Marriages are said to have two possible areas of focus: spouse or children. Those with offspring in the centre of things go the usual route. The kids turn out well, if a little pampered, with parents – for the kids’ sake – aiming to be good friends rather than Romeo and Juliet. These families may look dull from the outside, but are sure to be great fun on the inside. The only moody, dark, sulky people are the brats. Parents are sober, supportive and in determinedly good cheer.
But, oh, those unions where boy meets girl and there’s high drama long into the marriage, with intense spells and passionate breaks and make-ups! Love-hate relationships, with the couples in question spilling their rows into the public realm, into other peoples’ drawing rooms. Such couples are either cooing exaggeratedly or swearing at each other. There seems to be no middle path, as they alternately threaten to leave the other and also proclaim they cannot live without each other.
Many unions in the political and literary fields are examples. In recent times when Simone de Beauvair was said to be less mesmerised by Jean-Paul Sartre than we thought, everyone heaved a sigh of relief. There is something so intrinsically imbalanced and unhinged about such obsessions.
Slow erosion of female self-esteem
Artist Celia Paul loved Lucian Freud somewhat that way in the 1970s. In a blind, with-every-cell-in-my-body kind of way. In her recent book Self-Portrait, her love for him – ‘more like a sickness’ – is described along with the damage it caused her psyche. He had multiple lovers, she had only him. She was 18 to his 56 when they met; she says she slipped into a limitless and dangerous world. The affair was a study in the slow erosion of female self-esteem. Celia even had his son. Finally, she did leave him, when irrefutable proof of his other women hit her smack on the face. How tedious and tiresome all that to-ing and fro-ing for her loved ones as well as herself!
In her memoir Inside Out, actor Demi Moore describes her eight-year marriage to actor Ashton Kutcher, who was 15 years her junior, as an addiction. She says the co-dependency took her down, down, down. Her three daughters, with actor and ex-husband Bruce Willis, also remember this time as gloomy.
So what makes smart and gifted feminists throw themselves at men who, in the end, don’t stand the test of time? What gets them so desperate, so whiny, so low that they take what they get? It is a deaf time too, when the victim chooses not to hear family warnings and even open signs from said spouse. But once the nightmare has ended and the victim walks free, the truth does dawn.
The Mirabai syndrome suited only Mirabai, as she lived an ascetic life, calling out to Krishna, who never rejected her in real time. But men of our times would rather be treated at par rather than deities on a pedestal who can do no wrong. Take men as they come, leave them as you go.
Shinie Antony is a writer and editor based in Bangalore. Her books include The Girl Who Couldn't Love, Barefoot and Pregnant, Planet Polygamous, and the anthologies Why We Don’t Talk, An Unsuitable Woman, Boo. Winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Asia Prize for her story A Dog’s Death in 2003, she is co-founder of the Bangalore Literature Festival and director of the Bengaluru Poetry Festival.
Read Shinie Antony's columns here.
First Published: IST