It's A Culture Thing

Passing cultural commentary, critiques and opinions with a touch of humor and satire. All opines are my own.

"How we end up marrying the wrong people"

Feel free to check out this article from The Philospher’s Mail, titled the same as this blog post. (I stole it, shh. Quotes help.)  

Or you can read my loose paraphrase below, riddled with my own opinions. Because fancy words used to describe social phenomena are boring. And the more genre fiction I read to de-stress at the end of the day, the more “smart” words confuse me. 

We Don’t Understand Ourselves: We don’t actually understand anything, at all. The best theoretical physicists in the world thought they found the God particle—Higgs Boson—recently. So far, it seems to shed no light on well, God. But more importantly, when it comes to marriage, we don’t understand ourselves. 

If we’re lucky, by the time we get married we know what sports we like and our favorite kind of protein. And that’s about it. Because it takes so much solitude to know ourselves and so much time and also, a basic IQ number.

And we’re all fucked up. All of us. So it’s important to be able to tell a serious partner how you’re fucked up. But first, you have to know your feelings, unblock your past from your subconscious and figure you out.

We Don’t Understand Other People: You think you know a person, then 30 years later you’re a cautionary tale on Dateline about a marriage ending in murder. It happens, watch Dateline sometime. The point is what we think we know about someone and use to justify years of pointless dating (I mean really, you could’ve married three weeks in and been divorced after a year, hands clean) is only the tiniest, bareliest scratched surface. 

And mostly, we lie to get people to like us anyway.

We Aren’t Used to Being Happy: Our ability to choose a partner wisely is muddled very much by the fact that most of us have beaucoup baggage from our childhood. And since we model what love is on those initial relationships, we often chase down situations in which we’re likely to be familiarly miserable (rejected, disdained, condescended to, ignored, bored to death by spoiling) than be unfamiliarly happy. 

Being Single is So Awful: Right!? Well, depends on where you are, who are you are and how much you buy into your social media accounts. If you live in bumblefuck and are over 30, never married, being single will suck 1 million times worse than living in a city where you have way more options at any age. If you suck at parties, being single is going to suck a lot more for you than someone who has social skills. Most importantly if you lack self confidence, being single is going to suck no matter where you are. Or what you look like. 

In spite of the facts just stated, most of us think being single sucks because we think we’re supposed to think being single sucks because we’re supposed to be married “by now.” Which.is.dumb.

Conclusion: this section is sort of pointless because being single only sucks as much as you make it suck. Or rather, how you make it suck.

Instinct Has too Much Prestige: We like to feel things. We’re very feely animals. We may or may not be more feely than other animals, since we don’t know how to read other animals’ feelings yet. We put a lot of import on how we feel. The article says this is wrong. 

I say, feelings are free, so fucking feel them. Just know what they are. And what they’re not.

We Want to Freeze Happiness: Nothing wrong with that. But we think marrying will do it. And it won’t. To use an example from the article, unless you and your spouse can sit and eat gelato on some Venetian canal forever, or whatever moment you decided you were in love, you’re fucked. Happiness is ephemeral. So is sadness.

We Believe We’re Special: It’s funny how each generation has some idea of the proper time to get married. And a vast majority of the members of that generation just happen to find the one right at exactly the time their society tells them to or before. It’s like God sent down his particle and shot it at everyone. Everyone who was special, like you.

We Want to Stop Thinking About Love: Sometimes we just want to wake up next to a body we know how to manipulate, and one who knows how to manipulate ours. A voice we’ve heard before. A smile we value. No surprises.

And then we get bored and get divorced. Appropriately so.

Men Think They’ve Found Someone Sane: There’s really nothing I hate more in female stereotypes than the “crazy” girlfriend/chick. Why this term, which is used and perpetuated by teenagers persists into adulthood is beyond me. Because most of the time a well educated woman who was your “crazy” early twenty-something lover matures (just like you) and acquires diplomacy skills she didn’t have when she was younger. 

So when you you’re like I don’t know 28 and you fall for that 34 y/r old woman because she’s just so chill compared to all your exes remember she’s most likely learned diplomacy and self control. Because she’s older. You may have found your soul mate.

Or…you may be losing the real love of your life from Sophomore year in college (or last year) having dumped her because she was just too “crazy.” And instead you settled for the one you think will give you a calmer, easier relationship. Even though crazy also had you crazy in love because of your connection in other areas. And calm has you in like, because there’s no real connection in any area that counts.

We think We Have the Same Life Span As Our Parents And/Or Grandparents: And, drumroll, the number one reason why we get married to the wrong person, in my humble opinion, is because we’re modeling our life expectancy, our years of activity and our years of fertility on the one or two generations right before ours. Which is why it’s important to keep up on technology and current events.

