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The Aisle Less Traveled
I don't like the term "single" because it's a comparison to being married, as if marriage is the gold standard. "Single" still has a bit of the stench of "loser" eminating off it -- even as more and more people are going unmarried. This doesn't mean marriage is dead or dying, but maybe people will continue finding it less weird for someone to be what I call an "independent" or to be in a relationship that doesn't culminate in marriage -- but may last longer than their naysayers' legally wedded unions. Sam Roberts writes in The New York Times that married people in America, for the first time, are outnumbered by unmarried people.

The American Community Survey, released this month by the Census Bureau, found that 49.7 percent, or 55.2 million, of the nation’s 111.1 million households in 2005 were made up of married couples — with and without children — just shy of a majority and down from more than 52 percent five years earlier.

The numbers by no means suggests marriage is dead or necessarily that a tipping point has been reached. The total number of married couples is higher than ever, and most Americans eventually marry. But marriage has been facing more competition. A growing number of adults are spending more of their lives single or living unmarried with partners, and the potential social and economic implications are profound.

“It just changes the social weight of marriage in the economy, in the work force, in sales of homes and rentals, and who manufacturers advertise to,” said Stephanie Coontz, director of public education for the Council on Contemporary Families, a nonprofit research group. “It certainly challenges the way we set up our work policies.”

While the number of single young adults and elderly widows are both growing, Professor Coontz said, “we have an anachronistic view as to what extent you can use marriage to organize the distribution and redistribution of benefits.”

Couples decide to live together for many reasons, but real estate can be as compelling as romance.

“Owning three toothbrushes and finding that they are always at the wrong house when you are getting ready to go to bed wears on you,” said Amanda Hawn, a 28-year-old writer who set up housekeeping near San Francisco with her boyfriend, Nate Larsen, a real estate analyst, after shuttling between his apartment and one she shared with a friend. “Moving in together has simplified life,” Ms. Hawn said.

Yeah? See if you find it so simplified after living together kills your sex life. No, it's not an inevitability, but if you read anything about the chemicals involved in long-term bonding, you'll see that the forces of nature are not on your side. From my Advice Goddess column "Just The Too Much Of Us":

Desire runs on the economics of scarcity. That's why diamonds, not speckled gray pebbles, "are forever," and why special occasions are celebrated with champagne and caviar, not tap water and a scoop of tuna. You want what's rare, or seems rare, not what's there 24/7 gassing up your couch.

Biology is not on our side. In fact, recent research suggests people in relationships are chemically predisposed to come to find each other about as sexually compelling as yesterday's Cream of Wheat. Another one of nature's charming practical jokes? Actually, anthropologist Helen Fisher, author of Why We Love, surmises sexual ennui was evolution's way of getting lovers to stop bouncing naked off the cave walls and raise their kids.

While, to the average person, a relationship seems to be one big crock pot of lust, attraction, and commitment, Fisher and other researchers see three distinct stages, each biochemically different. Lust, fueled by testosterone, gets you out in a short skirt looking for prey. In the attraction stage, you're drunk on a cocktail of dopamine and other excitors (the "love high"), still lusty, but laser-focused on one particular object of desire. Finally, there's the attachment stage, when the bonding chemicals vasopressin (in men) and oxytocin (in men and women) take over -- and getting off on each other tends to give way to nodding off on each other.

Sound familiar? Don't despair. Who says Mother Nature isn't ripe for a con? Helen Fisher suspects you can fool your biochemistry into believing you're still back in the chase phase. "Novel experiences drive up levels of dopamine in the brain," writes Fisher. This "can stimulate the release of testosterone, the hormone of sexual desire."

In other words, there's no security in security. Imagine, on the first date, if a guy ignored you to play Grand Theft Auto. Why is it any less a problem at the one-year mark? Clearly, you need to break up a little to have any hope of staying together. Move out and make like you're dating. Remember dates? They're special events where two people get all excited to see each other, put a lot of effort into looking and smelling seduction-friendly, pay close attention to each other, then, jump on each other instead of the Internet.

Fisher also cites experiments that suggest bringing an element of danger into a relationship can elevate a couple's dopamine. Perhaps you could relocate your boyfriend's lost libido while jumping out of an airplane or taunting mother bears. Or, if you aren't exactly a great outdoors type, just continue badgering him about whether he's attracted to you. Then again, while that might tempt him to throw himself off the nearest terrace, it probably isn't the kind of near-death experience Fisher had in mind.

Finally, I'm always amazed by people who assume your relationship is crappy if they ask you whether you and your partner are getting married, and you say you aren't. Um, we're not getting married because we're already very happy together, thanks, and we don't think a state-certified contract declaring us happy, or whatever it does declare, would make us any happier.

