The tyranny of marriage

15 February 2008

You will be happy to know that Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni have tied the knot. The 53-year-old French President and 40-year-old singer are now a respectable couple, after a short, secret ceremony in the presidential palace. “At last!” according to an English newspaper – yes, at last, because after all, they had been going out for four months. Let’s hope it will teach a lesson to all the couples out there still living in sin. After four months, my dear friends, don’t you think it’s time to make it official?

Funnily enough, Carla was not that keen on marriage last time I checked. Being a fan of hers, I have her two albums.

The first one evokes matrimony with a distance that I would call deliciously irreligious: “No promise to God – just love in our bed”. The second one, “No promises” is more explicit. The main song is a (beautiful) adaptation of the poem “Promises like Pie-Crust” by Christina Rossetti. The first lines are “Promise me no promises/ So will I not promise you/ Keep we both our liberties”. You could hardly get a clearer praise of non-married life. But that was before she met Nicolas – and lo, suddenly the rebellious feminist is turning into the perfect wife. I would say the character is a bit inconsistent here.

I am not accusing them – obviously they love each other, and of course when you’re in love, as Alice puts in The Vicar of Dibley, you just want to ‘get married and have fifteen children in a fortnight’. It just irritates me to think that my favourite singer’s love affair with my (less favourite) President had to be legitimised by their signature on a wedding contract. White dress, ‘I do’ and a splash of champagne – I can’t help thinking that all this lovely happiness is a bit too politically correct, a bit too conservative. Sarkozy knew it was the only way to regain the support of an already-wavering public. The man on the street didn’t approve of a President who, five months after divorcing his second wife, was snogging an ex-top model in public. Now that they’re married, though, everyone’s feeling better – they are just a normal, modern couple with three sons who have two different dads and three different mums.

What, concretely, will change in their lives? Well, Monsieur Sarkozy can now take Madame to India, which he couldn’t do before (protocol there stipulates that you need to be husband and wife to share a room). Carla is now lawfully la Première Dame – the first lady. They can go on honeymoon, fiddle with their wedding rings when they’re stressed, share a bank account – endless hours of fun. And what, abstractedly, will change in their lives? A short ceremony is unlikely to make their love grow stronger. But their relation is now acceptable in the eyes of everyone else.

I see this as yet another example of the tyranny of marriage, an outdated principle which states that love is not genuine nor decent unless asserted on paper. Our ‘hyperpresident’, as we call him, is said to be revolutionary. Sadly, his wedding is evidence that old-fashioned values still dictate their will – even to liberal presidents and freethinking singers.

Clementine is a 2nd year studying Enlish and Education