Marriage As Rooted In Pre-Social Goods And As Having Radical Potential

Courtney at Feministing is quite skeptical of marriage but characterizes Elizabeth Gilbert (of Eat, Pray, Love fame) as making a relatively compelling case for “the radical potential to be found in the privacy of the family unit” in her new memoir, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage:

[Gilbert] writes, “It is not we as individuals, then, who must bend uncomfortably around the institution of marriage; rather, it is the institution of marriage that has to bend uncomfortably around us. Because ‘they’ (the powers-that-be) have never been entirely able to stop ‘us’ (two people) from connecting our lives together and creating a secret world of our own.” She references slaves, who married one another in secret ceremonies in various times and places, and the contemporary struggle for gay marriage legislation in the U.S. She goes on:

To somehow suggest that society invented marriage, and then forced human beings to bond with each other, is perhaps absurd. It’s like suggesting that society invented dentists, and then forced people to grow teeth. We invented marriage. Couples invented marriage. We also invented divorce, mind you. And we invented fidelity, too, as well as romantic misery. In face, we invented the whole damn sloppy mess of love and intimacy and aversion and euphoria and failure. But most important of all, most subversively of all, most stubbornly of all, we invented privacy.

I’ve rarely read anything, especially from a mainstream memoir like this one, so convincing as to the radical potential of marriage. I’m not rushing to pick out a ring anytime soon, but I’ve certainly been given food for thought.

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