Posted by aalkon at October 16, 2006 2:58 PM

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Comments

I know this guy who's 40 and has been married 7 times. (Seven!) He said, "Would it be better if I just slept around?" I said, "Umm, you are. And how many times can you say ''Til death so us part' with a straight face?"

Maybe it's a human limitation. "Only a race of limited lifespan could imagine that love is eternal." - Lorien, the First One, in "Babylon 5".

Posted by: Radwaste at October 16, 2006 2:12 AM

Married: The New Elite. Married with kids: The new Super-elite!

Why? Because unmarried couples fail at Nature's real game, fostering successful offspring. Strange how articles such as this focus solely on sets of married or unmarried couples. It's only posterity, i.e. the kids, that count.

Contemporary societies sequester themselves in womblike tombs (or if you're an Abortifacient, the opposite) of bureaucratic State socialism, content with undemanding material welfare themes that societally destroy productive (and reproductive) options. As global demographics make painfully evident, this is a recipe for Darwinian extinction-- not only for large-scale physical populations (Russia), but for social segments that cannot or will not accommodate reality to invidious State-sanctioned sloth (Western Europe).

Who breed themselves out of populations, either by commission of force and fraud or by lackadaisically omitting any interests but their own, will vanish unlamented, leaving the World to those with something of substance to contribute. The fact that non-reproducing homosexuals, for example, abjure responsibility (financial and otherwise) for fostering and educating successor generations represents parasitism in the true biological sense. At what point does the tapeworm fatally deprive its host of sustenance, killing both? In today's world, the answer is: Quite soon.

Always, there will remain enclaves of relative sanity against such trends... Mormons in Utah, however bizarre a case, will remain peaceful and prosperous when the last over-credentialed urban metro-sexual lies coiffed for burial. Anyone who thinks well brought-up children of heterosexual two-parent families will indefinitely throw hard-earned income at wastrel strangers, at the expense of their own wives and children, had best enter a North Korean re-education center.

We give the break-point about a generation, by 2030 or before. Technology and the overdue onset
of a new Ice Age may play a role, but fundamentally, those who claim something-for-nothing will find nothing ensues. Fruiting bodies of human parasites pretend that majoritarian politics guarantee free lunch. How brutally stupid, terminally naive.

Posted by: John Blake at October 16, 2006 7:10 AM

Hey John, I don't think the earth is suffering from a shortage of humans. You sound like one of those strange male control freaks that is ruining everyone's personal freedoms in the name of religion.

Posted by: Chris at October 16, 2006 7:33 AM

Also, this is about successful emotional relationships and how to achieve them, not breeding offspring. Do you have a comment about the topic?

Posted by: Chris at October 16, 2006 7:38 AM

If you don't want kids, marriage is rather pointless. I am married with 3 kids (my choice, I'm not complaining) and doing a proper job of raising them is a very energy-intensive task. My husband knows that for me to have energy for a frisky night of sex, he has to do some time with the kids so I can recharge. Not everyone craves thrills and excitment all the time. Some of us find the comfort of a oxytocin induced bonding phase to be just what we want. Happy people are not all alike.

Posted by: Ruth at October 16, 2006 7:45 AM

Because unmarried couples fail at Nature's real game, fostering successful offspring.

Um, sperm and ova know if you're married or not?

And sorry, this time in existence isn't exactly 1.8 years ago on the African savannah. I think human offspring make it quite well regardless of whether Mommy and Daddy have tied the knot. Or whether Mommy and Mommy have been prevented from tying the knot by the religious nutters.

Also, you might read Elmore Leonard's rules of writing; specifically the one that says "If it sounds like writing, rewrite it." Simply clarity of thought put out in clear prose would be preferable to the attempt above.

You might even post again. Translate what you wrote into clear, simple prose -- you'll find it makes no sense.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 16, 2006 7:45 AM

I'm in a two year relationship, and it's still hot and heavy- because we only get to see each other about once a week, so we get all excited about being able to cook dinner together. Not- "oh, you again?" I have too many friends who moved in together and rang the death knell of their relationship.

Posted by: amh18057 at October 16, 2006 7:52 AM

I would never live with anyone. As I wrote in that column I linked above: "People are annoying. All people."

If I had to live with a clone of myself, we'd probablybe rolling on the floor, clawing, scratching and biting in about an hour. Gregg, on the other hand, lives across town, and I've never said a mean word to him. He doesn't deserve it, and also, you get the relationship you create.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 16, 2006 7:58 AM

I would never live with anyone. As I wrote in that column I linked above: "People are annoying. All people."


