Tuesday, 20 February 2007

Squaring the Circle

I'm at that age when you start realising that youth is not an interminable condition (despite the best efforts of Botox, lipo, and wrinkle creams to convince us otherwise). Maybe my fear is heightened by the fact that I subsist primarily off coffee and cigarettes, which do not exactly do wonders for my complexion. However, whatever the reason, I have been thinking alot about what is casually called the next stage of life: career (finding one would be nice), partner, kids.

Now I know that this is not exactly unusual as far as ambitions go. But then let's consider what's involved. You have to find the right sort of guy, who wants the same things you want, and has the same kinds of principles. You have to be living in the kind of place you want to settle (ideally). You have to consider how best to make this situation work. How you will bring up your kids. Who will bring them up. And all of a sudden what seemed like a pretty simple step is full of agonising questions that don't suggest any immediate answers.

As a philosophy student the first question alone could keep me occupied for years (how do you determine who is 'right' - and do you know yourself well enough to allow your current self to make those sort of life-changing decisions when you might well be under-informed, deluded or simply ignorant about the good life?). As far as I am concerned, the fact that I live my life out of a suitcase, am crippled with a certain ethical schizophrenia, and am entirely unsure what sort of person I should aim to form from this mass of contradictions indicates a recipe for disaster as far as choice of husband is concerned.

The same goes for culture. I've been brought up in a society where women and men both work full-time; couples live their twenties lifestyle for as long as possible; and neither side is happy with too much in the way of compromise or sacrifice. We're encouraged to look after our individual selves first, after all. And to bask in the luxury of choice and diversity. Where, in that heady concoction, are we prepared for sitting at home with a bawling baby, while your friends are all out at the pub, and your husband is sitting surly in front of the telly?

This could go some way towards explaining the fact that 50% of marriages end in divorce. Something somewhere is clearly going wrong. But what? Is marriage indeed outmoded or is it our current attitudes that fail to equip us for the long-term, for the non-satisfaction of all desires, for endurance or to live for others (notably our children?). Do our lifestyles jeopardise the harmony of relationships by constantly placing us before temptation? Or is it simply an old-fashioned and oppressive world view that demands that kind of sacrifice?

I don't know the answer. But maybe all we can do is take our best guess, take the plunge and hope for the best. Human beings are social and adaptable animals after all.

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