Valentines day is rolling up in all its tacky smultzy glory. I made an attempt to put together a little present for Malcolm, for which I was going to make a photo with six little square images of the two of us taken on our second wedding anniversary in October last year. But being rubbish at keeping secrets, and having never used the software I needed to use to do it... combined with the fact that Malcolm's computer is being fixed so he's using mine, and the fact that I cunningly called the photos valentines and they showed up in the recently used documents at the bottom of the screen all conspired to give the game away. And though I did take and edit the pictures myself, Malcolm ended up putting them together. We will get it printed and maybe mounted on MDF or something. Quite fun:
Having watched Malcolm use the GIMP editing software, maybe I will be able to use it myself next time!
I can't help but think of my single friends on valentines day. We don't live in a society that embraces singleness - particularly as you get older. One of the reasons (and there are many) that I really dislike romantic comedies is the way they perpetuate the myth to women that to be happy ever after, you need a man. Don't get me wrong, I love being married, and feel blessed everyday by having the husband that I do. Lots of research shows that married people on the whole tend to be happier. Having also lived though my first marriage breaking up, it's a pretty horrific process, and I have some idea of all the complexities involved in the decision to stay or not stay in a relationship, and the pain that's caused by relationships breaking down. What I object to is to romantic love being upheld as the one route to happiness, and singleness being seen as a second best alternative. I also think that the kind of thinking we are fed though rom-coms and TV and girly romance novels puts far to much expectation on one 'love' relationship to provide everything we need for love and happiness, almost as if couples live in some magic bubble that contains only themselves and where everything is perfect.
We've been avidly watching 'my big fat gypsy wedding', a brilliant series on the milestones in the life of Irish gypsys and travellers here in the UK. This culture seems to seriously buy into a paradigm of marriage being the ultimate aim in life, especially for women. If a woman not married by her early 20's she is considered on the shelf. Lots of emphasis is put on the wedding day, which must cost ludicrous amounts and seems to involve serious metres of pink or white lace, frills, diamantes and general bling. Little girls grow up dreaming of the day they will get married, and be a princess for a day. One episode looks at the life of these women outside of the wedding day. Many of them are taken out of school at an early age (12 or 13) to cook and clean and care for younger siblings, and then it is usual marry at 17 or 18, upon which they become a housewife. Whats the point in getting and education when your culture see it as shameful for the woman to be anything other than housewife. The thing that was most horrific to hear is that 50% of traveller women experience domestic violence in their marriages. In the UK 1 in 4 women experiences domestic violence in their lifetime. Happily ever after? I think not!
Anyway - what I want to say is I need friends in all walks of life. I can't think of much worse than only hanging out with other 'smug marrieds' (as I've heard the happily hitched referred to as). Real communities have people in all walks and ages and stages and relational 'status'. How can we learn from each other and share our lives in a meaningful way if we spend time only with those just like us? One relationship, no matter how wonderful it is doesn't take the place of a network of family relationships friendships and community. Singleness may be a season or it may be a decision (Shane Claiborne of 'the simple way' comes to mind as someone who has made a decision to be single in order to do what he feels God has called him to). I really hope that wherever we go and whatever we do in the world we would not ever exclude people or segregate ourselves along the basis of singleness (or for that matter marriedness). We need each other, folks! If you're feeling a little lonesome this valentines day, here's a little something that I hope lifts your spirits.. it's a beautiful song/ poem/ contemplation on the nature of being alone.