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maybe a pleasant demeanor isn't one of the many benefits of marriage
January 29, 2004 2:46 PM   Subscribe

Single life is fine till about 30, then normal people marry. Neil Steinberg fires a trollish, yet illuminating salvo across the marriage gap.
posted by 4easypayments (77 comments total)

 
An interesting column, not that I buy all that much of it but an interesting column nonetheless.

I'm a newly married 30something and its worked for me, I'm a happier and much more content person because of it. But that isn't to say that I wasn't happy being single. Its a different happiness.

People should get married if that's what they want to do. But feeling compelled to get married is a bad idea, it results in poorly matched people who get divorced and end up bitter and resentful.
posted by fenriq at 2:56 PM on January 29, 2004


So, getting married works for him. Other than that he doesn't make many compelling arguments.

More importantly, his arguments don't address that segment of the population that were married or in a long-term livein (in many ways the same) and have decided that that wasn't for them.
posted by vacapinta at 3:07 PM on January 29, 2004


I loved the google textads telling you where to buy lobster and shrimp at the bottom. Made me imagine a Homer Simpson response to the article.
posted by Flat Feet Pete at 3:08 PM on January 29, 2004


Steinberg mentions that we singles won't know what married life is like until we try it. We are cowards for not trying it.

Well..

Some of us are single because we aren't allowed to marry the people we'd like to because of, you know, the law. Some of us aren't single but didn't bother to get married because being in a long term relationship was good enough. Some of us are single because our marriage didn't work out or because our spouses died. Some of us our single because we want to marry somebody who is the same religion as we.

Heck, there are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of reasons why a person may have remained single. I don't begrudge any of my married person for making that choice, but, dude, "single people are cowards?" We don't shoulder the burden of civilization like married people? Give me a break.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:09 PM on January 29, 2004 [1 favorite]


Having been married for all of going-on-three-months-now, and with no close friends who are anywhere near taking the plunge yet (I'm 24), I'm gonna have to say that I like this article and its unapologetic marriage chauvinism just dandy. Marriage rocks. I don't think Steinberg is saying that single people suck or that people who can't get married or who haven't met the right person yet suck. But he is saying that not moving on, not wanting to ever take that plunge is limiting and ultimately damaging.

Invoking references to the musical "Company". by Stephen Sondheim would be very, very apropos here: it's all about a thirty-something guy named Robert (like Roeper, mentioned in the article) who won't commit. And, being Sondheim, it's about as acerbic and unsappy as you can get. Reprise is doing it at UCLA this May and I have two tickets. I can't wait.
posted by Asparagirl at 3:15 PM on January 29, 2004


Speaking of 'abnormal', how long does it take the average person to develop the vague notion that possibly not everything is for everyone?
posted by mathis23 at 3:22 PM on January 29, 2004


I have to quote a friend here: "Marriage is great. It's nice to bind yourself to someone for the rest of your life; it gives you a foundation, something you can count on. I hope to do it again."
posted by brool at 3:22 PM on January 29, 2004


It's not like marriage is "normal" in any sense except a social one. Marriage isn't a biological institution, it's something that came about to make the somewhat uncivilized partnership between penis and vagina easier to handle. IANAB, but I don't think marriage is really a very natural relationship to impose on people.

Anecdotally, Steinberg's thesis that "marriage is just better" doesn't really hold water, due to the oft-cited 50% divorce rate. If marriage was really a demonstrably more enjoyable situation, people should cling to it like barnacles.

And indeed, for most of recorded history, marriages were permanent affairs, right? It's only recently that ties have been loosened and the phenomenon of divorce has become so wide-spread. So is marriage becoming less enjoyable, or what? No, it's just that the only thing that made marriage so important in the past was a strict observance of the marriage norm.

I'd say that over all, most couples shouldn't be married, and that only now, when there's less social pressure to be married in order to have sex and live together, are we seeing people act in a more normal, "better" way -- a series of long-term but finite monogamous relationships.
posted by Hildago at 3:24 PM on January 29, 2004


i'm amazed that so many otherwise intelligent people need to be reminded that life is not all black and white, that there are many shades of grey. many people who do not marry still live wonderful fulfilling lives, and often contribute much more to civilization than the married-with-kids folks do. many married people regret their lives and even sometimes their children. our needs as individuals are far too varied for anyone to say what's normal and what will make anyone but themselves happy.

this guy is so vehement in his views and attitudes towards single folk, that he's coming off as a bit frightened. i wonder what really scares him about his single friends, because i don't buy it for one second that he's concerned for their well being.
posted by t r a c y at 3:39 PM on January 29, 2004


I can't believe he doesn't take into account those of us who tried
it and found it was not for them, the real researchers who DO know
both sides.

