Saturday, November 29, 2008

51 Birch Street

So, this mindblowing documentary is about a fifty-year marriage, and if you haven’t seen it, queue it up now, see it, and then come back and read this, cause I’m gonna spoil this too.

It’s a subject I have become really fascinated by ever since I got married – go figure – although you might think I’d have thought about it more deeply before, given that my folks were divorced, and I waited so long to get married. I mean, that wasn’t by accident. I knew I wanted to try to get it right if I was going to do it. But it wasn’t like I was mired in contemplation about my parents’ marriage, or either of their subsequent ones to any great extent. Probably just to the usual extent. Anyway. This guy starts out just by trying to document his parents and his family and then his mom dies, while he’s still making the film, and the father remarries very quickly (there should be an investigative documentary on this subject alone, I say) and slowly, more gets revealed about their history, and as he comes to think his father may have cheated with his new wife many years before, he discovers his mom’s extensive diaries, and it turns out she had been unfaithful, but that really, that was just one small thing, that she had profound feelings of unhappiness in her marriage, in her life, and all this stuff, and but, then in the end, it turns out that the father and his new wife are actually really in love, for the first time, and somehow all this ends up bringing the father and the son closer together, in letting all these secrets out.

For me, it just brings up, again, the central questions of – why do we do this marriage thing – when the odds are as low as they say they are – and how do we do this marriage thing, and what makes a marriage a good marriage or not a good marriage – are these questions all entirely individual? Or are there any universal truths? Are there cultural truths about it? You’d think I might write some fiction about this – and maybe I will – but I’m still figuring out what the questions are. Would love to hear what all y’all think about it, married, divorced, remarried, divorced parents, whatever. Maybe you can help me figure it out.


B. E. Pinkham said...

Hi Betsy,

I've been married for 25 years. (Let's pause here to let that sink in.) At this point I'm fascinated by the causes of our love at the beginning of this relationship, and how much/how little we've changed over the years. As you know, Arnell and I have hit some unexpected "challenges" (the polite term.) We have a working marriage that is still about partnership and mutual support. That teamwork thing is kind of a universal truth: spouses have to play essential roles in each other's lives, or it's just not worth all the day to day friction.

That said, when people ask me for advice on marriage, I usually tell them that I really can't offer anything useful because you just have to marry the right person!

Let me know if you want to talk more!

Ellen Pinkham

Elaine Soloway said...

Hi Betsy,
Loved the post. If you want to learn more about divorce, watch for "Ask Me About My Divorce," an anthology due out June, 2009 by Seal Press. It's edited by Candace Walsh, and I have an essay within. All is revealed.

brataloid said...

This sounds fascinating. I've always been fascinated and somewhat obsessed by the concept of love. Despite all this, I'm currently going through my first divorce. Interestingly, enough my parents were divorced a couple of years ago and are now attempting to get back together. Isn't love crazy?

Repat said...

Ooooh, thank you for reminding me of this movie, which I meant to see but then forgot about as per usual. I've queued it up and will return to weigh in.

It is a subject that I too find fascinating (only 3 years married and also on the later side of things).

Elizabeth Crane said...

Oh, thanks to everyone for your responses. Ellen, I don't know that many folks who have been married that long who are, you know, my age - Elaine - I will for sure look forward to reading that - Brataloid - I've heard weirder! Repat - hope you like it!

kathleen said...

caveat: the following may or may not be a student "tmi":
my father has been married three times, and is now at the point where he'll carry on 2 to 3 year long love affairs. he sometimes will overlap women. in his case, i think he's afraid of being alone. my mother, in her second marriage, is married to a lawyer who represented my father in their divorce. phil (my mother's husband) is on his third marriage, but his second ended ubruptly when his wife got hit by a car. life/love is crazy.
personally, i can't ever imagine marrying someone, but i can believe in the sincerity of commitment others feel married.

Elizabeth Crane said...

Kathleen! Well, you don't know the meaning of tmi until you read that blog I blogged about, and hopefully you'll never have to. That said, yours is a wild, and yet unsurprising story. I can cite too many others to name here. My own parents only had two marriages each, the second ones successful. But the thing about men having a hard time being alone, particularly after a long marriage, is extremely common. And I very much appreciate your last comment as well. As thoughtful as the young woman I came to admire in my class this term.

Maggie May said...

Holy crap this looks awesome. Seriously. Thank you for posting this.
Oh Hello, too. :)