Marriage is a conspiracy! So writes Kristin Armstrong (of formerly married to Lance fame) in an opinion piece for Broadsheet crush object Glamour, recently published to the Web. I was all set to be annoyed; Armstrong seems to have impossible Breck-girl hair and calls marriage the greatest conspiracy in modern history (trumping Watergate, the Kennedy assassination and, presumably, any other contenders for the title). But rather than taking the woman-scorned approach or the celebrity relationship tell-all angle, Armstrong instead attacks the conventional wisdom that relationships require great self-sacrifice. I found myself liking her.
Mostly I like the fact that she's candid and a little snarky. On the perils of engagement, she writes, "The problem is that when a young woman announces her engagement, everyone is quick to roll out the matrimonial red carpet by throwing showers and obsessing over wedding day plans. This helps a bride prepare for the reality of marriage about as much as nine months of baby showers and nursery decorating prepare a gestating woman for the awesome task of raising a child: not at all."
On her own bridal celebrity moment: "I was joyfully sporting an engagement ring with a hefty rock the size of my dilated pupil in a darkroom. I was so enamored with my new stature as part of a couple ... I quit my job, rented out my house, gave my dog to an old boyfriend, sold my car and moved to France so Lance could reenter the world of professional cycling."
And, on the reappearance of reality when she realizes she has shucked her own identity: "I grieved for my old name and independent self ... [There's] postpartum me in 1999, weeping for apparently no reason in the middle of the night as I sat on a sofa-size maxi-pad and rocked my crying newborn, Luke, while feeling utterly and terrifyingly alone."
If it all sounds like self-help lit, well, it is: Armstrong shared the same thesis with Oprah Winfrey earlier this week. (True to form, Oprah made it about Oprah: "I was in tears when I read [Kristin's article] because this is why I never got married ... I just wanted to always be myself.") I can't help choking a little on cloying descriptions like "warrior-size courage" and "the bright, hard flame" of selfhood.
But while many women, thank goodness, see maintaining an independent identity within a relationship as a no-brainer, Armstrong is right that some will still struggle as she did with traditional gender roles and fantasy-wedding mania. If a little conspiracy-mongering helps some women redraw their boundaries, that doesn't seem like a bad thing.