After a traumatic and stifling marriage I decided, “Marriage is for the innocent.” Only the innocent will bravely step into that arena without an understanding of the lions that were about to be released. So, I decided, very smugly, that I wasn’t going to be part of that circus act anymore and snickered when the public consensus was that marriage was a “holy institution reserved for a man and a woman.” The truth is that marriage is nothing more than a legalized contract whose conceptual foundations are apparent in many facets of our society.
Take a look at the cell phone industry. They woo their customers like a serial bigamist, insanely driven to compete for us to join their plan and enter into “holy matrimony.” They will make an honest woman out of us! The pre-marriage promises abound and it all starts like any love-hate relationship that we’ve no doubt have all embarked on!
Yes, you are innocently strolling the deliriously chaotic pathways of your life, more aptly known as: the mall. The naivetee of a “never been married” is shining brightly in your face as your eyes dart hopefully from one store to another, one stall to another. All your suitors are handsome and rich, are they not? How can you ever decide who is your true soul mate? Do you really want to marry a virgin? Are you a virgin? Do you want someone that tells all? Can you stand that sort of brutal honesty? Maybe you’d rather stay singular for the rest of your life? You can do that and still marry! Isn’t that wonderful? Yes, you can’t decide which cell phone company is the best. The only way to find out, you decide, is to start a relationship. But, one thing they forget to tell you is that cell phone companies do not believe in dating! They want that marriage contract from the get go! They want you to fall madly in love with them, to the exclusion of everyone else, while they feel free to take on as many other lovers as they so choose.
“See, here!” The salesperson will approach you before he has even landed a single kiss on your startled o-shaped lips. He waves the wedding ring under your nose: a top-of-the-line chrome-plated, neon-blue backlighted cell phone complete with camera and mini-keypad. You’re not sure if he thinks chrome exudes an intoxicating pheromone, but no matter, that cute little antenna has definitely caught your attention!
“Be mine,” he coos in your ear, ” and you will have the experience of a lifetime!”
You take a quick step back and put your hand up to your chest in something closely resembling panic. It’s not your first time on the dating scene. You’ve heard that line many times before.
“What will it cost me?” You manage to gasp out finally.
“How can you suggest that it will cost anything? I love youÃ¢Â?Â¦ You are the light of my lifeÃ¢Â?Â¦The wind underneath my wingsÃ¢Â?Â¦The Cher to my Sonny…” The salesperson dives into as many clichÃ?Â©s as he can remember to get his point across. “Love is free. Love never questions. Love never doubts. Love just is, and we love you!”
You stare at his suave gentleman who is now making a scene. Other shoppers have gathered around hypnotized by the romantic overtures of a mad suitor.
“I don’t know,” you reply, a finger coming to your lip.
“How can you even think about this?” The salesman takes a step away from you, clutching the cellphone to his lapel. “I am offering you a lifetime of security! I will always be there for you! It doesn’t matter what state you go to; the contract is binding in all states! What is it? Is it me? Is there someone else?”
“Well,” you confess,” there was that man around the corner. He told me I could not only get the ring, but that he had more minutes of his time to spend with me. He said that you will offer me a fantastic ring, but when it comes down to it, you will not have the time to spend with me. He told me we would spend more quality time together.”
“Forget about other men!” Your new suitor exclaims fluttering his free hand in the empty air. “Just look at what that old boyfriend did to you. He promised to love and take care of you and instead he tied you to the house. He didn’t let you talk with everyone you wanted to without racking up huge long distances charges. You can’t tell me he was telling you the truth! On this plan, there are no long-distance charges at all!”
“Oh, don’t worry,” you sigh. “That boyfriend is history! But, you know, the guy around the corner told me he’d also give me free long distance. So, what’s the difference?”
“The difference is,” the salesman smiles and grabs the palm of your hand and nestles the phone within it, gently folding your fingers across it, “that we care about you. We’ve taken care to put as many cell phone towers all over the country so that you will never ever find yourself without our assistance. You see? My tower network is bigger than his. You will always be serviced in a satisfactory manner!”
Your hand slides across the beautiful chrome and fingers the antennae. It is quite a stunning package!
“Can I just try it out?” You ask weakly.
“No!” The tone is unmistakably icy as he grabs the cell phone out of your hand. “It’s all or nothing babe! You either want to marry us or you don’t. Which is it?”
Pretty soon you find yourself signing the contract. It’s a yearlong marriage contract with multiple fees embedded in the tiny ant-like scrawl that peppers the wording. After the vows have been said, your suitor is off to find another bride but you still retain some notion that the ring was worth it.
The first month goes by and it appears the contract is good. Then the second month goes by and because your husband is out gallivanting with new potential mates, you get lonely. You pick up your cell phone and call a couple of friends. They call you back.
When the bill comes in, you owe over $200 for a month’s worth of calls to two or three friends.
“Did your spouse forget to tell you that you are legally liable for anything and everything that he signed you both up for?” The customer service rep informs you.
“What?” You shout into the earpiece. “He told me he’d take care of me.”
“Of course, we’re taking care of you,” the customer service rep is annoyed with you. “All you have to do is pay us your $200 and we’ll keep taking care of you!”
“This isn’t what I thought it would be. I want a divorce!”
“That’ll be another $200 for breaking your contract with us, ma’am.”
“What? There was no mention of a fee for breaking the contract! What will happen if I refuse to pay?”
“Oh, we’ll just send it to collections and let them hassle you. You’re the one that said ‘I do’ and no matter what we do, you are still responsible for the marriage.”
“But, I never wanted to get married! I just wanted to see what he was like! But, he wasn’t honest about who he was until after I signed the contract!”
“That’s your problem ma’am. Thank you for calling. Remember, we love you and appreciate you and hope you have a nice day.”
Cutting off the call, you realize something. You realize you should have gotten a prenuptial. Maybe the whole idea of giving up on marriage was not so far off after all. Maybe the idea that no one takes care of our own best interests other than ourselves is something to ponder. Maybe what we need to work on in society is not so much who we can trust, but can we trust ourselves? If we could, then the rest would fall into place.