Love at Cumbersome corner – Marriage and the motorcycle – episode 20
- Bruce Williams
- Tuesday, 14 April 2009
You can fall in love again, but you can’t fall in love for the first time again. At least, I haven’t been able to.
Two winters before my beautiful Betty summer, I remember wandering the pre-dawn streets of Stanmore, west on Corunna Road, south through Margaret, Charles and Bruce Streets, to Crystal, then over the railway line and east down Trafalgar to Liberty, and then back home.
My 4AM winter: putting one foot in front of the other.
All the previous summer, my relationship with Kathy had been doomed; all autumn, it had been finished – according to everyone but me.
My state of denial having been followed by the enchanting chill of mega-double-denial, I was by mid-winter at last left to nurse a broken heart in the land of the bleeding obvious.
Two summers later, Christmas came wrapped in a kiss.
Betty and I married in the year I turned 40 – which makes me either a late starter or a slow learner – and probably both.
We got married pretty much because we felt like it. Which sounds straightforward until you think how recent the idea is of two people who love each other marrying because they want to.
Stephanie Coontz in Marriage: a history, tells the story of the world through the prism of marriage, and finds family values little different from what you’d see at the stock exchange or the used car yard.
Until very recently (and even today in non-Cumbersome places) marriage was about building on one generation’s assets, and preparing for another. The happy couple standing between Generation Last and Generation Next were Generation Least.
In pre-classical times, marriage was about building a combination of possessions and workforce sufficient to raise corn and keep the lateral wolf from the vertical door. Two families became one: that’s what it takes to do the outside work and the inside work, mind the boundaries, and hedge your bets by sending your weakest to work for the family across the creek.
As communities grew larger and alliances more complex, says Stephanie, blood feuds and double crosses between family groupings became so disruptive and anarchic that the State had to step in. And the great ones of Athens devised rules for how marriage was conferred and annulled, placing loyalty to the State ahead of loyalty to one’s father-in-law (a tough concept to accept, I admit).
In The Other Boleyn Girl, forces fight over a single uterus – forces that might otherwise have bathed in general slaughter. But none the less, if marriage has hands – there’s blood on them.
Marriage is this counter-reactive force – a kind of corrective service – at once inhibiting the worst in us, and creating the means by which our worst can come out to play. Marriage is not society’s building block – it’s its security block.
Looking for love inside marriage is like looking for velocity inside a motorcycle. It’s not what it is: it’s what it does that’s the question.
This Ducati 996 taking that sweet, sneaky set of curves on Railway; this Virago 535 on Cavendish, with the rotten, flat tyres and a Marrickville council notice pasted to its petrol tank – they’re identical in almost every way that matters.
But only one travels the road to Cumbersome.
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