2008-03-10 • Volume 2 • Issue 5
To Have and To Hold
Despite the hurdles my parents have faced as immigrants, they have been married for twenty years. My parents’ commitment to each other always grew stronger during tough times. When my mother was hospitalized five years ago, my father was by her side, holding her hand the moment visiting hours began. Instead of distancing himself from her, my father mentally comforted my mother in ways I, as a daughter, could not. Although my parents’ marriage provided stability and safety in my household, marriage is a commitment I would like to avoid in my future. I cannot envision myself being in a decades-long legalized union like my parents have; I am fearful of long-term relationships and the emotional consequences that can result from failed marriages. For me, being married is similar to being inside a small box and suffering from claustrophobia. While marriage would not physically bind me, I would feel emotionally uncomfortable and restricted because everyone would judge how my actions affected my “union” rather than my individuality. Furthermore, I want to avoid marriage since I fear the possibility of divorce. My divorce would indirectly affect my relationships with my family and friends. Simply stated, I do not want to disappoint my parents and relatives. I’d rather avoid marriage altogether if the possibility of divorce lingers in my mind. Since I was young, my mother and her friends have constantly teased me about marriage and asked me if I will marry a non-Chinese boy. Marriage, according to my parents, is part of the “American Dream,” alongside establishing financial stability for future generations. Their jokes are intended to be light-hearted, but their inquisitive questions carry a personal sting. They clearly imply their desires for me to get married and envision me walking down the aisle in a wedding gown. I feel guilty for wanting to follow a different path.
Although I do not expect my views on marriage to change anytime soon, my conscience would certainly be tested if I were to have a child. Out-of-wedlock pregnancies are more common now than they were centuries ago, but society continues to view unmarried women with disdain. The misconception about fatherless children is that they will have a poor moral upbringing since they receive their ethical education from their “sexually loose” and ambitious working mothers. However, I know that the welfare of my child will be dependent on the opportunities provided by my educational and socio-economic background, not my marital status. Despite the social stigma attached to out-of-wedlock pregnancies, I would not want to be pressured into a marriage for the sake of my public reputation. My relationship status simply cannot be glued together by my child’s existence.
While marriage is not on my post-graduation agenda, there is always a chance that my circumstances will change. I would not be surprised to have a change of heart, since Rice is known for mass-producing married couples. I have met more married Rice alums than I can demonstrate using all of my fingers. If I ever do consider marriage, however, I would like a spouse who will appreciate me for who I am. I have all the time in the world to find a partner suitable for marriage because the definition for love does not mention age limits. Take Gloria Steinem, feminist, as an example. Steinem married at the age of sixty-six after she spent decades attacking the concept of marriage, stating that “it was designed for a person and a half.” If Steinem chose marriage, even in her elderly years, then I might too–maybe.
I loved my husband before I could remember his name. I don’t mean I had a crush on him. When we first met in high school I would forget him soon after leaving his presence. Now it’s relatively easy for me to overlook that he’s good-looking. But something inside me quietly arose and watched him whenever he was near. It was a feeling that was more intuitive than intense, and entirely more love than lust.
Even as near strangers, John and I were unusually at ease with one another, and we were each compelled to be a better person on account of the other. Yet it wasn’t until distance pushed us physically apart that the strange flower of our friendship really began to bloom. Back then, I couldn’t have explained why the moment we came together for our first dance there was lightning in my veins, or why our first real kiss gave me an incredible sense of déjà vu. Although it wasn’t a complete surprise, the earth still tilted beneath my feet when John told me, while we were dancing beneath the stars outside a friend’s wedding, that he didn’t just love me as his best friend but was in love with me. He says that when he asked me to be his girlfriend, he really wanted me to be his wife. There were times in the months before he asked me to marry him when I could feel him wanting to ask me right then. We literally feel each other’s thoughts.
I’ve been told that we must “shop around” from youth if we hope to ever find true love. Despite any confusion John and I had in the past, we know that Jesus gave us each other (Mark 10:6-9). Our complete openness, patience, selflessness and respect for each other have been key, not the revolving-door approach typical of today’s romantic relationships.
Nowadays it seems more socially acceptable to continually learn from numerous poor relationships, and perhaps cohabit and have children, than to even consider the satisfying security of marriage–especially before age thirty. People act as though marrying young preordains regret and divorce, but in previous generations people routinely got married at our age. The secret? They had the integrity and plain good sense to weather obstacles–and share joys–together. Marriage is not a fairy tale, and being best friends is essential to being happily married. Two people who are hiding things or mistreating one another can scarcely expect true happiness together for the rest of their lives.
