Alternate Title: Society insists that marriage and kids are the real “normal”
For the record, this is a side post that I’m counting as part of the Narrative Collection.
Anyway, this time I wanted to address a topic that better shows how society at large influences our thoughts and behaviors. So, I’m going to discuss relationships. To be more precise, familial and romantic ones.
Society (whether it be via real-life or the media we consume) teaches us certain cultural rules and beliefs called social scripts. However, even when these scripts are logical and respected, they don’t apply to everyone and in every situation. And that discrepancy sometimes creates issues.
Well, I have the idea that so far, societies have managed to exist because they feed the same major social scripts to their people. This creates an ideology that everyone (for the most part) can reference and use to build a sense of unity. [It’s actually brilliant.] Even if you disagree, disrespect, or are not consciously aware of the scripts, they’re still regarded as common sense. And of course, when something is common sense it can also be a status quo (the official way things are). This often enough also gets diluted to this is how things should be.
And well, “should” is should. It’s often synonymous with correct. Cue, discrepancies become a problem.
So, how does this play out when it comes to relationships?
Life is a procedure and we totally share the same steps
If I think about it, some social scripts are standalone. But others are essential to our shared identity as a society and how we judge if someone is living a worthwhile life.
In terms of the latter, it’s like a procedure. The steps I tend to hear are birth, education, career, marriage, kids, retirement, and death. [You can do some of those out of order, but might face social rejection or pressure.]
We’re all born. And we all die.
Depending on where you live and your gender, an education and career can easily be excluded.
However, marriage and children are seen as less optional. Adults who “skip” those milestones are like strange specimens, especially if both milestones don’t apply. Outside of being incapable of having kids, adoption not being accessible, or religious reasons, many people find it difficult to accept. Likely because marriage and kids are beloved social obligations. [Although most people freely choose to do those things, no strings attached.]
Well, from what I can tell, society at large tends to place a significant emphasis on relationships, particularly romantic and family ones. Which makes sense, because if you want society at large to be unified then it needs to function at lower levels too. And historically (from what little I know), family and marriage ties are sufficient routes in which to do this.
Whether it be by marriage or blood, family ties are respected. Unless your family is completely terrible, you stick with them. [Actually, someone will urge you to even if they’re horrible.] And you do what you have to do for them. Even if it means suffering along the way.
If you would just stick to the status quo…
But then, is it really surprising that this happens?
For example, think about what you most commonly hear or read in terms of marriage. It may be:
“A girl’s happiest day in her life is her wedding day.”
“They lived happily ever after.“
“Half of marriages end in divorce.” [Although, you’re still expected to congratulate someone on theirs.]
This may not seem like an inherent problem. After all, as we get older, many people mature and realize that happiness is a state of being that can’t go on forever.
But it is a problem when it begins to undermine other options. Even more so, when people marry or have kids because they feel obligated by what society and those close to them desire and expect. [Consider the “parents want grandkids now” line that you’ve probably come across.]
You might say, “but, people should know better than to marry or have kids just to fit in.” To which I respond, “why should people know better?”
The way we grow up impacts who we are, what we think is normal, and more. It’s nice to think that people won’t force themselves to marry, but can we be sure? Going against the grain can be difficult, at any level. Doing so when society at large thinks your choice isn’t respectable or legitimate, doesn’t help things. [I say the latter because if there are only a few specific circumstances in which people tend to genuinely accept your situation, then your situation is not considered respectable or a “real thing” by default.]
Going back to the whole “follow this procedure and you’ll have a good life,” shows that people already have an expectation of what life should look like. So, for some people it’s not a matter of they’re purposely going against their own desires, but that they don’t genuinely realize that there are other options for themselves. Most adults marry and/or have children. It’s seen as normal. And by normal, I mean average and correct. [Yeah, that’s what it boils down to.]
Some people marry or have kids because they know it as the only real, acceptable option. [How many older adults do you know who aren’t married? Or don’t have kids? What about in media? Do people respect them? Are they viewed as ordinary people?]
People are often raised if not from a personal standpoint, then a societal one, to think that marriage and kids are the default path. And this belief, I think, is so widespread and encourage that it is a gold standard that can guide people to do whatever necessary to abide by it. If not, still regularly face negative judgment, confusion, self-doubt, and more for not being the status quo.
Okay… but, I don’t get it
I (maybe) got you.
Chances are, you understand how jokes work. The elements involved include how you word it, the pacing, what you’re doing during it, if it’s daring, etc.
A joke has so many possibilities. But at the end of the day, its purpose is few. Jokes distract. bring amusement, and/or scorn someone. And when a joke fails, unless you enjoy moments of awkwardness or the failure turns into a new, better joke… then anyone present usually suffers.
Social scripts are like jokes. There are many ways to implement them. And the more complex ones rely on certain beliefs and references. And when you’re not “in on it” then it’s whatever, kinda sucks, or other people take personal offense and decide there’s something significantly wrong with you.
Well, marriage and having kids are so widespread and rejoiced, that it’s strange for many when someone shows a dislike/disinterest. It’s simply not a sincere and logical path for many people. Basically, not wanting those two things is like not laughing at a joke that everyone else finds philosophically brilliant and hilarious.