The marriage gap

Why is it that some people dream of getting married but others are happy never getting married? Is it fear of commitment? Wanting to live in the present? Or do some people think about marriage so much that it becomes unhealthy?

It’s a question I’ve been asking myself a lot lately. I’m someone who’s never really seen himself getting married. It’s not that I’m afraid of marriage; if I met the right person, I think I’d be able to make a commitment. Rather it’s that I don’t want to concern myself with something that’s outside of my control. I’ve never felt like I define myself by who I’m with, so if I meet someone, that’s great, but I’m happy being by myself as well.

A lot of people, though, see marriage as this focus that gives their lives meaning and it’s that kind of obsession that turns me off marriage. They plan it out years in advance and everything has to be perfect… I have a hard time swallowing that. Marriage needs work; nothing is ever just perfect because you love someone, but many people expect it to be. When I look at the divorce rate I can’t help but think that this idea of marriage plays a large part in it, people giving up because when everything isn’t perfect they think that the relationship wasn’t “meant to be”.

I guess I’ve been thinking about this because an old school friend contacted me a few months ago. I hadn’t heard from her for about six years and it was great catching up again, but one of the things she told me was that she’s engaged. I almost choked! Not in a bad way; I’m really happy for her. It’s just that in my mind I still see her as the fourteen year old girl I used to know and it feels strange to imagine her about to get married. She’s a few months younger than I am as well, so she was only 21 or 22 when she got engaged. But I guess when you know it’s right, it just is.

She’s actually the second school friend who’s been engaged now; another got married two years ago and seems very happy. I haven’t spoken to either of them much since, though… I’d like to but it feels strange. Part of it is the difference between how I remember them and who they are now, but there’s also a different dynamic when someone becomes engaged or married and it can be hard to overcome. That’s part of the problem here.

Some call it the marriage gap and it describes the way a friendship can change once someone is married or part of a long-term relationship. Friends who used to meet for drinks every week feel put out when their married friend starts to cancel; someone who used to think nothing of taking off for a weekend away suddenly has other commitments to think about first. The married friend feels hurt that his/her single friends don’t show more interest in their partner and becomes annoyed by the money they spend frivolously. Over time it brings added pressure to the friendship and it either changes or falls apart.

I didn’t use to believe in the marriage gap but recently I’ve changed my mind. There was a couple I met at my writing group who seemed to speak their own language and it felt like everything they were talking about went over my head. Other people felt the same way and we just weren’t on the same wavelength; it was the first time I’d really understood why it can drive people nuts. It was a little like what it felt like talking to my friends again; not that we didn’t have anything in common, but so much had changed… we were coming from different directions and just because we were compatible once didn’t mean we were now.

In the end I think that’s why once people get married they start to form their own circles, and why singles go out in their own groups. It’s natural; the common ground has shifted and it’s easier to share how you feel with others who understand… even if they’re not the same friends you’ve had for most of your life. In a way that’s sad because if you care about someone enough, you should be able to get past any differences. And many friends do. But for whatever reason the marriage gap is still quite common.

I know part of it for singles is that they often feel like they’re being pressured into getting married themselves. A few members of my extended family seem sorry for me when I say I’m not seeing someone… or seem worried. Thankfully they haven’t tried to set me up with someone (yet!) but they don’t seem to get that I’m happy by myself. Is it so strange to think that I’d enjoy my own company, that I’d rather be alone than with someone who doesn’t value me for who I am? And likewise married people feel hurt that their old friends don’t show more interest in their new lives, which is something I can understand as well. Marriage is the ultimate commitment; they’ve made a huge change in their lives and to not even try to understand that and expect them to be the same isn’t being much of a friend.