I didn't know you kept separate house. Do you have regular days for getting together, or what? (Please ignore if this is too personal: I'm curious, but in an impersonal way, if you know what I mean.)

Posted by: Norman at October 16, 2006 8:50 AM

I'd love to live apart from my spouse! I adore him, but we're nearly done raising the kids and I am looking forward to living solo for the first time in nearly 30 years.

I love the notion of separate space. It works for Spenser anbd Susan Silverman, too.

Posted by: Deirdre B. at October 16, 2006 8:50 AM

We LOVE spending time together. Nobody I'm not paying should have to be there when I'm on deadline. We see each other Wednesday through Sunday, but not every night. If you don't live together, when your partner comes over, you look pretty, smell nice, pour them a glass of wine, and pay attention to them. Well, you do if you're me. If they're there all the time laying around it isn't as special as it is if you miss them. Yesterday, Gregg came home from Detroit and was totally exhausted, but we met at Starbucks on his way home and then I made him go to Office Depot with me in the same shopping center as the Starbucks (not because I needed office supplies) but because we were done at Starbucks and I missed him and wanted to spend more time with him. I don't think you feel that way when you live with somebody!

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 16, 2006 9:04 AM

...I don't think you feel that way when you live with somebody!

It's wonderful you feel that way, Amy. Otherwise, your statement is charming nonsense!

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at October 16, 2006 9:30 AM

Couple of years ago, a co-worker spent 1/2 an hour lecturing me on how my (at that time 9-years-old)relationship with my boyfriend would be better and "go to the next level" if only I would marry him. Of course she (an engaged but unmarried 20-year-old) had yet to personally experience this "next level" that she was so sure existed, but she was utterly convinced that even though I was already happy in my relationship, it would get better if we just went through the stress and expense of a wedding. . . .

Posted by: jenl1625 at October 16, 2006 9:36 AM

After years of creating dramas that typically ended in threatening to break up with one another, my partner and I found a new source of dopamine: adventures. From enjoying cheap motels to more aggressively pursuing our separate interests, variety has definitely added spice to life. No more resentment – just choices and consequences.

John’s post (supra) is replete with both irrational and unsubstantiated assertions. I’m going to bite and briefly respond to a few.

Plenty of people who reproduce still fail to “foster successful offspring.” And plenty of people, who do not reproduce, successfully foster someone else’s offspring (by adopting, mentoring, etc).

As for the assertion that “non-reproducing homosexuals . . . abjure responsibility (financial and otherwise) for fostering and educating successor generations,” I point out that anyone in the U.S. who pays for public education (usually through real estate taxes) has met the financial responsibility for educating other people’s children.

More of my opinion, regarding this claim: “Mormons in Utah, however bizarre a case, will remain peaceful…” During my 1 week trip to Utah, the daily newspaper in Salt Lake City ran several articles about Mormon women who had fled incestuous and otherwise abusive, forced marriages. I have subsequently noticed national media coverage on the issue of Mormon elders kicking teenage boys out of the community – penniless and homeless – to kill competition for the young women. Systematically forcing teenage girls into incestuous marriages and disenfranchising teenage boys does not fit my definition of “peaceful.” We may differ on this point.

Posted by: Michelle at October 16, 2006 10:43 AM

Correction: I should have written, "...anyone in the U.S. who pays for public education (usually through real estate taxes) has financially contributed to the education of other people’s children."

Although I believe that public education is a civic duty, my Libertarian streak balks at declaring I have a responsibility to children I didn't get to choose to bring into the world.

Posted by: Michelle at October 16, 2006 10:48 AM

Amy wrote:

"If I had to live with a clone of myself, we'd probablybe rolling on the floor, clawing, scratching and biting in about an hour."

I think I'd buy tickets to see this.

Posted by: snakeman99 at October 16, 2006 11:22 AM

"Although I believe that public education is a civic duty, my Libertarian streak balks at declaring I have a responsibility to children I didn't get to choose to bring into the world."

Agreed. And it's more than just the property taxes on your home or apartment to pay for education - it's also subsidizing the Earned Income Tax Credits and the Child Care Credits.

Posted by: jenl1625 at October 16, 2006 11:28 AM

I have heard the argument more than once that as a childfree person I'm mooching off the public because I'm not having children who will pay into Social Security. This is just stupid, because creating more people to pay into a morally and financially bankrupt pyramid scheme is a dumb reason to create more people. But doesn't it ever occur to these lackwits that by not having children I'm not creating any future DRAINS on Social Security?