These days people are active and healthy and totally great looking well into their 50s and 60s (if they take care of themselves). It seemed our parents and grandparents had one foot in the grave by then. We think we will too. But we won’t. We’ll most likely live much, much longer and much healthier until we finally kick the bucket, extending our ability to energetically raise kids who were born later in our lives, and still be able to capitalize on watching our grandchildren grow.

And when we’re young, we just can’t see that far ahead. We can’t grasp that living with someone for 65 years is just too damn long in most cases (and that’s still a “late” marriage by many (totally wrong) standards: 35 to dead at 100.) 20 years is too damn long in most cases. 

But you just wait, Mr. Higgins, some day people will cluck their tongues with pity and say how sad that living only until 80, being active and healthy only until 48, people were once forced to marry in their 20s or 30s. Like how we pity the child mortality rate of the 18th and 19th centuries.

That’s Not Very Nice

I’m starting this post with a new attitude. I realize that many of my past posts, which are, let’s face it, pep talks to myself, often end up with a blanket “this should apply to everyone” missive. And no, it shouldn’t. I’m speaking to a specific subset of people. And I’m not Epictetus or Marcus Aurealis; I’m not in a position of authority (or experience) to throw out philosophy like one of the masters. So let’s say, going forward, everything I say is based solely on my experience. And yes, it’s me talking to myself with the hope knowledge that there is a subset of people who will benefit and be interested—at their own risk. :)

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Okay I just read this article on Psychology Today that’s intriguing because of how much I’ve struggled with the cultural chasm between the way I was raised in the Midwest and the way I grew up in New York. 

It has to do with the idea of being “nice.” Nice at all costs. Never upsetting the apple cart, never say what’s on your mind if it’s going to hurt someone. I also grew up knowing, like everyone else, that New Yorkers were rude. Impatient. And holier-than-thou in their sense of importance and busyness. 

So let’s go back to 2006, when I first landed in Brooklyn and started dealing with the locals. Or at least people who’d been a transport longer than I had. They were brash. They talked too fast. They did drugs. And they asked questions as soon as they met someone that I’d always been told not to ask. What someone’s ethnicity is and even sometimes why. Where they originally come from (and why). What they do for a living (and why)…I mean this was prying. Right? You waited until they offered this information on their own time, like three weeks into the relationship. Otherwise this was opening up a can of worms that could force someone to talk about something they were embarrassed about or sensitive to. You might be forcing them to lie (oh, that’s bad!) or worse, you might be implying the two of you aren’t the same, and Jesus would definitely not like that.

This was only the first of many culture shocks, but it may be the most emotionally jarring and significant. Because even though I thought people were “rude” in the beginning. (In spite of being a Midwest bitch to begin with) I slowly started to come around to their way of thinking.  Was I just trying to fit in? Or had I been utterly corrupted? No. Not all. I’d been forced (against my will) to see the light.

It took coming back to MI as an adult to understand. 

REVERSE CULTURE SHOCK

Back in the flyover state, I saw a lot of highly sensitive individuals whose sensitivity had been heightened by a lifetime of being coddled and coddling one another. As such these people were in a state of constant fear. Fear of offending, and fear of being offended. Fear of being hurt. Fear of being outside their comfort zone. I realized I’d once been one of them. 

I saw people who were scared to death to be by themselves, who clung tightly to any people they could and were familiar with, whether they were the best people for them or not. I realized I’d done the same in those Brooklyn years.

And when they tried to coddle me and kiss my ass, I realized that I was supposed to do the same to them. That was the bargain you made. Over and over again. So that offering support and praise wasn’t about the person you were praising it was about getting approval and an unspoken agreement that they would do the same for you. And that became this burden I never knew I’d carried around with me, and had let go (eventually) in New York. A burden I didn’t exactly want to pick up again.

I saw some people living these sort of miserable, meaningless lives led around by their fears and the burden of “being nice.” I saw people who were at their core depressed but because everyone around them was just so damn nice felt they couldn’t be honest about how they were feeling and so perpetuated a centuries long cycle of emotional repression, which inevitably leads to…

A shit ton of passive aggression. I realized this was how I’d been raised to express myself, too. In code. So as to minimize offense as much as possible and also protect my own ring of uber sensitivity.

Nice is…not always the nicest way to go about living life. I found. And when someone tells you the truth about how much you suck (and we all do in one way or another) they really are doing a favor. Not just to you (who sucks) but for themselves, too (who also sucks). Maybe the delivery isn’t so great, maybe it could in fact have more compassion but imho it’s better to hear the truth, any way, than not hear it at all. 

As a sort of random aside, in my advancing age I’ve been thinking a lot about raising kids. Even though I don’t feel having children is a personal priority, I wonder (if I did) what would be best for them? And I have to say, raising them in an environment that forces one to be nice, all the time, no matter what, by being surrounded by so many smiling faces isn’t my ideal. I’d want better for them. 

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