I wrote earlier I’d have to discuss this book in parts (part one), but I didn’t realize it would take me this long. It’s just that after getting half way through this book I needed to do something. I realized by page 201, I needed my mother.
One of my favorite parts of Gilbert’s book is where she recounts her conversations with her own mother. At that point, I simply had to stop reading to talk to my own mom about her experiences. I never outright asked my own mother about her thoughts on the subject at hand. Pieces of advice would float between us, but I never really asked the question: What is it about marriage that you like so much? I mean, my mother is the most optimistic person I know around this institution.
(She is now married to her fourth husband, “the one” who had not been married before. She lovingly describes their situation as, I am the first wife of my fourth husband. My mother has a great sense of humor.)
Also, I believed she would have lots to say because she went through some of the most tumultuous times around marriage – the 1970s. And, things were vastly different in that decade compared to today.
My mom grew up with the 1950s decree: Marry. And, soon. Additionally, her father would write “MM” at the bottom of his letters to her in college. The “MM” stood for Marry Money. This was typical when growing up in the 1950s.
Instead, she married for love, at the ripe old age of 20, to a college professor with whom she had three children (myself included) through the 1960s while the hippies raged war on convention. The 1970s and 1980s brought the women’s movement, her own divorce and remarriage. I suspected she has much to say about how one should, can or might view marriage. She did.
First, I learned my mother was sold on the idea – as so many baby boomer women were – that your marriage would be the single most important thing in your life. That is the first myth that gets busted, said mom. But you do learn, she says, that it’s a game – it has rules, obstacles and if you are lucky and work on it – rewards. When people break the rules, marriage is the saddest place to be. But, when the rules are adhered to – it’s the happiest.
I asked about what she gave up, being married. (As an LBB, I simply had to believe there were moments of her wishing she was single in there.) She said there were times she would have done things differently, if single. But, overall, she had no regrets. Being married so young she never had the luxury of setting her own agenda without having to take account of someone else. Women who get married in life, however, need to learn how to take into account another’s wishes and desires at a level they have never experienced before. I asked mom how she did it. I mean, didn’t she just want to bust out sometimes? Yes, she did. But, she still loved being married. She said “the title of that book – Committed – that’s what it’s all about.”
In the end, I concluded much of what Gilbert did. There are no conclusions. It’s a messy business, this marriage stuff. There will come a time in every woman’s life, where she will need to make peace with her choices – to marry, to not marry, to marry later, or not at all. And, having mixed feelings about your choices is not only natural, it should be expected.
And, everyone’s reasons for coupling are different. One of my friend’s favorite quotes is Nobody knows what passes between two people…nobody. And, that may be just it. It’s different for everyone – the rules, the obstacles, the work, the prizes.
As Gilbert says, “every couple in the world has the potential over time to become a small and isolated nation of two – creating their own culture their own language, and their own moral code, to which nobody else can be privy.”
There is so much more I could say about Committed. But, I won’t ruin it for you. Rather, if you are a woman who has married after age 40, read this book, cover to cover. In order. The last 30 pages or so were important for me. But, I’m sure I wouldn’t have gotten it by skipping ahead.