Sunday, February 05, 2006

The Worst Thing You Can Do To Your Lover

What's the worst thing you can do to the person you love?

You date someone, you kiss passionately, call each other at all hours, can barely spend a moment without thinking or talking about the other person. You decide you like the same books, generally support the same political party, go to the same church. You have ideas and goals that are similar. You want to have kids. Or you want to travel the world together.

You get married. Suddenly, the other person is there effortlessly. Out come the curlers and the creams, out come the streaked briefs and burps. One person wants the bedroom window open, the other wants it closed. One person's libido is stronger than the other's, eventually it all becomes mechanical: oh, it's Friday night, time honey (which sounds like "time, referee!") or even, oh, it's been a month.

Marriage is the worst thing you could do to someone you love.

Joni Mitchell sings it well:

We don't need no piece of paper
From the city hall
Keeping us tied and true

In fact, the piece of paper fails to keep 50% of all marriages from divorce -- let alone prevent physical and emotional forms of adultery and domestic violence.

Why marry at all? Absent children, what possible reason would anyone have to remove well-known and proven incentives for two people to continue trying to be attractive, interesting, respectful of and alluring to the other?

Why not have a romance that continues forever as the perfect third date?

OK, children. Here Aldous Huxley's Brave New World struck me as more sensible than our own.

In Huxley's futuristic world children were genetically engineered massively, with talents and proclivities suitable to the proportional needs of society for manual laborers, intellectuals, artists, engineers, etc. By design everyone was made for the tasks to which they would drift naturally. Childbirth and copulation for reproduction were banned and the imperative for birth control reinforced by nightly suggestion over the course of childhood.

You may think this is a long way off -- and what do I do in the meantime?

Fair enough. Coupling to serve as parents is a human imperative that perhaps requires the presence of two parents, at least for bonding and modeling -- even though most of us aren't such great models to begin with.

There are alternatives to the nuclear family. The Kibbutz, for example. And who says that outside the Israeli communal farm a married couple can't commit to be parents without committing to living together, to seeing each other at each other's worst, or without forswearing other people if the romantic interest wanes?

Whatever. I'm not a social engineer.

My point stands. Marriage is absurd.

Companionship, romance, sex, emotional closeness -- all these things can be shared between two people who legally remain entirely unbound and physically live apart. Or ... people can live together without the tie, so that when it stops working, when it stops being the way you want to live, all you have to do is call the movers, not lawyers and accountants.

What we have right now -- marriage, children, divorce -- is a pain! And remarriage ... well, how many times can you say "till death do us part" before you know you're a consummate liar, or a fool?

Sure, breaking up hurts and dating takes effort. But there's tons of poetry about it, movies, novels, and friends can really help for free and in a fun way. And you usually learn something from the romantic skirmishes of men and women.
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