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Hold off those wedding bells, Einstein.
July 9, 2003 9:01 PM   Subscribe

Geniuses and criminals 'fade' after marriage. Men are most creative and competitive before they settle down, resulting in a drop in both academic output and criminal records after tying the knot.
posted by spazzm (59 comments total)

 
Creative work takes time. There are scads of academics who have done good work after the age of 30. Heck, most of them are still in graduate school at that age.

Also, isn't he implying that women, lacking testosterone, are unable to be creative or productive? Seems like a rather shaky.
posted by mecran01 at 9:06 PM on July 9, 2003


Correlation is not caustion. (I think I exist just to say this.)

Scientists may get it, but the media frequently doesn't.

Also: "...turned off almost like a tap if a man gets married and has children..." -- so how much correlation with childless marriages? "...those who marry well subsequently stop committing crime..." -- what does "married well" mean?

And what about other factors associated with marriage, like change in economic status, living conditions, etc.? Again, it's not the fault of the scientists, who can really only study one thing at a time, but the media is so bad at identifying the limits of particular studies. Pretty fluffy.
posted by blissbat at 9:31 PM on July 9, 2003


I'm willing to accept that overall proposition - and yet it doesn't describe my personal experience. My written and creative output, after marriage, has increased by several factors.

But I don't know why I should bother any further with this post; there's a couch and a TV calling my name, and some beers and popcorn are begging to be consumed.
posted by troutfishing at 9:33 PM on July 9, 2003


"The only change that matters is a change of heart. Every other change alters us cosmetically but not fundamentally, modiefies how we appear or what we do, but not who we are. Our hearts change when resentment, anxiety, and self-worry give way to openness, sensitivity, and love of life..."
"Children, when grown, change the course of history more decisively by ceasing to perpetuate collusion through their influence on their posterity and others...the change of ones own heart is for this reason the most significant work anyone ever does." -- C. Terry Warner.

Marriage doesn't necessarily imply having children, or participating in raising them even if you have them, but I expect that many parents have an intuitivie sense of responsibility for the well-being of their children, and the sense that good childrearing is important for the reasons above. Since real parenting takes time (and from what I can see is mighty distracting), I expect that many trade away devotion to their subject (or crime) for devotion to their families. Not an unwise personal choice, although I have made the choice to not marry in order to be devoted to other goals twice, and in retrospect, I only think once was a wise decision.

But I'm also a bit suspicious. As mecran01 said, there is indeed lots of good work done by married academics after 30. Most of it is evolutionary rather than revolutionary, but then again, most work is.
posted by weston at 9:34 PM on July 9, 2003


I think this ties well with the folk-wisdom perpetuated by contemporary music:
"First you get the power, then you get the money, then you get the pussy."
posted by spazzm at 9:46 PM on July 9, 2003


So what if men give up their academic pursuits after marriage and children? What's far worse is that married women die younger than unmarried women. There's no way I'm ever going to saddle myself with a life threatening permanent male-unit. Boys are for screwing and ignoring; best to just get on with the important things in life and leave them to the side as a recreational item.
posted by zarah at 10:09 PM on July 9, 2003


Marriage also tames terrorists
posted by donth at 10:09 PM on July 9, 2003


Personally, I think it's all the goddamned macaroni and cheese.
posted by UncleFes at 10:13 PM on July 9, 2003


Or it could be all the damned dress shoes!
posted by zarah at 10:16 PM on July 9, 2003


zarah, my first initial guess about that statistic would be that it's heavily influenced by (1) domestic abuse and (2) childbearing (a known personal health risk). I wonder if the stat holds up for married couples with no history of abuse and no children.
posted by weston at 10:23 PM on July 9, 2003


donth - thanks, I was looking for that story.

zarah - That sounds mighty male of you, "Boys are for screwing and ignoring" - but whatever floats your boat.....still, I suspect that those mortality figures are somewhat altered by the risks of childbirth ( "married women die younger than unmarried women" ) and also by the emotional risks of attachment. Fact is, the women tend to outlast the men, but their sorrow for their dead mates is a mortality risk factor in itself. Does this mean that marraige, or partnership, should be avoided?

