Tag Archives: Marriage & Other Commitments

A Tale of Charles Manson: Marriage & Manipulation

The internet erupted after learning Charles Manson, 80, was granted a license to marry 26-year-old Afton Elaine Burton, who prefers the name “Star,” because Manson says she’s a “Star in the Milky Way.”
A mousy young woman, Star looks eerily similar to one of Manson’s most fanatical murderous followers, Susan “Sadie Mae” Atkins.
Not eligible to apply for parole again until he’s 92 in 2027, Charles Manson is arguably among the world’s most famous prisoners, and by rights shouldn’t be alive for his present-day notoriety. Sentenced to death in ‘71 with four followers, they lucked out when California’s death penalty was nixed in 1972. Those on Death Row were given a stay of execution and death sentences commuted to life in prison. Within six years, death was back on the books and is still in effect today, but Manson and his “Family” stayed blessed with the gift of life behind bars.
Marriage, some argue, is a basic human right. I would agree, and have long supported that premise in support of LGBTQ seeking marriage rights. But you need to be human before you deserve basic human rights, and Manson is far from.
To understand why some are so outraged about this “right” being extended to Charles Manson, we need to start at the beginning.

The Formative Years

Manson’s criminality and depravity began young. Born to a partying teen mom who’d get in trouble with the law later, Charlie grew up fascinated with guns, smitten with stealing, and constantly in trouble with authorities. By 13, he ran away from Boy’s Town, where it’d been hoped he’d find a better path. His would be a life of reform schools and prison then on.
READ THE REST over at the Vancouver Observer. Click here.

The New Post-Relationship World

There’s a couple that have been long prominent in Vancouver’s web community, and last night came the heart-breaking news that they’re ending their marriage.
How did the news reach us all?
They both changed their Facebook relationship status to “…from married to single” within moments of each other, and with one simple “Yes, it means what you think it means”, the cat was out of the bag and their entire friend/peer community knew.
Gone is the era in which they’d have to have uncomfortable dinners or stilted conversations with one friend after another after another, gently breaking the news that their friends are gonna take hard, making them feel even shittier for having a marriage fall apart.
Now, boom, everyone knows. Just like that.
It’s terrible, in a way, the idea we can all receive so quickly and casually such perspective-shifting news affecting people who have genuinely touched most of our lives.
There’s something disjointed about reading one small system-generated line of “X has changed their relationship status from married to single” among a newstream filled with political news and shared videos of a cat dancing.
These “small” tidbits about our changing lives float in “newsfeeds” now, as if they’re just another piece of fascinating trivia we’re supposed to digest while we absently surf the web in sneaky moments on the job, or distractedly click through those social sites where we just vicariously absorb the coolness of others’ lives.
Facebook isn’t just a revolving door of meaningless status changes. It really is a way to keep us all connected.
In all the nauseous sadness that came with the suspicion that, yes, those two relationship status updates really did mean what they looked to mean, I thought “Thank god they can tell everyone so easily now.”
Dissolving a marriage? Oh, my god. I can’t imagine the shattered illusions and sadness that comes from having to admit it’s over, the horror and fear that comes from making the first step to end the possibility of all those dreams you once made together, the feeling of perverse betrayal and anxiousness at telling friends and families the union is over.
It’s unquestionably going to be one of the worst weeks in the lives of both of those people. And here, bang, pow, all of a sudden they have everyone in the know, offering support, and just saying, “We’re so sorry, we understand, we’re here.”
As if any message could mean more to either of them today.
Say what you will about the flash coolness of the internet and how detached it makes us from each other — always plugged in via vicarious tidbits, thus able to stay comfortably at arms’ length while we busily carry on with our modern mad lives — but there are times like these the internet is like a lifeline thrown to troubled souls.
Never has it been easier to rally the support of those who love you, or to just put a desperate plea for understanding, help, or time out to those best able to deliver.
As a society, we need to learn to share more with each other, to use each other as crutches through hard times, and we have to learn how to react when our friends express themselves.
I’m sad for my peers today, for what they’ve lost, and for what I know they face in the coming year as they try to re-find their place in their newly-single worlds, but I’m very glad their choice of being plugged into an online community (that has really strong roots in real life, locally, too) will get them through this time with support and love.
That’s the power of the internet — it holds the ability to unite us, inform us, and keep us tuned into every passing minute… not just globally, but interpersonally.
It’s a good power. A life-changing, life-saving power.
Yes, I’m sad for my friends today, but I’m proud of them for having the courage to know when it’s time to change things. What a difficult, but important step. I’m happy to know they have friends who swear they’ll be there, I’m glad to know they have a place to ask for help.
It’s a strange new world, friends.

