.We took my mom to see Inside Out last week. I thought she’d be into the pro-psych mixed-feelings message. But I forgot about the short before the show. LAVA is a song-story about two volcanoes pining for connection on different geological planes. The first time I saw it, it felt cloyingly, typically Disney (she's a beautiful doll in a seaweed dress, he's a rock with a face). The second time, it felt like a PR piece for SCOTUS' majestic—and alienating—description of marriage. I watched my children watch it and learn that to be without a partner was suffering. I watched my mother watch it and suffer.
.My mom liked the film, but the lack stuck with her. Friday was my parents’ 49th wedding anniversary, or would have been, if my father hadn’t died six months ago. The life partner is a particular loss, romanticized by Kennedy as ‘a love that may endure beyond death’. It’s also a great reminder of the lie of his grand thwack on the emotional Achilles: “Marriage responds to the universal fear that a lonely person might call out only to find no one there.”
.Even the happiest marriage is an unreliable cure for existential loneliness. Married people call out to find no one there all the time— in big ways that correspond to the failures of these marriages or of the bodies of the people in them. And in small ways that remind us that the human union is inherently imperfect, despite its culturally transcendent status.
.Are we all just volcanoes singing our plaintive cry for connection to the universe? Kinda. Marriage is one of many ways people attempt to heal that wound (breeding, too). We humans, single and married, are bound by ceremonies and signatures or hearts and minds, bonded to other humans and creatures and beliefs in a myriad of deeply satisfying ways, romantic and otherwise. We are not so easily filed onto opposing banks of this roaring river of need. We’re all in the river. Sometimes we're lucky enough to find a raft that lasts a while. Usually not eons.