Saturday, February 13, 2010

An anti- anti-Valentine's rant

Watched Coco Avant Chanel last night for some inspiration. Chanel's declaration 'I intend never to marry anyone' got me thinking. And the fact that I'm half-way through Elizabeth Gilbert's book 'Committed' which is No. 7 on the best seller list (which means others are thinking about this too). Gilbert writes about marriage - what it means, where it came from, the role it plays in society and our own expectations.

There are many women who have made huge accomplishments in their field, but never got married: Elizabeth David, Coco Chanel, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, Oprah Winfrey, Katharine Hepburn, Goldie Hawn. Which is not to say that they haven't had partners or been in love (who can think of Goldie Hawn without Kurt Russell, or Oprah without Stedman, or the epic love shared by Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy).

But these women, whether through personal choice or practicality (like the fact their lovers were married already and divorce was untenable) have never entered into a marriage contract. And this hasn't hampered their success, or their drive, or creativity. I dare say that not being married has allowed them freedoms more than restrictions. In the 21st century whether a woman chooses to marry is her own business, and no longer that of society's.

Which brings me to my next rant: Cougars. There's been a lot of coverage in the media about this. The TV show Cougar Town just aired last week. A friend's Dad recently accused her of being a cougar. Talking with a married male friend, who is around the same age as me, I said that I despise the idea of cougars and wish that the term had never been invented. He said that he thought it was funny, but could understand where I was coming from. I'm not in the age bracket yet, but I can see the terms of the definition sneaking younger and younger.

What I dislike the most is the illogical equation that 'a single woman of a certain age = inevitably, uncontrollably hunts men 15 years younger'. The definition of 'single' may not even be related to actual fact - a woman may be having an affair with a man 10 years her senior, but chooses to keep that knowledge private, or may be in a relationship she is not ready to share with the world. But she will also be tarred with the same brush as her friend who really does go for younger men.

I suspect that it's a term invented by younger men as a way to feel validated in an age where marriage is not a symbol of their own achievements and their relevance to a woman's success is less well defined than it had been 40 years ago. I find the term derogatory and hope that someone comes up with a similarly unflattering term for the men who keep their partners hanging on for years without ever fully committing to them. Because in the 15 year age-gap between the cougars and their prey are a whole generation of men who are scared to commit (according to the demographers).

I also don't believe in the man-drought. It's not reported in the media lately (it's all about cougars, of course!). Bernard Salt may say I'm in denial, but I think that if a woman is single she either isn't ready or just hasn't been in the right place at the right time to meet her match, rather than writing off all possibility of meeting a match because of a seismic demographic shift which no-one can control.

And while we're on the topic - I love Valentine's Day. I wish today were more like the Victorian era when friends all gave each other Valentines. I've been lucky enough to have been given flowers, perfume, cards, chocolates, dinners the whole shebang - but the best was from a friend at work in Edinburgh who gave myself and two colleagues each a card filled with cliched poems like 'Roses are red, violets are blue.'

I think any bloke who says 'I don't believe in it' so they can avoid spending $15 on a chocolate heart or a red rose is a jerk. It's like taking a girl to a dance where everyone has a corsage, but this girl doesn't, because the boy 'didn't believe in it'. And every other girl at the dance is swirling around with their beautiful corsage on their wrist or dress, but she doesn't because her date didn't believe in it.

OK - enough rant, and I promise that in future my blog will be more about inspiration than lamentation!

Thankyou to you who have commented - please keep commenting! I'd love to know what you think of Cougars, marriage and Valentine's Day.


Shaney Hudson said...

Good post Rachel. Bernard Salt should stick to writing about Rock and not the "man drought"- it was a term coined to make single women feel bad about themselves.
I've just finished up on "Committed" and it is a neat essay on marriage and the role it plays. While I always dreamed when I was much younger of being married, I now loathe the idea of getting married- mainly because I don't want my identity- or my relationship- defined by being marriage. Relationships and committment shouldn't need marraige to validate it- and what I relaise now is that I have a lot of friends who married as being a wife gave them an identity and purpose- but I want to look beyond that to live my life.
I agree with what you said- not being married allows more freedoms than restrictions.
But as for Valentine's Day- I think a man should make you feel special everyday. Do you want the man that buys you flowers each week 'just because'or the man who does it just one day?
I must say the best Valentines day I ever had was the one where I was single and hanging out at a single's party. It felt like a celebration of possibilities...

Rachel said...

I just finished 'Committed' too. I realised that while I'm ambivalent about the actual marriage contract, I still want a big diamond and a party and an awesome dress. Surely that's not a bad thing :)

Ren Crawshaw said...

The anti-anti-Valentine's rant was all inspiration, for guys and girls. Guys who aspire to a relationship that works would be hard pressed to find more insight into a romantic woman's mind come 14 February. Lads, if you can't be bothered with a corsage one day a year so to speak, it's fair to presume you can't be bothered with the filigree of making a twosome hum the other 364 days. Ladies, if your bloke continually can't be bothered, why are you? Same sex togetherness as I've been advised is the same. If you don't water it, it withers.

Inspiration is all around.

Ren Crawshaw said...
This comment has been removed by the author.