Since April is National Poetry Month, I am reminded of my favorite poem, a gem by Gregory Corso titled “Marriage.” The poem always sets my mind into a squirrel cage of insecurity and possibilities.
Should I get married? Should I be good?
Astound the girl next door with my velvet cape and Faustus Hood?
While I don’t have a velvet suit and don’t exactly know what a Faustus hood is, I’m amazed and even a little frightened at how much I can relate being married to being good. Usually, when someone reaches my age they’ve been married for 20 or 30 years – with kids and grandkids, or married for a second or third time. Since I have never been married, I have a sense of inadequacy, as if I failed my ancestors.
This was all brought home to me recently when I was student teaching at a middle school. The class I taught had tempted me more than once to volunteer for a less stressful job – like maybe a tour of duty in Afghanistan. One day I was shooting the breeze with one young man who had been giving me more than a little grief, when he suddenly asked, “Tell me something. How come you’ve never gotten married?” I’ve been prepared for this question for quite some time, so I told him:
a) I haven’t met anyone I want to marry;
b) I don’t know if I want to be married;
c) God has called me to a higher existence.
He looked at me and said, “Bull****! You’re not married because you can’t get a girlfriend!”
What could I say? He nailed me. For two days after that, I felt like the words “Can’t Get a Girlfriend” were tattooed on my forehead.
A friend of mine told me once that he got married because he grew up with the implied expectation that he was supposed get married. So he did. The other day I got an email from him that read, “Life has been pretty strange these past few months. I met a lady on the Internet ... we dated ... we grew close ... we married ... and then ... strange shortages of cash began to make themselves felt.” He went on to describe his wife’s penchant for substance abuse, and then wrote, “I moved out the next Friday morning. We’re divorcing now and I’m back at the house of my second ex.”
For the record, I have many friends who are very happily married, with partnerships anyone would envy. And I have friends that are more than willing to try again if it didn’t work out the first time. When my youngest cousin got married, and I was suddenly the last of my generation still single, her brother pointed at me and said, “You’re next!” It felt like I was waiting for a bullet. That was almost 20 years ago, but I still wonder if marriage isn’t something looming in my future. The thought of growing old alone does haunt me occasionally. Corso understands my anxiety and offers me a possibility when he writes:
Ah, yet well I know that were a woman possible as I am possible
then marriage would be possible –
Like SHE in her lonely alien gaud waiting her Egyptian lover
so I wait – bereft of 2,000 years and the bath of life.