To be honest, though, I think the marriage gap is overrated. What it really represents is a breakdown in communication; neither friend expresses how they feel properly, and so they keep growing apart. But it also shows that we’re not aware of how relationships evolve over time. No friendship remains the same; it changes as our interests change, as we move into different periods of our lives. We shouldn’t expect it to remain the same, but a lot of people do. And that’s the problem. We think our friendships should be perfect (like our marriages) and last a lifetime, but you maintain any relationship by redefining it, by taking an interest in the person… if you don’t do that, the friendship won’t survive. And sometimes that’s not a bad thing. Sometimes it’s better to let go of a friendship than to ruin all of the memories you shared.

For the most part I try to do that. Before meeting that couple at the group, I hadn’t noticed the marriage gap all that much and I get on well with most of the family friends I know who are married. And I like taking an interest in people as well, so finding common ground isn’t too difficult… that’s why I think that generally the marriage gap isn’t something that can’t be overcome, just something you have to work at. If I had a chance to talk to my friends again, I’d love to. I’d love to know how they’re getting on and see if there was a chance to get to know them again. I’m not expecting it, but who knows? I didn’t expect to hear from them the first time, so I’ll never say never. 😉

Anyway, it’s just been on my mind lately. I wonder what you think? Is there a marriage gap? Have you ever felt out of place in a social group? Is one group more responsible than the other? I’d be interested to know what you think.

I love a good mondegreen

It’s no secret that I’m a music junkie. I love listening to something new, particularly while I’m writing. If there’s one thing I hate, though, it’s discovering a new artist and then finding out that everyone has heard them first. I’m not sure why it happens but I’ve discovered some of my favourite artists that way.

That’s why I was thrilled when I heard Feist’s 1234; I had the feeling it might be big, and then Apple used it in their iPod commercials. But it’s kind of ironic because, much as I love the song, I didn’t realise until a few days ago that I had actually misheard the lyric all this time. It was fairly minor; I thought Oh, you’re changing your heart was Oh, changing is hard. But I still feel a bit silly. Good thing I didn’t try to sing it in front of anyone. 😉

It can be embarrassing when you mix up lyrics, but a good mondegreen can be a lot of fun as well. The name comes from a line in The Bonnie Earl o’ Moray which was misheard as “they have slain the Earl of Murray, and Lady Mondegreen” (“laid him on the green”) and many people swear that they sound better than the original.

So I thought after my mistake with Feist that it’d be fun to post some of my favourite mondegreens. The list is a mix of a couple I’ve misheard myself and others which are common. I wonder if you have any favourites?

  • Purple Haze
    Jimi Hendrix

    Original lyric: ‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky
    Misheard as: ‘Scuse me while I kiss this guy
    (Hendrix used to sing it at some of his concerts, adding to the confusion)

  • (Build Me Up) Buttercup
    The Foundations

    Original lyric: Build me up, Buttercup
    Misheard as: Fill me up, Buttercup

  • Advance Australia Fair
    Original lyric: Australia’s Sons let us rejoice for we are young and free
    Misheard as: Australia, Sunset Ostriches for we are young and free
    (The line ended up being changed to “Australians all let us rejoice”)

  • Truly Madly Deeply
    SavageGarden

    Original lyric: I want to lay like this forever until the sky falls down on me
    Misheard as: I want to lay like this forever until this guy falls down on me
    (One of mine. Major embarrassment)

  • Tiny Dancer
    Elton John

    Original lyric: Hold me closer tiny dancer,
    Count the headlights on the highway
    Misheard as: Hold me closer, Tony Danza,
    Count the head lice on the highway

  • Bad Moon Rising
    Creedence Clearwater Revival

    Original lyric: There’s a bad moon on the rise
    Misheard as: There’s a bathroom on the right

  • Bohemian Rhapsody
    Queen

    Original lyric: Mama mia, Mama mia, let me go
    Misheard as: Mama mia, Mama mia, Mexico
    (Another of mine. Does anyone really understand Bohemian Rhapsody?)

  • Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
    The Beatles

    Original lyric: The girl with kaleidoscope eyes
    Misheard as: The girl with colitis goes by

  • Radio Nowhere
    Bruce Springsteen

    Original lyric: Is there anybody alive out there?
    Misheard as: Is there anybody in love out there?
    (One of mine again. It actually gives the song a different meaning)

  • Tangled up in Blue
    Bob Dylan
    Original lyric: We split up on a dark, sad night
    Misheard as: We split on the docks that night

  • Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
    Original lyric: All of the other reindeer used to laugh and call him names
    Misheard as: Olive the other reindeer used to laugh and call him names
    (Inspired a children’s book and TV show Olive, the Other Reindeer)

The young and the old

Do you ever feel like you’re being watched? Like when you’re out and you get that sense that someone’s eyes are on you but when you turn around, there’s no one there? I do and it drives me crazy. I don’t like people staring at me; it makes me feel self-conscious and I can’t relax when I get that feeling.

Of course most of it’s in my head but I’ve caught people staring at me before, so it’s not always my imagination. Sometimes it’s girls (occasionally guys) and it’s funny seeing their heads jerk away when I look back, suddenly interested in a speck on the wall. 😉 I don’t mind that as much but what I really don’t like is when people just stare for no reason.

Yesterday I had an appointment and I had to wait a while before I was seen. So I did what I normally do; I took out a notepad and started working through some ideas. After about two minutes I got that feeling and sure enough, several people were just staring at me. Not people-watching like some do, just openly staring. In the end I ignored it but when I got back home it still bothered me. It felt like they were staring at me because I was somehow out of place, and it bothered me more later than at the time.

Most of the people were older than me and I think that was part of it. Usually I don’t feel like my age is an issue with people but every now and then it is. All through school I could talk to people without them knowing my age but when they found out, suddenly my opinions didn’t have the same weight. I’ve had people doubt my age in my writing (and this blog) because I don’t sound my age when I write. And previously I’ve been told that I think too much; I should just go out, have fun and be 23. Well, what’s to say I’m not? This is who I am and if I were any different, I wouldn’t be me.

I dislike ageism with a passion. What I’ve always found interesting, though, is that most definitions of ageism describe it as discriminating against the elderly. I don’t disagree with that but to me ageism can be against any age group and we often overlook the presumptions we make about youth as well. Yes, some young people can be disrespectful, but not all of us. We’re the iPod generation but most of us study and work just as hard as anyone else. Plus we have the added pressure of trying to find homes and jobs (often for the first time) in a global market which has changed so much since 9/11. Ageism can go both ways but not everyone remembers that.

A few years ago something happened to me which is just one example. I’d been shopping with my mother and we were waiting to get the bus back home when a man (about 70) came up from nowhere and shouted at me, struck me across the shoulder and head as he brushed past, and left muttering insults about youth under his breath. I’d done nothing and was well out of his way; he targeted me, but what I remember most is that only a few people noticed. If I’d done it I’d have been up on assault charges; he did it, and for some reason I must have had it coming. If that’s not ageism, I don’t know what is.

It’s strange the way we ignore young people. We look at youth as the future; we say we want to teach them and prepare them for life, but often it’s an excuse to shape them the way we want. We crush them of their individuality and make them conform, and soon see all young people the same way. But who’s to say we really know what’s best? There’s a case in Wyoming at the moment where three 13 year old girls threw french fries during their lunch at school. The police have subsequently charged them with “hurling missiles”, an adult charge. Hurling missiles… have you ever heard anything more ridiculous? They deserve disciplining but if you give kids a criminal record for a food fight, you’ll be doing it to every kid in school. It’s a knee-jerk reaction and it’s based on the fact that people try to control children, not understand them.

My personal view is that age is irrelevant; I get on well with people of many ages and what’s important to me is mutual respect. If someone is interested in talking to me, sharing their thoughts, that’s all I’ve ever needed. It’s something people underestimate about children as well, that sometimes they just want to be engaged and have a say in things. I think Katherine Hepburn said it best: “I have no romantic feelings about age. Either you are interesting at any age or you are not.” Isn’t that so true? You either find someone interesting or you don’t; in the end, that’s all the matters, not age or anything else.

