Years ago, I was a fan of the Myth Adventures series by Robert Lynn Asprin. It's a tongue-in-cheek fantasy series with a diverse cast of characters, beginning with the main character, an inexperienced and naive magician named Skeeve (he reminds me a bit of Simon the Sorceror except with a bigger heart and better attitude). Other characters include Aahz, a sarcastic, scaly green Pervect (sometimes called Perverts, but I wouldn't call them that to their face if you want to live for very long) from the dimension Perv; Tananda, a curvaceous, green haired, assassin Trollop (the origin of my very first screen name, acquired at the age of twelve); and her brother Chumley, an enormous Troll (they're from Trollia) who can pull off the frightening, bloodthirsty bit when the occasion warrants, but is actually very intelligent, kind, and witty.
I recently re-acquired the series and have just finished reading through the books I have (I'm still missing the last few). In the book that I just finished, Skeeve goes to Chumley for some advice about a difficult decision he has to make about accepting a political marriage proposal from an intimidating and less than cuddly figurehead. This is the conversation that follows, though I have trimmed specific plot references in order to keep the discussion on a universal level, and also to prevent spoilers for those of you who may be interested in reading the series.
"You see, when you're young and full of hormones, and come in close contact for the first time with someone of the opposite sex who isn't related to you, you experience feelings and urges that you've never encountered before. Now since, despite their bragging to the contrary, most people are raised to think of themselves as good and decent folks, they automatically attach the socially correct label to these feelings: Love. Of course, there's also a socially correct response when two people feel that way about each other... specifically, marriage...
"Eventually, passions cool, and the infatuation has run its course. It might take years, but eventually they find that 'just being together' isn't enough. It's time to get on with life. Unfortunately, right about then they discover that they have little if anything in common. All too often they find that their goals in life are different, or, at the very least, their plans on how to achieve them don't coincide. Then they find, instead of the ideal partner to stand back to back with while taking on the world, they've actually opened a second front. That is, they have to spend as much or more time dealing with each other as they do the rest of the world.
"If they are at all rational... notice I said 'rational,' not 'intelligent'... they go their separate ways. All too often, however, they cling to the concept of 'love' and try to 'make it work.' When that happens, the result is an armed camp living an uneasy truce... and nobody's happy... or actually achieving their full potential. 'Trying to make it work' is the most frustrating, depressing pastime ever invented. The real problem is that they've each ended up with the wrong person, but rather than admit that, they try to gloss things over with cosmetics... I'll give you an example. The wife says she needs some new clothes, so her husband gives her some money to go out shopping. That's a rather simple and straightforward exchange, wouldn't you say? Now look at it a little deeper... at what's really going on. The husband has been getting caught up in his work... that's a normal reaction for a man when he gets married and starts feeling 'responsible', by the way... and his wife is feeling unhappy and ignored. Her solution is that she needs some new clothes to make her more attractive so her husband will pay more attention to her. A surface solution to her unhappiness. Now, when she says she needs new clothes, the husband is annoyed because she seems to have a closet full of clothes that she never wears, but rather than argue with her, he gives her some money for shopping... again, a surface solution. You'll notice that he simply gives her the money. He doesn't take her shopping and help her find some new outfits.
"From there, it goes downhill. She gets some new clothes and wears them, but the husband either doesn't notice or doesn't comment... possibly because he still resents having to pay for what he thinks is a needless purchase. Therefore, buying new clothes... her surface solution... doesn't work because she still feels ignored and unhappy... and a little angry and frustrated that her husband doesn't seem to appreciate her no matter how hard she tries. Her husband, in the meantime, senses that she's still unhappy so that giving her money... his surface solution... didn't work. He feels even more bitter and resentful because now it seems that his wife is going to be upset and unhappy even if he 'gives her everything she's asked for.' You see, by trying to deal with the problem with surface, cosmetic gestures without acknowledging to themselves the real issues, they've actually made things worse instead of better."
"So you're saying that marriages don't work," I said carefully, "that the concept itself is flawed."
"Not at all," the troll corrected, shaking his head. "I was saying that getting married under the mistaken impression that love conquers all is courting disaster. A proper match between two people who enter into a marriage with their eyes open and free of romantic delusions can result in a much happier life together than they could ever have alone... too many people marry the person they think their partner will become. They have some sort of idea that a marriage ceremony is somehow magical. That it will eliminate all the dubious traits and habits their partner had when they were single. Anyway, when their partner keeps right on being the person he or she has been all along, they feel hurt and betrayed. Since they believe that there should have been a change, the only conclusion they can reach is that their love wasn't enough to trigger it... or, more likely, that there's something wrong with their partner. That's when marriages start getting bloody."
Posted: 03/17/08 at 10:14 (881 views)