Lightning Strikes: Over in a Flash

A friend posted this tragic story on Facebook yesterday. Another friend commented about how/why bad things happen to good people. I found the whole exchange fascinating and full of questions and observations.
The most obvious observation, of course, is that it’s a terribly sad story. The gist?

“A man’s plan to propose to his girlfriend on a mountain in the US ended in tragedy when the pair were struck by lightning, it was reported today.
Richard Butler and his girlfriend, Bethany Lott, both from Knoxville, Tennessee, were hit as they hiked in the North Carolina mountains. Lott was killed, while Butler suffered third degree burns.
Butler, 30, had driven Lott, his partner of a year, to Max Patch Bald, near Asheville, saying they would be going for a stroll.
He had planned to present her with an engagement ring at the top of the mountain.
When they reached the peak, lightning struck three times, with the third strike hitting the couple .”

The tragedy bleeds humanity and irony to me. If you go on to read the story through, it ends stating her last words were: “Look how beautiful it is.”
Can you imagine that being the last thought, the last feeling you ever have? To die in that state of grace?
That’s a gift, that.
For him, of course, well, the horror of it will probably never be erased.
To live knowing that a moment of perfect beauty can be shattered forever in such a finite and reckless way? To know that a moment of perfect hope filled with dreams of the future can be split by a flash and turned into what then seems an endless nightmare?
Yeah. That’ll fuck him up for a while.
But then it comes down to the what if’s. What if he was about to propose and she would have said no? What if then their lives would have split and he had to watch from afar on Facebook or some shit as she found a new love, lived the life that should have been his, all the while wishing for that moment back when she said “Look how beautiful it is” before he popped the rejected question?
Or maybe she would have said yes, and they’d have gone the way so many others go — from an idealized love of “we likes stuffs”, where you’re young and in the same places, so a life together makes sense, to the eventual realization that you knew shit about life and even less about the kind of lover you needed for the longterm. One day that divorce comes, and presto, just another statistic. What if, indeed.
A life lived after “Look how beautiful it is.”
Or not.
The irony, of course, is that that moment probably never had a Happily Ever After in the first place. Statistically speaking.
But it had the possibility. It had the possibility of sunshine and roses, picket fences and breakfasts in bed. It had the possibility of rockers on a rickety porch and their fallen grey hairs mingling on pillows. It had the possibility of a life together, the dream of forever.
Sometimes, we’ll trade a lifetime just for that moment of possibility.
The chance to love forever, to be a rockstar, to be immortal, to have everything we want — just so long as we had the chance.
It really is an epic sad story. Love ended on a mountaintop by a freak lightning storm, moments before a marriage proposal. It sounds like a 14th-century ballad or something. Stories wistful mothers tell sad-faced romantic daughters.
But, for one guy out there, it’s not a story. It’s not a hypothetical. It’s a sick and twisted new chapter of his life, his waking surreality. Love-of-a-life snuffed by lightning moments before his asking her hand in marriage, story at 11.
So sad and unlikely, it’s almost funny.
The journeys we all walk, man. Everyone’s got a trip to take. Pack some glue or duct tape, ‘cos your heart’s gonna get broke time and time again on those travels. Maybe not with such drama as our mountaintop friends, but it’ll happen.
If that errant lightning can find them in that moment, never question the tragedies that can find you. Or when.
What a thing: Chance.
I don’t know what terrible instances lie before me. I don’t know how I’ll go out.
All I know is, I hope it happens in that split instant after a smile spreads over my face when I look at something amazing and whisper “Look how beautiful it is.”
That’d be all right with me.

