Monday, July 22, 2002

Thought of the day: Marriage is overrated. I say this as a happy newlywed and something of a marriage purist (in that I believe the wedding ritual as it stands in America today is a tasteless festival of consumption and ostentation, seldom conducted deliberately or thoughtfully). But in the first few weeks, I've also been hit with how much the projection of what I wanted marriage to be--which I formed in a religious community that sees marriage as an end in itself, an elevated universe--was inflated. Marriage is wonderful, but it is also, like everything else in a broken world, real, human, and deceptively incomplete when we expect perfection or nirvana from it. This has deepened my sadness about how religious communities like my hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan, consider married people as morally safe, normal, and often superior over single people--especially women. (Here the social norms of religious communities are more influential than the transcendent personhood of Christ, who was single, as was the apostle Paul and other Christian icons. Singleness is a valid lifestyle, and Christianity was the first religion to validate it.)

This feeds my mixed feelings about Sex and the City, a quality show that is almost as well-acted as it is well-written, although at times alarmingly shallow in scope and content. On the one hand, the characters speak honestly and wrestle with the gap between how marriage has always been billed to them and what they actually find it to be, which is a crucial conversation to share with women who are told the significance of their existence hinges on their marital status. "Do we really want these things," Carrie asks after breaking out in a rash while trying on a wedding dress, "or are we just programmed?" On the other hand, it is disturbing to see how these characters' neuroses and even narcissism leads them to sabatoge functional and fulfilling relationships with men--it's as if their lost faith in traditional relationships becomes a continually self-fulfilling prophecy. If doubt about marriage means such self-centeredness, than you begin to have doubt in the doubt itself.

A useful and unusually skeptical review of the show in Sunday's Chicago Tribune by Steve Johnson (who reports this morning that he already has a flood of angry e-mails about the piece),

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and as a counterpoint, a review from praising the show's second thoughts about marriage:

And then there's, the anti-bride's declaration of independence from ancient bridal values.

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