People sometimes ask me — or ask us, but usually it’s some other woman asking just me — why Bill and I don’t get married. We’ve lived under the same roof and shared all expenses for the past thirteen years. So what’s holding us back?
There are several answers to this question.
- Rude: “None of your damn business.”
- Smartass: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
- Legal: Since neither of us will leave an estate substantial enough to benefit from the tax code if we were married when the first of us dies, marriage offers no financial advantage over not being married.
- Religious: Bill considers himself a Secular Humanist. I consider myself a-religious, although if it makes anyone more comfortable to classify people ethnically or religiously, I suppose you could call me a white Caucasian woman of Jewish parentage with no particular sense of obligation to be married before living with a man.
- Societal: We are too old to have children together, and therefore the legitimacy or illegitimacy of offspring — if anyone cares about that anymore — is a non-issue.
- Truthful: Having both been married twice before, with notable lack of success, we are probably each somewhat gun-shy. Of what? We live like man and wife. We say we’re married. We register at hospitals and doctors’ offices as husband and wife. As far as other people are concerned, only our lawyer, accountant, children, grandchildren and a few close friends know for sure to the contrary. Although we will in all likelihood be together when the first of us dies, not being married gives me, at least, a sense that I could fly the coop if I ever wanted to, that I am not a “wife” in all the unpleasant senses I have experienced in my two previous marriages, that I still have free choice, every day — even if I never exercise it.
Of course, that is all quite foolish. Every other year or so, one or the other of us raises the issue again. The one who might possibly be leaning in favor, of course. Which is always the time when the other would prefer not to. And so we are never, even hypothetically, in sync.
Nonetheless, Bill did once give me a Valentine’s Day card that asked, in French, if I would marry him. It had the two boxes you see above, one of which the recipient was to check. If I tell you the French word for “no” is “non,” you can see that the card didn’t offer much choice. I keep the card — unchecked — on our mantel, though. Because it’s nice to know you’re wanted. And also to remind him the question’s still out there, and not yet answered, and that there’s only one way to answer it, short of throwing the card away — just in case he were to change his mind.
Equally pertinent to this loopy discourse is a copy of a statuette from The Art Institute of Chicago which is also on our mantel. We gave it to ourselves as a present one Christmas. (Even though we’re both “Jewish.”) It looks good from every angle, no matter which way you turn it, which may suggest to you what I’m getting at.
I happen to like best the top and bottom versions (which are similar), perhaps because I think the female figure shows best from that angle and you can best see the alignment of the bodies. But it doesn’t really matter how they stand on the mantel. As long as we feel like that about each other, at least most of the time — and can also make each other laugh — who cares whether or not I check a box on the card?