Marriage: I Still Don't, But…

Oh, the can of worms I’ve opened with yesterday’s posting. Part of my thing on marriage was tongue-in-cheek, but the other part, probably far too ground in my own past.
First of all, it’s not too often that I don’t explain myself clearly, but I guess I didn’t want to get too into things in that posting. It’d been a long night of insomnia, too many thoughts racing in my mind, and those little words, “I don’t” popped into my mind, and I thought, “Hey, let’s have some fun with that.”
Unfortunately, that “fun” has left me lying in bed for the last couple hours, thinking about just how wrong my parent’s marriage was. How much they lacked, and ultimately, how long it was all so bad. I hate the marriage that my parents had. I hate the way its demise wrecked both their lives. My father’s still a shell of a man all these years later. I’ve seen what a bad marriage can do, and even this morning, I’m left awash in sadness at the thought of it.
I often remember being in grade 7, on a cold, dismal morning, and my father was supposed to drive me to the schoolbus, which would drive me all the way out to my private school in the valley. An argument had begun just after breakfast, and it never really resolved before the drive was supposed to begin. Those fated words, “Go outside, I’ll be there in a minute,” were spoken by Dad, and the good girl I was, I went out on the frost-covered porch and began the wait.
In those days, I was in my Catholic school tunic and long socks. I must have stood on that porch for nearly an hour. The bus? Missed that. Dad had to drive me all the way to school that day, and he himself was late for teaching. I remember the anger and uselessness that seemed to emanate from him on that drive. But mostly, I remember the shame and bewilderment that 12-year-old girl felt as she stood out there in the frozen morning, listening to the angry shouting and the hurtful words being hurled in that house. It’d been that bad for three years, and would stay that bad for another three, but honestly, it was never, ever good.
No, I never witnessed a healthy relationship. I remember being aware, as young as grade four, of just how pathetic my parents’ marriage was. They never touched each other, never joked, and never seemed romantic. That said, they were both people with troubled pasts and generations of distant family behaviour before they set foot in that marriage.
The legacy of hurt, I think, tends to be established long before the rings land on the finger. It’s not marriage that’s bad, and I’ve not meant to suggest that. But this notion of saying “love, honour, and cherish,” and that will somehow be enough to get the ball rolling, that, to me, is a joke. It’s laughable. Marriage will be – and should be – the hardest, most challenging thing for a person to commit to in their lives.
We hear lip-service to that effect all the time, but that point needs to be driven home. People need to understand all the challenges they’ll face in relationships. Most people enter the “institution” with ignorant, idealized perceptions of what it is, and the vows and ceremony do sweet fuck all to affect that.
Honestly, I’m a romantic, I want nothing more than to dedicate my life to a guy who deserves it, and I want to know I deserve all that goodness to be repaid in kind. I believe in karma, I believe in respect, I believe in sharing, in trust, and in faith.
What I don’t believe is that one general definition of what marriage is, is the right way for our society to operate anymore. I don’t believe the vows say enough. I think we need to expand our perceptions of how marriages can operate. These days, there are new commuter marriages and even “open marriages.” Me, I’m more traditional than that. Yeah, I’d like to maintain separate bedrooms, but that’s because I’m at heart a pragmatic woman… and I can be a real night-owl and I suffer insomnia. It’s pragmatism, not cynicism.
Maybe if I’d been raised in a house where love ruled, maybe I’d be a different woman today. I know I would be. But let’s face it, I’m not the exception. I’m an average girl who was raised in an average marriage that fell apart in an average length of time. I’m a statistic. I’m the mean and the median, and I’m here to tell you, it just ain’t working.
But then, what today is? Relationships of all kinds need better guidance. People everywhere don’t know how to communicate. Whether it’s with a business client, a boss, or a lover, we really need to get our shit together. We need more respect. We need more understanding. But we also need to set a broader, more encompassing groundwork in all those relationships. We don’t know what the words “honour and cherish” mean anymore. We can’t even commit to buying a fucking cell phone, for god’s sake, and you want to talk lifetime commitment?
No, marriage as it stands today is not something I would enter into. Its recent history is one that is predominantly uninspiring. Love is all you need, right? Right, sure. It’s too bad, but most marriages detonate like a time bomb. People enter into marriage based on the models they know – the vows they speak, the parents they’ve had, the little they see in the media – thus, so many end so poorly.
I’m not saying a pledge of undying love is cheesy or antiquated – I’m just saying that marriage needs more. It needs much, much more, and none of that is suggested by the ceremony of old.
And I couldn’t even begin to suggest how to fix it. All I know is, the marriage I see around me is not the marriage I’ll have. I probably will marry in some way, but it sure as shit won’t be the routine marriage the media wants us to believe is still laden with love and affection. THAT is the anomaly, and yes, its rare occurrence is worth defending and fighting for. The few of you who have that, speak loudly, because the rest of us do indeed need to see it’s possible. We need to see something more real, more lasting than the bullshit like Bad/Jen/Angelina that the media wants us to idolize.
Love will never, ever be dated. Commitment will never, ever be antiquated. But the societal rules and the ceremonial approaches can be, and are, out-of-touch with the world at large. Marriage is broke. When 60% of them die on the vines, it’s time to find out where the fuck we’re going wrong. This is no time for romantics. There’s nothing sadder than watching a marriage die, especially when you’re a kid in the mix with front-row seats.
No kid needs to stand in the frosted air outside their house and hear the reality of a failed marriage, its insults and coldness, being hurled back and forth inside. No kid needs to write in their journal wondering when in the hell the yelling and name-calling is finally going to end, wishing for a divorce. Society needs a reality check. Kids deserve something better than the average marriage and the pettiness most marriages dissolve into.
And I wish I could suggest what that might be, instead of pointing my finger at the obvious. But just don’t tell me that marriage is a slice of pie. I’ve seen otherwise, and I know there’s a hell of a lot of people who can empathize with my experiences. That, in itself, is every bit as tragic as all of what I’ve had to write on this topic, but seriously: Ain’t it time we get to fixin’ this mess?
(This is long, but I just don’t have the heart to edit it. My folk’s marriage devastated me as a kid, and I suppose I’m still a little too in touch with that reality. But fuck this, I’m gonna have me some breakfast and coffee and pretend it’s not on my mind anymore.)

