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Monogamy Envy
Why do supposedly brave reconsiderations of a cherished notion sound so trite?


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With Mother’s Day nigh, you brace yourself for pieces in Slate and Salon along the lines of “To Hell with Motherhood: The Case for a Holiday to Celebrate the Real Victims of Kermit Gosnell, His Underpaid Staff” or “I’m Sick of Pretending I Love My Child.” Since no one’s written it yet, I’m reduced to imagining how they’ll sound:

Was I the only one who watched The Da Vinci Code hoping the secret message about Christianity was that some Roman version of Hallmark made up Jesus to sell greeting cards? I’m certainly not alone in regarding Valentine’s Day as a manufactured excuse to underscore historical gender norms with a little kiddie porn thrown in (really, what’s with all the naked babies with wings and bows and arrows?), but I know I’m probably in the minority when it comes to Mother’s Day. Hate it.

And so on with the brave, fearless reconsideration of all our cherished notions. One of these days someone will write “My mom hit me with a baseball and I threw up apple pie on the flag” and they’ll close up the sites, having said it all.

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Until these pieces are posted, let’s amuse ourselves with The New Republic, where an author wrote “It’s Time to Ditch Monogamy.” A piece from the archives of 1970? No, bold new thinking, spurred by Cameron Diaz’s insights on the superiority of drifting from one chap to the next. Monogamy doesn’t work for Diaz, or the author of the piece, so Ditching must begin. It’s not enough to say, “I just can’t imagine sticking with one person the rest of my life.  I foresee a series of satisfying relationships of varying duration and intensity, after which I retire to Nice and become known in the neighborhood as the iconoclastic woman who turned to pottery at the age of 74.” No, you have to decide that everyone should rethink the idea of faithfulness.

The author is doing future short-term partners a service with this piece, much like a dinner guest who RSVPs with a note expressing his intention to pocket a piece of cutlery during dinner. Excerpts:

Young people usually live away from home, with roommates, at college or through traveling before they entertain marriage. They are used to varied and transient love affairs. The expectations of commitment, when it arrives, require a stark disciplinarian jolt that previous generations did not have to struggle with.

Unless they were men, and were drafted. And heaven forfend that today’s young people have their lives upended with expectations, commitment, and discipline.

There are other assumed rules of commitment applied blindly. What, for example, is the obsession with living under the same roof? In my last committed relationship the most common question I encountered was: “Do you have plans to move in together?” Why anyone would voluntarily give up a peaceful breakfast with John Humphrys, happily drinking anything in the fridge direct from the carton, and trade it for morning dramas of lost shirts and a daily telephone conference about meal-planning is something I can never understand.

You are apparently expected to know who John Humphrys is; I assume he is not a Brontesque charmer who appears on weekend mornings in an ascot to read the Times at the table and murmur appreciative noises at the arts coverage. (He’s a Welsh broadcaster and Guardian writer.) As for the rest, well, I’ve been married for a quarter-century, drink from the carton when wife and child have left the house, have never lost a shirt — there being no interdimensional rift that swallows garments in the closet — and if there’s a telephone “conference” about meal-planning, it’s to figure out when my wife is coming home from her job so we can have our meal together. It’s called “people living together as a family.”

Ah, but that’s another concept we can kick into the overflowing dustbin of history.

If you think life-long commitment is still needed to start a family, a replacement for that has been found too. Earlier this month it was reported that the number of single women seeking artificial insemination with a sperm donor has doubled in five years.



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