So maybe I should be flattered when someone stares at me. They obviously find me interesting in some way… even if it does feel like a scientist dissecting a rat! Maybe next time I’ll say something. Who knows, perhaps I’ll find someone to talk to, or at least will be able to write in peace… on the other hand, I’ll be 30 before I know it. Maybe then they’ll leave me alone and all I’ll have to worry about is baldness. 🙂

Are you a movie buff?

Raiders
What Classic Movie Are You?

There’s nothing I love more than a classic movie. I grew up with Errol Flynn’s The Adventures of Robin Hood, and Psycho and Citizen Kane are two of my favourites. So I loved stumbling upon this quiz earlier. It’s a fun quiz which will tell you which classic movie you’re most like.

Could this have been any better for me? I love Indy; he has my sense of humour and I love a good adventure. What’s even more incredible is I got this result just as the trailer for the new film came out. How about that for a coincidence?

Seeing Indy again has really reminded me of just how much I love movies. I love the escapism and the thrill of a good movie, of being carried away by a good story and being inspired to think about something in a new way. Movies tell us so much about life and often when I think about something from the past, I’ll think about a movie or a scene, a reminder of what I was doing at that time.

I guess that makes me a big movie buff; I can’t imagine life without movies and I’m always watching a new DVD, showing friends a few gems they didn’t know about. And I haven’t been beaten at Scene It yet either, after 20 games!

What about you? Are you a movie buff? Do you have a favourite movie? If I picked one I’d have to say Metropolis or Schindler’s List. And of course Raiders would be up there too. 😉

Be My Baby

It sucks being single on Valentine’s Day. There’s just something about being out and seeing everyone together that feels very strange. Normally I’m not someone who gets that carried away with Valentine’s Day, particularly with the commercialism, but I like the sentiment.

Whenever I think of Valentine’s Day, I start thinking of Be My Baby by The Ronettes. I grew up with a lot of 60’s music around the house, so I must have picked it up at some stage. It’s one of my favourite songs and so what better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than to post the video? It’s a great video; you can almost see the lip-synching! Some things never change.

I was remembering my first Valentine card earlier. It would have been about 15 years ago now and was from one of my school friends. She left it in our letterbox and I can’t remember what it looked like but she made it herself and it was very sweet. We’re still friends now, after almost 20 years.

I remember that Valentine because it represents what I like most about Valentine’s Day; the innocence of love. One thing which does bug me about Valentine’s Day, though, is how a lot of people see it as a gesture, using that one day to express their feelings. It shouldn’t be just that one day; we should always want to be honest with each other… in the end it’s better to say too much than to say nothing at all.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! Hope you have a good one. 😉

Are audiobooks the same as reading?

I’ve just been checking out an interesting project over at Audible.com. It’s an audiobook called The Chopin Manuscript and is being billed as the first-ever audio serial book. It’s written by 15 successful thriller writers; Jeffery Deaver conceived of the characters, story and wrote the first chapter, with 14 other writers including David Hewson, Lisa Scottoline and Lee Child contributing chapters and Deaver bringing it to its conclusion. It’s narrated by Alfred Molina and proved to be one of the fastest-selling audio titles of 2007.

I had heard of the book when it was first released in September but wanted to wait until all the chapters were available. Then I forgot about it until I was looking around Audible earlier. So far I’m enjoying it; I’ve just about finished Deaver’s chapter and the story is interesting, even if it does sound a little like The Da Vinci Code. Alfred Molina’s narration is excellent as well.

What’s interesting about the project is seeing so many writers not just embracing audiobooks but using them as a medium. So far there’s no printed version of The Chopin Manuscript and it feels very visual compared to other audiobooks. I’ve grown to like audiobooks over the last few years… I’m a fast reader but I enjoy listening to books as well and they’ve been very useful while I’ve been having trouble sleeping.

