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On Settling

Lori Gottlieb’s lukewarm praise for settling on a man (reprised last week on Talk of the Nation) is really just making the case—modernized for the age of in vitro fertilization—that marriage is best understood as a convenience, a contract that makes things like raising children and creating comfort somewhat easier than the alternative. That seems to me both wise and practical: there is no shame in realizing that life is not The Price Is Right, where to pass on the first showcase always yields the better loot. The less marriage is approached as hallowed ground; the less we expect our partners to reveal their entire souls in the course of a date, the more love—or respect, which is essentially the same thing—has place to develop. (Similarly, but OT: the less marriage is treated as hallowed ground, the more reasonable it becomes to support families in any form they materialize—gay, straight, communal, ad hoc, whatever.) The longer my own marriage lasts, the happier I am that kitchen appliances were the primary reasons K and I decided to marry. Everything else was and continues to be incidental detail.



If kitchen appliances were the primary reasons for our marriage, then we have a very sad state of affairs, my friend. Take a hard look at our kitchen supplies and allow yourself to really contemplate this statement.

It’s not too late for flowers.


i hear the phone ringing and someone being very worried about the state of your soul.

It figures you lot would be more interested in ogling my marriage than in discussing the essay. You’re all troglodytes.

i heard it on npr the other night. her friend, the married one, was much too cynical about the possibilities of finding a “soul-mate.” then again, i have never believed in the one. though, i do believe in people with whom you can more easily share a life. certainly there are things about each other that drive us crazy, or things about each other that we would want to change… but, we are very much very good friends. in fact, i think neither of us would happy were our life together simply a hemorrhaging non-profit—where i was picked because i’d put food on the table and hopefully teach our children another language. of course, this is not an argument for the sacrosanctness of marriage.

i think, though, her view of marriage as something like a corporate merger for the purpose of propagation is because that is what it is for the hoi polloi of liberated, post-pill cultures… where, and rightly so, women enjoy their 20s, and spend their 30s desperately trying to get pregnant, often times within a year of marriage to someone who is of the same age or slightly older. so, both come to the relationship quite well-defined and established and quite old and tired and quite financially stable.

this is very different than, say, my wife and me who were married a full seven years before desperately trying to get pregnant in our 30s… we had given our lives time to entwine. it is also different than the 20-somethings of yesteryear who would get preggers immediately before or after marriage and who had to forge a life together, beating back poverty with pluck and innocence.

of course, every marriage is a game of russian roulette, and any one who says otherwise just doesn’t realize that the chamber’s loaded and the hammer’s cocked. but, the soul-mateness that she’s so cynical realistic about is most likely because many don’t take the time nor the effort to cultivate it. at the end of the day, a marriage like any other relationship, for it to be meaningful and lasting has to be intimate and sharing. that, in fact, i think, is a better definition of marriage and one that allows for a better redefinition of family, one, even, that includes alternative families in the mix. after all, the unity and cohesiveness of family is intimacy, sharing, reliance and trust… and not simply a prosaic quid-pro-quo… even if that tit-for-tat involves nakedness

Well, sure. I mean, the general point is that all kinds of folks marry, and that circumstances will alter how that marriage takes place. What seems to get in the way is that there is a sort of universal romanticizing that affects most comers, from the 22yo belle straight out of getting her MRS degree to the 33yo professional who is ready to settle and create his progeny. What would help the whole is a better—read: less romanticized—understanding of what it means to enter into a longterm relationship.

the essay is much better than the tidbit they aired on npr.

As I am trying to cultivate my own garden a bit more, I put my write up, such as it is, over at my place.