Posted by: Pirate Jo at October 16, 2006 11:38 AM

my Libertarian streak balks at declaring I have a responsibility to children I didn't get to choose to bring into the world.

I'm with you. I think, as I've written before, if you have children, you should be responsible for their upbringing and upkeep in its entirety. Sure, we should kick in for the desperately poor, but if you can't afford to school two children -- have one!

Furthermore, even renters like me pay for kids to go to school through property taxes -- which figure into how much rent we're charged.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 16, 2006 1:07 PM

This same NYT piece had a quote from a Focus on the Family representive to the effect that single people are becoming so good at being single that they struggle in a partnership.

Hahahahahahahaha! God forbid a man or woman develops some self-knowledge and maturity BEFORE forming a legally binding union with another human being. No, I can see how the Focus on the Family ideal is really the way to go: Miserable, depressed, emotionally stunted people running into marriage with the first person who will have them.

Awesome! I think evangelical Christians should make all our decisions for us from now on.

Posted by: Harriet at October 16, 2006 3:53 PM

> I think human offspring make it quite
> well regardless of whether Mommy
> and Daddy have tied the knot.

Marriage correlates with other competence. You can quibble that it doesn't have to all you want, but it does.

Posted by: Crid at October 16, 2006 4:01 PM

> Some of us find the comfort of a oxytocin induced bonding phase to be just what we want.

I prefer a joint and a good Marvin Gaye CD, but as Chuck Berry said "This is a free counry, baby, live like you wanna live! Ain't nobody gonna knock it!"

Posted by: eric and his ding-a-ling at October 16, 2006 4:48 PM

Crid,

In what manner does marriage correlate with any other competence (or any competance at all)? Simply saying it correlates does not make it so.

What magical quality does marriage convey that it makes one particularly qualified in some other area?

If a pair of responsible adults choose to marry, I have no quibble with that. When marriage is held up as the zenith of human interaction, and it is set up as a desirable goal, in itself, regardless of personal responsibility or readiness, and when people choose it because of societal pressure instead of well considered personal preference, then the concept of marriage does a disservice to those in its 'graces'.

Too many people get married because it is expected of them, not necessarily because it's the right thing for them.

The institution of marriage conveys no special powers, whatsoever. As many stupid, ignorant savages marry as wise, enlightened sages.

Posted by: Dale at October 16, 2006 9:02 PM

Sorry for the double post, seems like the server is being a bit of a twit :o)

Posted by: Dale at October 16, 2006 9:04 PM

It got drunk at a wedding.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 17, 2006 12:46 AM

> when people choose it because of
> societal pressure instead of well
> considered personal preference

Seekers, it ain't 1968 any more. In a short paragraph we've got a whole fantasy about courageously rejecting social pressure to strike out as a bold individual.

> The institution of marriage conveys
> no special powers, whatsoever

If you believe that, you're a fool.

Posted by: Crid at October 17, 2006 4:03 AM

How did this happen? Where did people develop this habit of picturing themselves at the lonely center of heroic battles with social oppression, when only the expression of their innermost individual core ("personal preference") could represent victory?

These are adults who're saying this stuff.

Posted by: Crid at October 17, 2006 4:18 AM

> The institution of marriage conveys
> no special powers, whatsoever

Try tax breaks and a whole set of legal rights, along with cultural status, just for starters.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 17, 2006 5:39 AM

Dale wrote:
"As many stupid, ignorant savages marry as wise, enlightened sages."

OOOH! OOH! I'm a married savage!!! (That must be why my husband and I have such hawt sexx after all these years of living together.) :lol:

Posted by: Melissa at October 17, 2006 6:47 AM

> along with cultural status

You gotta problem widdat?

Posted by: Crid at October 17, 2006 7:45 AM

"Where did people develop this habit of picturing themselves at the lonely center of heroic battles with social oppression, when only the expression of their innermost individual core ("personal preference") could represent victory?"


Eh?

I knew for as long as I can remember that I didn't want children. Couldn't wait till the day I could get my tubes tied, never changed my mind about it, and finally got the Essure procedure done when I was 34.

I didn't care one way or the other whether I ever got married - my parents' marriage is what you'd call "secure," but never did seem like anything I wanted. They are having fun now, in their 60's, but my mom was bored 'n ignored as an isolated rural housewife through most of my childhood, while my dad worked 70-hour weeks. I've had people tell me that since I don't want kids I'll never find a man (I first heard this in college), so I decided I'd just have to live without a man since I STILL do not want kids.

I cared even less about getting married as I went through my 20's and saw people my age spending a fortune on weddings and then divorce lawyers while I was socking money away in my 401K.