There are no rules - only choices, and consequences.
posted by troutfishing at 10:25 PM on July 9, 2003


Oh, wow, this is just what we need. "But if I marry him, it'll tame his criminal urges!"

It sounds like his data involved very famous scientists of older generations. I wonder how true it is today. I also wonder how true it is for productive scientists who aren't at the "great" level. (No, I haven't recently realized I'm in my mid-twenties in grad school and hearing the clock ticking or anything like that...)
posted by transona5 at 10:32 PM on July 9, 2003


that statistic would be that it's heavily influenced by (1) domestic abuse and (2) childbearing (a known personal health risk).

zarah and i read the same article and it did state that the mortality rate for married women was poor compared to unmarried women regardless of childbirth. it apparently made no difference whether there were children in the marriage or not... seems being tied down to men kills us regardless. i will try to find it if i can... it was re-published in the toronto star quite some time ago from a medical journal.

zarah - That sounds mighty male of you

i assure you my daughter is all girl. girl who's been taught to realize that a relationship with a boy comes last on the list of seriously important things to do in life... something i was taught by my single-parent father.
posted by t r a c y at 10:43 PM on July 9, 2003


"...women tend to outlast the men..."

Men die first because we want to.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:55 PM on July 9, 2003


Yeah!

Wait, what?
posted by dong_resin at 11:12 PM on July 9, 2003


Fact is, the women tend to outlast the men, but their sorrow for their dead mates is a mortality risk factor in itself.

That's the key factor right there, I'm guessing. A very, very high percentage of widows and widowers pass on within two years of their spouse, almost regardless of health. It doesn't effect men's statistics as much because men tend to die first.
posted by gd779 at 11:38 PM on July 9, 2003


Damn you, mr_crash_davis, you beat me to it.
posted by dg at 11:57 PM on July 9, 2003


Boys are for screwing and ignoring

Did someone say something?
posted by namespan at 2:41 AM on July 10, 2003


I'm sort of dissapointed that nobody has come up with anything about all those outlaw academics yet.
posted by spazzm at 2:45 AM on July 10, 2003


One thing's for sure, none of the professors in my department who are married are ever around after 4:30.

It's always the young motivated but very much single grad students and the kooky old profs that keep the fire burning and are doing work well after the rest of the world has decided it's time to go home and watch TV.

My thesis supervizor is recently married, and between all the courses they make newer professors teach and him having to go home to see his family, he hardly has time to do any meaningful research. He certainly doesn't get the long stretches of uninterrupted thinking time I find I personally to get anything of note accomplished.

Meanwhile, I find myself getting involved with other grad students who are just as busy as I am and don't expect any more time out of me than they themselves can give, and we get what we both want most of the time :)
posted by Space Coyote at 3:02 AM on July 10, 2003


Marriage is compromise. (For better or worse.)
posted by rushmc at 4:20 AM on July 10, 2003


What troutfishing said. All of it.
posted by magullo at 4:36 AM on July 10, 2003


Guess the time factor kicks in: there are only 24h in a day you may be efficient and a natural born optimizer (I like this expression) but there still are only 24h in a day.
posted by elpapacito at 5:02 AM on July 10, 2003


I think the idea of marriage taming creativity and genius applies to men whose only motivation for creativity and genius was that of a peacock flashing its tail feathers to gain a mate.

Someone whose creativity is a part of their soul, not their hollow personal and social ego, is sure as hell not about to chuck it all just so they can mate and nest.

Maslow never said, "The search for self-actualization ends after marriage or true love."

