July 31, 2006

Pondering Relationships

I'm thinking about relationships. Being queerish, and not particularly invested in either mainstream (hetero) nor conventional lesbian community, I'm looking at relationships with a slightly different eye.

At the family reunion on Saturday, social and cultural expectations regarding relationships infused the entire event. Old photos were dragged out - formal posed family shots, weddings, anniversaries, featuring ancestors as well as those in attendance. A cousin's separation was mentioned (hushed tones). An uncle's 2nd wife was introduced (following a long, difficult marriage to an ill partner who recently passed away) - and I wonder at his commitment to the ideal of marriage for so many years, even if the reality was far different and his personal cost was significant. Beautiful children were welcomed into the family, some with less than ideal pedigree's or family trees - spare parts and broken hearts keep the world turnin'. My family, rooted in Lancaster, PA, resonates strongly with Springsteen's album The River, with it's themes of faith, family, marriage, hopes, dreams, despair.

I am struck by how many of the cultural expectations - the rituals, the ceremonies, the myth of true love, sacred pairings, happily ever after, til death do us part - are promulgated to prop up the social order, protect kids and the elderly, maintain the structures of power and patriarchy. It is both freeing and oddly alienating to be operating outside of those ground rules.

I see others in my tribe struggle with relationships. There is a devastation and sense of failure related to relationships ending that transcends mere sadness or regret or loss. It is as if the social order has been rent, as if there is a cultural mandate to meet and mate and pair up. We believe in the myth of two hearts being better than one, we believe that we are incomplete alone, we believe that in spite of our own unconventional lives, we must hew to the social conventions.

For homework: read Shel Silverstein's "The Missing Piece" (extra credit - "The Missing Piece and the Big O") and listen to one of the albums in Springsteen's relationship canon: The River, Tunnel of Love, Lucky Town, Human Touch.


Anonymous said...

Now there is a fun topic. I spend much time pondering extended relationships, rather than primary ones. I too believe the myth (as you describe it) of being better paired, and do find it suits ME (caps to indicate it is MY choice, YMMV). I just received my yearly birthday card from my mom that has my old name on it. Erica wants me to return it unopened. Still on the fence about this one. My grandmother (paternal) is aging now fairly rapidly and it scares me, as it will become increasingly difficult to maintain family connections after she is gone. She provides the neutral ground for us to come together, if briefly.


Jude said...

I have no quibble with being bonded with another (suits ME as well, and I do think it is a preferred state of being) but rather find the "one partner for life, the die has been cast" emphasis of many (especially those who come from a heterosexual background).

For example, consider a relationship where one partner is an addict. Or abusive. Or adulterous. Or some other permutation of ick. Yet some folks remain stubbornly connected - because the social and cultural pressures and expectations say that it shall be so, that getting divorced (there is usually a legal marriage involved) is worse than living with lies and dysfunction.

Anonymous said...

Another comment:

I now believe in the existence of true love, but agree that there is not likely a SINGLE true love. I loved one and lost her, and am convinced that, having found it once, that I might again. Or not, which is also good. I like to share myself with another, but don't require their presence to complete me. I do feel that I am immensely richer for having found her, even if for far too short a time.