The Pun Also Rises: Let's not make it official
NORTH ADAMS — I have been with my partner for 15 years, living together for over a decade of that. We are very happy together, I feel very fortunate, and we plan to spend the rest of our lives with each other. We are not married.
It seems strange to me that anyone would focus on that last fact. But I realize that for some people, love and commitment are not real until they have been recognized by the ruling board of authority. For the older generation, that was the church and/or state. (Fun fact: The church and state used to be separated!) For the younger generation, the ruling board of authority was Facebook, which is why the big step in a relationship was becoming "Facebook official."
(I am also now cementing my position as an oldster with any actual young people reading this, who are all thinking, "Nobody cool uses Facebook any more, grandpa, that's for old people. We're on InstaYak-SnapTok")
Still, there's a prevailing sense that a relationship is only real if it is solemnized. Which is madness. If anything, I want my relationships to be less solemn, since I hope to spend as much time laughing as possible. I realized early on that my family might not share this view, so my partner and I came up with great reasons to offer if we were asked about marriage. ("No thanks, we have enough kitchen appliances already," or "Massachusetts no longer allows different-sex marriage.")
As it turns out, nobody ended up pestering us about it, although that may have been because my brother was getting married and fulfilling all my parents' hopes and expectations, leaving me free to continue living my preferred life. (Thanks, Grant!) But I've realized that my antipathy for making things official stretches far beyond marriage.
This past weekend was reunion weekend at my college. For years, I used to be at all the reunions — not registering officially, but unofficially just hanging out at the events on campus with friends who were in town. A couple of years back, a friend who works at the college said if I'm going to be there for reunion I really need to register officially. I stopped going instead.
A few years before that, I recall going on a first date with a woman I met on a dating site. It was a complete and utter failure, we agreed there was no chemistry, and planned to never see each other again. Only, I ended up randomly running into her a year later at a train station and we hit it off. I hadn't engineered the meeting, but the fact that it wasn't officially a date made us conduct ourselves in a way that put us more on the same track.
Just this past month, I decided to finally become an official member of a local community organization. They do good work, and although I usually resist officializing things, I figured it was worth supporting them. I had barely been an official member for a week or two, when I got an email informing me of new work requirements for members. Groucho Marx had the right idea when he said, "I refuse to join any club willing to have me as a member."
I don't even like wearing official nametags at events. I'd rather donate to an organization than be a member. And I think my antipathy for all of this stems from the idea that once you make something official, you have to do it. That's certainly how I feel about marriage; it makes your relationship official so a lot of legal contracts bind you together. And I don't want that; if tomorrow my partner decides she'd be happier without me, I'm glad there are no official impediments to her departure.
That's a good reminder to keep giving her reasons to stay.
Seth Brown of North Adams is an award-winning humor writer and the author of "From God To Verse." His website is RisingPun.com. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of The Berkshire Eagle.
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