[Not that I have to worry about it. I can't seem to have a conversation with the women here in Ohio anyway. If it weren't for a few wonderful, intelligent women on the internet who remind me how incredible the opposite sex is, I'd probably give it up and become a monk ;-) ]
posted by Shane at 5:44 AM on July 10, 2003


Yeah, Shakespeare really didn't write any good plays after he got married at age 18.
posted by witchstone at 6:13 AM on July 10, 2003


Married men no longer have to bother with attracting women. For the same reason, they stop caring so much how they look. In my opinion, all creative and competitive drives are the result of the urge to reproduce and the necessity to appear more successful than the next man.
posted by MarkC at 6:19 AM on July 10, 2003


Maybe Shakespeare was one of the few men for whom marriage did not completely quell his sexual appetite...
posted by MarkC at 6:27 AM on July 10, 2003


t r a c y ( re: "i assure you my daughter is all girl. girl who's been taught to realize that a relationship with a boy comes last on the list of seriously important things to do in life...") - don't get me wrong - your daughter will do well with those attitudes, in terms of not getting prematurely bogged down by childbearing or emotional entanglements.

But isn't objectification of the opposite sex something that feminism has been criticizing for decades? This, then, is the new feminism: objectification: good. emotional entanglement: bad.

If today's young american women are growing up with attitudes which ennable them to achieve more power in business and government, this is a good thing. But those attitudes are a double edged sword, for don't they invoke a basic denial of interconnection which is currently the hallmark of American attitudes towards the environment, towards the rest of the world, and toward each other, the attitude of "my actions are mine and mine alone - they effect no one, and so I will do whatever I want.", or even "I have the right to do whatever I want regardless of how it effects others, because my personal rights and needs trump everyone else's "?

Personally, I would prefer that women remain less likely to objectify men but, at the same time, learn (or are taught) better of the profound life consequences of childbearing and marriage, and that, meanwhile, men learn (or are taught) to objectify women less.

: Because if humans cannot learn the deep lessons of interconnection - in terms of politics, international relations, personal relations, business, and the environment, well......we'll all be screwed but we won't be able to just walk away for - there will be nowhere to walk to.
posted by troutfishing at 6:47 AM on July 10, 2003


In my opinion, all creative and competitive drives are the result of the urge to reproduce and the necessity to appear more successful than the next man.

Okay, let's play around a bit with Maslow, just for the hell of it.*

"It is quite true that man lives by bread alone - when there is no bread. "

Maslow might say that the man MarkC is describing is obsessed with gaining a mate because of his insecurity, his lack of belief that he can ever gain a mate/sex/security/a family. Therefore, he uses his creativity as a tool to satisfy his lower-level needs for security and sex. But he does not move beyond his obsession with these lower-level needs to the higher levels and creativity and self-actualization.

I can think of at least one famous author who went through half-a-dozen wives before settling down in a happy marriage. He never stopped writing and, in my mind, never lost his brilliance.

*(I've been reading Maslow lately and loving quotes like "If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail" and "A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself." Maslow, despite his lousy childhood, was an optimist [with a sense of humor] and chose to base his theories on studies of healthy people [like Einstein]. Despite this, Maslow was also a contemporary of Freud, the ultimate cynic who studied the mentally ill and then made broad, general assumptions about the entire human race based on his findings.)
posted by Shane at 6:51 AM on July 10, 2003


zarah and t r a c y:

So, if I were to say the following things:

"Girls are for screwing and ignorning; best to just get on with the important things in life and leave them to the side as a recreational item."

and

"a relationship with a girl comes last on the list of seriously important things to do in life"

would you regard me as a well-balanced, emotionally healthy man?
posted by Irontom at 7:07 AM on July 10, 2003


Irontom: I took the first statement to be hyperbole, and the second to be very reasonable indeed. And anyway, so long as one is up front about one's intensions, who cares?
posted by Space Coyote at 7:13 AM on July 10, 2003


Folks:

I don't know what zarah's actual status is with boyfriends and relationships. But The Kid is cool. Let's face it, most men are Assholes with a capital 'A'. If she wants to play the Grrl card back at 'em and assert her rights to the same freedoms men have, I say that's healthy. I think she just has her priorities straight. Some day maybe she'll meet a soulmate who doesn't demand too much of her and she'll go monogamous. Or not. It's her business.

Mainly, I think it just scares the guys here to see an aggressive, assertive woman. Chill out.
posted by Shane at 7:18 AM on July 10, 2003


I think it just scares the guys here to see an aggressive, assertive woman. Chill out.

