An Irish woman's social, political and domestic commentary
Sunday, September 04, 2005  

This week's ST: May he be well, may he have his own toilet

It is a truth universally acknowledged that single people build their social lives around the goal of getting married.
Marrieds can’t help wishing, on occasion, that they could go back to being single.

I sat in a pretty Scottish church last weekend with fingers crossed, wishing my two friends a successful marriage. If uniformity of good will in a church has any cosmic power, this couple will never exchange of cross word. Sadly, we know that is unlikely, if not impossible. The myth of the eternally fulfilling romantic union was shattered a long time ago. The best we can hope is that the rows are rare, and result in only the occasional visit to the spare room.

Later on at the reception I was slightly envious as the singletons downed champagne and flirted with each other. I did my share of flirting and went home at a decent hour with my husband, sighing inwardly. My hangover would be less acute than theirs but that was small comfort knowing that all the fun of courtship was gone for ever.

We crave the security of a legally obligated companion and then wonder if we’ve built a prison instead of a safe house. Our overwhelming need for attachment has placed us two-by-two on an altar of hope, which in some respects seems utterly bizarre.

If one reads women’s magazines and the tabloids, the obstacles in the path of the hoped-for happiness are other people, violence, alcohol, gambling and cross-dressing. But the tedium of suburban life in a capitalist society is such that these vices are unlikely to be the cause of most marital discord.

While single people complain bitterly about the smug marrieds, everybody knows that behind the facades of clean houses and nice clothes, most couples endure a combination of drudgery and monotony, to which they will admit under the influence of a gin and tonic and a gentle prompt. The root of the unhappiness in suburbia is the modern expectation that two adults can live in close proximity for a prolonged period in constant delight about each other’s habits. After some years, familiarity on such a personal and physical level is bound to lead to boredom, from which hostility is a short step.

At some point in the marriage, the wife, maintainer of the pristine house and primary child-carer, will stand at the kitchen sink daydreaming of Mr Darcy’s ardent admiration for Elizabeth Bennett’s fine eyes and finer mind. Deprived of intelligent conversation for the greater part of her day, there is ample room for the realisation to form that nobody is violently in love with her. Faced with this depressing reality, a resentment is born and carefully nourished against the unknowing spouse for his failure to make frequent declarations of his appreciation and regard.

Observing his tracksuited and bedraggled partner, the helpless husband is left to wonder where the sparkling young bride of their courtship has gone and to rue the day the en-suite bathroom became standard. What hope can there be of mutual admiration when two people are obliged to perform their toilet within earshot, if not full view, for the rest of their lives?

My advice to the new couple would be to construct separate bathrooms, adequately soundproofed with express permission required to enter either one. Unfortunately even this will not prevent the jaw-clenching irritation that each half of a couple has the capacity to inflict on the other.

Quirks fondly overlooked in the past will eventually provoke an antagonism that will shock onlookers. The spice and wonder of early courtship can quickly turn to tiredness. Most couples are overworked and weary, and blame each other for not adding more joy to daily existence.

The result is that the interpretation of marriage to which most people can truly relate is the shop couple in Father Ted. The subversively named John and Mary are usually in the process of inflicting extreme verbal and physical abuse upon one another just as Fr Ted comes across them. Instantly the hostilities cease and friendly greetings take over. As soon as the priest leaves, the couple get back to killing each other.

Are there any married people in existence that have not engaged in acrimonious exchanges on the doorstep of a friend’s house, with the bitter expressions being replaced with smiles and affection once the door opens? As the couple observe each other come to life in the company of others, perhaps the recognition of the personality to which they were originally attracted encourages a reconciliation. Resolutions are made to put aside the bile and love will manifest itself in good humour and patience. Inevitably, this is temporary but at least creates enough fuel to drive the relationship onward.

For most, the occasional day dream of escape is tempered by the presence of children, the absence of money and, one hopes, the realisation that however monotonous their existence, life without the other is inconceivable.

On those intermittent occasions when my thoughts stray to the freedom of my single life I try to remember two things. The need for unconditional love is not satisfied by exposure to the fickleness of serial dating. For every successful score there is a corresponding rejection that crushes the spirit just as easily as a snap from a spouse.

The other is that a little Metta Bhavana, the Buddhist philosophy of loving kindness, goes a long way: “May he be well, may he be happy, may he be free from suffering, may he progress.” Then, he’s not just an extension of my life; he’s the individual that he was when I first met him, who does not exist solely to make me happy.

