By Dennis Asiimwe
It was like a switch flipped.” ‑ Those were the words of George, a wornout, 36-year old colleague of mine that worked in advertising.
He was looking morosely into his beer while seated across the table from me. He worked with an ad agency in town as a Creative Director, which partly explained his worn out expression; ad agencies are corporate soul-stealing war zones that leave you feeling raped at the end of each day’s shift.
But George had always been able to handle the day-to-day stress of the work place and had been at this particular job for a frightening three years (Creative Directors have the same life spans as Air Traffic Controllers: two years, at most, on the job).
So his current demeanor was a little off, truth be told. He was a gutsy fellow, our George. Few things put him down. Even his wedding a few months back was something he had breezed through cheerfully, in spite of his horror movie in-laws whom I often felt like kicking (even the old ones).
Thankfully, his wife Lisa, a gorgeous lithe thing that worked with a leading financial institution and was ‘going places’ in the corporate lingo, had stood by him. She was just like him: as winsome, as calm, as cheerful, in fact, and they made a great couple.
She was the direct opposite of that most dreaded of creatures, ‘Bridezilla’ (and it is my experience, though I am happily not married, that women cherish being this bitchy creature as part of their wedding day’s celebrations).
The wedding had gone off without a hitch, like everything else about George’s life. He was an Ivy League graduate, a former rugby player with the national team, and had risen through his career with that ‘old boy’ effortlessness that can be annoying to watch if you don’t have it (and I don’t).
He was from good family stock, as she was; everyone approved of the wedding, even her snarky inlaws.
So seeing him here three months down the road looking like he had just been through a session with a dentist who preferred to go it old school (“…a couple of aspirins and we are good, eh?”) was odd. Nothing ever seemed to get George down, you see. Except that sentence sounded like he was down.
I tore myself away from my phone, which I had been using to taunt people online (a horrible habit, I know) and paid him proper attention for the first time that evening. He had been rambling on for a while and I had mostly been ignoring him, like an FM station that you really don’t care about, as long as it keeps droning on in the background (which describes most of them actually…hehe).
“What’s wrong, mate? What switch flipped?” He looked up from his beer at me and that’s when I saw what I had somehow missed the whole evening, distracted as I was by my phone and the waitresses who were something to look at.
He was really dejected. He spoke while working his beer glass in his hands, again examining its amber depths like it was a crystal ball with the ability to show him the future.
“She’s changed, man! It’s like…you know…I barely recognize her…” His voice broke off here as he sought the right words for something that he was obviously still trying to come to terms with. He continued gamely. “I mean, you know Lisa right…” (Of course I did, and as I had just described her above, she was a wonderful girl really…or seemed like one) He added plaintively: “…I mean, dude, even you seemed to like her!” With a familiar hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach, I asked: “What’s wrong with Lisa?”
The words seemed to get wrenched from a place deep inside him, as reluctantly as a pulled tooth. “She’s become such a b***h!”
What George was exhibiting was classic symptoms of what some men refer to as “the ring syndrome”, where the loves of their lives seem to let everything go once they are happily married.
Traditionally, it would seem like they let themselves go in terms of their appearance and weight (and yes, I know you are going to throw the child-birth Bible at me but I will duck that one); societal and fashion trends seem to have changed this though.
It’s not uncommon to come across a 38-year-old mother of three that looks ravishing. Where this ‘letting go’ is now more prevalent is in their actual behaviour: while your fiancé/girlfriend will be a delectable sweet little ray of sunshine, kind, generous, polite, almost subservient, as your wife, she will morph into a reincarnation of Cruella De Vil (without the Dalmatians, of course).
There are too many situations where this has been documented for it to be happenstance, so there is an argument to support the idea that it is an actual trend. Social commentator James ‘Fatboy’ Onen presents an intriguing perspective on this phenomenon.
He says: “There is a prime difference between the way men and women view marriage as far as life’s milestones are concerned. With men who have just gotten married, life is just beginning, an important journey that means that a million things about their lives have to change.
“They grit their teeth, take a deep breath, roll up their sleeves, and get to work. With women, it’s somewhat different. It’s the end of a journey that started from the time that she was old enough to play with dolls and dress them up in cute little dresses.”
“This journey took her through playschool and games with doll houses, her first teen crush, prom, her first serious love affair and all those simpering romantic comedies that she dragged the love of her life to.
The journey built up to a climax with the marriage proposal from her beau, and reached one of those movie moments with the dramatic wedding ceremony.
After that, the journey is over. She’s done. What else has she got to play nice for? She’s achieved what she wanted all this time.”
Grim words, and naturally, not something that females will be particularly willing to listen to. However, it is obvious that today, more and more men are less willing to formalize the relationships they are involved in. And interestingly, some women actually agree to this approach.
Alice, a curvy neighbour of mine who has been dating her live-in boyfriend for three years, chimed in with this. “It keeps both of us more interested in the whole relationship. Yes, we are exclusive, but there is something final about weddings and marriage that takes the zing out of everything.”
Jewelry stores will almost certainly disagree, but maybe, just maybe, that ring is not such a good idea, eh?