Friday, June 26, 2009

How I Met Your Father

I've been watching a lot of How I Met Your Mother these days, which is totally messing with me. The show is adorable, and Jason Segel obviously needs to move to Canada to date me: both Marshall Erikson on HIMYM and Nick Andopolis from Freaks and Geeks are totally sweet, funny, tall dudes. That's the way (uh-huh, uh-huh) I like 'em. He just seems so genuine, you know? I know he's an actor and it's likely he's a huge turd with a gigantic ego, but I'm sold on the characters he plays. Cute, with a side of awesome.

Ahem. This wasn't supposed to turn into a love letter to Jason Segel. Apologies all around. No, the reason I mention HIMYM is because the show is totally obsessed with marriage, and it's weirding me out.

Look, I love marriage. Granted, since I'm friends mostly with broke people, I've yet to attend an actual fancy-person wedding (caterers, photographers, cake, parents, etc.), but the institution, I'm on-side with. You know how it was trendy for a while to be all snorty and derisive when the topic of marriage came up? People would say things like, "I know we're in love, man, so why do I need a piece of paper to say that?" as they walked barefoot along the dirty sidewalk, holding their dreadlocked beloved by the hand.

Those words always felt a little fake in my mouth, since I actually do believe in marriage. While it's totally square to admit an interest in nuptial ceremonies, I've been known to peruse a bridal magazine or two. I'm not going to lie - usually I'm just looking for really pretty dresses. But it's not something that I'm going to reject out of hand as being some patriarchal convention designed to subjugate women and reinforce the capitalist world, man.

You know how people are always spouting about how half of all marriages ending in divorce? Think again, chumps. Turns out, that number goes way down if you adjust for things like undergrad degrees, age, and how long you wait before getting knocked up (as a couple, of course, even though coupled guys who say "we're" pregnant need a swift kick in the babymaker). Backwater teenagers who get married in a maternity gown? Probably not going to be celebrating that tenth anniversary. Quel surprise.

Marriage, these days, is presented as some ball-and-chair setup that means the loss of youth, privacy and the slow strangulation of a healthy sex drive. Some nosy wife is always shrewing at some balding husband, while a gaggle of children - a product of boring, tired, infrequent sex - soaks up the retirement fund in the form of plastic children's toys. I'm sure some people honestly feel that way, and those folks shouldn't get married.

But for the rest of us: what's so bad about love and support? What's the problem with a friend you get to have sex with? Someone to feed you soup when you have the flu, someone to be a cheerleader, a person who will still like you even if you fuck it up? I'm not talking about l-o-v-e here. I think it's way more important that you actually like the person you end up pledging your troth to. Yeah, sure, communication and respect are important too...but isn't awesome when a couple has been married for thirty years and they can still make each other laugh so hard they cry? That goes way beyond love, man.

Getting back to television: HIMYM is lying to me. It's presenting this world where awesome, adorable, sweet dudes are totally into the idea of marriage. This is SUCH a LIE. Most of the awesome, adorable sweet dudes I know are properly girded with girlfriends, but nary a one popped the question. It seems like guys who are well into their thirties are the only ones getting down on bended knee. Ryan Reynolds married ScarJo, who is a full ten years his junior. (Sidebar: is anyone else having a hard time figuring out what those two talk about? I mean, they're both hot, but he seems funny and charming, and she seems...not.) It seems obvious that my mid-twenties brethren are still lapping at the Fountain of Youth, from which an eternal spring of take-out pizza and joints flows.

I'm not hating on any of the following: take-out pizza, joints, guys in their twenties, guys in their thirties, How I Met Your Mother, or Ryan Reynolds. (Scarlett? Meh.) But I am saying is that show has created this optimistic world where cute, rumply-haired architects just want to fall in love and get married. Is this the world I live in? Maybe I need to move to a different city. Because, frankly, with my smarts, wit, and breasts? I'm an excellent catch. Ryan Reynolds, I am, like, right here.

Television is fantasy. It's not supposed to be realistic, and hey, if it makes single girls feel like maybe there's an attractive sportscaster waiting just around the corner, what's the harm? This show introduced the slap bet to the world; it's not exactly reality TV. However, when television is good - and this is good TV - it feels real. Seinfeld, even though it devolved into lunacy very quickly, always felt real. Friends felt real. How I Met Your Mother also feels real; it feels like, even though the show is using actors and props and scripts and all that phony blah-blah, it still hits in a place that uses the real...which makes it successful...which makes me a little mad at it, for the he's-right-around-the-corner trip it lays on its audience.

Damn. So meta! What would Barney Stinson do?

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