Between that and our efforts to pee at opposite ends of the house, I hope we’ll make it ’til death by natural causes do us part.

note: I must say that I alway enjoy seeing the headlines the editors put over the article. That one really made me smile. Also, someone will always tweak my copy just a little and invariably for the better. For example my original copy didn't start out with the "truth universally acknowledged" line but as that's the first line of Pride and Prejudice, clever move putting it in there. Finally, regular blog readers please excuse re-hashing of this week's themes but as they dominated by mind it was hard not to use them. The cathartic effect is helping to improve my mental health and after a low on Thursday am starting to make plans to get out of the bloody house and end my mad housewife existence. Well, for at least one day a week anyway.

posted by Sarah | 11:47 19 comments
I don't think all singletons are looking for marriage; that idea is bonkers.
Did you know that Gibbons are monogomamous?
They make alot of noise and could potentially work in PR.

Could they do Hi Tech PR? I don't know.

How long are your arms anyway?

Ring me this evening.
Perhaps not marriage but I think a long term relationship anyway. My father frequently points out the superior traits of some animals. For example, he is fond of saying that in the bird world "you'll never see a blue tit mating with a yellow" which I think is his way of wondering about the advisability of inter-racial marriage. PR is a lot like other executive jobs. Just repeat what someone else says and present other people's good work as your own. Except for event management. Then you have to shout at people. my arms, like my legs are short as I am petite and yes I will call you this evening. I'm trying to figure out what to wear to Fiona's party. Slut or sophisticate?
I don't know about blue tits and yellow tits but a Lion and a tiger can make a liger.

Go sophisticate but show as much tit as you can get away with and I don't mean wear a bird on your hat.

As for LTR women want 'em men dread 'em.
what's LTR?
Long Term Relationship
I think women want them when they are 33 and men want them when they are 43.
Make load of cash and hae loads of illegitimate children.


ligers and tigons

delete that last comment please
what's wrong with the last comment? I think for men that's probably a desirable situation.
isn't a "yellow tit" a goldfinch? I have no idea how I know that. Actually, Google suggests that there is such a creature in Taiwan, so maybe that's what yr dad was after.
I will consult my bird loving father on this matter. He does admire birds very much. A story is told (often) that on the morning I was born he left my mother into the local maternity hospital in Trim (in the days when they had handy little cottage style nursing homes) at about 5.30/6am. When he came back ('cost in those days the men didn't hang around) it was too late to go back to bed but too early to milk the cows. So he took a walk around to see how the baby thrushes were doing (I was born in May). And as we say in the Enfield, there they were, gone. Cats. So as I came into the world, my dad went up and down the road collecting every cat he could find and drowned the lot. I always feel those cats are haunting me still.
I just checked out Leon's tiny url. I cannot believe that people have forced tigers and lions to mate and there are things called ligers and tigons. But it's on the internet so it must be true.
Yellow Tits don't exist.
Except as Justin says in Taiwan and indeed all over China.
But those are the normal sort of tits, not the bird.
Below a list of the existing sorts of tits.

Crested tit
Great tit
Long-tailed tit

Please delete that comment Sarah, what about my new man image?
The Da is at a very important 2-day conference in Carrick-on-Shannon so I had to consult my mother. She agrees there is no such thing as a yellow tit so the error was clearly mine. However, I think the substantive regarding the reluctance of similar but different species in animal kingdon to mate still holds. Except for the tigons and ligers.
Leon, you do not have a new man image and as you insist on cracking amusing but silly jokes about tits you deserve to have intemperate comments haunt you. I only exercise my power to delete for excellent causes and rehabilitating you is not one of them :-)
In Dublin after yrs in NY and find 30something chicks thin on ground. Am told plenty still single so where they hanging out?
My two younger sisters are single. They tend to go out in a big gang together which I think is a useless way of meeting men because Irish guys don't chat up women in public places, get their number and phone them. There has to be this silly mating dance where they meet 10 times in mutual company and eventually get drunk and snog each other. I advise women to get men one of two ways: 1. Get a job in a male dominated industry like IT or Telecoms (my preferred option). 2. Take up a sport. Sailing is usually ripe as the men there also tend to be well off. Golf will do but not so good as fellas don't really want to play with women. If you're a guy you have to go to late night bars like the Barge or The Sugar Club and just chat them up but make sure to get their phone number. And they might give you false ones. The best option is to join a yoga class. They are full of women.And yoga can be quite intense and almost sexual so you get them in the right mood. Or a gym - but be careful what you wear there. Not many people look attractive in a gym. Or get a job in a call centre. Packed with women. As a man you would be their boss and you could exploit your power.
The above advise seems great - you could make money selling ideas like that, well done Sarah! Wasted on me now - I'm happily married almost 25 years with 3 teenagers. Maybe my wife was thinking like you - I'm in telecoms!
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Thank you John. I love your Identity btw. It makes you sound like a Saint.
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