As a society, we have succeeded brilliantly in prolonging the journey to adulthood. It used to be that women started procreating as soon as their bodies could survive the trauma, but now – well, let’s just say I know 24-year-olds who still live with their parents. It’s a comforting thought – three more years of shirking responsibility. And yet, insanely, people around me keep making the leap into that other world. There’s the whole job thing, which is mildly distasteful, and then – and this is truly unforgivable – there are those who feel the need to get, of all things, married. This has to stop.

When my cousin was married in Rome this summer, I tried to suspend my cynicism and enjoy the wisp of fairy tale. As the priest droned on, however, I couldn’t suppress the question – “What is she doing?” I have no doubt that she was and is truly in love with the man who is now her husband, but why that should translate into the sham of a traditional marriage ceremony, I have no idea.

First of all, the costumes are absurd. The white dress is obviously supposed to stand for purity, which, in the context of most modern marriages, I am going to assume is a blatant misrepresentation. And if it’s not a misrepresentation, well, this is not a marriage I feel comfortable witnessing. It would be like watching my favorite basketball team draft a center without one iota of experience in the game. Big mistake.

The poor choice of symbolism only exacerbates the real problem – the ceremony. There is the “giving away” of the bride, as if she is a cold beer being tossed around the living room. Here’s one for you, son. And, of course, there is the priest. People who have never seen the inside of a church are willing to let this man commit them to eternal oneness – a commitment, by the way, that this guy has pledged never to take on for himself. This makes about as much sense to me as those priests who also call themselves “marriage counselors.” It’s like taking fashion advice from a nudist.

Of course, not all marriages are religious. There are people who try to purge the ceremony of its religious significance by hiring a justice of the peace and writing their own vows. Unfortunately, listening to couples recite their own vows amounts to watching particularly offensive, prolonged public display of affection. They are either too specific: “I promise to stop asking you to look more like J. Lo,” or too trite: “I vow to fly to heaven on the wings of our eternal love.” It is nearly impossible to write vows that are not saccharine, and the ordeal proves embarrassing to watch.

Before you start psychoanalyzing, I am not the bitter child of a broken home. But I have never seen my parents’ happiness – or commitment to one another – as in any way connected to the fact that they happen to be married.

The problem with marriage, besides the outdated costumes and the overtones of sexism, is that it translates the act of growing apart into the illusion of failure. Weddings encourage people to make wild, irresponsible claims about who they will be in 10, 20, 30 years. When those claims turn out to be false (as they do about 50 percent of the time), the marriage is said to have “failed,” as if 10 or 20 years of loving somebody could ever be any kind of defeat. Marriage doesn’t keep passion from withering away, but it can and does stigmatize the resulting separation. Similarly, marriage doesn’t guarantee children a two-parent household, but the idea that two-parent households are somehow “normal” worsens the pain of parental separation.

It’s not that love isn’t worth all of the spectacle we see fit to give it. It’s that love is too important, too central, to entrap and distort in the outdated traditions of our past. If we’re going to publicly celebrate love, which is a beautiful concept, there is no reason to keep the celebration entrenched in chauvinistic symbolism or dripping with overtones of permanence.

This is not how we operate as a society. Why is it still the way we express our most venerable emotions?

Kerry Howley is a senior in the College and can be reached at Infinite Regress appears every other Friday.

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