Somehow I doubt that's true. My g/f is quite intelligent, outgoing, and aggressive. But she's also incredibly compassionate, caring, and doesn't mind having a balanced relationship with me. Any sort of fanatic, "I don't need the opposite sex; I need to focus on me" is usually sour grapes from being hurt or never being in a real relationship to begin with.

Whenever anyone starts swinging their ego around on a stick for everyone to see, I suspect very low self-esteem.
posted by BlueTrain at 7:34 AM on July 10, 2003


God forbid someone should want something other than the norm.
posted by Space Coyote at 7:54 AM on July 10, 2003


Actually, I must confess that people tend to become more stupid and less forceful when they get significant others. I know a lot of people who've turned into jelly because the lady wife is pulling them around by their dicks.
posted by wackybrit at 8:10 AM on July 10, 2003


Oh for christ's sake. zarah perfectly summarises the prevalent male attitude to women through most of history, but because she's a girl she's wrong to apply it in reverse?
posted by walrus at 8:18 AM on July 10, 2003


Whenever anyone starts swinging their ego around on a stick for everyone to see, I suspect very low self-esteem.

Heh heh, t r a c y is sooo gonna beat you up for that. I love aggressive women, but they hit really hard sometimes ;-)
posted by Shane at 8:26 AM on July 10, 2003


Also: I'd be interested to know how many offended male correspondents in this thread would go as far out of their way to correct a male speaker who had demonstrated a similarly misogynistic attitude in private conversation to the (arguably) misandrist one which zarah publically posted here? I suspect it's a minority.
posted by walrus at 8:37 AM on July 10, 2003


walrus - I'll stick up for myself - I call people on this kind of attitude regardless of their sex. Neither the X nor the Y chromosome gets a pass from me for being an offensive ass.

My point above was that the "prevalent male attitude to women through most of history" is becoming widely recognized as being pretty broken, but it really annoys me that misandry isn't regarded as being just as offensive.
posted by Irontom at 8:52 AM on July 10, 2003


Ok Irontom, I expect I wasn't talking about you.

Misandry annoys me slightly less than misogyny, because it's not so socially acceptable. I'm guessing you suffer from being a fairly non-chauvinistic male who's fed up being tarred with the same brush as "all the other men"? I'm tempted to feel sorry for you, but at least statistically speaking you have a good job and won't be expected to take on most of the housework at the same time.

I suppose I should take the time to point out that the above statement is not meant personally.
posted by walrus at 9:03 AM on July 10, 2003


would you regard me as a well-balanced, emotionally healthy man?

A valid question. I'm not crazy about the double-standard at work here either, IronTom. Over the years Metafilter has had a few sudden, memorable bouts of chauvinism expressed by certain male users that infuriated both male and female users who, justifiably, unleashed the SmackDown real quick (Hi, RebeccaBlood, et al!). And to be honest it was good to see a jerk called a jerk.

In this case the comment was made by a woman ("Boys are for screwing and ignoring"), but it makes it no more reprehensible, does it? When I read comments like that coming from either sex, I just don't infer enlightenment, independence or even general badassness. Just a bit of fear & naiveté.

Mainly, I think it just scares the guys here to see an aggressive, assertive woman. Chill out.

Don't be silly. You're tossing that cliché grenade at the wrong crowd. I wouldn't exactly characterize the male MeFi crowd as alpha-male misogynists who get threatened by women very easily. If anything, I think it's the opposite--people who defend misandry are the real ones that appear threatened and subsequently act politically oversensitive to compensate (Guys, lay off her, she's just subverting the dominant paradigm, you're just scared, etc).

zarah perfectly summarises the prevalent male attitude to women through most of history

How does that make it right? It doesn't historically reflect well on men, and there's no reason it would reflect well on women to objectify the opposite sex, either. Men have also been statisically more inclined to physically harm or kill people and get sent to prison throughout history, too--should women proudly pick up that mantle, in the interest of equal opportunity?
posted by dhoyt at 10:14 AM on July 10, 2003


Anyhow, regarding the article--I'm wondering if there is some subconscious seed planted in the academic/genius/scientist mind that instigates a kind of intellectual laziness at points in life when things on the physical plane have gotten more routine and predictable, life slows down, the subject is forced to take control of responsibilities like family and become less arch and playful. Perhaps beyond his control is something subconscious that wants him/her to experiment less and to use that energery instead to fill the spousal or parental role? Then again, it sounds like plenty geniuses out there have maintained creativity and productivity late in life, well after marriage and children.

