I have written enough about names – it’s time to write about getting married. And the truth is I have no idea why I got married. So that’s easy isn’t it?
I was having a casual chat in a pub with someone I had met two or three months before and we were now living together.
He said, lightheartedly, ‘How about we stay together for 20 years and then I get the right to trade you in for a newer model?’ I replied in the same vein. And then added hastily, ‘You aren’t asking me to marry you are you?’ Good grief, no of course he wasn’t.
An hour later we asked the bartender for a copy of the Sydney telephone directory to look up the Register Office address. I went the next day for the forms. I gave myself the luxury of a cooling-off period.
I went to New Zealand for a couple of weeks (ended up being three) to consider my future. Who gets married on the other side of the world to a guy they met a few months ago? I made my list of pros and cons. There were more cons than pros.
Before I had left for NZ I said he needed to find us a decent flat. When I came back, he had done just that. We got married the next month.
When we returned to the UK, my mother asked why we had got married – especially as I refused to be Mrs Husband’s Last Name, and neither of us wanted children. We looked at each other blankly and both said, we didn’t know. Fifteen years later she was still asking the same question. We both said we didn’t know. A few years before she died, she had stopped asking that unanswerable question. For whatever reason.
I never wanted to get married. I never intended to get married. My mother’s life of so-called domestic bliss – cleaning the house, looking after A Man, and bringing up a child – did not strike me as being the height of ambition. Or an appropriate personal goal in life for an intelligent person. I guess – being brought up in a patriarchal society – I didn’t want to be rejected either. To end up on that infamous shelf of unwanted goods. So, by saying I didn’t want to get married, I wasn’t available to buy.
I don’t know. Both rationales probably applied. I carefully avoided any relationships that involved ‘commitment’, got my degree, my professional qualification as a journalist, and then gaily set out on my independent world trip. And met someone nice. I still don’t think it matters that we are married or not. It is of no importance to me.
But sadly it is of importance to the society that we live in. I gain respect by being a married woman – well, when people finally discover that we are married – rather than as a person in my own right. Hey! I am valued by a man, so I can’t be totally worthless.
And, it opens doors. My partner – as my husband – was able to do things for my mother simply by saying ‘I am family, I am her son-in-law.’ There were nice tax breaks in the UK for married persons. There still are in Gibraltar. I can also get my health card courtesy of my husband, and my residence card too. Interestingly for the first time in our lives, we have had to produce the marriage certificate to prove that we are married. I don’t know if we would have had to do that if we had the same names.
So why did we get married? No idea, as I said to start with. But the sad truth is, that it has made life easier for us. And that is discriminatory against people who choose not to do so, or are unable to do so. Would I do it again if I had to go back 20+ years? With the benefit of hindsight, yes. Just because it makes life easier. There is only such much fighting that we can all do against the system. Sometimes it is easier to fight from within.