Tried it (possibly too young) and may not do it again, but even if
I do, I think he is kind of a dick for saying everyone should.

and he never tells us whether his friend eventually died of shellfish poisoning.

what a dick.
posted by milovoo at 3:40 PM on January 29, 2004


fenriq & asparagirl: Newlyweds Report Happiness with Marriage -- sounds like an onion article. I say love who you want and leave the law out of it. Marriage is a waning institution. Die, marriage, die. And I say that as a man in a 7-year committed monogamous relationship which I intend to stay in.
posted by squirrel at 3:44 PM on January 29, 2004


30 is the new 20.
posted by dhoyt at 3:47 PM on January 29, 2004


I am approaching 30 and, unless something dramatic happens, probably won't be married. so yeah he's right.
posted by carfilhiot at 3:53 PM on January 29, 2004


When I was growing up, a lot of people still had the belief, leftover from the 50s, that there was a "right way" to live your life, and that one way should work for everyone. The idea was that we should all aspire to be normal. I'm old enough to remember the popularization of the word "lifestyle", which implied the novel concept that different people might want to make different choices in how they lived their lives.

Today, people seem to accept that there are lots of different possibilities in life, and everyone has to find their own preferences. Except, that is, when it comes to two particular choices: marriage and having kids. It's still standard practice to say things like "how can you know if you haven't tried", "you're just bitter", or "you'll grow out of it" to people who make different choices about marriage and kids. Even gays are getting on the bandwagon. Why do people think that marriage and kids are the two things that everyone, without exception, must do with their lives to avoid being a failure?
posted by fuzz at 3:53 PM on January 29, 2004


30 is the new 20.

wooHOOOO!
posted by squirrel at 3:57 PM on January 29, 2004


single people just can't get their arms around this -- you are not the best person there ever was

then

Married people are better.

Way to crush your own point and reveal yourself as a flaming self concerned hypocrite, bwah!

He admits to being a monster who needed a controlling woman to come along and set him straight and apparently he thinks we're all like that. Well we're not. I can't tell you how much I am frustrated by people who think the whole world is just like them. Nitwit. And probably just jealous because he hasn't figured out a way of having both the flat screen tv plus the healthy 401(k).
posted by zarah at 3:58 PM on January 29, 2004


I think Hopkins made a better case more succinctly...
posted by weston at 4:05 PM on January 29, 2004


"If marriage was really a demonstrably more enjoyable situation, people should cling to it like barnacles."

And indeed, they do, although not always to the same partner. If marriage was so terrible, there wouldn't be so many second and third ones, would there?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:07 PM on January 29, 2004


Would be interested in seeing Roeper's article as some sort of equally self important counterpoint.
posted by xmutex at 4:10 PM on January 29, 2004


I reply to myself! Roeper's original article singing the joys of single life.
posted by xmutex at 4:12 PM on January 29, 2004


Ahhh the refreshing smell of cheap derailment salade !

Try Shrimp don't be afraid = Try Marriage, don't be afraid
(not telling that you can divorce from your lobster eating habits without paying a lawyer and alimony)

As salad dressing "Mom was allergic" ..suggesting singles are mommy boys and girls. Reinforce the tought with the following suggestion :

being single is good = being in kindergarten is good = singles are kiddies

Add some lemon here "when all the normal people get married", suggesting that if you don't that you're not normal.

Add sugarcoating here with "we are trying to help our single friends salvage what's left of their lives". Yeah sure, try saving your "marriage" to begin with.

As cherry (yeah on shrimp salad, why not ?) the biggest derailment of them all ! Single = Not Married. Mhhhh ..more likely Single = Not in a couple, Not Single = In a Couple, while Not Married = Divorced.

And btw I don't need to sign any friggin contract and make any lawyer happy to really really love somebody.
posted by elpapacito at 4:15 PM on January 29, 2004


Try Marriage VS Try Shrimp.

Shrimp in a healthy person is a 24 hour committment. If you think you'll react poorly, you can:

Scratch your skin. Rub a cooked shrimp and see if you have a reaction beyond an infection.
Try a small bit of shrimp.
Try a bigger bit of shrimp.
Eat a big plateful. (watch out for iodine poisoning)
OR go get an alergy test to see if you react poorly to shrimp.

If you react badly to marriage you get a many month process to be rid of the marriage.
posted by rough ashlar at 6:54 PM on January 29, 2004


Left to their own devices, people do not change, they only become more so, concentrating themselves as the years go by.

This really isn't true. I'm 30 and I've changed a huge amount over the past ten years, and I know that I'm continuing to grow. Several of my married friends have told me so. I don't think being in a relationship or not has anything to do with whether you grow and learn - it's more of an attitudinal. Some of the most stagnant people I know are married. The time and the space that single people have can be put to really good use.

I'm always leery of those who trumpet the joys of either marriage or singlehood. In general, people who are really secure and happy in their choices don't need to preach. But he's right about the whole "people shouldn't talk if they haven't been there" concept. I do get irritated when friends who haven't been single in years tell me how great singleness is.

I'm single and not happy about it. But I see it as a hierarchy of satisfaction. Being single is steps below being in a good relationship, but is steps above being in a bad relationship. I may never be able to move up, but I am determined I will never move down. I'm also determined not to waste the many gifts I have by spending all my time mourning that I don't have one in particular.