I'm neither married or a genius (or responsible), so I wouldn't know, but it's an interesting topic.
posted by dhoyt at 10:15 AM on July 10, 2003


walrus - I figured it wasnt - if I came off sounding aggressive, I apologize. The whole thing is just an enormous hotbutton for me. I do try to be a non-chauvenistic male, and I do get tired of having my gender slammed.

I have a good job and so does my wife. I make more than she does, but I am the designated parent for sick kids, doctor's appointments, school outings and so forth. She and I split the work we do - it's never 50-50, but it balances out. She feeds the kids breakfast and drops them off, I pick them up and feed them dinner. She cooks, I clean dishes. She does the laundry, we put it away together. Whoever loses at rock-paper-scissors does the vacuuming. I do the lion's share of the mowing, raking, snow-shoveling, etc. but she does all the gardening. We run errands together on the weekends and generally try to keep each other sane.

Back to the main topic... I know that since my kids came along I've felt far less creative and energetic. Kids take a lot of time and energy (not to mention plain old cash). I don't get to spend hours and hours reading brain food anymore. I don't get the time to have long, uninterrupted conversations with friends. I don't have time for a full-time immersion in anything. And I feel dumb a lot (as compared to my younger, child-free self): less articulate and generally mentally slower than I ever have in my life. And I don't think it has anything to do with the cessation of peacock-style preening for potential mates.

[note: i've skipped all the stuff that I get in return for the things I can't do right now. you don't want to hear me ramble on about how great my kids are]
posted by Irontom at 10:49 AM on July 10, 2003


hey zars, that was fun, wasn't it...?
posted by t r a c y at 11:03 AM on July 10, 2003


Why yes, it was! Sometimes the boys here play really well. *makes mental note to add Space Coyote to our favourites list*
posted by zarah at 11:10 AM on July 10, 2003


From a completely different direction, perhaps American women seem more agressive, relative to American men, because 1) the cuture is changing, sure but also 2) there are a lot of persistent organic pollutants floating around in the environment which have estrogenic effects, but no "testosteronagenics" at all, as far as I know. So the males are becoming 'feminized' and losing some of their natural male agression even as the females are learning to exert their natural agression in new ways - especially through a stronger orientation towards jobs and careers orientation. Meanwhile, many of the men seem to be just sort of drifting.....

On the male side, physical violence and chest thumping are no longer the effective methods they once were (for some, that is) back in the days when we were eating roots and greens and hunting hippos in Africa. Now biologists, as a rule of thumb, look at sexual dimorphism, at least among primates, as indicative of the sexual balance of power and, in fact, humans are somewhat skewed towards the "greater equality" side of the scale. And humans have long been an extremely social species. But there have always been those unusually large males who could stomp around threatening violence to achieve group dominance - and size still does matter, at least for males. But the "stomp around and beat others up" strategy is not so effective anymore because of our legal system, because of guns, yes, but also simply because most people in industrial civilization do well by exercising brain rather than brawn. And, more to the point, social intelligence.

In terms of social inelligence and language ability, females have a developmental head start over makes, and I wonder if it's increasing....

zarah - for the record, my wife is pretty agressive and, furthermore, I can't really prove that she doesn't objectify men - she doesn't tell me if she does but, as Don Rumsfeld said, "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." For that matter, I can't prove that she doesn't objectify me, at least sometimes. I don't really worry much about it.

On the whole, I think the world would/will be a better place when women, American and otherwise, have more direct influence. and power - as long as they behave differently from the males, that is. Otherwise, we'll just go along our merry way, as usual.
posted by troutfishing at 11:45 AM on July 10, 2003


hey zars, that was fun, wasn't it...?