I cared even LESS about getting married when I tried a brief stint living with a boyfriend and was subsequently ready to chew my own leg off wanting to get back into a place of my own.

Sure I've had people make comments. It's hilariously funny when these comments come from people in miserable marriages with horrible children and financial problems. They sound like nothing but sour grapes to me. Oddly, it's the people who are happily married, who love being parents, who respect my lack of interest in either marriage or children.

I've got an aunt and uncle who roll their eyes at me - I guess they must make the same assumption you do, that I see myself as some kind of lone crusader in a conformist world, just trying to buck the trends and shock people. But I've always been dead-set against having children, as well as disinterested in marriage, long before I remember hearing any patronizing remarks about it. I see that aunt and uncle as unimaginative people who just can't conceive of anyone being different than them. Guess how much time I spend talking to THEM?

I don't give a crap about freaking the mundanes. I really wish people would just leave the subject alone. When they do make comments, I shrug them off with a goofy comment. When asked why I've never been married, I say I'm not old enough. When asked why I don't have kids, I say I've had several but have eaten them all. (Babies - the other white meat.) They usually don't press any further than that. :-)

Posted by: Pirate Jo at October 17, 2006 2:24 PM

More people screw up their lives getting married because they feel it's expected of them.

I got married the first time when I was 20. He left me,with three children, after 8 years for someone he met in AA.

I got married the second time to a very nice man, because our families and the church expected it. I finally left him after 12 years because I couldn't deal with being bored any more.

I'm currently living with someone and am happier that I've ever been in a relationship. This is because I'm liviing with him because I want to, not because I feel pressured to. Will we get married? I don't know. He is the first man I've ever known that accepts me for who I am and doesn't expect me to fit into some preconceived ideal. Maybe that's why sex just keeps getting better.

I think to decision to remain single, get married or live together is a very personal choice and everyone else should keep their 2 cents worth out of it.

Posted by: Michele at October 17, 2006 2:55 PM

I've had people tell me that since I don't want kids I'll never find a man (I first heard this in college), so I decided I'd just have to live without a man since I STILL do not want kids.

On the contrary, you're a lot of men's idea of the perfect woman. Not everybody wants kids. Many, many people don't.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 17, 2006 5:02 PM

I had a miserable starter marriage too, and wished I'd tied the tubes 15 years earlier than actually happened (which might have stopped the stupid marriage).

But it would have been better for everyone if we had married well. Good marriages reduce poverty and have other nice effects. The fact that not all of us are up to meeting a standard doesn't mean we should revise the standard.

Posted by: Crid at October 17, 2006 5:11 PM

It always amazes me how many people feel free to dig for personal details. I was widowed at 32, and after about a year the "When do you think you'll remarry?" started. Generally from people I barely knew. When I did date my current husband, who's several years younger (12) the questions got even more personal. How the Hell is it anyone's business when/if we're having kids and how many?
It would never occur to me to question people in such a manner, let alone pass judgements on their choices. If you don't want to get married, great. One less wedding gift for me to buy. If you don't want kids, or can't afford (financially or emotionally) a decent life for them, for FSM's sake, don't bring them into the world. I see enough of those poor kids at work.

Posted by: Kimberly at October 17, 2006 7:10 PM

"The fact that not all of us are up to meeting a standard doesn't mean we should revise the standard."


Well, maybe that's true when it comes to real morality issues, but you sound like a religious guy preaching abstinence. Marriage is just another option - it's having it held as a "standard" that I have a problem with.

And thanks Amy - dating in the late 30's is kind of fun and kind of strange. Most of the guys my age have already been married once, and some of them already have kids. Which is fine - it usually means they won't be wanting any more! And if their divorces have put them off marriage, I certainly don't care. But some of them sure are bitter and dead-set against getting close to anyone. Maybe they are making up for lost time since they got married too young. In a way I can't really blame them!

Crid, you may be right about marriage reducing poverty - at least statistically. I think it only makes a difference when there are kids involved, so it makes more sense to me to say that birth control reduces poverty.

Posted by: Pirate Jo at October 17, 2006 8:33 PM

> Marriage is just another option

This is the Consumer Reports school of social participation. Generations raised in the plenitude of shopping malls think life is all about making savvy selections for their own benefit, and choices/options/personal freedoms are the path to heaven. If you suggest that we might need to do things to benefit others, or the larger group, jaws drop and brows furrow. "Huh?"

Posted by: Crid at October 18, 2006 4:11 AM

Oh Crid, if the words "common good" drop out of your mouth, I'm going to kick you across the room. How on EARTH does it benefit anyone else if I get married, or harm anyone else if I don't?