I don't envy any of my married friends although I'm happy for the happy ones, and I don't assume that my single friends aspire to be in a relationship as I do. In the end one person's life choices really do nothing to validate or invalidate another's.
posted by orange swan at 7:01 PM on January 29, 2004


What a presumptuous asshole - and I say that as a happily married man.
posted by adamgreenfield at 7:28 PM on January 29, 2004


"I'm bloody ibiza!"
posted by shoepal at 7:30 PM on January 29, 2004


I've been in a loving and monogomous relationship with one person for almost 26 years: 13 years unmarried, 13 years married. We were quite happy in our premarried state, and like many of our contemporaries, thought that marriage was old-fashioned and completely unneccesary.

I can therefore relate and empathize with both sides of this issue.

What were the major reasons for our decision to change our legal status?

1. To have the mother of all parties! Unless your parents are going to cough up some big bucks, it's best to wait until you have some of your own. Also, your friends can actually afford a decent present. Well, some of 'em.

2. The honeymoon. I always wanted to have a honeymoon.

3. You can say "my wife" or "my husband" instead of always fumbling to find the correct term for the situation - lover? partner? friend? main squeeze? love sponge?

4. Kids. Seems a bit awkward to explain to your kid why mommy and daddy aren't really married.

5. To make a public declaration of our love and, what the hell, make it official. Can't build a house without a permit.

Besides, after 13 years, depending on your state or country, you're pretty much married in the eyes of the law, with or without the piece of paper.
posted by groundhog at 7:30 PM on January 29, 2004


To expand: I hate going to "family friendly" places, dealing with self-absorbed parents and their spoiled children, and generally anything G-rated and loud. If people can spare me having to deal with this aggravation by remaining single and not breeding, more power to 'em.
posted by adamgreenfield at 7:32 PM on January 29, 2004


while the single people buy cats and tell themselves they haven't missed anything

Dammit, this was MY LIFE'S PLAN!! Now what do I do?
posted by jennanemone at 7:46 PM on January 29, 2004


Personally, I get the feeling that, 30 or no, marriage will elude me until the right reality show comes around.
posted by cratchit at 8:24 PM on January 29, 2004


"You are not the best person there ever was."

It was all blah blah blah Ginger to me after that one.
posted by dong_resin at 9:25 PM on January 29, 2004


"There is no Miss Perfect"

Bet the `ole ball and chain enjoyed reading that caption, eh?
posted by dong_resin at 9:32 PM on January 29, 2004


I could write an article about how absurd and dated marriage is and that "normal" people would divorce by the time they're thirty, learn their lesson, and never do it again.

I think the world can survive without. It certanly would have been better off if Neil Steinberg's prattling had been trimmed down to "single people suck."
posted by ZachsMind at 9:42 PM on January 29, 2004


"It's not nice to sit and torture ourselves night after night
We can always shoot each other if things don't work out right
So we'll just settle for each other
Don't try to analyze
The way you feel about me baby
The fear is in your eyes
I know it's a frightening notion to put your heart on loan
But trust me
Settling for each other beats settling alone"

posted by ZachsMind at 9:58 PM on January 29, 2004


In the words of Mae West, "Marriage is a great institution, but I'm not ready for an institution yet."

Actually when I was younger I always thought I'd be married by the time I was 30. Now I am 30 and I'm still nowhere near ready. Maybe by 35. Although by that time I'll probably be thinking 40 is the perfect age to get married. ; )
posted by SisterHavana at 10:03 PM on January 29, 2004


my thoughts on why Bush&Co want everybody to get married asap, especially white people >>>

1. as statistics show more and more people are not getting married just like in Europe (where it's already a crisis) which also means more and more people are staying single without having kids, no kids (not enough white kids as republicans see it) are a doom (too many elderly sucking the system, not enough productive people) for a society, no question about that.....

2. as in Atlantic Monthly article, the percentage of single moms of color having kids is very high, more than 60 %, which creates very poor, uneducated environments for little kids, statistics show these little kids grow up turning into gangsters and prostitutes which just increases our overcrowded prisons and puts a huge burden on tax payers...

3. marriage creates families, loving families create supporting environment which means elderly people have their children to rely on (not those nasty senior homes) when they turn old and start pissing into their beds... again, less tax burden for the government, more money for military right....


