Considering my views and thoughts about marriage, it’s easy to understand why I haven’t shared this yet. A few weeks ago I dreamed that Hennie asked me to marry him. Of all the dreams to remember it was a little scary to wake up with this one. I practised my favourite method of problem solving, the pretend-that-nothing-happened-technique, developed and perfected by the Ostrich. But I still couldn’t stop thinking about this dream. So I researched. Not to find out what it means (I don’t really buy into the whole dreams are symbols thing), but to find out what some great thinkers of our time think about dreams.
At some point in our lives we’ve all believed that desires, fears and problems are what our dreams focus around. Many people may be thinking that this dream is some way of expressing my want for a marriage proposal. That line of thought comes from the same thinker responsible for the Oedipus Complex. Yup Freud is the guy behind this widely accepted belief. While we all like to think that our dreams of shagging Brad Pitt are desires we’re too scared to talk about, some dreams are in fact expressions of fear or conflict. But was my dream an expression of fear, want or a realisation that I’ve talked myself onto the idiomatic shelf? Not enough answers here.
Another great thinker, Alfred Adler doesn’t agree with Freud (phew! my dream isn’t a repressed desire). He recons that dreams are our mind’s way of making sense of goals. When we dream it is in fact to help us move towards what it is that we strive for. (Er, I didn’t see that one coming!)
From an African perpective, (since I consider myself African this could have bearing) dreams are about what is going on in one’s concrete reality. I understand this to mean that we make sense of what is going on around us while we sleep. This perspective also considers dreams to be a message or warning from the ancestors. This could be why I dreamt this in particular. Hennie had been behaving strangely and since I’ve had a question popped previously I was probably worried that it was going to happen again.
More than worrying whether it would happen again, I worried about the related bits and pieces of a marriage proposal. If he did ask me what would I say? How would I react? Would he be smart enough to ask on one of my pro-marriage days? Or would he make the fatal error of asking on an anti- day?
Unfortunately my dream gave no clues to any of these questions. I woke up before I gave my answer!
Fear gripped her cold icy heart as she strolled past the shop windows. The jewels behind that clean sparkly glass made her worry that she might be too old for this fear.
2012. A leap year. A year which traditionally meant that women who were getting antsy could pop the question. Last week a plumpish blonde woman proposed at the Lions game.
But the fear was real. These past few weeks have proven to her why she should be afraid. Love turns downward. It reaches a bottom. A bottom she is worried she might not be able to live with peacefully. She has expectations of her life. Her life should be a certain way. She deserves a certain measure of happiness.
Marriage might mean that measure is more like a ration.
Marriage might mean kids. Marriage might mean teenagers. She has enough teenagers everyday.
Can she live with being happy on Wednesdays and Saturdays only? Is she happy all the days of the week now?
When I was living in London I used to do door-to-door sales as a way to earn money. In hindsight I earned nothing from it in terms of financial gain but I certainly have a few fantastic memories and experiences. In the company I worked for, there was the opportunity, if you were good enough, to work alone and open up your own branch of the main company. The only catch was that you had to make a lot of sales first. You needed to be pretty good at getting people to trust you and buy into what you were selling. Firstly you needed to reach the daily sales targets and then you could be in charge of a team of other sales people. Once you were a team leader you needed to make sure that all the people in your team reached their targets everyday and then after doing that for a while you got to open and run your own branch. It was hard work but apparently the benefits were well worth the effort.
The manager of the branch we worked at always told us that we wouldn’t make it unless we closed our back doors. What this meant was that we needed to put everything we had into our work. No holding back, we needed to be willing to become completely vulnerable and be ok with that in order to make targets and go big. We needed to keep our eye on the goal and be willing to walk towards our goal without looking back. The way he explained it was like this. When we embark on something new we keep a little escape hatch handy so that if it doesn’t work out we still have a way to save ourselves. When you start something new it’s easy to tell everyone you’re all in and to close the door that they entered through but you need to close your escape hatch too. Only once that’s closed will you be able to succeed in what you have set your mind to.
