“We are just waiting for you, Michael” came the excited chorus from my mother’s friends, over lunch in Netanya last week.
Thankfully, the septua- and octogenarians were not expressing some carnal desire of widowhood, but rather their hope that I might finally give my mother some naches (as if being a solicitor isn’t enough) and settle down.
Strange expression that, “settle down”. I am a lawyer, have been in the same position – tragically, at a desk – for over three years, own my own apartment, two dogs, etc . . . and yet, in the eyes of many (especially in traditional Jewish circles), am no better than an unfinished jelly or cake. It is as if, to those people, everything you are and have achieved count for nothing if you’ve only ever said “I don’t.” Which is sad, I think . . . for them. (You also, often, get treated differently; though I will leave that for a separate post).
For many years, people were asking me when I was going to “tie the knot”. It was as if I had been putting off the inevitable, and shouldn’t have. These days, however, the enquiry, when made, is couched more in terms of “taking the plunge”, the rather less optimistic imagery reflecting the perceptible change in the attitude of friends – most in their forties and married for over a decade – towards their spouses and marriages. And, for the first time, I am even being advised not to “take” it.
I do have a handful of friends who seem genuinely content with their domestic lots. Another handful seem genuinely discontent, whilst the majority appear resigned, often reaffirming (to themselves) how much they love their kids. And one, only semi jokingly, refers to his wife as “the Obersturmgruppenführer”. Nice.
Now, none of this is a great advertisement for marriage, especially for someone who didn’t need too much dissuading in the first place, and who – in spite of the occasional frustrations of the single life – has a pretty agreeable, free and independent existence. My avoidance of the institution, up to now, has nothing whatsoever to do with what Woody Allen says about Jewish women – that they “don’t believe in sex after marriage” – but owes rather a lot to my single most vivid fear: that I wake up in the middle of the night, look at my wife sleeping next to me, and think “What the f*ck have I done?!”
There are other alternatives, these days, to the traditional “nuclear family” – it is far more acceptable to merely live with one’s partner, and I have been approached by several single women in Tel Aviv to father their, or rather our, child.
And, even though the length of time that I will have to pay the price for a poor decision will probably be far less than for my long-married friends, that decision has somehow taken on even more weight . . . seeing as I have already waited this long. I mean, it would be a shame to f*ck things up now!
As well as completing the above poll, it would be interesting to hear the rather more considered thoughts of readers of melchett mike on married – and, indeed, the single – life, in a forum allowing anonymity. As a broad guideline:
- If you are happily married, what do you consider the most important ingredient(s)? Love, attraction, compatibility, similar backgrounds, etc?
- Conversely, if you are unhappily married, what are the main reasons? And what would you do differently, if you are fortunate enough(!), next time?
- And if, like me, you are single, what are your experiences, thoughts and concerns?
At the end of your comment, and in order to render it more meaningful, please provide as much relevant information as you feel comfortable providing: your age, gender, marital status, and (if relevant) how long you have been married. (Most married contributors will probably wish to remain anonymous, and whilst I promise to respect that – anyway, the IP address I receive only enables me to find out what city you live in – try and come up with a name other than “Anon”, to distinguish yourself from other contributors!)
If readers are prepared to be forthright, it could make for an interesting read and dialogue . . .