Saturday, May 1

What is marriage?

I just finished reading Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace With Marriage by Elizabeth Gilbert.  I will not attempt to summarize everything she write about in the book, but the basic idea is that she researches and writes about marriage in order to come to terms with having to get married so that the man she is in love with can live in the United States with her.  Both she and this man have been married and divorced and they did not  plan on getting married until he was arrested for overstaying his visa in the United States.

She brings up many interesting points about marriage, but one of my favorite parts of the book is when she writes about the shared intimacy of marriage.
The poet Jack Gilbert...writes that marriage is what happens "between the memorable."  He said that we often look back on our marriages years later...and all we can recall are "the vacations, and emergencies" - the high points and low points.  The rest of it blends into a blurry sort of daily sameness.  But it is that blurred sameness, the poet argues, that comprises marriage.  Marriage is those two thousand indistinguishable breakfasts, where intimacy turns like a slow wheel.  How do you measure the worth of becoming that familiar to somebody - so utterly well known and so thoroughly ever-present that you become an almost invisible necessity, like air?

After reading that, I looked up the poem that she mentioned.


We think of lifetimes as mostly
the exceptional and sorrows.
Marriage we remember as the children,
vacations, and emergencies.
The uncommon parts.
But the best is often
when nothing is happening.
The way a mother picks up the child
almost without noticing
and carries her across Waller Street
while talking with the other woman.
What if she could keep all of that?
Our lives happen between the memorable.
I have lost two thousand habitual
breakfasts with Michiko.
What I miss most about her
is that commonplace
I can no longer remember.

I think the few lines are a beautifully put definition of marriage.

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