A lot of people don’t like audiobooks. I can understand that; they think it takes away from the reading experience, from the conversation between author and reader. Of those people, a number are very dismissive of listeners; I’ve offered audiobooks to people who haven’t been able to find the printed version, only to have it refused as it’s not “real reading”… I have a problem with that. I agree that audiobooks are not the same experience but to say they’re a lesser experience bugs me. What you get out of them is different, yes, but they both have value.

To me reading isn’t about interpreting words visually as much as understanding language. If someone’s telling a story then it doesn’t matter if I’m reading the words off the page or hearing them inside my head, that’s still reading. It provides a different experience, an auditory experience, but I’m still getting the same story. For certain books it can actually be an advantage, particularly if it’s a book that’s difficult to read. And if you think about it, listening to a story long predates the written word. When we’re listening to an audiobook we’re really tapping into our ancestors sitting by the campfire, listening to a storyteller weave his magic.

The main disadvantage with audiobooks is that the feeling can be quite different. I don’t know if you’ve listened to a book you’ve read previously but it feels different. The reason is because the narrator is interpreting the story rather than you; he or she places the emphasis on certain words differently than you might, so it’s never exactly the same. And sometimes dialogue which sounds right on the page doesn’t seem believable when read aloud. That’s why personally I’ll always prefer the printed page; I just like the feel and smell of paper, hearing the words in my own voice. But that doesn’t mean that I think audiobooks aren’t the same, just that I get something different from them. Usually the kind of audiobooks I listen to are classics or thrillers, which are more visual anyway, and I listen to quite a few short stories as well. I listen to them the same way I’d read normal books: on my own, unwinding with a good story.

If you’re interested in audiobooks, they can be a bit pricey, but Audible is great; they give you discounts and the subscription works out to a half-price book each month. They’ve also just been bought by Amazon so there’s a chance the prices might drop. And there’s Lit2Go as well, a great service on iTunes. It provides free audiobooks for download and the narration is excellent. You don’t need an iPod, just iTunes, and it’s well worth checking out.

What do you think of audiobooks, though? Do you listen to them? Is listening really the same as reading or does it make the experience lesser? Would you listen to The Chopin Manuscript or other audio-only titles? Maybe you could try the sample over at Audible and let me know what you think.

Obsessions and habits

Do you have a favourite love song? Perhaps the song that was playing the first time you fell in love, or a song that means something special to you and your partner? For me I’d have to say Be My Baby by The Ronettes. Not for any particular reason; I’ve just always liked the song. Whenever I have a crush, that song starts playing in my head.

I’ve asked a few people about their favourites before and the most common answer has been Every Breath You Take by The Police. Apparently that’s a common interpretation of the song, but it always makes me cringe. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great song; I love Sting and The Police. But it’s not a love song. It’s a song about obsession and the lyrics are actually quite sinister.

Every breath you take/every move you make
Every bond you break/every step you take
I’ll be watching you

Every single day/every word you say
Every game you play/every night you stay
I’ll be watching you

Sting wrote it during the collapse of his marriage and said he was thinking about Big Brother and control as much as anything else. I’m not sure why so many people think it’s a love song but apparently it’s still very popular at weddings. That just seems creepy; is a song like that really one we’d want to use to mark a union? It’s no wonder the divorce rate is so high.

It’s funny, though, because I’ve been thinking about that song a lot lately. When I was putting together my song list, Every Breath You Take just missed the cut. And recently I’ve been obsessing over things more than usual, so naturally started thinking about the song again. Mostly it’s little things but I can’t get them out of my head; a couple of things I said which were taken the wrong way; memories from years ago that keep popping up; paragraphs I keep rewriting because they’re still not right… it’s annoying and not like me to obsess over them like that.

