[FOUNTAIN]Revived by Life Outside the Cage

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[FOUNTAIN]Revived by Life Outside the Cage

"If you go to war pray once; if you go on a sea voyage pray twice; but pray three times when you are going to be married," a Russian proverb says. It advises that one can never be too cautious about getting married.

Michel Eyquem de Montaigne compared marriage to a cage. The French philosopher said the birds inside the cage are desperate to go out and fly into the sky freely. His words imply that one should take caution against flitting carelessly into the cage, if one does not want to regret being inside later.

Is marriage really confinement in a cage from which one cannot escape? Perhaps it is so to some men, who regard the ringing of wedding bells as the tolling of the funeral bells for freedom, and to some women, who fear that a trap laid by the patriarchal order is waiting for them inside the marital home. This may be especially true of women who have read Simone de Beauvoir. The author of "The Second Sex" said that few tasks are more like the torture of Sisyphus than housework. The gods condemned Sisyphus to endlessly rolling a rock to the top of a mountain, from where it would only roll back down again.

It has been reported that there has been a recent trend among middle-aged married women in the United States: taking a "marriage sabbatical." It is said more and more married women in their 40s and 50s are leaving home to take a break on their own for as little as one or two months or as long as one year. The women, who for that time live apart from their husbands and children, do what they have yearned to do, go where they have longed to go or try to revive that part of themselves that was suffocated in the cage. One woman is said to have climbed a Himalayan mountain during her marriage sabbatical; another escaped to the countryside to recover her talent as an artist. In middle age people sometimes need a break from their married lives, just like when people take a sabbatical from their working lives for a while.

Sometimes everyone needs to be left alone. Just as an injured animal may seek an empty cave to recover its energy, a person needs time to be alone. Most people need some time every day - not long, just a few moments - to review their state of mind. It might be a good idea for every married woman to take a marriage sabbatical for one month when facing her 10th wedding anniversary, six months when facing her 20th anniversary and one year when facing her 30th anniversary. It wouldn't be bad for us men either, to see our wives and mothers return home looking younger and healthier, as long as we have trust between family members.

The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Bae Myung-bok

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