On A Wish and A Rainbow: What Does Marriage Really Mean?

imagesJanuary Magazine has certainly been among those flying rainbows this weekend. We are so happy that the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of same sex marriage last week, following (among others) Canada, who passed similar laws a decade ago.

Writing for the New York Times magazine this past weekend, novelist Curtis Sittenfeld stands back and takes an engaging look at what it really all means.

For an institution that has, especially in recent weeks and years, been subject to such extensive and vigorous public debate, marriage is strangely unknowable — that is, any particular marriage is mysterious, to anyone outside it.

9k=Think of a couple in your life or the public eye, gay or straight: When they’re alone together, do you imagine they’re nicer, meaner or exactly the same with each other as when they’re around others? Who attends to which household obligations? If they have young kids, how do they handle child care? How frequently do they fight or have sex? Are they, as individuals, fundamentally glad or regretful that they’re together?

Sittenfeld takes her thoughts into her own marriage, with mixed results.

As a novelist, I’m supposed to be highly attuned to human habits and yearnings, but I can’t answer most of these questions for most couples I know, and I can’t answer all of them for any couple except my husband and me. In fact, I’m not even sure I can answer on behalf of my husband, who’s less a fan of soul-probing inquiries than I am.

“How often do I annoy you, and how often are you glad that we’re married?” I asked him the other day when we were standing in the kitchen.

Looking concerned, he set one arm around my shoulders. “Is everything O.K.?”

“I’m writing an article,” I explained.

“Oh,” he said and backed away.

Sittenfeld is a good one to write on this topic as, in some ways, all of her novels deal with relationships and so one can guess she spends a lot of time thinking about them. Her most recent novel, 2013’s Sisterland is about identical twins with physic powers. “Novelists get called master storytellers all the time,” Maggie Shipstead wrote in her Washington Post review when Sisterland was published, “but Sittenfeld really is one, a kind of no-nonsense, BabyBjörn-wearing Scheherazade….”

You can read Sittenfeld’s full NYT magazine piece here.

News Reporter

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