Marriage: I Don’t.

(This could go on at length, I assure you, but I cut it down to just a few key points. Trust me, I have many more thoughts on this matter, but I’m sparing you.)
I don’t have anything against others’ marriages, I just don’t think the “institution” is right for me.
Love, undying love, lifelong commitment, sharing a bed, these are not things I resist, not in the least. I might even see myself living with someone, though I do prefer the idea of maintaining separate bedrooms, if not separate (but nearby) homes.
Carol Burnett once said something to the effect of her notion of the perfect marriage being one with a best friend who was a great lover, and who lived next door. I couldn’t agree more.
Too many people lose themselves in their marriages, and we’re supposed to think it’s beautiful and wonderful when people “complete” each other, but it’s not. It’s childish and stupid. Being a whole person is the greatest thing you can achieve in your life. To be absolutely certain of who and what you are will be something you can never, ever regret. Our goal should be to find someone who accepts and embraces that, all of that.
I imagine the married lives of friends – the chaos and demands of everyday life, how overwhelming it all is. And yes, climbing into bed with someone who makes it all go away for just a little while, that can be an incredible feeling. But sometimes, having the option of rolling out of bed and walking away to your little corner of the world, where all the noise and craziness can bleed away into silence and space… it can be the tether that keeps you bound to reality.
I don’t want to upset the masses by declaring marriage, as it stands today, an antiquated notion, but let’s face it. It is.
Chris Rock has a skit he does on marriage where he mocks the notion of marriage today being held “sacred.” He lambastes the resistance to legalizing gay marriage by saying that a country that makes “The Bachelor” and “Who Wants to Marry A Millionaire?” a national phenomenon doesn’t even begin to hold marriages as sacred. He is, essentially, calling it hypocrisy. Again, I couldn’t agree more.
I agree with all these things. I think the institution of marriage, with its “love, honour, and cherish” vows is, I hate to say it, absolutely bullshit in this day and age.
If only devoting your life to someone could be as pathetically simple as that.
What we need is a reality check. Nowhere in the marriage vows, for instance, is the subject of sex even mentioned. Nowhere does it say, “I promise to keep giving you head, so long as we both shall live.” Nowhere does it say, “I promise to always keep seeking new ways to make you feel like I value you.”
Nor does it discuss communication. Nor does it mention learning complete vulnerability with your spouse-to-be. Nor does it mention anything at all about working together to ensure financial stability in the relationship. In fact, it says the opposite – that you’re obligated to stay, in richness or poorness. Right. You put me in the poorhouse, baby, you’re out the fucking door – that’s the reality.
If the “love, honour, and cherish” bullshit was working, maybe we wouldn’t have a divorce rate that has climbed steadily for the last three decades.
I have no doubt – none whatsoever – that I will eventually have a relationship that consumes me with passion on every level: intellectual, sexual, emotional, and possibly even spiritual. I’ve been there before, I’ll be there again. But I will never, ever insult them or what we share by submitting to marriage as it now stands. If I do “marry,” it will be in a civil ceremony that’s likely not going to be legally binding, and the words will be of my choosing.
I’m a product of divorce. I’m the product of a marriage that disintegrated over its 22 years. Money, food, and a lack of sex drove them apart. That’s not an anomaly. Hell – that’s the modern way, baby.
Everyone’s all so up in arms about standing in front of a crowd of family and friends and declaring their love for one another. What about also declaring the pursuit of a healthy life together, and demonstrating that passion in take-it-to-the-bank raw physicality – and often? What about promising to stay on the same page financially, to maintain open and honest communication in every single way, from dollars to doubts? How about making trust and vulnerability not only ideals in the relationship, but also required?
Some people will say, “Hey, well, that’s implied.” And implying it is working so fucking well, isn’t it?
Yeah, I’m opposed to marriage. Frankly, I’m holding out for something better.
For those counting, that’s 30 consecutive days with rain here on the Wet Coast. The sun’s lingering for a minitease this morning, tho. Praise be.