Not just a piece of paper

Celebrity gossip is one of my escapist behaviors. We all have them. Some are more or less destructive than others. I look forward to receiving the latest issue of US Weekly on my Nook every Friday. I check in on pretty regularly, though I have vowed to never comment on a Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie story again. Their followers, the Brangeloonies, react to criticism of the sainted pair not unlike a Muslim discovering an editorial cartoon that depicts Mohammed.

It’s ugly. And scary.

At, the mood is very anti-Chelsea Handler of “Chelsea Lately.” You see, she has committed the ultimate crimes of being both a friend of Jennifer Aniston’s and not being stunningly beautiful. I like Handler. I have seen her stand-up live. I have purchased and read some of her books (okay, I borrowed it). I watch her show.

Last night, blissfully unaware that I was about to be up until the wee hours of morning sitting in the steamy bathroom rocking my two-year old through a bout of croup, I watched an episode of “Lately” recorded earlier in the week. It featured Eva Mendes as the guest, and she and Handler discussed how they are both anti-marriage. Neither woman sees marriage as necessary. They agreed it was old-fashioned, out-dated, and not a true sign of commitment.

How does either one of these women claim the authority to judge the value of marriage? To know what marriage is and what it isn’t, having never entered into it? One of my biggest pet peeves is when marriage is referred to as “just a piece of paper.” Really? A legally binding document is just a piece of paper? So, the deed to your house is just a piece of paper? I can move my stuff in anytime? My college diploma is just a piece of paper? A search warrant? Obama’s birth certificate?

Ask someone divorcing a spouse who owes money to the IRS if marriage is “just a piece of paper.”

Handler has been an outspoken advocate for the right of gays and lesbians to marry. Why should they pursue this goal if it’s nothing but a piece of paper?

Before I myself was married, I might have agreed that a commitment of monogamy doesn’t require a marriage license. I know enough about history to understand that originally marriage was all about keeping property in the family (and daughters were property). Princesses and princes were traded in marriage to make and secure political alliances. Marriage for love is a modern and perhaps quaint idea.

Odie had no interest in remarrying when we got together. I didn’t bring up the idea for a few years. His first marriage was brief, his divorce messy. To this day, he feels pain, regret and self-loathing over how he failed in that marriage. One day, I went with my sister Beezy to see “Thirteen Going on Thirty.” We both love Jennifer Garner (who is another much-loathed person on, and we love the men in our lives so much we would NEVER ask them to go see a Jen Garner romantic comedy with us. Ever.

At the end of the film, the protagonists marry, and the last scene is them sitting contentedly on a couch in front of their brand new nuptial home. My heart ached a little. I realized that I wanted the whole deal: the dress, the commitment, the public acknowledgment, and YES, the piece of paper. I broke the news to Odie.

“Some day, I’m not saying right now, but some day, I’d like to get married,” I admitted to him later.

“No more Jennifer Garner movies for you.”

From then on, however, we were on the marriage track. Odie said my timetable was definitely speedier than what his would have been, but acknowledged that had everything to do with his shame and nothing to do with loving me. We were married a respectable four years after we began dating.

I felt different being a wife. Right away, there was this sense of being part of a new family. We were in this together. Husband and wife. Eva Mendes told Handler there was nothing sexy about the words “husband and wife.” She claimed that being in your fifties and referring to your man as “boyfriend” was sexy. Let’s see how she feels about it when she’s in her fifties.

I am not suggesting that marriage is for everyone or that I am somehow better than Mendes and Handler because the man of my dreams got down on one knee on top of a mountain at sunset and gave me diamond. I am, however, willing to bet cash money that if this scenario ever presented itself to either one of these ladies, neither would scoff that marriage was just a piece of paper.

Because that’s bullshit.

I have a dear friend who has chosen not to marry. Any man would be lucky to have her, but it’s not the life she wants. I respect her choice. And I admire that she doesn’t need to defame marriage as an “institution.” I don’t disrespect her by suggesting to her face (0r behind her back) that she just hasn’t met the right man.

Feminism means nothing if not the right to make choices. Marry or don’t. Have children or don’t. But we need not ever believe that our choices should be everyone’s choices. And while I’m all for criticizing things I don’t know about, it’s REALLY irritating to me when other people do it.


About Mrs Odie

Friendly Pedant; Humble Genius
This entry was posted in Essays/Commentary, Marriage and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Not just a piece of paper

  1. Excellent post.
    I’ll be laughing when I hear about these 2 getting married to people one day.
    And great point about how it is hypocritical for them to advocate for others to be able to marry.
    I can’t stand Jolie and Pitt either.

  2. mrsk6 says:

    I was missing you… thanks for this. Well said.

  3. Trixiebell says:

    I’ve felt for years that marriage isn’t for me, and I’m at peace with it. I remember reading an interview with George Clooney, in which the inevitable question of his aversion to marriage came up. He said that he wouldn’t marry again, not because he didn’t respect the institution of marriage, but that he had too MUCH respect for it. He’s not good husband material, and his lack of commitment would make a mockery of it. The cynic in me thought, “He’s joking, or if not, then nice one, Clooney. Way to send up the flare to your girlfriend, present and future” but there’s a logic to that idea that I understand. I wouldn’t be a good wife, and I’m not referring to the 1950’s, meet-my-husband-at-the-door-with-martinis-and-tuna-casserole. I mean a woman who will commit to the teamwork and cooperation that strike me as necessary for a strong marriage. I don’t think I’m capable of the mutual understanding that comes with building a family of two, or more as the children arrive. It’s just not in my psychological makeup, and I don’t have the energy to try to change that.
    I hope I’ve never disparaged the institute of marriage (or parenthood) to anyone. I have family members and friends whose marriages I admire very much, but I don’t covet them. I can’t think of one relationship where I sigh and think, “I wish I had that,” but that’s my personality, not a commentary on marriage and family life. My ire has been aroused by”smug couples” and “commando parents” who state insufferably that their choices are the clearly the best, and anyone who doesn’t agree is hiding sad denial or pathological jealousy. That’s when I start spouting statistics and scenarios that trumpet the life without the burden of spouse or children. These outbursts are usually followed by icy silence or sputtering indignation, but I stand by my choices. To each his own. Single life, married life, child-filled or child-free, everyone should trod their own path, and wish others well in their journey.

  4. Emma says:


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