Peace out
posted by bureaustyle at 10:09 PM on January 29, 2004


Call me a child, because I enjoy my single life, i'm 33 and I have no idea when or if I'm going to get married. I have to ask, why should I get married if I know I still want to be with more then one woman, and that I can be with more then one woman. I am surrounded by five colleges and I have plenty of women to date, why in god's name would I get married?
posted by jbou at 10:31 PM on January 29, 2004


I have to say that I really love this thread. 10 of the last 12 posts have totally rocked. The US is descending into conformism, and it's great to hear independent thinkers expressing themselves so eloquently. I wonder if this was 4easypayments' plan all along. I wish I had his bewitching power to summon the smartness of others.
posted by squirrel at 10:48 PM on January 29, 2004


I'm 35. I'd get married if I found the right woman, and I almost did once, but my standards are really, really high: I have to enjoy her company more than I enjoy being alone. That's pretty tough to come by, not because I'm so great but simply because being around most people is draining.
posted by kindall at 12:25 AM on January 30, 2004


marriage creates families, loving families create supporting environment which means elderly people have their children to rely on (not those nasty senior homes) when they turn old and start pissing into their beds...

You indicate a difference here between "families" and "loving families" which is inarguable. There's a reason why divorce laws were liberalized, and that's because there were many, many unhappy and trapped people who could see no way out of their situation... I was married for seven years and I've since been single for seven years, more or less, but my primary reason for staying single over the last half-decade or so has been that I don't want to introduce any more disruption into my son's life, and felt that unless I met someone who I believed was ready to marry both me and my child, so to speak, I didn't feel it was worth it.

And then there's the continual problem of women's workload: guess who's going to be at home taking care of those elderly, incontinent parents?
posted by jokeefe at 1:16 AM on January 30, 2004


marriage doesn't have to equal children
posted by centrs at 2:26 AM on January 30, 2004


Whoopty dooody.

Perhaps *some* of us have hobbies and interests that simply prevent the possibility of being married.

If you disbelieve me, find me a wife willing to accomodate the following:

- Random working hours (up to 36 hour days when I'm feeling up)
- Someone who HATES to wake up in the morning and takes an hour to get to sleep (at 6 am. Again. As usual.)
- 15, 10 foot satellite dishes littered around the backyard
- Enough computing equipment to fill a datacenter
- Being COMPLETELY ignored when I am engrossed in my work
- Not minding equipment littering the house
- Letting me set up a photolab in the kitchen and bathroom
- Someone who can't clean or cook worth a damn. And would hire a maid in a heartbeat if he won a million.
- Odd and strong political stances
- A preference to do random things without notice. Like the fact that, right now (6:20 am), if the IMAX theatre were open 2 hours away, I'd be driving there. Oh yeah.
- Not caring about income at all as long as I'm eating and have enough to pay for all the crazy equipment.
- Someone whose idea of a vacation is doing more work, but in a new and exciting place
- Living with a Mama's Boy
- Etc, etc, etc

Some of us simply aren't matchable. Or so I think. Perhaps someone will prove me wrong. I doubt it.

And yes, I'd rather give up sex than give up the hobbies. So there, Neil Steinberg. Are you to coward too admit you're tired of the work involved in living it up and need to settle down your life?
posted by shepd at 3:28 AM on January 30, 2004


It's worth noting that recent studies have suggested that marriage works best for the psychological health of females, whereas men are generally worse off in marriage, psychologically, than in long-term "common-law" relationships.
posted by Blue Stone at 3:57 AM on January 30, 2004


I just have to say that I love married life. It's great to have a stable foundation to build upon.

It's not just me though... all my girlfriends love married life too!
posted by insomnia_lj at 4:16 AM on January 30, 2004


Does that mean 36 is the new 26? Dude, I'm getting the band back together!
posted by psmealey at 4:51 AM on January 30, 2004


Why does Steinberg (and others like him) care?

Yes, there are many advantages and many disadvantages to marriage, and it's possible that a case can be made that marriage is better for the vast majority of people. It doesn't bother me that people believe that.

It doesn't bother me that Steinberg (and others like him) believe that marriage is better than single life.

What does bother me is that Steinberg (and others like him) care whether I am married or single. What difference does it make to you? To quote Billy Joel, "Go ahead with your own life, leave me alone."
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 5:34 AM on January 30, 2004


The fact that Steinberg equates growing up with getting married suggests that he really doesn't know what it means to grow up! No matter what age you are, getting married might or might not be the right thing to do.
To me, Steinberg epitomises the type of person who believes that life is:
  1. growth up to the age of 30
  2. steady state from 30-50
  3. steady decline from 50 onwards
So, once you're 30, you have to fit into the 'steady state' picture (marriage, steady job, pension plan, ...). Well, maybe that's normal, but if so I'm quite happy not being normal (again).

Having recently hit 40 (not married yet) I continue to do new things (jobs, sports, relationships), while maintaining all of the 'right' things that I've picked up along the way (monogamy, pension plan, religion, ...). In particular, I try and keep my skepticism about anything being intrinsically right as high as possible (it's just that certain things seem right from my perspective)
posted by daveg at 5:59 AM on January 30, 2004


Perhaps *some* of us have hobbies and interests that simply prevent the possibility of being married.

Yes, he would marry someone, but then he'd be cheating the boys out of their Friday night dungeon master.

