FIRST DRAFT EVERCHANGING
Mead, the famous anthropologist, thought that society had marriage and
divorce reversed. It was too easy to get married, she thought. And too
hard to get divorced.
She proposed that getting married should be difficult, but divorce should be easy.
As I recall, she had two levels of
marriage in mind. One was marriage without children. After five
years you would decide whether you wanted to split up, stay the same,
or move on to the next level The next level was marriage with the
expressed purpose of having children.
It would be very tough to get into
that second group. In fact, until you were accepted everybody would be
on the pill, If you got preggers by "accident" you'd have to
pay a huge fine and agree to hormone implants.
Actually, enough time has passed
since Ms. Mead died that co-habitating has taken over her idea of the
first kind of marriage. These days hetersexual AND homosexual
couples often decide to get married only when they have a child on the
way or they want to make one. There seems to be no rush to marry when
the couples don't have religious or parental pressure.
In any event, Mrs. Linklater thinks
Ms. Mead was onto something. She likes the idea of making it hard to
get married if you want to have children. Really hard.
Put the future parents through boot
camp to earn their license. And make them pay for the privilege, too.
Save that money for the kids' twenty-first birthdays.
At the very least, Mrs. Linklater's
Rules for Marriage, as spelled out by the Manuel [ha, there's a thought,
Manuel the Marriage Rules Guy], would include some or all of the
A prenuptial agreement that
describes exactly what property and money is being brought into the
marriage by both parties. The Las Vegas ash tray is his. The John
Stamos poster is hers.
Every year, the loot would be
reviewed and various household items, cars, etc., would be added to
each one of their lists. That bobblehead doll is his. That rabbit thing
from the adult store is hers. Any inequities would be balanced out with
cash or tickets to the play offs.
The number of children would be
agreed to ahead of time, but this could be amended up, although only
with the consent of both parties. "We need another boy." "No we
don't." "Yes, we do." Which brings up another thought --
rules for choosing the sex of your children.
There should be a lie detector test
for both individuals. With lots of questions about their histories,
including what happened at the class party senior year with that chick
Tammy. And the truth about weird Uncle Al. They have to fess up to how
much they both drink, smoke, and lurk in chat rooms. Stuff that can
come back to bite a marriage on the butt.
If problems with the truth came up
-- like say, what the definition of sex is, the marriage could be
called off, or postponed or delayed until the appropriate fix had been
Each person would take some test,
certified by someone who would annoy them both, Dr. Phil for instance,
to find out if, in fact, the potential mom and dad were really
If it turned out they weren't
compatible -- even in a DNA way -- any personal information could be
used to help create an account for one or both of them on Match.com or
get them invites to one of those five minute dating deals at a bar some
These are just examples of the
safeguards that must be in place to prevent catastrophes. Anna Nicole
Smith wouldn't have been allowed to make that old man think he'd died
and gone to heaven. Well, at least by marrying him.
Sexual preferences would be
discussed in depth with therapists who specialize in not blinking when
they hear what turns people on. This would be included with multiple
choice tests to reveal any hidden proclivities that are either too
expensive or require animals not permitted in this country.
For people who don't have a clue
about sex, a four month course with homework would be required before
the marriage took place. They can do the course alone or together,
online or in the classroom. We're here to help.
They could also opt to remain virgins and take the course after the
ceremonoy. But everybody takes the course. Wonder what the final will
Mom and Dad, Mom and Mom, Dad and
Dad also get the basic cooking, cleaning, and clothes washing review up
front. With instructions on the correct way to take out the garbage,
which should be done before the news is over.
When the first baby is aboutto
deliver, a crash course in changing really gross poopy diapers and
cleaning spit up from bibs is scheduled.
To get into the marriage, the couple has
to pass all the tests and get at least a C in every class. Two failing
grades and your beloved gets cash from you to spend as he or she pleases
until you pass.
Just the thought of having to go through all this rigamarole ought to help keep the population down, if nothing else.
If you are accepted for the next level there are several benefits:
Taxes for married people with
children would be half the rate of those who aren't married. And zero
taxes if you put the money away for college.
The government would provide
babysitting. National Guardsmen would be dispatched to your home on
weekends. And families get free medical care.
If, for some reason, the safeguards
failed and a divorce was requested, a judge could end the marriage in a
minute. But only after the kids get a chance to tell the judge what
REALLY happened. No lawyers would be allowed in the courtroom.
Since a marriage is never really
over when you've got kids, post divorce the non custodial parent would
be required to visit with the children half the time. And not just
watch the ballgame while they played on the computer. While we're at
it, neither parent is allowed to make the kids spend a single minute
with the dorky new girlfriend or boyfriend unless they want to.
Also, parents are not allowed to badmouth each other to the kids. Or the kids get a trip to Disneyland.
These examples are pretty silly on
purpose. But sometimes exaggeration makes the point. Over the
past thirty years marriage has been turned upside down.
Well educated upper middle class
white women became liberated during the sixties [black women had been
liberated for a long, long time prior to that] and the media thoroughly
covered it, along with Vietnam and the civil rights demonstrations,
since all were on parallel paths.
Congress passed civil rights bills.
Discrimination based on sex, gender, race, and nationality became
illegal. Followed by protection for gender preference.
But marriage didn't change. Women
could have careers in formerly male dominated professions, making as
much as their future husbands, but if they got married, they were still
expected to do the housework, take care of the kids, and let their
husbands make the decisions.
Finally that is beginning to
change. Women still carry the brunt of the parenting load, but there
are more stay at home dads, and more helpful dads who share the
responsibilities of getting up with the baby, changing diapers, and
fully participating in the family.
Also, a woman doesn't have to get
married anymore. Except for love. Having a baby without being married no longer carries
the same stigma it once did. Abortion has been legalized so there
is a choice now. Females can earn enough money to raise children by
themselves if they choose. A man doesn't have to marry his girlfriend to
get sex. In fact, one of the criticisms of the women's movement is that
it has only given men the right to expect sex and take none of the
How could traditional marriage not
be in flux? Not to mention what gay marriage does to the equation and
the blood pressure of the conservative right.
A wedding is no longer the
beginning of something, a stepping off point for the rest of a couple's
life. It's usually saved for last, for having kids. [Although Goldie
Hawn may disagree]. Or, it's for financial reasons [sorry, just had to
throw that in].
If it used to be that marriage was intended to be the start of a life together, now it's in the middle somewhere.
During the last five years, one of
my brothers, an attorney, bought a house with his girlfriend, also an
attorney. Then they got pregnant. Then they got engaged. Then they got
married. Wait, he says they got engaged, then they got pregnant [four
years after that] and then they got married. Sorry, Dave.
to be driven by a strange code of behavior intended to protect the
honor of a woman by locking her up in a relationship and throwing away
the key. Now women have much more financial freedom and they are much
more confident that they can take care of themselves.
Ultimately, does this make them better spouses? Will their greater
freedom of choice create more meaningful and longer lasting years of
Society has changed. Women have changed. Men are changing. Somewhere in all this marriage has to change.
since it seems to function best when it's about the children, maybe we
just have to find a way to make it the best possible, happiest, and safest place for
children to be.