On marriage and irony

“Footprints washed away in the sand / One day I’ll make my way back to Nova Scotia / #wanderlust” — Instagram story,

I think I would like to marry.

When I discuss the (increasingly not-so-)far future, I always speak in the conditional. “If” I have kids, “if” I get married, “if” I get a job in academia. Aside from the last one, this hedging doesn’t stem from any doubt that I’ll pull it off, nor any effort at humility.

Sometimes, I’ll be talking to someone I’m interested in and I’ll be worried about raising a fundamental incompatibility. Other times, I am genuinely uncertain. Most of the time, though, it’s just that marriage is so passé, and it would be mortifying to admit that I’m still in the grips of one of society’s oldest institutions.

Because that is all that marriage is, isn’t it? To maintain order in a patriarchal society requires, at least, that a man know who his children are, and marriage makes that quite simple. (I’m aware that I’m simplifying; you can view all the other functions of marriage under a similar — functional — lens). In a matriarchal society, where ambiguous paternage wouldn’t have the same consequences, maybe marriage wouldn’t have arisen at all.

Just take a look at the bonobos. One of few matriarchal primates, they’re incredibly liberal with sex, with pretty much universal bisexuality, and use sex as a means of conflict resolution (imagine that world!) in favour of fighting.

Some people, including many of the religious, hold that premarital sex is somehow lesser than, anywhere from lacking the profundity of marital sex to being completely immoral. It makes sense for religion to carry this ideal, if you see religion as a functional institution also trying to maintain social order. I disagree with that claim, though. I believe that any “profundity” that comes from being married isn’t a result of the marriage itself but rather all the things that we’ve made synonymous therewith.

For some people, maybe most people reading this, marriage is a commitment to do one’s best to stay together “'til death do us part.” Noble enough in spirit, there’ve been plenty of negative consequences to this ideal, but I can see its appeal. This might be one of the things I ascribe to marriage myself.

For others, it’s something about being able to call someone your spouse rather than “just” a partner. For me, the word “boyfriend” sounds juvenile and doesn’t carry the gravity of saying “husband.” But that’s just socialization! One of the strongest things we have and one of those words I like to throw around a lot. If we weren’t told to aspire towards marriage, and if we didn’t see every single model of a perfect relationship being or ending up a husband-wife duo, then where would this association come from?

So why, then, would I still want to marry? Clearly, it’s nothing but a silly old social construct satisfying a millennia-old prerequisite to a functioning society. We don’t really need it anymore, as plenty of people, including most recently my English professor, have successfully modelled.

Rather than answer that, let’s talk about my recent slew of genuinely super funny Instagram stories (I’m sure you’d all agree).

When I went to Halifax with my choir a while back, I decided to dress up in a maximally Traveller getup. My bucket hat was on floral mode, my hoodie was tied around my waist, and I was wearing $8 aviators indoors. Of course, I would never dress like this in earnest — I looked ridiculous, and that’s exactly what I had been aiming for.

Once on the plane, I decided to post a picture of myself looking out the window, emulating those travel bloggers people so enjoy disparaging. People knew me well enough to understand that I was being ironic, and those that didn’t would figure it out soon enough if I had any say in the matter.

I won’t recount the whole story, but I spent a lot of my downtime coming up with more tropes to emulate. I took a picture at the lighthouse posing to look like I was holding it up! All the same, I didn’t feel like I was debasing the respectable and hip image I had been putting on for ages, because obviously I was doing it as a joke and I was fully self-aware.

How much self-awareness is enough? Some people, i.e. hipsters and other counterculture groups, refuse to do things that are too mainstream or adherent to societal norms. Some people never marry specifically in protest of society and its institutions.

Is it telling that, after coming back from Halifax, I’ve continued to maintain the same Instagram story style, genuinely enjoying myself all the while?

Do I need to put a little disclaimer on each story saying that I am not actually someone who would post this, and that I’m only doing so to satirize someone who would? Do I need a similar disclaimer on my wedding invites, when and if the time comes?

(It would be pretty in-character if I did, actually).

Or did I lose any right to call myself cool and/or suave the moment I left Halifax and continued to post on social media?

(As if I didn’t when I started using words like “evidence” as a verb in regular conversation).

I wish I knew. I’m still learning. Why don’t you tell me? I refuse to set up my comments system just yet, and I refuse to set up an RSS feed even harder (sorry, I!). Contact me if you know me to tell me your thoughts, and if you don’t, you can use a domain lookup tool like WHOIS to get a proxy email to reach me by. Thank you for your time.