Were a young man to ask me, “To marry perchance, or remain forever single?” I would, given the hostile circumstances today of law and love, urge caution. “Marriage is a commitment of several years of your life, plus child support,” I would say. “Do not make it rashly.”
The question is simply, “Why marry?” As a young man full of dangerous steroids, your answer will probably be, “Ah, because her hair is like corn silk under an August moon; her lips are as rubies and her teeth, pearls; and her smile would make a dead man cry.” This amounts to, “I’m horny,” with elaborations. It is as it ought to be. The race continues because maidens are glorious, and striplings both desperate and unwise.
Note, incidentally, that by the time October rolls around, corn silk is shriveled and brown.
Why marry, indeed? In times past, marriage occasionally made sense. Life on a farm required two people, a woman to work herself ragged in the cabin while the man carried heavy lumpish things and shot Indians. Later, come suburbia, the man did something tedious in an office and the woman did two hours housework and stayed bored for six. It worked, tolerably. In the Fifties, nobody expected much of life. It generally met their expectations.
And there was sex, though not enough of it — the scarcity being the propellant behind matrimony. Back then, before the miracle of feminism, women had not yet commoditized themselves. A lad had to pop the question before he got laid regular. Women controlled the carnal economy and, in a world that was going to be boring anyway, that was probably a good thing. At least kids had parents.
Times change. Some advice to young fellows setting forth:
First, forget that her lips are sweet as honeydew melon (though not, of course, green). It doesn’t last. One of nature’s more disagreeable tricks is that while men are far uglier than women, they age better. Remember this. It is useful to reflect in moments of unguided passion that, beneath the skin, we are all wet bags of unpleasant organs.
Soon you will be a balding sofa ornament and she will look like a fireplug with cellulite. Once the packaging deteriorates, there had better be something to get you through the next thirty years. Usually there isn’t.
Prospects have improved for the single of both genders. Sex is nowadays always available. If you don’t marry Moon Pie, which would be wise, you may get another chance when she comes back on the market with the first wave of divorcees. It’s never now-or-never. Getting older doesn’t diminish your opportunities. As you gain experience, you will recognize the tides, the eddies, the whirlpools of coupling — the urgency of the biological clock, the lunacy of menopause. Men by comparison embody a wonderful clod-like simplicity.
As you ponder snuggling forever with Moon Pie, compare the lives of your bachelor and your married friends. The bachelors come and go as the mood strikes them, order their apartments with squalid abandon, drive Miatas or Harleys if they choose, and live in such pleasant dissolution as is consonant with continued employment. The married guy lives in a vast echoing mortgage beyond his means, drives sensible cars he doesn’t like, and loses his old friends because he isn’t allowed to hang out with them.
Self-help books to the contrary, marriage does not rest on compromises, but on concessions. You will make all of them. Perhaps it doesn’t have to be this way. But it is this way.
Moon Pie has only one reason for marriage: to get her legal hooks into you. She doesn’t think of it in these terms, yet, and she has no evil intentions. She just wants a nice quiet home in the remote suburbs where she can live uneventfully, raise progeny, and keep her eye on you.
If you think surveillance isn’t part of the contract, try going out late with your old buddies. Marriage is an institution founded on mistrust. If she thought you would stick around if not compelled, she wouldn’t need marriage. She wants monogamy, at least for you and, with some frequency, for herself. She knows viscerally that you would prefer the amorous insouciance of an oversexed alley cat. You know it consciously. Marriage exists to control the male, until recently a good idea. Now, however, she can support herself, and doesn’t need protection. She doesn’t need you, or you, her.
She will, however, want to have children. Women do. At which point, God help you.
Given the schools, drugs, latch-keyism consequent first to working parents and then to divorce, and the cultural pressure on children to be slatterns and dope-dealers, reproduction is a gamble. You may not even particularly like them, or they, you. Nobody talks about this, but how many people do you know who hardly talk to their grown children?
And you’ve just tied yourself into twenty years of raising them.
The moment Junior enters wherever it is that we are, Moon Pie will have you screwed to the wall. She won’t think of it this way, yet. She’ll be delighted with the cooing bundle of joy, his little fingers, his little toes, etc. But divorce usually comes. The chances are two to one that she will file: Women are more eager than men to enter marriage, and more eager to leave it — with the kids, the house, and the child support. It won’t be amicable, not after seven years. You will be astonished at how ruthless she will be, how well she knows the law, and how utterly hostile to divorcing fathers the law is.
You don’t understand how bad the divorce courts are. You probably don’t know what “imputed income” is. You think that “joint custody” means “joint custody.” Think again. Quite possibly you will have to support her while she moves with your kids to Fukuoka with an Air Force colonel she met in a meat bar.
In short, marriage often means turning twenty-five years of your life into smoking wreckage. Yes, happy marriages exist (I personally know of one) and there are the somnolent marriages of habitual contentment or, perhaps, of quiet resignation. But the odds aren’t good.
Permit me an heretical thought. In an age when neither sex economically needs the other, in which women do not need protection from wild bears and marauding savages, not in the suburbs anyway, perhaps marriage doesn’t make sense, at least for men. The divorce courts remove all doubt. A young fellow might do well to stay single, keep his DNA to himself, pick such flowers as he might find along the way, and live his life as he likes.