AMONG THE motorcycling set it has long been understood that marriage and motorcycles don't mix.
The stereotype is this: Man rides motorcycle. Man meets woman. Woman decides motorcycle is a financial liability at best and a dangerous diversion at worst. Arrival of children seals fate of motorcycle. Man sells motorcycle.
Of course, the stereotype is flawed at man levels. Lots of women ride these days, and the ageing "boomer" generation is returning to the saddle, married or not. The central myth of the scenario, however, is still strong: marriage is a form of confinement; matrimony and freedom, represented by the motorcycle, don't mix.
On the surface, marriage and motorcycles appear as incompatible as oil and water. Marriage is about doing things together. A couple eats, sleeps, lives, socializes and maybe raises children together. The motorcycle is an intruder. It is about speed, danger and the camaraderie of the road. The names Interceptor, Intruder, Ninja, Nighthawk, Rebel, Valkyrie, Virago Vulcan cater to this image. How can the intimate cosiness of romantic marriage survive such a presence? Someone will have to ride pillion, literally and figuratively, -- a role few will accept for long.
But that image of marriage and freedom is flawed. Whatever the romantic needs of a couple, a marriage is still, and must always be, a working relationship. The principle of a marriage is two people together are stronger than apart. Raising children is hard work, physically and emotionally; it is best shared with someone you trust and respect. We don't have all the skills that make life comfortable in equal measure; far better to share life with a good cook, mechanic, bookkeeper, cleaner, money-earner or gardener.
The pragmatic underpinnings of marriage are deemphasised these days. The focus is on emotional compatibility, mutual career goals and common interests. Classified ads list the qualities people hope will attract a prospective mate: musical taste, height, sexual peccadilloes, hobbies etc. While these qualities say something, they avoid practical matters. It is like writing the the language of marriage using advertising images. We understand how a marriage looks on television, but no longer understand what makes the real thing work. We think we know how we should feel in a marriage, but can no longer see the practical co-operation that allows those feelings to flower. Relationships that fulfil all those ethereal needs, those quirky commonalties of taste, hobby and sensual outlook are certainly nice, but if the pragmatic engine that drives a marriage fails to start, what's the point? Don't misunderstand -- the thousand-and-one shared secrets, desires and insights that fill the canvas of a truly happy marriage are not to be sneered at, but the canvas still has to be there to paint on.
Does a marriage curtail freedom? For some it certainly does. A person committed to a course of individual pursuit will certainly be confined by marriage. …