Wednesday, January 28, 2009

How a Feminist Got Married: A Radical Manifesta, I

Tales from the bedroom are considered sacred, but tales from the corners of marriage are even more forbidden. Why is that?

As I sit on a tender marriage of almost four years, a love ignited for ten years, I often wonder how isolated and crippling that silence can be. Why are married people so quiet? What's with the secretive nature of disclosing details about the primary relationship of one's life? Is it, hold your armrests, it might come to pass that marriage goes through volatile stages of frustration, silence, asexual eras, and betrayal?

Well, we certainly don't want to let THAT cat out of the bag.

Psst...sometimes marriage tastes champagne and sometimes it tastes like rotten arugula.

Well, now that we have shrugged of those nuclei of fear, we can proceed forward.

One of the biggest misconceptions about marriage is one of the biggest misconceptions about primary and committed relationships: it consistently and unfailingly feeds and meets our personal needs of fulfillment.

Read: False.

We all realize that one person cannot meet our every desire, conscious and subconscious, and yet, when we marry, we often fall into a capricious state of allowing community to slip away once we have transitioned into a partnered identity. As children and young single adults, we flourish in groups and find a sense of belonging and purpose. While we grow and develop our sense of self and our yearning for intimacy and partnership root themselves, the communities we once were once active become things of the past, dust on our floors.

Read: Common Mistake #1

As feminists, it is common that we seek out fellow activists, artists, and writers who possess a cosmic understanding of our drive for justice, our commitment to vision. And yet, when it comes to our personal relationships, they often falter because we assume that a 1:1 relationship, especially marriage, is and should fruitfully build on its own accord, heal on its own gifts, and reap harvest from its own soil. That is, you know, how you define a healthy marriage. You don't need ANYONE else.

Read: Facetious.

As a married feminist, I find it ironic that I can clearly understand my need for community when it comes to my career. Writers must write alone in their room, but that room must be heated by the same pipe that warms the entire house, other rooms occupied by thinkers and philosophers. However, when it comes to a growth bump in my marriage, I decide to ride the bridle alone, convinced my balance will come with experience, temporary panic attacks, and large amounts of wine.

Before the village helps raise the child, the village needs to rebuild itself to recognize the needs of radical marriage. One that is built safely on the precipice of equality. Marriage will guarantee times of roaring fire and dying amber. You need to know how to tend and control both. The point is not to avoid getting burned, the point is to learn how to build the fire.

And the fire does not represent the love, the fire represents the soul.

In this harsh winter and cold recession, intimacy between partners can be strained for a whole slew of reasons. But a radical manifesta is not a guide for putting together a broken marriage, a radical manifesta is for piecing together a radical love of self and the other that feeds the often neglected part of our deepest hunger: authentic identity. Something that is often lost in the compromising of life partnerships.

And to build that authenticity in the space of marriage, to create a sustainable and passionate bridge, let's first begin by agreeing to dish the silence. That's not a call to irreverence or ranting about domestic burdens. It's a call to speak into the quiet loneliness of a working companionship that the marrieds often fight alone. The manifesta stands to speak into the radical joys and struggles of authentic identity, evolving love, and awareness that grow in marriage.

Break the silence. You can be in love and outraged at the same time.

And to practice what I preach, this is a poem I wrote yesterday about marriage. A day scattered with temper, short answers, and angry blanket hogging.

Love's Decision

I love you

as surely as I swiftly walk in the winter
and toss my shirts into a bloated floor heap
I love you
as neatly as the cable wires behind my tellie
as conveniently as city parking
and as comforting as a broken compass

I'm yours so long as you continue to lay there
snoring your peace into my side
and my knee kept warm by your palm
I'm yours
without my porch knowing death's arrival date
or the bloom of children

Our chances increase every night
We'll make it
says the meatloaf
and even pillowcases that need changing

We'll make it
thinks the leaning garage and scrappy drive
I hope so
prays our mantel

You are mine like the songs said you'd be
and you fit right beside my cheek
Like how the dandelions flutter
and the dog pulls right of the leash
With the yellow sun filling the sky
on an art paper saved by my mom

All things are as they should be.

I love you.
-LFB, 1/26/09


  1. So, I don't relate at all to marriage or wanting to do it or what's good or bad about it (which I say so you know I'm not naturally inclined to like poems that have anything to do with marriage) - and I loved this poem you wrote. I love what you write, and that you write.

  2. My silence comes from a deep fear that an (in my case) unavoidable choice - to marry so that borders could no longer keep us apart - smacks those who do not have the same privilege right in the face. I am so terrified of hurting others unintentionally by my choice that I often keep it to myself.

    I am also only one of two females among my friends to actually be married (save one whose marriage I would never want, which makes it difficult to see her as a feminist marriage ally). While many are in committed partnerships and one is engaged, we don't see marriage as necessary for a variety of reasons. We see radical love as vital, but marriage and love never necessarily went together for us. Blame it on any number of factors: broken homes of our childhood, parental baggage in adulthood, a need to dismiss societal conventions, a commitment to staying unmarried until every last person can do the same.

    Because of these complications and contradictions, I find it extremely difficult to find married feminist community. The married women I meet are not radical; the radical women I tend to know are not married. Yet as a newlywed myself, I do need support and direction. We do quite well, but many things strain love, and they will only multiply as everything else good does too.

    I feel very much alone in my marital status, knowing I am one of the few among the friends I have known the longest. I feel young in the eyes of the world to have made such a decision. I feel old to be here now. I'm so very glad you're writing this.

  3. This is both a highly specific and yet very universal poem that reminded me of one of my all-time favorite poems, "Resignation" by Nikki Giovanni. If anyone reading this wants to check it out, here's a link to read it online:

    I can't wait to see more of your radical manifesta!!

  4. Yippee! Relationships aren't things, they're processes. Just like us. And like all processes, it's broken. Just like us. The important thing isn't to make it last, it's to keep from riding it into a dead, dull, inhuman place.

  5. After I got married, I noticed that people stopped just dropping by my place.


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