I'm sticking my neck on on this one, but, it seems to this middle-age man that "the young folk" are putting way to much importance on the preliminaries to marriage--in particular the engagement and the wedding.
This past week, at the beginning of class, several students broke out in spontaneous applause when a young man and woman entered the room. I was preparing for the lecture, somewhat oblivious to the commotion, when a few of the students noticed my nonchalance and decided to fill me in on the reason for the festivities, "They just got engaged." I asked sarcastically, "why the applause? Shouldn't there be some lamentation?" Of course, they dismissed my silly question (who would blame them?) as the grumblings of an old man who no longer enjoys the enchantment of true love.
Last year, I overheard several guys discussing what their friend had told them about his recent engagement. One of the young men was planning to ask his girlfriend for her hand in marriage. So, his buddies were relating all the details of the recent extravaganza. The elaborate production necessary these days requires much staging. The right spot, the right circumstances, the proper lighting, friends hiding out of sight, recording the event with a video camera. They went on and on, mulling over every detail, excitedly comparing notes with stories of other engagements. I couldn't help it. I walked over and asked, "Why all the fuss? Why not just ask the girl to marry you?" To which the young man said with a smirk, "It's not that easy anymore, Dr. Reeves."
I often notice my daugher and wife watching bridal shows on television (one I like to call, "Don't Mess with the Dress"). It seems these shows follow the same script: young brides search for the perfect dress, the perfect wedding, the perfect reception. Frustration leads to angry fits, family squabbles, hateful words, fights, meltdowns, tears, and finally some resolution. It's the same thing, over and over again. I can't watch more than a few minutes of the affair. In fact, I always walk away muttering to myself, "Is it really that important?"
I know. Little girls dream of the day. They prepare notebooks with clippings from bridal magazines, anticipating every moment, planning every detail for their "princess for a day" celebration. But, it looks like they're only setting themselves up for disappointment, i.e., if all these reality shows are real. Besides, I can't help but wonder: "Why? Why all the effort? Why all the extravagance? Why all the money? Why? Why? Why?"
I think I know (here comes the bomb): sex.
There's something to be said for the good old days, when women believed they were presenting themselves as precious gifts to their new husbands. White dress. Pristine soul. Demure lady. But, of course, these days we've outgrown such victorian niceties. If the national stats are reliable, practically every bride and groom have enjoyed the intimacy of sexual fulfillment long before the wedding day. I'm no psychologist, so I'm hazarding a guess: I can't help but wonder if there's some emotional hype that must be created in order to make it feel like something special is happening. So, there will be an elaborate engagement. There will be a white dress. There will be "oohs and ahhs" resounding innocent splendor. There will be special celebration for an already familiar relationship.
It's a sad affair. The thrill is gone, and the couple is already trying to get it back before they even get married. Honestly, if I were a young man today, I'd say, "Let's elope." In fact, isn't that interesting? You never hear of couples eloping today. That's because they already have. The only thing left is "making it official." How boring.
Then again, don't mind me. I could be way off. I'm just a middle-age man who believes marriage is far more romantic than any engagment or wedding, no matter how spectacular.