I’ve recently been watching a TV show featuring the strange outlook on life of Karl Pilkington a fellow Mancunian championed by Ricky Gervais as the funniest man on the planet, simply because his perception of life can be very strange and it comes across as highly amusing.
His new show is called The Moaning of Life and in it, he travels the world looking for meaning in five key areas of life, namely marriage, children, happiness, vocation and death.
Rather than repeating the bizarre viewpoint of Karl Pilkington (and believe me it is sometimes highly bizarre), I thought it would be fun to offer my reflections on these so called key elements of life.
I therefore present to you, dear reader, the meaning of life as seen from the perspective of a plastic Mancunian - starting with marriage.
When I was a kid it seemed to me that marriage was the law; every male person on the planet had to find a female person and they two would join in an explosive ceremony full of pomp and beer. My first wedding was that of my aunt and uncle and as a six year old, I was somewhat bemused by what was going on, having rarely seen so many adults gathered together in one place where, for once, I was not the centre of attention.
I only really started to understand the concept of marriage when friends of mine suddenly lost interest in teenage pursuits and started to chase girls. Of course, being an angst ridden spotty teenager overwhelmed by hormones, I succumbed to this drive as well.
Except I was no good at chasing girls. As a late developer, I found myself left behind as girls started falling for my bigger and better looking mates. I couldn’t speak to girls, I couldn’t impress them enough to persuade them to even kiss me on the cheek – and my goal of being in a steady relationship seemed to be the most unattainable thing on the planet.
Yet somehow I managed to stumble into a relationship with a woman who actually wanted to marry me. Before I knew what had hit me, I had received a marriage proposal and from that point onwards, I felt like I had been sucked into a tornado, buffeted around, my life completely out of my own control and being forced into a slot that I simply had no choice but to fill.
I succumbed to it all; I visited a church I had never set foot in before just on the off chance that a church-going person may know a deep dark secret about me that may jeopardize my forthcoming marriage. Three times I went to that church and three times the local vicar urged me to become a regular visitor. And this wasn’t even the church I was getting married in.
Before I knew it, I was being dragged around shops, looking for a new suit, new tie, new shoes and a new way of thinking. My wife to be demanded that I look totally presentable and this involved a haircut that consigned the long-haired 1980’s Plastic Mancunian into a little box that said “Never ever have a mullet again”. My work colleagues thought I was going for job interviews when I returned to work on Monday with my lovely locks removed and destroyed by a sadistic young hairdresser.
More terrifying than the prospect of a wedding was the prospect of the obligatory stag party.
Initially it was meant to be a single party on a Saturday night but it inevitably turned into a stag weekend. My mates from university all arrived in Manchester on Friday night and insisted on taking me for a pre-stag party drink, which resulted in my waking up on Saturday, the day of the stag party, with a colossal hangover and my will to live seeking sanctuary inside the fridge. The day continued with yet more beer and more mates as I watched the F A Cup final in a house full of drunken nutters before suffering the humiliation of being subjected to a gorillagram (who was a female work colleague who had somehow been persuaded to totally humiliate me) and then yet more dirty ale on an evening of debauchery, dancing and curry in Manchester city centre.
I woke up on Sunday morning and my will to live had vanished; my house was full of equally hung over mates who decided that the best remedy for a hangover was to go to the nearest pub and drink yet more beer.
The wedding itself was wonderful and, being a bit of an introvert, I found myself at the centre of attention being pursued relentlessly by a crazy photographer and an even crazier video cameraman with the words “just pretend I’m not here” ringing around my head for the entire day. There were so many guests that one trip to the toilet took about 45 minutes as I had to stop and chat to everybody between the toilet and my table.
I sang Save your Love by Renee and Renato to my new wife – as a joke, while kneeling on one knee with a rose between my lips, much to the amusement of everybody there.
While it was a totally special day, I cringe when I think of all the money spent because, sadly, the marriage didn’t survive.
And I still have a feeling of guilt, that simply refuses to go away.
Nevertheless, I have been to many weddings in my life and I have had a thoroughly relaxing and enjoyable time at each and every one of them. And equally, I have joined in a few stag parties too, without the fear of being stripped naked, tied to a lamppost and prodded by passers-by. I have even been the crazy video cameraman saying “just pretend I’m not here” to the bride and groom who asked me to do it for them. I thought my efforts were rubbish but they loved it and insisted on keeping the entire tape – including the bits I wanted to edit out.
The stag party, these days, has become more than a rite of passage – it is an major ordeal that has to be survived; all of your mates are with you and you absolutely know that every single one of them wants to make you drink so much alcohol that you can barely recall your own name – which I suppose is a good thing given the inevitable public humiliation that will follow.
When did stags start travelling abroad for weekends and sometimes an entire week of total debauchery and humiliation? Who made the decree that the stag party would cost an arm and a leg? With the hen party and wedding also costing an arm and a leg, it kind of leaves the poor bride and groom utterly limbless and wallowing in debt before they have even begun.
That said, I love a good wedding and the vast majority have not been as disastrous as mine was. On the contrary in fact – only one or two have failed to survive.
I am all for other peoples' weddings – but not another one for myself.
Every time Mrs PM and I go to a wedding we are inevitably asked “When are you two going to tie the knot?”
The thought of being a stag again at my age fills me with dread and I wonder whether I could survive. Also, we would have to pay for the entire thing and given the astronomical cost of weddings these days, I simply cannot justify the expense.
Mrs PM thinks the same, thankfully. We have been together for 15 years and we are both content with our lives together exactly as they are. If I were to get married again, I would make sure that it was a very tiny event with only our closest friends and family in attendance. Either that or jet off to Las Vegas and let Elvis marry us.
In fact, if the truth be known, I would rather get on a plane and enjoy a first class round the world holiday than spend (probably more) money on another enormous wedding like my first.
That said, with two sons I daresay that I will have to hand over a vast wedge of cash to help them out when they inevitably seek matrimony themselves. And if called upon, I won’t be like Scrooge and be a miserable old git reminiscing about my own past; I will be extremely happy and be the most enthusiastic father I can be.
It’s a shame, actually, that etiquette dictates that I can’t make a speech myself – I doubt my sons would let me anyway, thinking that I would no doubt try to humiliate them in my own inimitable and puerile way.
The truth is I probably would – but I would also be extremely happy to tell them how proud I am.
That is – as long as I don’t have to go on their stag parties.
How about you, dear reader – are you a fan of marriage?
Do you think that two people in love have to get married or is it fine to live together?
Does marriage really matter?
I would be interested in your thoughts.