My ears are ringing with the sound of women weeping.
posted by jonmc at 7:06 AM on January 30, 2004


If Steinberg patted himself on the back any harder, he'd break his arm.
posted by ariana at 7:52 AM on January 30, 2004


Sounds like he's really just trying to convince himself.
posted by jennaratrix at 8:26 AM on January 30, 2004


Most people aren't normal.
posted by attackthetaxi at 8:30 AM on January 30, 2004


Marriage is great for the fat or the uninspired.
posted by the fire you left me at 8:32 AM on January 30, 2004


Eh. I liked Steinberg's article, but then I'm 36 (the new 26? I'm so there, dude) and married for 11 years.

And I know a lot of single folks, including my brother, age 34. And I have to say that my perception is that for a lot of folks, one of two things - or maybe both - is at the heart of their singlehood: Selfishness or fear.

Selfishness in that, well, to share my life with someone else means that, among other things, they get a say in how the house is decorated, what's on TV, what we eat, where we go. And I don't want anyone else to have a say in these things. To quote Meg Ryan's (single) character in "When Harry Met Sally," I like things the way I like them. Which is fine, but let's at least recognize the sentiment for what it is.

Fear because being in a committed relationship - getting married instead of merely living together for umpteen years - requires letting go. A leap of faith, so to speak. I've always wondered about those who choose to live together, have kids with a loved one for decades and say, "We don't need to get married." Well, no: No one needs to, really. But what, specifically, is wrong with it? And after you get past the rant about how no one should belong to anyone else, I always perceive a little bit of fear, I always perceive people wanting to leave themselves an out, just in case.

I mean, I thought Steinberg's line about wanting to stay in kindergarten was brilliant: When you're single, you really don't have to be quite as responsible, or at least you don't really have to take responsibility for someone else in the way you do when you get married and have kids.

Were something to happen and I wound up single again, I'd likely spent an inordinate amount of time in bars, the house might go to pot - if in fact I didn't sell it and move into an apartment because it's less hassle - I'd watch a lot more TV, spend a lot more time surfing the Web, get less sleep, probably pick up and leave this podunk town for good, all of those things. It would be great. I'd last a month, then be begging my wife to take me back and civilize me once again.
posted by kgasmart at 10:12 AM on January 30, 2004


Because you are afraid of being alone?
posted by cardboard at 10:23 AM on January 30, 2004


he lost me much earlier, dong_resin: Single people keep the cosmetic surgery industry alive and that's about it.

well fuck you too. i ain't gettin no plastic surgery. i'm bald for god's sake. wouldn't i have done it already?

and right, single people have never accomplished anything. yeah. 1 2 3 4 5 ...

i've been living with my girlfriend for a year, been together for 3+. i have no plans to get married, though she feels the pressure from friends and family (i just tell them to mind their own fucking business).

it's a social convention for maintaining wealth. and it's a mistake.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:40 AM on January 30, 2004


Because you are afraid of being alone?

Because fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life.
posted by kgasmart at 10:53 AM on January 30, 2004


All of you who are talking about how unneccessary marriage is, how its a social construct, etc, does it matter to no one that pair bonding (ie, choosing a mate for life, ie marriage) seems to be deeply ingrained in human psyche? That most major civilizations have had a marriage like institution? How many great works of classic literature, revered through the ages, have had a great love story--either a marriage or the quest for a marriage--at their center rather than a discussion of the joys of singlehood.?

Kgasmart--great post.

Asparagirl--congrats!
posted by pjgulliver at 10:55 AM on January 30, 2004


Because fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life.

good job resorting to base, unfounded stereotypes when rational arguments don't work. i am 5' 10'', 162 lbs, i don't drink much (don't even smoke the weed no more), and i have a degree from stanford.

you're not making the marriage crowd look very smart.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:10 AM on January 30, 2004


Steinberg's column reminds me of the pre-Super Bowl columns that sportwriters write about how the opposing city sucks. I'll bet if you picked up the Charlotte Observer or the Boston papers this past week, you saw examples of that. In Charlotte they probably said Bostonians don't know how t make barbecue, and they talk funny. Both of which are true. In Charlotte they probably said North Carolinians are rednecks who favor NASCAR over football.

People with senses of humor take these columns for what they are -- good-natured ribbing.

If you get angry at Steinberg for that column, he hit a nerve. Ask yourself why.
posted by Holden at 11:11 AM on January 30, 2004


When you're single, you really don't have to be quite as responsible, or at least you don't really have to take responsibility for someone else in the way you do when you get married and have kids.

You lost me with the whole "and have kids" thing tacked on at the end there. Why on earth does getting married equal having kids? Plenty of people have kids without getting married. Plenty of people get married without having kids. Why do you link them?

And what's so great about responsibility, anyway? I'm willing to take on responsibility when it is part of the path toward some goal, but responsibility as a thing in itself is just pointless drudgery. If that's what "normal people" do, then I'm happy to remain abnormal, thanks. (The entire idea of selling something on the claim that "normal people do it" is suspect, anyway: "normal people" often don't seem to live particularly happy, fulfilling lives...)

