My friend Minky lived the New York life as a performance artist, until she joined a commune in Utah and started growing melons. She is a beautiful, vibrant woman, who is nurturing and fun to be with, yet she hasn’t been married for ten years. Why? Well, she thinks the idea of marriage is an outmoded concept.
I’ve been thinking about the subject this week, mainly because I was taken by a poem on Wednesday. This sometimes happens. I was going about my business, buying cashmere on sale, and the assistant, in answer to my question,”What colour is that?” replied, “They call it alabaster.” And there it was, my poetic hit.
The poem that emerged from the feeling of alabaster was Arctic and, I was startled to see, the underlying theme was marriage. This is something that I know about, having taken my vows three times in fits of youthful optimism. Yet looking back on my life, I realise that the times that I have been happiest have been in between the marriages.
I do believe there is a lot of nonsense talked about marriage. One report showed that in health terms getting married ranked with giving up smoking. What on earth does that mean? Nowadays the assertion that marriage makes you healthier is starting to look rather ropey. Indeed immune system tests show that if you fight with a loved one the immune system suffers badly. Hostility is bad for the body. The stresses of modern life; making ends meet financially and sorting the division of labour make the presence of hostility a given in modern marriage.
The trouble with marriage is that is moves quickly beyond the delicious romance of early relating. On the bus coming back from my cashmere buying expedition,I sat behind a middle-aged couple wearing matching rings and chattering away. They were laughing into each other’s eyes. I was struck by this because it seemed so unusual. In my experience stony silence is the norm along with the absence of presence. Alone together. I’m sure there are many making committed relationships work in some form or another. Indeed Kate Figes in her book Couples concludes that ‘committed relationships offer us the best crucible there is for psychological growth, contentment and a sense of self and place.’
I seem to have that crucible in my life, without a partner. But I could be wrong. So, knowing that this has got me into trouble at least three times before, I’m still looking. Such is the power of the cultural imperative!
If the ideal is the marriage of true minds, where would I be likely to find that? In Fez maybe, at The Festival of Sacred Music. So I’ve booked my hotel room at the Hotel Splendid, which is small and cute rather than splendid and I’m off in June. If it’s to be, I will find it there. Playing poker with the Universe. If I come back with only the sound of Sufi in my ears, it wont be a wasted week and knowing that there is no journeyman will release me to get on with the business of living the last but one great adventure without distractions.