Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Smug domesticity

Slate had a great article about the inevitable shift of "chick lit" into "mommy lit."

I've been thinking for some time about some of the themes this critic touches on, mostly that of the smug domesticity.

Don't get me wrong, I have my Martha moments, and I love looking at the Restoration Hardward catalog and imaging a nice clean sage and silver life - but what get under my skin is the domesticity that invariably comes with marriage and the smug attitude that this is exactly what one's whole life has been leading up to.

...and the problems that come when slightly-harried-and-lovin'-it turns into oh-my-god-I-had-no-idea-this-is-what-it-would-be-like.

Because somehow it seems with all the lifestyle brands - Crate & Barrel, Pottery Barn, J Crew - we've taken the already romanticized notion of married life and turned it into a completely unattainable goal that leads many to disappointment and some into divorce.

I've been wondering if my generation may be completely unprepared for the realities of long-term, committed relationships.

It seem we're all about the narcissistic love, the its-about-me-being-me love; in other words, the conditional love. Which is fine, if you admit it's conditional. But we don't. We buy rings and take vows and stuff conditional into a box labeled "unconditional" and act suprised and defeated when it doesn't work out.

I think we need to find someway to let marriage be marriage, but in the context of the current consumer environment.

And yes, I said consumer.

Because choosing a mate is on some level like shopping.
What better indicator of who you are than who you choose to represent your other half.
And that's what lifestyle brands and consumer choices seem to be all about... identifying yourself as a member of some larger tribe.
Are you le creuset or cuisanart?
j crew or anthropologie?
starbucks or deweys?
hummer or prius?
east side or west side?
urban or suburban?

So you choose and get chosen, and things feel good and life sort of reflects the fantasy. But what about when the person you choose changes? Depression sets in? Or they find a commitment to a new diety? Or it's just not right? What then?

The tension between the conditional and the unconditional sets in.
(Buyer's remorse...?)
How long do you support them?
At what point is the change too much?
Is it selfish to leave or foolish to stay?

It's not like you can just... return them.
And you rarely have the power the change them (even if you can withhold sex - ladies, this DOES NOT WORK... sets a BAAAAAAD precedent and ruins things for those of us next in line...

And to add insult to injury, leaving seems to be this black hole of devastating personal failure since marriage and settling down have been pretty much accepted as the ultimate goal.

So obviously, it stands to reason that if you achieve it - and then lose it - you've somehow failed as a member of society.

I think we're setting ourselves up for failure.

Soul-sucking, depression-causing, people-breaking failure.

Are long-term relationships doomed as long as we have fickle consumer tendancies?

Would anyone get married if they knew its not all backyard barbeques and clutter-free living rooms?

I'm just curious to know since I'll be walking down an aisle as a bridesmaid for the SEVENTH TIME this weekend.
And a couple of friends have recently announced divorces/separations.

So there's a whole lotta stuff swirling around up there.


Dennis said...

You might take a look at Esther Perel's
Mating in Captivity: Reconciling the Erotic and the Domestic

sarah said...

Thanks, I actually bought it and read it about a month ago. It's a wonderul book. Thanks for the link.