All of you who are talking about how unneccessary marriage is, how its a social construct, etc, does it matter to no one that pair bonding (ie, choosing a mate for life, ie marriage) seems to be deeply ingrained in human psyche?

If it's so deeply ingrained into the human psyche, then people will continue to do it, and there's no need to write polemics supporting it. If people stop doing it, well - it can't have been *that* deeply ingrained, can it?

Holden: I'm not mad at Steinberg, but I do think the column was too dumb to be funny.
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:14 AM on January 30, 2004


does it matter to no one that pair bonding (ie, choosing a mate for life, ie marriage) seems to be deeply ingrained in human psyche?

It seems to matter to a whole hell of a lot of people, actually. This thread is more about the ones that it doesn't matter to.

Selfishness in that, well, to share my life with someone else means that, among other things, they get a say in how the house is decorated, what's on TV, what we eat, where we go. And I don't want anyone else to have a say in these things. ... Which is fine, but let's at least recognize the sentiment for what it is.

So, basically you're saying that marriage runs against our natural self-interest. That's a very compelling argument for it. Everyone is selfish. People don't get married because they want to become less selfish; they get married because they selfishly think they'd be happier that way. So what you call selfishness is not inherently a bad thing -- only when it prevents you from fulfilling your obligations to others. And when you assiduously avoid having such obligations to begin with, well, there you go. No harm, no foul.

When you're single, you really don't have to be quite as responsible, or at least you don't really have to take responsibility for someone else in the way you do when you get married and have kids.

Steinberg's talking about marriage, not having kids, so I'll keep my remarks in that context. Frankly, I shudder at the idea that I'll marry a person who can't take care of themselves and who needs to rely on me for everything. Talk about being "in kindergarten!" Another very compelling argument.

Responsibility is only a virtue when you have something to be responsible for. Giving yourself something to be responsible for just so you can demonstrate more responsibility, as if you get more points or something, is completely bass-ackwards.

But what, specifically, is wrong with it?

Why, nothing! This is clearly the most compelling argument of all. After all, if there's no reason not to do something, you should do it immediately.

If you get angry at Steinberg for that column, he hit a nerve. Ask yourself why.

Because he's an idiot?
posted by kindall at 11:30 AM on January 30, 2004


"Because fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life.

good job resorting to base, unfounded stereotypes when rational arguments don't work. i am 5' 10'', 162 lbs, i don't drink much (don't even smoke the weed no more), and i have a degree from stanford.

you're not making the marriage crowd look very smart."


And you look like an ass for being male and not recognizing a quote from Animal House. Christ, what is the younger generation coming to?!
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:34 AM on January 30, 2004


And what's so great about responsibility, anyway? I'm willing to take on responsibility when it is part of the path toward some goal, but responsibility as a thing in itself is just pointless drudgery.

But see, you just validated my point.

You don't want to take on any responsibility you don't have to. Though your community itself may benefit from your assumption of responsibility, you don't feel like doing it. Fine for you. Maybe not so fine for your community.

To echo pjgulliver, I tend to think that there is a reason that the institution of marriage and families has endured over the millennia, and that while religion obviously is a part of this, there were more practical concerns: That marriage and families are the building blocks of a stable society. That children have traditionally fared better in homes where there is a mother and a father. That people who are committed to one another are necessarily more committed to their neighborhoods and communities. And that those communities, then, progress and benefit from this commitment.

We seem to be taking this collective approach that, Oh, well, marriage and traditional family structure might have been needed then, but certainly it's unnecessary now. I think we ignore thousands of years of history at our own peril, frankly.

And mrgrimm, I was being facetious, but let me spell it out a little more specifically:

My wife cooks. She is a wonderful cook, but she is mindful of fat (and these days, carbs). We eat meat twice, maybe three times a week. Without a doubt, I am not as conscientous when it comes to issues such as cholesterol. Therefore, I am better off, physically, because I am married to her.

A certain fondness for booze, shall we say, has run in the family. I did my share of indulging, but a number of years ago, after one "incident," my wife said to me, in effect, that if you ever do that again, I'm gone. I embarassed her, and it took her presence to make me realize the egregiousness of my behavior. And I have indeed toned it down since then. Therefore I am better off, in that respect, because I am married to her.

We own a home; my wife does a considerable amount of gardening and landscaping; I'm out there mowing the lawn every five days or so. I am conscientous about my property. Were I unmarried, I might not own a home, and even if I did I might not be quite so motivated to keep it looking as nice as it does. There would be those days when I'd give in to the temptation to just lie in bed, screw the yard, because there would not be that other person saying, I know you don't want to do it, but you'd better do it. I don't know that I personally am better off for this - but my neighborhood most likely is.

