The stuff about prop 8, in California, has sparked with some other floating thoughts about qualifications and made some connections in my head.
Marriage has always seemed strange to me. I shocked my grandmother when (at about L’s age) I announced that I wasn’t going to get married as it was just a nuisance to have to get divorced later. On the whole, I think I had a point. For me, there has been no moment of walking up an aisle or even standing with my beloved in matching tuxedos at a civil partnership ceremony. The moments that have marked commitment in my relationship with D have been largely private. But, for me, commitment is not about standing up and saying something before witnesses. It is about doing it. It is about time and tests and patience and trust. It is about communication and flexibility and, more than anything else probably, respect. I know what our relationship is and what it means. I can’t see that it makes the relationship any stronger to get it stamped and classified. OK, so there are some practical advantages in getting your relationship approved. But, personally, I think it would make me feel more vulnerable. I have never asked the PTB to ‘approve’ us and they never have. So they can’t withdraw that approval. They can’t tell me what my relationship is, or isn’t.
I wonder if part of the reason why people strive to get married is that they want to be approved? They want to get the stamp and have the photos. It is strange that there are certain occasions when photos must be taken. One is at a wedding and another is at a graduation ceremony. I wonder if marriage and qualifications are largely about the same thing – getting validated? I did do the qualification thing but I never went to a ceremony and don’t have that photo with the hat as the idea made me squirm. Once again, there are practical advantages in getting qualifications (sometimes) but I wonder if they carry the same danger as marriage. The bit of paper tells you you’re clever like the bit of paper tells you you’re loved. The bit of paper validates your life. The bit of paper gives you a place in the world, some status, some identity. And that identity bit is, for me, the most risky. Because that given identity is like a veneer over a real person.
I don’t have anything against people living in loving, long-term relationships and I don’t have anything against people studying. (That’s a good job as I live in such a relationship and make a living out of other people’s study!) But I do think that, for me, it is important to remember that content is what counts – not badges.