Posted by: Pirate Jo at October 18, 2006 6:17 AM

Who's gonna mop your ass as you get old? Or if you're disabled? If you become incompetent, who's going to be responsible for protecting you from predators?

Posted by: Crid at October 18, 2006 10:06 AM

Whoever will do it the cheapest.

Posted by: Pirate Jo at October 18, 2006 10:31 AM

What Pirate Jo said.

I'm strictly looking for love, not aftercare.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 18, 2006 11:08 AM

Crid, you went from "we might need to do things to benefit others" to "Who's gonna mop your ass as you get old?" Given that getting married doesn't guarantee there will be someone to take care of me when I'm old (divorce, infertility, children you bore out of only a duty to society who don't follow through on the "social contract" to look after good old mum), what is the benefit *to society* of me choosing to get married rather than remaining single?

I pay my share of taxes but use less than some I know. I'm not getting any welfare, earned income tax credits, child care credits, or special tax-funded scholarships for poor parents (lovely new idea from the Ohio Board of Regents).

So what harm have I done to anyone?

Posted by: jenl1625 at October 18, 2006 1:06 PM

> looking for love, not aftercare.

In 2006. Don't come cryin' to Mr.Taxpayer when it hits the fan, OK? Thanks.

> getting married doesn't guarantee

I'm satisfied that it gooses the odds substantially.

> *to society* of me choosing to get married
> rather than remaining single?

When shitty things happen to you --and Angel, shitty things are going to happen to you-- I, Joe Society, don't have to worry about it. I can say "What's her husband going to do about *that*? Poor sap...."

I think about %50 of government expenditures are used to make up for the loss of respobsible masculinity in people's lives.

> lovely new idea from the
> Ohio Board of Regent

If only they were the first to think of it. If only.

Posted by: Crid at October 18, 2006 4:52 PM

When shitty things happen to you --and Angel, shitty things are going to happen to you-- I, Joe Society, don't have to worry about it. I can say "What's her husband going to do about *that*? Poor sap...."
Oh, I've had some shitty things happen to me. And I've been there for my boyfriend when shitty thing happened to him.

But I guess we differ in our pessimism. You assume that if one does not get married, then one is far less like to have assistance when it's needed. I assume that getting married (at 20, 30, or whenever) really doesn't have much to do with whether I'm going to have the assistance I need at the time I need it. I think that good friends and close ties to family are far more likely to assure that I have that support than any exchange of vows (which are broken all the time).

My relationship with my boyfriend is far better when we don't live in the same space - and I don't think that switching him out for a different model would change that any. If I need him, he'll be here for me. But whether I marry him or not has nothing to do with whether he'll still be around when that happens.

Posted by: jenl1625 at October 19, 2006 5:53 AM

> And I've been there for my boyfriend
> when shitty thing happened

So why don't you sign up and ease our worries? Sounds like a great guy.

> I think that good friends and close
> ties to family a

That's our topic, how people cross the line from being friendly to being responsible for you.

> My relationship...

Arrgggh! Grrrrr. Ummmmmph!

> nothing to do with whether he'll
> still be around

So get married.

Posted by: Crid at October 19, 2006 4:13 PM

Crid,

Why do you care so much whether I marry? I've been with the guy for 12 years now. That's longer than either of my brother's marriages lasted, and I truly believe that part of that is due to the nature of marriage.

Sure, back in the day, you got married and then if you found out you'd made a bad deal you just had to live with it. Marriages lasted forever, whether you wanted them to or not.

These days, not so. If I wanted to end my relationship, it would just be a matter of filing the papers. Short of gaining some sort of social acceptance (and some tax breaks), I'm not gaining anything by getting married.

I honestly don't understand what you think society will gain by my getting married, short of mutual (unenforceable) promises between me and him that we'll take care of each other when we're old and helpless. But if we're both old and helpless, what good do those promises make anyway?

Posted by: jenl1625 at October 20, 2006 7:30 AM

Jen, I'm enjoying your posts, and look forward to hearing Crid's response as well. I keep savoring this tasty bit of Crid's writing:

"This is the Consumer Reports school of social participation. Generations raised in the plenitude of shopping malls think life is all about making savvy selections for their own benefit, and choices/options/personal freedoms are the path to heaven."

I love how you worded that.

For hundreds of years, people got married young and stayed with the same person for the rest of their relatively short lives. But so many things have changed! People are living a lot longer, we now have reliable birth control, and I think most importantly, we have a LOT more money.

