Mine (possessive pronoun): used to refer to a thing or things belonging to or associated with the speaker.
I’ve been thinking a lot today about the concept of ownership. What’s “mine.”
We learn the word “mine” early, usually as part and parcel of that beautiful phase of life known as “the terrible twos.” Hopefully we grow out of being that stubborn and demanding. But what makes something really mine?
With things, it seems pretty straightforward: “This pencil is mine.” But why is it mine? Because someone gave it to me? Because I exchanged money with someone to acquire it? In the world of Harry Potter, the goblins believe that when someone pays them for an object they crafted, the buyer merely “possesses” the object until their death, and then ownership reverts back to the goblin who made it. Or, for example, in our universe, the vast majority of songwriters write “their” songs, but through a contract, it’s likely the recording company that “owns” the rights. In my life, usually getting something as a gift or paying money for something is enough to make it mine—to do with what I like, until I lose it or tire of it and give ownership of it to someone else. “Ours” becomes a little more complicated, but as we grew up, we learned how to share, or at least that sharing is a good thing. And yet I know a man, the sole breadwinner for his family, who truly believes that because he paid for the house, the vehicle(s), the furniture, the clothes, etc. with his income from his job, that those things all actually belong to him, because he paid for them. The rest of the family may be using them, but in all actuality, all those things really belong to him. Mine.
With the people in normal, everyday life, “mine” is usually more of the “associated with the speaker” part. To pertly clarify that “no, my husband is the cute one over there.” But I think that in relationships it’s tempting to have the feeling of ownership creep in where it shouldn’t. Women do this. Men do this. We do it to feel secure. Or to feel power. Or maybe we feel just a little bit entitled. And there are a lot of traditions where it’s just perfectly normal to consider a wife or a child as the property of the family patriarch. Mine.
In one of my favorite parts of one of my favorite books (Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow, which I just re-read for the umpteenth time), Anne, a woman in her sixties, tells a younger man about her marriage:
“Lemme tell ya something sweetface. I have been married at least four times, to four different men… They’ve all been named George Edwards but, believe me, the man who is waiting for me down the hall is a whole different animal from the boy I married, back before there was dirt… People change. Cultures change. Empires rise and fall. Shit. Geology changes! Every ten years or so, George and I have faced the fact that we have changed and we’ve had to decide if it makes sense to create a marriage between these two new people. Which is why vows are such a tricky business… Always and forever! Those aren’t human words, Jim. Not even stones are always and forever.”
I love this passage for so many reasons. And Anne’s character is one of my favorite “fictional” women ever—fictional in definition, but so wise, so real. She talks about choosing her husband again and again. Not about merely holding him to a legal contract, but repeatedly choosing him, who he is, in a new light, even as they both change. Sure, George is “her” husband, but through partnership and choice, not ownership. In what I’ve seen of the world, it feels like relationships start going south the moment when those two things get confused.
I wonder, if it had a choice, would my pencil choose me?