Now, next time, are you guys gonna let the grrls yank your chain again? ;-)
posted by Shane at 1:22 PM on July 10, 2003


Well, Tracy and I weren't really totally yanking anyone's chain. Boys really are last on the list at our house; an added extra once you've taken care of other things first. Being preoccupied with boys and being sucked into the glamorization of love and relationships wastes a lot of valuable time that most girls should be spending developing their skills and finding out what they want out of life, etc.

For the record no one at our house is bitter, with a low self esteem, swinging their ego around. Haha, those comments were frelling hilarious! :D Tracy's never had a relationship that lasted less than 8 years (10 yrs with the current objectified house-male. hehe! Hi Zoran, i know you read this site!) and I'm doing pretty good for a kid. We just don't let them get in the way of the paths we've chosen and the goals we've set, the way too many other women do.

Trout, I hope your wife objectifies you at least once in a while! There's nothing wrong with being ogled by your s/o now and again ;)
posted by zarah at 2:05 PM on July 10, 2003


Boys really are...an added extra once you've taken care of other things first.

men = the icing on a cake that's been carefully made of the highest quality ingredients available; so exquisitely made that it doesn't really need any icing at all, but it's nice that way too.

so girls, don't... uhm... leave your cake out in the rain.
posted by t r a c y at 2:23 PM on July 10, 2003


"Trout, I hope your wife objectifies you at least once in a while! There's nothing wrong with being ogled by your s/o now and again ;)" - I should hope so......oh no! must. retain ideological focus. must. maintain argument consistency, must....
posted by troutfishing at 11:36 PM on July 10, 2003


How does that make it right?

It doesn't. But it certainly doesn't make it very noteworthy either.
posted by walrus at 6:39 AM on July 11, 2003


Nah.. Tracy already nailed it, she was raised by a single father. Shes going to have male behavior patterns. Just so happens our society rewards role reversal as being progressive and politically correct right now so it's a source of power.
posted by stbalbach at 7:26 AM on July 11, 2003


Why all the psychoanalyzing? How does the term "male behaviour pattern" even make any sense here? She's a woman, therefore her behaviour patterns are female. If you mean "behaviour patterns typically associated in pop-culture with men", well, that's fine, but it does not follow that there is anything strange or unhealthy about a woman who uses them. Sure, if you average out all the men and all the women in the human race, you'll see something that looks like "men are from mars and women are from venus". But this is real life, and things are far more fuzzy. On average, men have stronger arms than women: but for any specific man, it is practically certain that there are women in the world who have stronger arms. Same with behaviour: anything you can simplify down to "men are like this and women are like that", well, there's a man who isn't and a woman who doesn't, and there's nothing wrong with that.
posted by Mars Saxman at 7:43 AM on July 11, 2003


p.s.: by the phrase "men are from mars, women are from venus" I meant simply the idea that men have one specific nature and women have another, different nature; I did not mean to suggest that anything about the book of that name has any connection to reality, or to imply that its author has a clue.
posted by Mars Saxman at 7:46 AM on July 11, 2003


Well, Tracy and I weren't really totally yanking anyone's chain.

I wasn't saying that you didn't mean what you said. I only meant that you intended to provoke a specific reaction and make a specific point. Which you did well. Maybe you should consider writing. Chain-yanking can be an art... ;-)

posted by Shane at 9:02 AM on July 11, 2003


Tracy and her offspring have a bad attitude. Nice guys dig that and they seem to have a following (suprise) on MeFi.
posted by stbalbach at 9:02 AM on July 11, 2003


They just need a good hard shag, that'll straighten `em out.
posted by dong_resin at 12:16 PM on July 11, 2003


bwah! dongster, you're just angry about that cold veterinarian thermometer we shoved up your butt last night.
posted by t r a c y at 12:38 PM on July 11, 2003


Angry... pining... toh-may-to, toh-mah-to.
posted by dong_resin at 12:47 PM on July 11, 2003


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