Now we have other options sitting right there on the shelf next to lifelong marriage. You can cohabitate or just have a long-term relationship that doesn't involve living under the same roof. You can be a serial monogamist, or have several partners at once - in combinations that may involve one, or several, or no marriages during your life.

So much change in such a short span of time. Generations still living see such huge changes in the lifestyles of their own grandchildren. It makes the world seem kind of tipsy and unstable - it's downright scary for some people.

I don't believe all those choices are the path to heaven for everyone. Some people really were happy with the one available choice, even when that's all there was, and some people will never be happy regardless of how many choices they have. I personally tend to be happy about all the options because I'm an example of a person who has benefitted from them.

Posted by: Pirate Jo at October 20, 2006 8:42 AM

Pirate Jo,

As a man in my mid-30's with no kids, i tend to dig women around my age or older due to the fact that they have either had thier kids or don't want them.....and tend to be a bit more grounded. i have never wanted kids and was extreeeemly happy to find out that my health care provider pays for a vasectomy, which i've had done. So whoever told you that you wouldn't find a man because you don't want to have kids was highly misinformed....

Posted by: Rob at October 20, 2006 10:16 AM

> it would just be a matter
> of filing the papers

That smells like "Stop me before I kill again." Are you arguing that society's best boundaries can't contain you because you are just too out of control? I'm thinking of commitment, not contractual obligation. Again you approach the issue as how you can be guaranteed the outcome that you want, namely your own security. As somewhat libertarian taxpayer, my interest is in reducing the probability that I'll somehow be re$pon$ible for your ass at some point. This would certainly benefit you as well, though not in the style of your daydreams.

I agree with Jo that the big issue is kids. But you sell all these comments, and it's grotesque how people get antsy and smartass when you suggest that we might owe anything to society in general terms.

Here's what you see in heart of a modern blog commenter: The world is insolubly lonely place. Greed is the sustaining force of life, red in tooth and claw, and is universally --if often disingenuously-- answered. IOW, nobody ever did anything for anyone else unless their was a huge payday in it for themselves. (This applies especially to white guys.) Everything that we see in the aforementioned shopping mall, whether we buy it or not, is symptomatic of this rotting foundation in the human soul. No allowance is ever made for gentler humanity, and no one should ever feel the slightest concern for the others, because our fellows are devious and clever and have probably found a way to turn a profit on the needy. Donald Trump doesn't worry about giving things back, so neither should we.

But our blog commenter has a secret! A precious, dear secret that he/she carries in a quiet place in his/her soul, next to the Yanni and Enya albums. And the secret is that the commenter actually cares, and cares deeply! But that compassion is a terrible burden! Yet the commenter carries on against outrageous odds with courage and dignity! Each blog commenter is the Rosa Parks of his/her own torpid little bedroom. If only the world could recognize this special capacity... But no!

I think the blog commenter is wrong, and that the problem isn't today's dynamic new scene. When life was shorter and sicklier and dangerous-er, people were more apt to grasp an unpleasant truth: Life sucks, so we've got to struggle. The happiest-married people I know (and the ones with the sanest kids) aren't blissed and relaxed. They make continuing sacrifices for each other. They know that living longer doesn't mean there's been a change in human nature. The people who really, really make this planet go aren't watching out for their own interests with such focus.

> My relationship with
> my boyfriend is...

Is our alignment to the larger society is determined by such quintessentially personal, angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin terms? (Always "relationship"!) Are we all supposed to be concerned with each other's feelings at that level?

> You can be a serial
> monogamist, or have
> several partners

You can this, you can that.... The "choice" rhetoric flows like a river, and you can't dam it up even if you try. I think this is a product of Disney movie ticket sales in postwar America. The Boomers loved being told that tomorrow was another day. Longevity has exploded, and they've had a lot of tomorrows, and have sucked every one of them dry.

> we have a LOT more money.

Never enough. Just you wait and see.

Posted by: Crid at October 20, 2006 8:41 PM

That smells like "Stop me before I kill again." Are you arguing that society's best boundaries can't contain you because you are just too out of control? I'm thinking of commitment, not contractual obligation.

Ah, Crid, you and I come from *such* different places. You think that my saying "the marriage vows don't mean the relationship will last" means that I can't control myself or my relationship. What I meant is that I feel that I have enough control over myself and that the wedding vows add literally nothing to that control. My relationship (I know you seem to hate that word, but isn't a marriage just a relationship with governmental blessing?) won't last any longer just because we've said "I do."

As somewhat libertarian taxpayer, my interest is in reducing the probability that I'll somehow be re$pon$ible for your ass at some point. This would certainly benefit you as well, though not in the style of your daydreams.

