In which I am genuinely confused by the gay marriage debate

Yesterday British MPs voted in favour of allowing gay marriage in the UK. Yay! At least a moderate yay! I’m not gay and so aren’t really planning to do any gay marrying, so it’s not a massive YAY! like it would be for the really properly important stuff that actually affects me. But some people are gay and some of those people want to get married so it’s definitely a yay! for them.

What I am a bit confused about is why anyone who isn’t wanting to have a gay marriage themselves would care enough to actively oppose the idea? This is the absolute definition of an issue that really doesn’t affect anyone else. Objecting morally to gay marriage isn’t the same as objecting morally to stealing. Someone choosing to steal adversely affects the person they steal from. Two people choosing to get married doesn’t adversely affect anyone, unless you’re in love with one of the getting-married people, but then your problem is really that they love someone else – the marrying someone else is simply the cherry on top of the icing on top of your cake of heartachey-pain.

I was absolutely certain that gay marriage didn’t affect me, apart from in a broad “it would probably be good to live in as fair and equal society as possible” sort of a way. But then it was pointed out to me that it does affect me. My husband drew my attention to the issue, and a man on Radio 4 drew his attention to the issue. You can rely on Radio 4 for drawing your attention to things, for example, in this case, it drew my attention to the fact that EngineerBoy has become prematurely middle aged and started listening to Radio 4.

Anyway, I digress. In this instance Radio 4 drew our attention to the fact that some of the objections to gay marriage are predicated around the notion that a marriage between a man and a woman exists, in substantial part, for the purposes of making and raising babies. There’s two issues there – we’ll deal with the one that isn’t just all about Me first.

It’s not just straight people who want to raise children. I know. Who knew? Some gay people like the idea of doing their child-raising within a marriage. Clearly, there are some additional challenges for a same-sex couple in the area of actual baby-making. However, we live in a society where there are children who can’t be cared for by their biological parents and need loving adoptive carers. If you feel that parenting is something best done by married people (for the record I don’t personally feel that particularly, but some other people do), then gay marriage is a big positive for lots of potential adoptive children. Yay again!

And now onto the bit that is mainly about Me – the idea that marriage is substantially about raising children causes me some concern. I’m married. I appear, by the “raising children” standard, to be doing it wrong. I’ve never really wanted kids (a characteristic I mused on at much greater length here). Neither has EngineerBoy. This is just one of the very good reasons that it’s fortunate we married each other, rather than lumbering two other poor unfortunates who might have been of more baby-friendly mindsets. The implication seems to be that I’m not doing marriage properly. It would appear that quite inadvertantly, and despite having married someone of the opposite sex, I have made a union that some people would equate with a same-sex marriage. So Yay! indeed for MPs voting in favour of gay marriage – it turns out it does affect me after all.

Or to put it more concisely – people loving each other is nice. People wanting to celebrate that love with their friends and family is nice. People wanting their community to recognise their commitment to each other is nice. People wanting to love and raise children is nice. None of those things are compulsory. None of those things follow automatically from the one before. Everyone having the option is good, and giving everyone the option doesn’t really make the tiniest bit of difference to anybody else.

Farewell then. See you all back here next week?

UPDATE: I’ve just had a query over on fb about my use of the term gay marriage rather than equal marriage, suggesting that equal marriage is a preferable term. I’d broadly agree with that. I’ve used “gay marriage” as a term in this post because that’s the common term used in a lot of media and because that tends to be the term that opponents of equal marriage use, and it’s really the thought process leading to opposition that I’m musing on in my own mind today rather than the actual issue of equal marriage itself. Hope no offence is caused by my choice of terminology.

In which I think about not wanting children

I don’t want to have children. I’ve never really wanted to have children. Most of my life I’ve been told that this will change, that not wishing to procreate was a phase I would get past, and that, fundamentally, long-term resistance to bringing additional tiny people into the world would be a bit weird.

There were generally agreed to be two key triggers that would send me back onto the right-thinking path. Those were “when you hit your thirties” – this being the age at which the tick of a woman’s biological clock is expected to become overwhelming, and “when you’re friends have children.” Well, I’m 35 next week (eeeek – more on that next Monday) and I can’t move for small people in my social circle, but the urge still hasn’t kicked in.

I don’t dislike children. I have a six-year old nephew and an eight-week old niece and they’re both marvellous fun. Well the six-year old is marvellous fun. The eight-week old is still really at the sleep-feed-poo stage, but she’s super super cute and cuddlesome, and I still can’t imagine wanting one of my own.

What’s struck my lately, much more than in the past, is that this feeling actually is a bit weird. Most (not quite all, but a heavy majority) of my friends who weren’t that fussed about kids when they were younger, did grow out of that phase, and reach a point in life where babies seemed desirable. Either that or a lot of my friends are terrible with birth control and good at putting  positive spin on the outcome.

And it’s not just that the great miscellaneous blame-for-everything “society” that we live in pressures us to have babies. It’s much more basic than that. We basically exist to reproduce. Our fundamental biological driver is to pass on our genes. Not wanting to do that would suggest that I’ve somehow managed to break evolution.  Er…. oops.

Not that I’m going to override my lack of procreational urge. The planet has plenty of people. A few less probably wouldn’t do us any great harm, and might bring big environmental benefits.

