Saturday, April 30, 2011

Two billion minus one

No sneaky peaks, no dirty little secrets. Last night I did not watch the wedding of the century.

I admit there was a time when I thought I’d be tuning into the extravaganza on Friday night. The Chaser crew announced they were going to do an alternative commentary to the royal wedding on ABC2. It felt like we’d come of age as a colony and I looked forward to their irreverent wit ripping to shreds an outdated convention. But sadly it was not to be. It turns out we do not live in an enlightened age after all and an edict from on high, via the BBC, made it clear such insubordination would not be tolerated. Only reverential, non-ironic coverage of the event would be permitted.

Perhaps if Hans Christian Andersen had been born a Brit rather than a Dane, The Emperor's New Clothes would never have been published either. These days, while the House of Windsor can’t chop off the head of a commoner who has a different worldview, they can and will chop off their news feed.

However it’s not 1837 and strangely 174 years later, the Princess Myth is alive and well.

Back in the 70’s when I was a growing up, I hankered for hot pants not wedding dresses. At my first primary school disco I donned flared cords, not the frilly dresses of my peers. De facto couples were a new phenomena and rather than feeling bereft that this may mean I’d never walk down the aisle, I embraced it.

I don’t know what went wrong in the last 40 years. It had begun so well but in this new millennium we seem to be going backwards. Royalists are trumping republicans, new right wing political parties are emerging and marriage and babies for all are back on the agenda.

Weddings after all cannot be divorced from their primary function – welding two people together for the purpose of propagation. And that is exactly what two billion viewers world wide tuned in for, an archaic fertility ritual where they all but got to sit at the end of the bed to watch the carnal consummation.

In an age when “til death do us part” is the exception, with only 22% of Australian women being married at the time they die, marriage is disproportionally popular. The wedding industry flourishes, with magazines and party planners, feeding young girls dreams of The Dress, The Flowers, The Song and oddly The Church (in a time when congregations dwindle). In a way the groom is optional, as weddings are still all about the bride. It’s her big bang before morphing into another entity. Her last act as a single woman before she hands herself over to a greater force, that of wife and inevitably mother.

The hoop-la around gay marriage still hinges on the popular perception that the primary function of such a union is for a man and a woman to have children. As a man and a man or a woman and a woman cannot “naturally” reproduce, then they have no rights to the sanctity of marriage according to the opponents. It is children that the laws of marriage attempt to protect, both directly and indirectly; and it is that protection of children that justifies the recognition of marriage as a legal status.

This of course implies, not just homosexuals but also the barren (intentional or otherwise) have no right to holy matrimony. Personally find it hard to understand why anyone, gay or straight, wants to buy into the marriage myth. But if weddings ring your bell they should be for all, obviously.

At the handful of weddings I’ve attended more often than not I’m a “plus one”. I’ve witnessed the nuptials of more strangers than friend because like me so few in my tribe find the convention relevant. But this time, when yet another young woman I didn’t know was going to have her Princess moment, I declined the virtual invitation. For once in my life I decided to be minus one. But then again, why break the theme of a lifetime?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Bambino joy

A nephew arrived in my life this January, a child long-awaited by his grandparents, one that's apparently turned my younger brother's whole life around. I can hear it in his voice when we speak. The very fact that we even speak the way we do this year is completely down to this tiny little person, and that, people, that is a miracle.

I met him at a lunch by the harbour in my home town, drinking posh tea from silver pots and sweet, old lady china, watching my parents very different reactions to their first, perhaps only, grandchild. Dad - proud, jolly, assured. Mum - standoffish and totally disinterested. Perhaps in mum's response there's an inkling of how the disinterest in small people of my own arose.

Did my own bodyclock start sounding an alarm in response to all this bambino joy?

Not at all. Not a sound. In fact, I felt incredibly light afterward, assured, yet again, that I made all the right choices.

The Guardian has a great little affirming piece well-worth a read this week, for the childless among us.