Early Friday evening during Spring Break, I found myself at the Maitai bar in Ala Moana. I was enjoying a few beers with a large group of Fire Fighters with whom I had gone through Fire Fighter Recruit training over 2 years ago. On this particular Friday afternoon, we all gathered at Maitai’s because we had just completed our fire engine pumping class. 22 of us had passed, one did not. We were celebrating heartily nonetheless. After receiving our certification, we could all go back to our respective fire stations on our respective watches and substitute as the Engineer of our trucks.
Within our group there were a lot of single guys, one single woman, a few married guys, and a few with kids. I belong to the married-with-kids group, although my cohort is the younger, single-guys group. The point is that everybody was drinking and having fun, but their responsibilities beyond the Maitai bar dictated just how much “fun” they would have and how long they would stay out. The single guys were cruising for chicks and talking crap. They went bar hopping and stayed out until 2 am. The next day, they had lots of stories about “this girl did this” and “remember when you did that” and “that person was so____ whatever.” They did just what would be expected of young, single guys with very little responsibility beyond their jobs or social lives. Personally, I did the married-with-kids thing and left after about 2 hours and a few drinks. I needed to drive all the way home to Waialua to be with my daughter and pregnant wife. It reminded me of the 2009 film Couples Retreat.
In the film, a few couples head to a secluded tropical island resort to work on their relationships. Once there, they all end up getting fed up with each other and heading to the “singles” side of the island. To make a long story short, after a long night of partying and nearly “hooking up” with hot singles, all the married couples realize that what they truly want is to be with their mates. They have to go all the way to the edge of marriage and divorce to feel like they could lose their spouse forever until they realize that their families are what they truly want in this world. What does this type of movie mean? Is it pertinent to real life? “My practicality consists in this, in the knowledge that if you beat your head against the wall it is your head that breaks and not the wall…. that is my strength, my only strength” (Gramsci).
Marriage is beautiful. Marriage is wonderful. Marriage is ….. work. Being single is great. Being single is awesome. Being single is work, too. Both take work, both take responsibility, both take practice and patience. If people are single, they have to decide if they are on the market or not. They have to take care of themselves all the time, even when they get sick. They have to keep themselves active, motivated and engaged in a social network. If people are married with kids, their responsibilities double, triple or quadruple. Not only do they worry about all the aspects of their life, but those of their spouse and children. Instead of wake up, work, party, it’s a bit more complicated and spontaneous. If I was single, I would never have to call in sick for work unless I was really sick. Because I’m married, I call in sick at least once every other month for my wife or my daughter. We make plans that we have to break because things “come up.” Even my surfing is limited to my treasured personal time and must be guarded so that it doesn’t disappear.
Family life may sound like a lot of work and sacrifice, but shouldn’t it be? If it was too easy, would we really appreciate it? Is anything that is worthwhile really cheap or easy? We sometimes glamorize the single life. We are always mesmerized by the things that we don’t have. Married people wanna be single and single folks wanna be married. Will this dichotomy ever end?
People who are living in a materialistic, consumerist society will always feel dissatisfied, feeling that what they don’t have is what will make them truly happy. “The challenge of modernity is to live without illusions and becoming disillusioned” (Gramsci). The secret of happiness in today’s world is to love and appreciate what you have. If you’re single, live it and love it. Don’t think you’re unhappy just because you’re not tied down. And if you’re married, don’t think you’re unhappy because you have to make sacrifices. You want to go back to awkward dates and dry spells? Those aren’t the funnest parts about being single, we all know that. In conclusion, “Every action of ours is passed on to others according to its value, of good or evil, it passes from father to son, from one generation to the next, in a perpetual movement” (Gramsci).
Written for Dr. David Odhiambo’s ENG 200: Composition II