While I know that experiences like John’s and mine are rare, I also know from our experiences and those of others that finding The One really can be as easy as not looking, and that doing so makes for a much better love story.
I’m married to my future. Congratulate me, please. The compromises I’ve made, the places I’ve forgone: it’s all in the name of settling down. The security implied in the context of a career is all I need, really. And it is within the loving arms of this University that I seek to find this comfort.
o, I search for a discipline that is interesting and within my ability to comprehend and mold. I plan to latch on and stick with it in the hopes of fixing stability in a profession. From the list of majors I choose my match; the process serving as a nice substitute for finding the providence of a man well endowed. There are some that might require more work, but those are the most attractive. They are the flirt that makes me blush, the tease that makes me itch to know just a little more. A serenade of security is sung and I am hooked, but I do not know it, because I cannot stop squinting my eyes to focus on what’s ahead.
A few semesters in, I’m still wearing my gown, embellished with pseudo-intellectual pursuits yet tattered as I continue to sway around this University, covering up opportunities for genuine challenge with my silk train. Yes, I am here because I seek knowledge. There is so much to learn and there are so many people to learn from. But I have sat in my dorm room in front of a computer for days writing papers, isolated from the world that I write about. I have walked the same paths to class and to the servery and back to class for multiple semesters, all done with the assumption that I’m going somewhere to learn something and then I am released because I deserve a break, as if breaks from curiosity are needed–as if journeys are taken in an auditorium seat.
I will not argue that one does not need to learn the fundamentals to be able to class=SpellE>to push away and discover the new. But I can’t do this wearing heels. Not when I’m hiking through the rough terrain of finding purpose, and certainly not when these heels have made me six inches taller and launched me into the higher air of the ostentatious, of the privileged and the formally educated, where I can’t even look straight into the eyes of those I am speaking to because I’m looking forward to where the conversation may take me. No, personal growth is not something to dress up for. Nevertheless, it is a ceremony of sorts, and there does happen to be a future in store, no matter the motive. But I am returning to the altar thinking that I want to divorce the safety in security from the fulfillment implied. Because if I don’t, I will bear the child of mediocrity and ignorance and will find myself no better off than when I was single and naïve.
I come from the stereotypical Catholic family: huge but close. My maternal grandparents, ” class=SpellE>Mumsy” and “Pop,” have been married nearly seventy years; and at last count they have over fifty children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Even after so many decades together, they’re still absolutely in love. They’ve been through so much together, and I know that they are each other’s best friends. It amazes me that after ninety years, they still love life. I know that their marriage is one of the main reasons why.
I’ve learned a lot from my grandparents’ marriage. They’ve shown me that when you really love someone, you can put up with their faults. That’s something I expect I’ll have plenty of trouble with as a husband, but I’ll always have the inspiration of my grandparents as a guide. They’ve also taught me that nothing is more important than family. Even though my extended family is about the size of a residential college, my grandparents constantly manage to bring us all together. They never cease to let their grandkids know just how much they love us, and we grandchildren have always been able to tell how much they love each other.
Recent events in their lives have shown me just how powerful marriage can be. On August 29, 2005, when my grandparents were eighty-seven and eighty-five, Hurricane Katrina completely destroyed their home of forty years. Facing a similar situation, I believe most people would have crumbled under the stress. But not my grandparents. They bought a new home and started completely from scratch. After losing nearly all their material possessions, my grandparents embraced the opportunity to start anew. They were able to support each other and give each other a reason to go on in such trying times. I’m so glad to have them as an inspiration for me, and I’m so glad they had each other when their world was turned upside-down.
I want the same happiness in my life that my grandparents have found through their marriage. Their example has shown me that a committed marriage can serve as an anchor for peace, purpose, and satisfaction in life. A spouse is a companion for life. In the good times, marriage gives you someone to celebrate with. In the bad times, marriage gives you a shoulder to cry on as well as the opportunity to offer support and comfort to someone else. A happy marriage can lead to a happy family. Marriage allows you the opportunity to give.
I sincerely hope to be married someday, but I’ve got a long way to go. When my time finally comes, though, I’ll have my Mumsy and Pop as role models for me; and I’ll be sure to remember the many lessons I’ve learned from their marriage.
The magazine is distributed on campus (free of charge for the first copy or two). Contact us if you are interested in receiving or distributing the Rice Standard in quantity.
You can also donate to the Rice Standard to help us publish future issues.