Gather Ye Flowers

Don't Buy The Garden

(Point, Counterpoint)

To Marry Or Not

by Fred Reed

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.

İFred Reed 2002



To Marry Or Not: The Rebuttal

by Kim Bentz

If a young woman were to ask me, "Perchance to marry, or remain forever single?"  I would, given the current circumstances of declining morals and fading commitment say, "Stay single if you can, but if you should choose to marry, beware."  Fate, the law and Hollywood have conspired to make this a choice of terrifying possibilities.

Given the nature of women, it is not unlikely that at some point you will want to have children.  Given the nature of children, they want a mother and a father living harmoniously under one roof.  Given the nature of many men (and were I to be honest, many women) such a noble goal may be unattainable. 

Despite what any of us say, men and women both attach enormous significance to money, and should your man decide that the cute young thing at the gym is worth throwing you and the children away, you will likely struggle over money.  And it will be ugly.  He will claim that though you stayed home and spent 24/7 raising his children to be decent human beings, and keeping all of your mutual belongings clean and in working order (except for the car which seems to be his arena, even in 2002) that you were a financial liability and not an asset, and, as such, are not entitled to a reasonable portion of the marital estate.  You will claim that he could not afford to pay you for all the things you contributed, and as such are entitled to a huge portion of the assets.  After all, you gave up your career and advancement opportunities while he kept his.  All this to say, "appreciate me" or "love me".  None of which will work.

The children will rip your heart out as they cry for their father, who is spending most of his time with Baby Cakes.  He will call at the last minute and tell them, "Change of plans.  I can't take you to the movies/park/arcade.  Baby Cakes needs me to drive her to the supermarket."  Baby Cakes will find plenty of things to do which do not involve his children, or will try to turn them against you.

As the years go by, they will stop crying and will start buying--cigarettes, booze, drugs and condoms.  (Actually, they won't have to buy condoms, Baby Cakes will provide them because their mother "just doesn't understand how hard it is to be a kid".) 

After a few years of Baby Cakes, your children will turn to you and say, "It's your fault daddy left us.  You were so ________ (fill in the blank) that he had to leave."  And they will believe that, despite all evidence to the contrary.  They will believe anything which might give them their father back.

And you, you will rejoin the workforce, younger than all your supervisors, who are certain that you can't possibly be as bright as your GPA would indicate, 'cause after all, you stayed home with your children.

On the other hand, should you choose to marry and have children, you can keep your day job, then rush home at night to cook and clean and care for the children who call the nanny, "Mom".  Your Mr. Studly will complain that you never have time for him, and that you never want sex anymore.  (Hmmm.  I wonder why he doesn't look so sexy sitting in an unmade bed after watching you cook, serve and clean up after dinner before putting the kids to bed.)

Mr. Studly will likely still wind up with Baby Cakes, and you will wind up in divorce court, where custody will be split 50/50.  Which will mean that you will get to haul the kids to the house he shares with Baby Cakes, and watch as she drops them off at your door.  As for the assets, not one person will care that he left you for a bimbo.  Not one.  They will care, however, that you dropped your kids off at day care while you were "fulfilling yourself" at work.  You may even wind up paying Him alimony and child support, which he can spend on--you guessed it, Baby Cakes.

Not that you will be unhappy . .

NOTE: Kim is gainfully employed while raising children and finding time to write the occasional rant.  Unlike Fred, she doesn't make a living at it...yet.