This past weekend, I was in Rhode Island for my best friend’s sister’s wedding. My best friend is second-generation Nigerian so there were a lot of traditional aspects mixed in with the wedding. Overall, it was beautiful and special and I was proud of my adopted little sister. But as weddings do, it started me thinking about my journey to matrimony.
Don’t get all hype- it’s not happening soon. I’m not even in a relationship. But weddings make you think of all kinds of things along those lines- what you would wear, what food you would serve, what song you would dance to- everything. Most of the time when you attend a wedding, you don’t think of the actual married life the couple is going to have; you’re too busy figuring out how to make your party better than the one you’re attending. And I have to say I am no exception to this rule. I had my own dress, food, reception, music visions all the way home (and it was a seven-hour drive, by the way). But that’s not really the important part is it? Clearly, I should be more concerned with whether I could even handle marriage on a mental and emotional level. Or whether I even want to.
I don’t need to get married. I believe in marriage, and I wouldn’t mind it- but I don’t need it. I hate this premise, this subconscious societal implication, that if you love someone, and they love you- that marriage is the stamp that makes your relationship “real”. That your love isn’t genuine (or your man’s love for you isn’t genuine) if you’re not married and you’re not pressed about being married. I know a lot of women who believe that being a wife brings them to a level of respect that being a girlfriend just can’t touch. So many women think being a wife means something special, something untouchable, something realer than everything else. But since I am someone who knows married men who aren’t faithful, or even in love with their wives, I ain’t falling for that argument. I’m a romantic. So the way I figure it, if you don’t have the man’s heart, it doesn’t matter what he calls you. It doesn’t matter that he pays your bills, or that you’ll be the one who gets his pension when he dies. If I’m going to commit myself to a man- with the idea that it will be forever- I want his heart, and nothing less. And if I’m confident that I have that, and he has mine, then I don’t really care about the marriage part. See this is what I mean when I say I don’t need it.
Now, let me stop here and say that some of the most beautiful, talented, fabulous, fearless women I know are married women. And I think they are awesome wives. I think that their husbands simply could not have done better; these girls are amazing- and I never want them or anyone to think that I am somehow insulting the fact that they chose to marry. I’m not; I never would. And quite honestly, if I was in love and committed and with a man whose heart was mine (in a perfect world, this man would be a big, burly, rough-around-the-edges intelligent man who slapped me on the ass and recited rap lyrics to me)- and this man asked me to marry him, I would TOTALLY say yes. I would be an asshole to say no. I’m just saying that if he didn’t ask me, but I knew he loved me and wanted me forever, then that would be enough. Now, at this point, you’re probably thinking, “But Shameka- if he really loves you and wants you forever, why wouldn’t he ask you?” And that’s a good question. I’m not saying that he wouldn’t. But I don’t want him to think that that’s expected of him, that I need that. And the reason I don’t need it, is because I feel like a lot people think the marriage guarantees them something, when it doesn’t guarantee you anything. It doesn’t mean he’ll stay, or be faithful, or even be kind. It doesn’t mean he’ll respect you, or love you, or cherish you. You need to have all of those things in advance, and I think sometimes people forget that. It’s almost as though they get married and then try to build a marriage. When in actuality, you’re supposed to build your marriage FIRST and then get married as a celebration of the continuation of your journey.
If we want to get all biblical about it, I’d have to say that the story of Adam and Eve is where it all started, lol. God made them, and put them together FIRST- and then told them to build a life- AFTER. And I think we carry that model in our lives now- that a marriage will just magically appear because you’re married. Conceptually, it’s completely wrong. I’m not saying God was wrong, but it’s a little archaic to think that things that worked when we didn’t have a population on Earth are still supposed to work now.
I also think that we’ve perpetuated some idea in our modern society that marriage is the way, and the truth, and the light- whether you mean it or not. For example, a few years ago, I watched an episode of Dateline (or some similar show, I don’t remember) and one of the segments was about this woman who ran a program called, “Marry Your Baby’s Daddy.” She was encouraging couples who had been together for a while, and who had kids to get married. Now, I believe her heart was in the right place, but her segment made me angry. There was nothing in the program about how to have a healthy, stable relationship. They never showed her offering these people counseling, or classes. There was just a church where you could marry the father of your kid. Also, some years ago, there was a church that was running some kind of marriage campaign- where they bought out billboards over the highway to tell us how much better married people do in life (Married people make more money, Married peoples’ kids do better in school, etc.) And again, no message about love, or trust, or respect and honesty. You’re going to encourage marriage without first trying to teach people that they’re relationships should be healthy? We really are assholes- and we’re ruining the world. Don’t try to push people into marriage with that, “You have kids and you live together- so you might as well” bullshit. We should be encouraging people to be mentally and emotionally healthy individuals, and then couples. And if we do that, most people will probably get married on their own. Because I believe most people feel like that’s what they want.
Also… if I’m being honest (and I always try to be with you guys), I’d have to say that there’s anxiety there on some level. I’ve noticed in a lot of cases, that men feel like being a husband is completely different from being a man in love, when being a husband is simply an extension of that. I don’t want the man I love to feel like marriage is something he has to change for. And I don’t want to feel like I do either. I don’t want him to feel like marriage is moving us to some level where he has to somehow figure out how to love me better. If I marry him to begin with, it’ll be because the way he loves me now is perfect. Husband and Wife titles seem like they put so much extra pressure on people. I don’t want that pressure on me. I know that when love is real, and true- a lot of this won’t matter. And like I said, if that man asked me, I’d be an asshole to say no. But I don’t need it- I don’t know if I ever will.