Throughout the last thirteen years, there have occasionally been times I questioned my relationship with my husband. He has two kids from a prior marriage, a very modest bank account, and because he was undiagnosed with dyslexia for many years, he wasn’t able to attend college. But everything else about the guy is outstanding – he’s a great father, a loving husband, a hard worker, a brilliant artist and speaker, bright, curious, kind, strong, handsome, sexy, supportive. So I fell in love with him and I’m still in love with him. Even though I pooh-poohed it at the time, I guess somewhere the mythology of true love was inculcated in me, and it had nothing to do with money.
When I lived in India as a teenager, I was shocked to discover the prevalent, long-standing tradition of arranged marriage. Of course I had heard about it, but it’s different when you meet an entire society comprised of couples whose parents set them up. Indian marriages seemed to be devoid of romance, and the love that was there was the boring kind: the love you come to feel for someone after living together and getting to know one another over many years. It’s true that in Indian culture romantic love isn’t valued as the sacred cow it is in the West. Even though fewer marriages are arranged than they used to be, the same values that parents looked for, Indian kids look for now: astrological compatibility, intelligence, money, social standing, and of course caste.
After returning to the US and living in a mostly married culture for the last decade, I’ve found that the trophy wives on Montana Avenue have taken a page from the Indians. Of primary importance: money and power, specifically in Hollywood. Age is of no concern – there are so many young women with older men I’ve stopped counting. Maybe it’s the combination of Viagra and money, but the dads around here look like granddads. What’s ironic, though, is that this is the opposite message these guys are putting forth in Hollywood movies, where romantic love is king.
A recent article in The Atlantic confirmed my suspicions. Statistics show that women in this country, starting in the 1980s, divorce and marry according to the economic prospects of their male partners. Hence, more marriages in a boom, more divorces in a bust. It sounds practical, but is it romantic?
A lot of women around me think being married sucks. It does suck sometimes. But the biggest complainers are married to the old guys. It’s only anecdotal evidence, but it gives pause to the Chinese sentiment about preferring to cry in a BMW rather than be happy on a bike. Perhaps we should check in on her a few years down the line and see if that’s still the case…