Well, if you're interest in my relationship is making sure that Medicaid isn't paying for my nursing home, I guess you'd better run a credit check on my boyfriend before I marry him so that you can make sure he'll improve my bank balance rather than hurting it. Any other areas of my life where you think I need to restrict my choices, in the name of the greater good?

Posted by: jenl1625 at October 22, 2006 2:47 PM

> isn't a marriage just a relationship
> with governmental blessing?

No, it isn't. Christ, you so bring out my inner fogey... It's cleansing.

Know this: The government isn't your Daddy! The government isn't your Daddy! The government isn't your Daddy! The government doesn't care about your feelings, or your fulfillment, or your need to bond meaningfully with others. The government is a sickly little enterprise in which everyone pools *some* of their resources to handle a few select problems. But not all of their resources, OK? And not all of the problems.

Amy, who I adore in the most backhanded way possible, ended this post with this:

> we don't think a state-
> certified contract declaring
> us happy, or whatever it
> does declare, would make
> us any happier.

And nobody said anything! People just take it for granted that the purpose of marriage is to make us happier in some flip, brightly-colored, Partidge-Family-Bus kind of way. It's cynical as hell. People seem to think that modern civilization is so finely tuned that we only need to do things that answer our personal whims. Now, I love capitalist democracy as much as the next guy, but I just don't believe we've got it dialed in that neatly. A lot of the reason life has gone so well for miserable little fucks like me is that other people have gone an extra mile to make allowances for my weaknesses. That doesn't mean anyone approves of them.

> Any other areas of my
> life where you think
> I need to restrict my
> choices

Hell no! Wouldn't dream of it! You're Rosa Parks and Marlo Thomas and Mary Tyler Moore and Bananarama and God knows who all wrapped up into one daring personality! Only a fool would try to contain such a vital spirit! Your impulses are stardust, Sugar!

Go! Go now and breathe free! *Live*, damn you, live!

Posted by: Crid at October 22, 2006 5:46 PM

Jen, please, pay no attention to the Crid behind the curtain. You can smack him all over this blog like a pinata, and he'll just be all "Nuh-uh! Did not!" He goes away when you change screens, and has little effect on your fate, so be comforted.
Yeah, Crid, for some people, marriage isn't a good idea. But NO! You must wave your flaming sword over us, telling us to, what, exactly? Get married and stay there even if we're unhappy, that unhappiness going to the kids? Pump out more kids, because, God knows, there aren't enough kids in the world, already looking for homes. Why, we wouldn't dream of it! You, you're Samuel Johnson and William F. Buckley and....no, wait a minute, I see a lonely guy, eating ramen in his mother's basement apartment, thrashing like a wounded snake to blog posts he doesn't like, "miserable little fucks like me..." ah, that's it exactly.
If you think life is only made better for miserable fucks like you by married people, you need to get out more. Now back in your box, your ramen's getting cold.

Posted by: Cat brother at October 22, 2006 6:13 PM

A nerve has been touched.

Posted by: Crid at October 22, 2006 6:21 PM

Crid, are you afraid that if a woman isn't legally obligated to be with you, she'll leave you? And that you would prefer that you both suffer, than for you to be alone?

Posted by: Chris at October 25, 2006 12:34 PM

Thanks for asking, you little scoundrel! I live happily alone. And the women I meet are happy to let me live alone. It's a mistake for each of us to imagine that our company is a treasure beyond price. People who do the most for society are often the ones who marry well early.

Posted by: Crid at October 26, 2006 3:35 PM

People who suffer are people who live together. I'm in Paris now, missing my boyfriend terribly, so I bought a brick red lace bra and thong underwear and put on lipstick and wilded out my hair turned on video iChat. (Actually, I pretended I was showing him really boring things I bought, then showed him the good stuff.) And ate grapes in my bra. Porn for nerds, what can I say?

Anyway, how many married people do stuff like that?

When somebody's around all the time, it's boring, and annoying. There's nobody in the world who isn't annoying, smelly, boring, and has many other drawbacks if you're with them 24/7. If you just date -- perhaps for years -- it's hot and sexy and fun, with none of the uglies.

Sure, my boyfriend comes over with a vat of Cantor's soup when I'm sick, and he'll stay if I need him, and does a million little wonderful things for me -- but we're both independent people with full lives, and we do our thing and then our together time is just us focused on us. It's romantic and sexy and special and fun.

If you don't mind me getting a bit personal, here in Paris, typing in my red bra!

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 26, 2006 4:08 PM

"If you think life is only made better for miserable fucks like you"

I'll take all the "miserable fucks" like Crid I can get.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 26, 2006 4:10 PM

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