So why am I telling you this? Well, partly because it’s Monday and my new found blogging commitment requires that I tel you something, but mainly because of something two different women said to me recently, when I told them I’d never wanted kids. Both said that I was the first person they’d ever heard admit that openly. Now, obviously it’s perfectly possible that I am entirely unique and therefore unquestionably special and important and deserving of a tiara, but, sad though I am not to get a tiara, I don’t think that can possibly be the case. So that’s why I’m telling the internet about my weird anti-biological resistance to perpetuating my genes. It’s because it can’t just be me, can it? Please feel welcome to offer reassurances that I’m not a total one-off or to suggest pretty tiara options in the comments. Do you want kids? Did you always want them? Is it different for boys? Do they make tiaras for boys? Other questions like that…

In which I start off all Venetian and then become distracted by daytime television

Ahoy there! The blog plan for today was to tell you all about my lovely holiday last week, but since making that plan I’ve become quite disastrously distracted by what I suspect may be the worst television programme ever made.

I’m going to try to stay on topic for at least a couple of paragraphs though. So I’ve been to Venice. I went there with darling husband, senior sibling, her hubbie and my favourite nephew. And these are the things that I learnt:

1. Holidays with six-year olds are knackering

Now I appreciate that many of you will have actual children of your own who live in your house and are knackering all the time. Well I don’t, so this was news to me. This particular six-year old, although charming in all respects, does not appear to have been fitted with any sort of activity level control. He runs with two settings: asleep and not asleep (aka totally manic).

I, unfortunately, am quite a sedentary animal, used to sitting still on my rapidly-expanding writer’s bottom, so can only really maintain manic for about seven and a half minutes at a time. Probably, when I am Queen of the World, I shall decree that all children be fitted with some sort of wakefulness dimmer switch, so that the grown-ups can just turn them down to “sitting quietly” when they’ve had enough running about for one day. I am confident that there are absolutely no practical or ethical issues with that plan at all.

I was at this point going to include a pic of aforementioned nephew, but everytime I try to upload it my browser crashes, so you’ll just have to take my word for the fact that he exists, is blond, curly and quite unfeasibly cute.

2. People who don’t like Venice are just wrong.

There are many complex issues in the world. Questions like “why did Germolene stop being pink?” are tricky and deserving of lengthy debate. The question of whether Venice is brilliant is not complicated. It is, without question, one of the best places on earth. It has no cars, which makes it a bit like Center Parcs (which the self-same nephew reliably informs me actually is the best place on earth). It has incredible architechture, amazing art and is bountiful in its provision of gelato.

Some people have told me the Venice smells funny. They are wrong. I’ve been there twice. It smells fine. Other people complain that it’s full of tourists. Well, in places, yes. But it’s wrong to be snobby about touristy places – if lots of people want to go somewhere, that’s just as likely to be a sign that the somewhere is amazing, as it is that the people are fools. And secondly, you just need to walk for 5 minutes beyond St Mark’s Square and it’s actually not that busy at all, or, if you’re too lazy to walk, hop on a boat over to San Giorgio or Salute and get away from the crowds that way.

Venice is brilliant. If you haven’t been, go. If you’ve been and didn’t like it, then go back and do it properly. If you’ve been and loved it, share your highlights down in the comments.

And then I came home, where my attention was rapidly taken up by a “reality” tv wonder which I had not come across before. It’s not actually a new programme – it went out in America in 2010, but I’m in Britain and I don’t have Sky, so forgive me for being a little behind.

Ladies and Gentleman, I present to you the wonder that is BridalPlasty. On BridalPlasty twelve brides compete to win the “perfect” celebrity-style wedding, including winning items off their plastic surgery wishlist. As is the norm with tv reality, each week the brides complete challenges, and the challenge winner gets a prize. On this show that prize is an medically unnecessary major surgery! Whoop-de-doo! Only if they win the show will they get their full surgery wish list, and then they can have their perfect wedding, assuming of course that their thigh skin hasn’t been left too tight to permit walking down the aisle.

Now, the obvious next paragraph would be a big ol’ rant about tv reinforcing the idea that there’s just one form of perfect beauty and that only by conforming to that precisely can any woman expect a man to look twice at her. Probably that rant would come with a side order of “who decides what’s perfect anyway?” and possibly a dipping source of “actually they all look fine to start with.” And all of those would be good points, but you are intelligent readers, so I’m assuming you can fill in the details on all of those rant elements.

I could also wonder why none of these women and none of their fiances appear to be particularly concerned about the risks of major surgery. Surely, when your girlfriend tells you she’s going to enter a competition to win a perfect wedding, with a small associated risk of death on an operating table, most husbands-to-be would have something to add to the discussion. Wouldn’t they?

Anyway, I’m going to jump straight to: Where are the bridegrooms in this process? How come they’re deemed pretty enough to have a perfect wedding without being cut and bandaged and remodelled? How come a groom can have a bit of a big nose, or a hint of a beer gut, or wonky teeth and be considered characterful, whereas brides need to be ironed and stapled until they all look like the same stepford blank canvas?

Here’s the bottom line: faces are supposed to show expressions; lips are supposed to be able to smile and laugh and shout and whistle; boobs are supposed to be squishy and jiggly; years are supposed to add wrinkles; bodies are supposed to change over time, not under a knife. We’re not all supposed to look the same. There isn’t supposed to be a template of perfect beauty that you can buy off the shelf. Love the body evolution gave you, and (and this is important) don’t go marrying anyone who doesn’t love it, in all its wonderful imperfection, too.

That is all. Ciao (cos I’ve been to Italy, see) x