it printed on 3-hole lined paper. I thought I was the only one who did that. I love my old-fashioned school supplies, pencils and rulers and college-ruled paper. The crisp Philadelphian fall…I’m daydreaming, but I have always maintained, as I wrote in a long-ago journal, “September 1st is the most hopeful day of the year.” And this autumn is electric with election mania. Which reminds me…
YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST
unless you are Savitri D, or one of the bunch of us hanging out at Haystack’s Pizza on 24th St. after Billy’s sermon at Noe Valley Ministry. Then you heard it first from the Reverend’s mouth.
REVEREND BILLY TO RUN FOR MAYOR OF NEW YORK!
Why did I bury this headline? Because it’s not official. For so significant an undertaking, he needs the support and blessing of Savitri, as yet not secured–just as New York needs Billy as Mayor, and America needs Governor Palin as Vice President. Just like we need jalapeño peppers navigating the hemorrhoids of our hemorrhaging nation. Where’s that $700 billion tourniquet when we need it? Preparation H never prepared us for this!
SCARIEST DOLL EVER
I have a couple of old stuffed dolls, mother and child, with porcelain heads, arms, and legs, which make their home on the old Mission rocker in my bedroom. The mother has disarrayed hair, a hollow stare, and a big crack in her left temple and cheek. The Silver Fox took one look at them and declared he would never have such scary dolls in his house.
There is one scary doll I too don’t want in my house–the White House–that is, that one, Sarah Palin. She’s a classic Chatty Cathy–pull the ring on the string and out come the prerecorded scripts, dontcha know. I don’t like to expend ectoplasm disliking people, but this woman gives me the shivers-down-my-spine creeps. Couldn’tcha just throttle her? Remember when George Costanza got in all kinds of trouble because Jerry Seinfeld squirted grapefruit in his eye and everyone thought when his eye twitched that he was meaning the opposite of what he was saying? Yes, like, crossing your fingers, winking has a double meaning–it can be folksy and flirtatious, or it can mean, “Just foolin’ wicha,” aka “I’m lying.” Who in their right mind, I asked a friend, could take Palin seriously? ”Yes,” my friend agreed, “in the whole fuckin’ freakin’ friggin’ world, who could?” (Oh, she’s serious, all right–”serious as cancer” as Rockets Redglare put it in “Down By Law.”)
[The author added the “freakin’ ” for comic alliterative effect. -Ed.]
BEWARE OF SARE
“Very soon during the Vice Presidential debate,” wrote Mark Whittington of associatedcontent.com, “it became apparent that Sarah Palin has learned how to deliver death with a smile.” She is an out-and-out dangerous fool, an ethics-challenged embarrassment to Senator McCain, the Republican Party, Alaska, the United States, all feminists everywhere, and all thinking people anywhere. I give her zero points for anything. After you lose, let’s never see you again. And now with McCain’s shrewish witch of a wife mouthing off out of her Middle-aged Barbie face (with aspirations to be First Lady Barbie?), he’s got a bitch at each elbow.
Can you imagine Senator Biden introducing himself with “Can I call you ‘Sare’?” Sure! “Sare” rhymes with hair, bare, affair, pair–a treasure trove of opportunities. Say you didn’t shoot that bear, Sare. Her response, “It’s a thankless job, Joe, but somebody’s gotta do it!”
A final word from the Reverend: “Stay soft, cunning, loving.”
Mirror, mirror, on the wall: who’s the scariest doll of all?
Try, try, try
Win or lose, we go shopping after the election. - Imelda Marcos
copyright Alexandra Jones 2008