Monday, May 20, 2013

The Halfway Mark

I started watching Mad Men recently. I'm honestly surprised it's taken me this long, given my love of mid-century aesthetic. My admiration of the era, however, is purely from a design perspective--the clothes, the furniture, the symbolism. Just about everything else (racism, sexism, politics, and so forth) I find repellent.

I wasn't sure I'd make it through the first episode, to be honest. I was a secretary once; not for an advertising firm, but close enough. Every reference to "girl" and every misogynistic remark made my blood pressure increase by two counts at least. And the philandering of virtually every male character repulsed me.

I'm midway through Season 3 now, and though I am glued to Netflix every night for those 40 minutes, nearly every episode leaves me sad. It's the portrayal of marriage in the series that saddens me--not because it's so negative, but because it's so true.

I have always wondered why people get married in the first place. Men no longer need women to do their cooking and cleaning (whether or not they still think they do); women no longer need a man's income and signature to own property or provide for themselves. People toss about the phrase "marriage of convenience" as if it were a curse--but really, don't all marriages eventually become marriages of convenience?

One's formative years--the ones between becoming a grown-up and becoming old--are typically spent trying to carve out one's niche; to "become." If children are involved, there is the added task of raising them to eventually be capable of carving their own niche. Those years are full of the mundane minutiae of life. Routines are settled into. Boredom sets in. And eventually, one finds oneself sharing a house with a stranger who regularly leaves wet towels on the bathroom floor and dirty dishes on the counter.

Why do people stay married? For the comfort that comes with familiarity? For the sake of the children? For the convenience of an extra set of hands--and a second paycheck--to assist with day-to-day business?

Those are certainly respectable reasons. But are they worth living with the accompanying resentment? You can't resent your kids; they never asked to be born. You can resent your career, but that makes you look stupid, because you worked for it. So you resent your spouse, because, well, they're convenient.

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