Wednesday is therapy day. And on this past Wednesday -- two days before Valentine's Day -- the topic of conversation was marriage and how it's so damned hard sometime. I won't get into the nuts and bolts of our discussion, but I will say this, to all of you women who are single and pining for love and a man on Valentine's Day because you think it will fix all that is wrong in your life -- go buy yourselves a heart-shaped box of chocolates and pull up a chair. I want to talk to you.
Before I got married, my vision of marriage was what you see in the movies. Not War of the Roses, movies, but more like girl meets boy, boy proposes to girl in earth-shattering romantic way, You've Got Mail kind of movies. Even Garry Marshall had me believing that a millionaire really could fall in love with a prostitute like Richard Gere did in Pretty Woman.
In real life, Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid divorced, a brief love affair with Russell Crowe fizzled out and Julia Roberts' marriage to Lyle Lovett ended after two short years. Hollywood doesn't like endings like that for their films. They prefer women to walk out saying to their men, "Why don't you (insert unbelievably romantic thing here) to me like he did?" while men exit with their tails between their legs in shame.
Unlike the proposal in Sweet Home Alabama where a tuxedoed Patrick Dempsey guides Reese Witherspoon into a Tiffany's, gets down on his knee and asks her to marry him and pick out any ring she wants in the entire store (cough, cough, choke, choke), my wedding proposal consisted of me asking my then-boyfriend (now husband) if he planned on marrying me before my 20th class reunion.
"I'm not going to my reunion a never-married woman," I said to him.
"So, what, you want to go get a ring or something?"
"Is that a proposal?" I asked.
"I guess. But I have to do it quick because I gotta get a haircut at 4," he responded, ever so romantically.
Not wanting to lose my window of opportunity, I grabbed my purse, we raced out the door, headed to the mall and bought the first sparkling ring I saw at Bloomingdale's that was in the 50 percent off case. With a ring box in my purse, and no grander formalities to follow, we were officially engaged. Thirteen years later, we're still married. But it's been a tough road with many challenges that we've chosen to work on and overcome.
Author Chrisanna Northrup, along with a group of sociologists and Reader's Digest, interviewed 80,000 people from around the world to gather information on love, sex, trust and relationships. In her study she found that more than 33 percent of men and women who watched a TV show or movie that sugarcoated romance were affected so much by what they saw that they considered breaking up with their significant other. That's a third of the people surveyed who felt inadequate because their relationship didn't measure up to a vision that Hollywood created.
If you want a more realistic view of marriage, talk to some of your married friends. I mean, really talk to them. Don't look at their smiling couple's photos on Facebook where fantasy land happiness rules supreme. No, I mean, sit down and ask them what their day-to-day lives are really like. I bet you'd be surprised to find out that it's not round-the-clock massages, trails of fragrant petals leading from the front door to the jacuzzi tub and bouquets of flowers "just for the heck of it." It's work. And hard work at that. More than likely, you're having more sex than they are.
I'm not saying marriage is a complete downer. I'm just saying that media -- and now social media -- tends to make it all look glossy and perfect, causing single women to think they're somehow missing out on the best thing in their lives because they haven't strolled down the aisle yet. Nothing could be further from the truth. My advice to you is enjoy the life you're living now. Travel. Read books. Take art classes. Embrace your friends. Date. Love. Eat. Fuck. Whatever you do, don't look longingly at your married friends thinking that they are living a better life than you are because they are with someone. It's simply not reality.
And this Friday, when you see the flower guy make his 24th delivery to your office, bypassing your desk, know that I -- and thousands of other married women along with me -- will be sharing in your longing.
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