Getting married is the ultimate in closing that back door. You can’t leave when you are bored. If he sucks between the sheets you need to deal with it. Either you can talk to him about it or you can keep quiet and pretend you love making love to him. When he makes you angry, you can’t just get up and leave him. Maybe he has not put the toilet seat down and in your urgency to get to the toilet and have a wee you sit directly on the bowl. Maybe he hasn’t come home from work when he said he will. Maybe he keeps inviting his family over and keeps making excuses why yours shouldn’t visit. Whatever he has done to make you feel under-appreciated or worthless you can’t just leave him. Well not easily. Getting married is saying to him (and him saying to you) that you trust him completely with all your heart and mind. You know that he will look after you when you need him to and you know he’ll be completely honest with you (these are of course reversible). When you are married you need to try your best to make the relationship work, especially when it’s not quite meeting expectations. You can’t just leave when the other person stops making an effort. We all remember the first days of a new relationship. For us girls, our legs (and any other body part usually shaved) was kept smooth, consistently. We were always in a good mood when we saw him, even if we’d had a bad day. We made sure to keep the conversation sparkly even if we’d spent a long time with our new man. We always looked and smelled best. Once we got used to him though, it became perfectly acceptable to climb into bed next to him with the hairiest legs you’d ever set eyes on. It became easy and understandable to be in a bad mood over dinner, and even to take that bad mood out on him (assuming he didn’t cause the bad mood). Why is that ok? More importantly why don’t we think about these things when we get married? That is after all exactly what will happen in 5 years after the big day.
A friend of mine says that having kids a big deal. The things that don’t normally bother you when it’s just the 2 of you make you consider murder when a baby enters the house. She gave an example. You’re making dinner for the 2 of you and he is reading the newspaper. That’s ok, you don’t mind. Cooking isn’t an unenjoyable pastime. You wouldn’t say no to help but it’s not like you really need it. Now add a baby to the scenario. You are making dinner, he is reading the newspaper. Baby is crying, she wants a cuddle that’s all, but he refuses to get up and cuddle her. Well it’s not that he refuses his help; it’s more like he is completely oblivious to the sounds of her loneliness. As the childhood rhyme goes; Jill and man sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G, first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a golden carriage. Babies are a reality in the whole marriage story. When you get one you get the other. Why, you ask? It’s because people stop using condoms and other birth control devices.
On the topic of not using condoms I heard a horror story when I was at the tender age of 16. I was at the age when youth club at church was a pretty fun thing to go to. It was a good way to meet guys and a good way to get out of the house to hang out with them. This particular Friday evening, after a pretty thorough mouth examination by my boyfriend at the time using only his tongue, we went into the hall to hear the “message” of the evening. We all sat down and the youth pastor told us of a young woman from that particular church who saved her virginity till she got married. All her life she dreamed of meeting “The One” and when she did, she waited until the “Big Day” before she had sex with him. So far it was a pretty romantic story. They got married and they had babies, as you do. She had remained faithful to her husband throughout their marriage and she loved him dearly. One day during a routine medical check-up she discovered that she had HIV. How did she get HIV? She wasn’t using drugs, she waited until her wedding day to have sex and she stayed faithful to her husband. He, the swine, had decided that she wasn’t good enough between the sheets and had paid a prostitute for sex. Kick in the face. After telling her husband, indirectly, that she trusted him, he took that and gave her HIV. I can’t remember what the youth pastor’s point was in telling us about this because I was too busy considering her pain.
Closing your back door when it comes to love is a scary and horrifying thing to think about, let alone do. You need to be prepared to take the good with the bad. Marriage is not about a big party in a white dress that you dreamt about since you were 5 years old. It’s about the nitty gritty of building a life together with another person. But if you don’t close that back door in order to prevent the draft from blowing your love away will you keep a hold of that love and have a fulfilling relationship anyway? Does love need to be declared publicly and cemented in marriage registers for an eternity for it to be real? Is it really any of society’s business how I feel about you or how you feel about me? When you date someone it’s quite easy to keep that back door open. It is easy to make sure you have an escape route handy. It’s a lot harder to actually pull and lock that back door behind you though.