That's what I'm talking about.
posted by kgasmart at 11:41 AM on January 30, 2004


See also:

I won't share you, no
I won't share you
With the drive
And ambition
The zeal I feel
This is my time
posted by the fire you left me at 12:01 PM on January 30, 2004


And you look like an ass for being male and not recognizing a quote from Animal House. Christ, what is the younger generation coming to?!

hopefully a generation that realizes that Animal House is one of the most overrated movies ever. ;p

kgasmart, i just guess we're two different people. owning a home, watering my lawn, and cutting down on carbs aren't anywhere near my goals in life. i'm not trying to be offensive, i'm just trying to explain where i'm coming from.

here's a interesting, sourced (with a same-sex slant) history of marriage traditions.

also relevant is the Affirmation of Family Diversity. now that's what i'm talking about. apologies if this shows up twice ... MeFi is barfing on me a little ... no projectile, just a little spit-up
posted by mrgrimm at 12:40 PM on January 30, 2004


hopefully a generation that realizes that Animal House is one of the most overrated movies ever. ;p

Now you've ticked me off...
posted by kgasmart at 12:54 PM on January 30, 2004


Anecdotally, Steinberg's thesis that "marriage is just better" doesn't really hold water, due to the oft-cited 50% [and probably totally made up] divorce rate.

I hate that 50% figure, It's like the 10% of people are gay stat. Everyone seems to know it but no one knows where the number came from. Anyone know of any studies backing the 50% figure? I wonder how many of those divorces are the peoples 2nd, 3rd or 4th time around? IE: what is the percentage of first time marriages that end in death.

My thought is the figure was generated by taking divorces in a year and dividing by marriages in the same year. If the calculation was done in the years after divorce laws were liberated one would expect a big jump in the numerator.

Both the multiple divorces and the pent up demand factor could mean the 50% figure means little to a person who is getting married now for the first time.
posted by Mitheral at 12:58 PM on January 30, 2004


Though your community itself may benefit from your assumption of responsibility, you don't feel like doing it. Fine for you. Maybe not so fine for your community.

I don't see how my community benefits if my long-term partner and I get married.

...marriage and families are the building blocks of a stable society... children have traditionally fared better in homes where there is a mother and a father.

I agree that families are the building blocks of stable societies, and healthy child rearing, but you and I would likely disagree on what constitutes a family. I see extended families as far more beneficial to community and children than the "traditional" nuclear model of discrete and isolated heterosexual pods. This isn't to say that many married folks aren't part of extended community families, but I don't see how you can say that single people or non-married couples can't contribute just as much.

Community is extremely important to social wellness of a society. I don't see a way to restrict the contributions to and benefits of community to the married.

My wife cooks. She is a wonderful cook... Therefore, I am better off, physically, because I am married to her.

So, that ring improves her cooking how again? My partner cooks, too. The name of your logical flaw here is "correlation =/= causation."

Were I unmarried, I might not own a home, and even if I did I might not be quite so motivated to keep it looking as nice as it does.

What you are listing are personal shortcomings individual to you. If I were to marry my partner, I might gain 20 pounds. Does this mean that marriage causes weight gain? For anyone other than myself? Think about it. Do you really mean to suggest that single people and unmarried couples are blocked or structurally restricted from maintaining their yards? That's silly, kgasmart.
posted by squirrel at 1:11 PM on January 30, 2004


Though your community itself may benefit from your assumption of responsibility, you don't feel like doing it. Fine for you. Maybe not so fine for your community.

I don't see how my community benefits if my long-term partner and I get married.

...marriage and families are the building blocks of a stable society... children have traditionally fared better in homes where there is a mother and a father.

I agree that families are the building blocks of stable societies, and healthy child rearing, but you and I would likely disagree on what constitutes a family. I see extended families as far more beneficial to community and children than the "traditional" nuclear model of discrete and isolated heterosexual pods. This isn't to say that many married folks aren't part of extended community families, but I don't see how you can say that single people or non-married couples can't contribute just as much.

Community is extremely important to the social wellness of a society. I don't see a way to restrict the contributions to and benefits of community to the married.

My wife cooks. She is a wonderful cook... Therefore, I am better off, physically, because I am married to her.

So, that ring improves her cooking how again? My partner cooks, too. The name of your logical flaw here is "correlation =/= causation."

Were I unmarried, I might not own a home, and even if I did I might not be quite so motivated to keep it looking as nice as it does.

What you are listing are personal shortcomings individual to you. If I were to marry my partner, I might gain 20 pounds. Does this mean that marriage causes weight gain? For anyone other than myself? Think about it. Do you really mean to suggest that single people and unmarried couples are blocked or structurally restricted from maintaining their yards? That's silly, kgasmart.
posted by squirrel at 1:12 PM on January 30, 2004


Doh! (Also: toGA toGA TOGA)
posted by squirrel at 1:14 PM on January 30, 2004


Kgasmart, I think Steinberg would have gotten a much pleasanter reception had he been as articulate and as fair as you are in your posts.

What he actually wrote, though, was not "Marriage makes you a better person," but "Married people are better." Not a subtle difference, that. He goes further than to say that people are improved by the demands of a spouse -- he makes blanket statements about people who prefer not to take those demands upon themselves. Pretty remarkable statements, too, with that stinging implication that unmarrieds over 30 aren't "normal."