I’m retraining myself to stop it but in a strange way it’s actually been quite useful. It’s made me look at myself in a different way, ask myself why I’m thinking those things… something I wouldn’t have done before. What it’s made me wonder as well is, is obsession actually such a bad thing? We’re told that an obsession is irrational, an unhealthy preoccupation with something or someone. It can be, but does that mean all obsessions are bad? I tend to think that sometimes focusing on a goal is the only way you can achieve it; like an athlete training for the Olympics, if it didn’t become their focus, would they have the drive to succeed?

Perhaps obsession is a relative thing. Let’s say someone wakes up at the same time, has the same breakfast, follows the same route to work each day. Does that make him obsessive and stubborn because he never changes his routine? Or does it make him sensible, because he knows what he needs to be effective? What if someone always checks the lights before they go outside, even when they know they’re off; if they do that a thousand times but it stops a fire once, does that make them obsessive? Or is it a precautionary habit?

I’ve often thought that there’s a thin line between an obsession and a habit and really they’re much the same. A habit can become just as much of an obsession over time. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re bad either. If checking the lights repeatedly gives you peace of mind, is that so bad? To me a habit or an obsession can serve a purpose – it’s when they begin to interfere in our lives that they become unhealthy. That’s when we need help.

Whether I’m that obsessive myself, I don’t know. I do keep to a routine; I try to eat at certain times, I’m usually online at the same times, and I write at night. But then I’m not afraid to break the cycle either… so maybe I am a little obsessive, but you probably need to be if you’re creative. How else can you stay motivated through the writer’s block?

I wonder what you think. Do you obsess over things? Is obsession necessarily bad? Can it be a good thing? I’d be interested to see what you think. 😉

Dreams

Fields

Do you ever have strange dreams? The kind that seem so real when you’re asleep but when you wake up, they make no sense? I’ve had a few; being chased by wild animals, finding myself in a different body…. they can be quite scary sometimes.

The strangest dream I’ve had involved clowns. I’ve never liked clowns. When I was a child I used to think they were evil… something about the way they could all fit into one car really freaked me out. In my dream I was standing in a field surrounded by clowns. There were dozens of them all moving in sync; they’d take several steps, stop and harvest the corn, then move on. They’d do it again and again, not knowing I was there. It was all so eerie, so quiet…

When I woke up I remember lying there, trying to work out what I’d seen. But it made no sense! Were the clowns supposed to be some metaphor for illegal immigrants? For cloning and genetically modified foods? I still don’t know now but in the end something about the dream stayed with me and a couple of months later I turned it into a story. I took the clowns and the fields and created verandis, a drug which gave people a high of fear; in small doses it was a cheap thrill, but in high doses it proved effective for torture. The Drug of Fear was one of the first stories I had published and it’s funny to think that without that dream, I’d never have written it.

I had an experience earlier this week which made me think of the clown dream again. I was getting the bus home and listening to some music. Usually I like to watch what’s going on around me, but this time I was staring out the window. There was a seagull flying overhead and one of its wings was bent; I watched it for about a minute, wondering if it was broken, how it might have happened. When I finally looked away I caught the gaze of a girl a few seats in front of me.

She was watching me, smiling slightly, and she didn’t look away like most people do when they’re caught staring. She just smiled again and the funny thing was, I knew what she meant. She wasn’t smiling at me, but she knew what I was doing; it was like we were the only two people on the bus who had noticed the seagull. It was a moment we shared and without words, it seemed special. We got off at the same stop and neither of us said anything, but it was a nice feeling, like for a moment we’d been linked in a dream…

But then in a way it was a dream, a daydream. While I was watching the seagull I wasn’t aware of anything else… I was somewhere else, far away. The strange thing is that usually I don’t dream when I sleep, or if I do I don’t remember them. But I daydream quite often during the day, and since I’ve been having trouble sleeping I’ve actually been dreaming more than I was before. Whether that’s a good thing or not I don’t know – maybe it means I’m too active and carrying my thoughts into my sleep.

Anyway, I just thought it was interesting. Dreams fascinate me; we know so little about them, but they’re just one example of how amazing the human body and mind can be… even if sometimes your dreams are of fields of clowns. 😉