Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The Institution of Marriage Part Three


Margaret 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 marrie
d 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 following:

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 made.

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 compatible.

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 night.

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 be?

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 responsibility.

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. 

Marriage used 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 wedded bliss.

Society has changed. Women have changed. Men are changing.  Somewhere in all this marriage has to change.

And 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.


suzypwr said...

My theory was simpler. Sterilize every baby at birth. Require classes and counseling before it could be reversed. Also require a fee, because if they can't afford the fee, they can't afford the babies.


jckfrstross said...

Interesting thoughts  i don't know been married 23 yrs  good bad and otherwise and i can truly say i love that man more now than ever:)


billierwilson said...

i think that this is perfect!! i'd vote for the change. my ex and i did the 'no bad mouthing or custody was revoked' and we were both fighting for our son. so it really worked out well, we can be in the same room for hours and still get along. not re-marry get along but civil to each other get along.
maybe there should be more testing before kids though, there are some people that i know that had kids only to have leverage on their spouses.
always love reading your Journal.

whsprdphsh said...

Or you could be like me and have the kid first and deal with the spouse part later.  Punishing kids and molding them to your liking is easy.  It's not that easy with men.



shaz19743 said...

Not in any great rush to get hitched ....infact its not even something i think about that often ....similarly have no great wish not to get married should the right guy come along .....as for the tax breaks i figure im gonna get screwed on some tax or other by the gov whether its on being married , single , smoking , driving , breathing , working, parting my hair to the left etc  so wouldnt really come into my decision making on anything really .
All those rules and regs would make we wanna ignore them even more i think n just do what was right for me and the people in my life x

ksquester said...

Good grief, I am glad I was married 37 yrs ago when I was 18. (Too many choices today) Is this why they call marriage an institution? When people finish doing their time, they get out, only to start the whole process again. I'm staying put!  Anne

kristeenaelise said...

Maybe we should add required licensing before you're given the right to spawn.  We have to have one to drive, own a business and get married, we should have to have one for spawning.  If you're an idiot, in-bred, a drug/alcohol addict, under 25 or otherwise deemed incompetent, you won't be given a license.

I love the full disclosure.  I would have loved it before I got married both times.  Next time (if there is a next time - I'm not sure I want to train another one) I'm hiring a private investigator.  Love is definately NOT enough to ensure a happy marriage.  I've encouraged my daughters to cohabitate before marriage as well.  That way they'll know ahead of time if they can live together, or if all the dirty little secrets (like, he picks his toe jam) are too much to bear.

love this series!
=) kris


tillysweetchops said...

Sounds like the marital equivalent of the nuclear deterant - I don't think many people would go for it somehow. Can you then imagine how many single people there would be wondering around unhindered by a nagging him or her indoors. Life's seed would end up scattered even more willy-nilly and we'd be over-run by wild feral children like we are in some parts of the UK! Margaret Mead's ideas are the ultimate utopian dream but unlikely to work in reality (some people huff and puff at having to take a driving test!) Generally, I think "Marriage" is working the way it is. Purely because most people are staying married (just). So at least  it keeps a fair proportion of otherwise rampant individuals from marauding the streets.

swibirun said...

You've got me convinced Mrs. L.......I'm divorcing Alexis to free her from this oppresive institution!  


robbush6 said...

What makes us think we know anything? Well, anything important besides "<brstyle ="font-family: verdana;"> ." You had me at "verdana."

artloner said...

I love the quicksand you walk on, Linky-Lu!

dcmeyer420 said...

Ahhhh, the four letter word, "FLUX."  

bosoxblue6993w said...

marriage is essentially contract law with fornication.

dafyddhevans said...

Actually, we bought a house, got engaged, and, then, four years later, got pregnant and then got married.  Just to be clear.