There's certainly a good case to be made that most people are better off married, and even more certainly a good case that society is better off dominated by couples than by singles. Steinberg just sneered at us and told us we're all lonely freaks who are deluding ourselves into thinking we're better off, and we had better follow his example before it's too late. And whether we're convinced or not, we should plow ahead and change our lives to suit him -- not irreversibly, but dramatically --just to make sure.

That's not him trying to be helpful or even funny, that's him offering unwelcome and ill-considered advice wrapped in insults.
posted by Epenthesis at 1:17 PM on January 30, 2004


I think we should cut out the "long term partner" vs "married" argument. Though I think there are real benefits of this institution of marriage (a codefied legal and social ceremony) I realize I don't quite have as strong arguments for the marriage as opposed to pair bonding. But a long-term commitment, whether sancitified by law or not, is a pair bond. I think the argument that people are making in favor of "marriage" is essentially an argument in favor of long-term pair bonding. And I think millenia of human history demonstrate that long-term pair bonding generally produces more stable societies than the "free agent" approach to life.

Also, squirrel, I take issue of your terming of the nuclear family as the "traditional" model. Frankly, the nuclear family model (a couple with just their children) is a relatively new social development only found in developed country's over the past century. Though I think that a nuclear family is better for familial and community stability than one parent families, I think that having a healthy extended family close by is the best solution of all. I grew up with one of my grandparents living with us, and having my other grandparents and uncles, aunts, cousins, etc all close by and present at most major events. I think that having that range of family close by to learn from and was an unreserved good for my sisters and I growing up.
posted by pjgulliver at 1:37 PM on January 30, 2004


pjgulliver, we are saying the same thing. I used the quotes around traditional to imply the point you made explicit. You also clarify well the marriage vs. pair-boding issue, and I share your view that long-term pair bonding strengthens society.

My partner and I have many married friends, a distressing number of whom continually hound us to join them in their marital bliss, goddamit. Frankly, their appeals repel us, especially when their eyes bug and their hands shake, spilling Kool-Aid as they implore, "Why not? Why NOT?"

*shudder*
posted by squirrel at 2:02 PM on January 30, 2004


kgasmart, you're right, I am not getting married out of fear.

It's out of fear that marriage will change my persona. I'm very happy with myself the way I am. There isn't a single thing about me that I can think of that I'd change. You could call me "settled".

It's very obvious that getting married would completely change my life, and change my persona. I fear that this change wouldn't be positive. That it would interfere with my work. That it would interfere with my personal happiness. That it would interfere with my day to day relations with others and, quite possibly, cause me to push away others I am good friends with. I fear that giving into my id will lessen my self worth.

I fear the results will be only a possible increase of happiness between myself and a single other person at the cost of all that I have built in my life.

I have worked too hard to be the individual who I am and I won't give that up without a struggle. Why should I?

I remain unconvinced that my fears are unfounded. If anything, what you say rings true with the article. That marriage will alter my very soul. Isn't that worth keeping? Worth respecting?

Or am I starting to sound as insulting as Neil? I probably am. The next thing out of my mouth may as well be "People who marry have no self worth". And that's not what I'm trying to say.

Oh well. Better luck next time, I suppose.
posted by shepd at 12:26 AM on January 31, 2004


30 is the new 20.

I guess that makes 24 the new 14. That at least explains all the Civ, Mario and cold, bitter, brokenhearted weeping I've been up to.
posted by Skwirl at 1:22 PM on January 31, 2004


marriage sounds awfy good to me but its obvious to me that i would be better having a relationship with myself before i can have one with somebody else .
posted by sgt.serenity at 5:47 PM on January 31, 2004


hopefully a generation that realizes that Animal House is one of the most overrated movies ever.

Oh...now that's just wrong, that is. ;)


I don't think the author addresses "starter marriages"...a condition that is oft unreported. Almost everyone I know is on a second marriage. (Granted...we're at the top end of the GenX era...which, god help us, Time Magazine said was "creeping up on 40".)

My second husband and I have been together for almost 10 years. We didn't get married until a few years ago when it became a hassle for us to own real property jointly. Even if that weren't the case, we would have gotten married when we got pregnant, because this is a puritanical country. But the fact is that the ceremony and the paper changed nothing about our lives.

We did things the day after we were married the same way we'd done them the day before. We had coffee...we danced around each other in the "I need the mirror" ballet, we got in our cars, we went to work, we came home, we had dinner....etc. There was no change.

Two of my best friends have been a couple for almost 17 years now. They live together, they have a house together, they have critters...but they can't get married because they both have a vagina. Their relationship is no less valid than mine just because I have a once-worn big poofy dress in the closet.

Marriage, scherriage...it's who you love and how well you love that matters.
posted by dejah420 at 11:18 PM on January 31, 2004


*sha la-la laaaa*
posted by squirrel at 11:27 AM on February 2, 2004


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