Wednesday, July 16, 2014

I Wanna Marry You by Bruce Springsteen

In the nationwide debate on marriage equality the conversation swirls around the idea of what defines a marriage. The focus of this debate centers on homosexuality as the one variation in marriage that would demolish the definition of marriage to the point that it would loose its meaning.

Plurality in marriage exists in ways that far exceeds a straight relationship versus homosexuality. There are marriages that include monogamous relationships and open non-monogamous relationships. There are people who are married who live together and those who live apart. There are marriages in which both people are about the same age and other marriages where the two people are a generation apart in age. Some marriages are very focused on religion and some unions do not see religion as part of their relationship.

In some marriages the two people are of the same race and others like my own marriage join two people of different races.

If we can define marriages as being anything we want them to be, than what is marriage?  We find one answer in Springsteen’s romantic ode to marriage, “I Wanna Marry You.”



“I Wanna Marry You,” is a strikingly beautiful in his heartfelt but realistic romanticism.  It's an optimistic and gentle song right before the deep and powerful title track on The River.  Like the line “you ain’t a beauty but hey you’re alright,” from “Thunder Road,” Springsteen doesn’t sugar-coat this story. Most romantic songs idealize the object of desire and what love can do for this person. Springsteen takes a different approach and opens the song by describing how this girl that he loves is a single mom with two kids.

This isn’t exactly the girl that most teenage boys fantasize about, but this is what makes this song so endearing. Springsteen doesn’t care that she has kids. You almost get the sense that he loves her because of this fact.

The next verse shows sensitivity, as he tells her that he doesn’t believe that marriage should “clip your wings.” He tries to tell her that there are responsibilities to think about and that true love is no fairytale. He knows that he can’t make everything change for this girl but he’s going to do what he can. There is something so gentle and reassuring when he sings “to say I’ll make your dream come true would be wrong, but maybe, darling, I could help them along.” Some girls may want to hear a romantic fantasy but sometimes its simply more powerful to hear that someone express honest devotion.

The song ends with Springsteen's gentle voice rising on the word “wear your name,” as he proclaims how proud he would be to be her husband. It’s an expression of joy of hope and desire that feel so much more honest and pure than simply singing out “I love you.”

Springsteen’s idea of marriage here is romantic but it’s also realistic. It’s a mix of devotion and hope, a union that provides stability but also is one of pride. These are the tenants of marriage, not the race or sex of the individuals involved.

Last weekend, Diana and I celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary.  Thinking about our time together, I got to disagree with one of Springsteen's points.  There's nothing sad about wanting someone as bad as I want my wife, as I wear my love with pride.  Every day we share together makes me look forward to the rest of our lives together even more.

Yes I do want to marry you, now more than ever. 

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