In the rush of my mid to late 20s, finishing up a master's degree, establishing what I hoped would become a career and, in general, creating an adult life for myself, I had two relationships I thought might end in marriage. Neither did. And now, having recently turned 30, it seems as if the buzz of marriage-related talk has increased to a persistent pulse—background noise I can't escape, like the clanging of the loose pipe in the ceiling directly above my bed.
A recent Pew Research Center Study, done in conjunction with Time magazine, found that "nearly four-in-ten survey respondents (39%)" believed that marriage was becoming obsolete. So how to explain the incredulity from well meaning family members and friends in regards to my singlehood?
Perhaps I had these dualities in mind—being told that marriage is pressing, being told that marriage is obsolete—when, on a recent trip to the drugstore, the cover of People magazine stood out to me. The headline read: "Kim Kardashian at 30—I Thought I'd Be Married By Now". The tilt of Kardashian's lovely face, the touch of sadness in her perfectly mascara'd eyes, all seemed to suggest that not being married was the great failure of her life. I grabbed the magazine from the rack and swiped my debit card. Was it possible, I wondered, that the murmurs I work so actively to dismiss might have some validity? Should I be perched somewhere in fantastic soft light, clad in a white cashmere sweater wondering how my love life had gone so impossibly wrong?
The article led me to Kardashian's new book, an oversized pink volume co-authored with her sisters, Kourtney and Khloe, and titled (appropriately enough) Kardashian Konfidential. The press materials promised "fun facts about their childhoods ...their beauty and style secrets, the wisdom they learned from their beloved father, and the street smarts they got from their mother." Opening the book with anticipatory glee and flipping through its heavily illustrated interior, I began to realize there was a subtle undercurrent of darkness in these pages that belied its glittery cover.
Packed in among the makeup tips and glamorous photos are descriptions of the Kardashians' childhoods and teenage mistakes. There is a young Kim applying hot washcloths to her breasts, praying they would not grow any larger, a 14 year-old Khloe being coerced into losing her virginity by an older man, and a surprisingly unflinching description of their father's death from esophageal cancer.
While the sisters certainly lived a privileged childhood—peacocks running through the yard, gifts from neighbors like Madonna—it was not necessarily a childhood filled with domestic bliss. And, as it turns out, in spite of the People headline, Kim Kardashian actually has, in fact, already been married and divorced--her four-year marriage to record producer Damon Thomas ended in 2004. This incident is glossed over in the following transcribed conversation between Kim and her younger sister, Khloe:
Khloe: She was dating this music producer, really flashy. I'm sure it was very exciting for Kim. He was ten years older than you, right?
Kim: Something like that.
The implication seems to be that this first marriage was nothing more than childish indiscretion, a mistake easily undone and even more easily forgotten. The public, and indeed Kardashian herself is waiting, it seems, for the real wedding—the one with the white dress, sparkling engagement ring, and enormous bouquet of pale pink peonies. The view of marriage here is an idealized one: younger sister Khloe, we learn, married her husband after only a month of courtship but firmly believes that the marriage was fated. Describing Stevie Wonder's performance at her lavish wedding, she explains, "Blind people have extra senses, you know, and he said he could feel this aura of love and happiness around us."