Cole Porter's song 'Tale of the Oyster' has long been a guiding anthem in my life. It's a touching ballad that describes the remarkable journey of a social climbing shellfish who dreams of leaving his damp home on the ocean floor to mingle with the upper set. But after finally winning a place at the table of the hot-'n-tot, he discovers—after taking a harrowing ride though a blue-blood's gilded digestive tract—that oysters are happier living under yachts than inside of them.
I couldn't help but think of the song last week when Sally and Gert jetted to Toronto to get married ... again. By my count, this was the fourth time—and in the fourth country—they've wed in the past year.
'How many espresso machines do you really need?' I asked as I presented them with the requisite Crate and Barrel box to honor the latest in their series of weddings.
'It's not about the gifts,' sniffed Sally. 'It's about the fact that we want to be considered legally married in the eyes of society.'
There are a few good reasons to get married. (The only one I can think of at the moment is that it's a fine way to get your hands on some rich, old guy's loot.) But using a marriage license as your entree into the muck of so-called respectable society ain't one of them.
I think it's fantastic that the civilized world (which is roughly bordered by Scandinavia and Canada to the north and the Socialist Republic of Vermont to the south) has decided to treat us like human beings. We should be allowed to have sex in Texas without getting arrested! (Although, why anyone would want to live in Texas—let alone have sex there—is beyond me. It's very hot and there are lots of snakes and other cold-blooded creatures.) And, yes!, we should be allowed to get married. It's nice to have the option. But do we really want to exercise that option?
Before you answer, take a look—a good look—at the lives of your married straight friends. Not a pretty picture, is it? Sure, they were given lots of neat kitchen appliances when they married, but when's the last time they used them for anything other than mixing up cough syrup-laced milkshakes for their tubercular kids? Appalling!
The sad fact is that there are lots and lots of strings attached to all those espresso machines you collect on your wedding day. For example, people (read: your parents) will expect you to grow up—immediately. And they will place ridiculous expectations on you. For instance, they will demand that you help prepare Thanksgiving dinner. Gone forever will be the days when they were thrilled if you just managed to comb your hair before you took your seat at the little kids' table with 'the rest of the children.'
So, the next time you wistfully begin whistling Mendelssohn's famous march, I suggest you ask yourself whether you really want to abandon life on the fringe. If you're having trouble deciding, you may find the answer in the last verse of 'Tale of the Oyster':
Back once more where he started from
He murmured 'I haven't a single qualm.
For I've had a taste of society,
And society has had a taste of me.'
Wise little oyster.