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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

They don't really wait very long these days, do they?

The celebrations are over! Let the carping begin! Because, you know, it's all about collecting bennies and obtaining a government-certified celebration of Me!


Not only did we immediately hear that this new liberation will teach straight couples to be more "open" in their marriages by having multiple partners (though of course it will not harm marriage), but we learn that the SCOTUS decision is matrimanaical and "shames" single people.
What all these people are swooning over is all-out matrimania (the over-the-top hyping of marriage and weddings and coupling). The message is that marriage is magical, transforming unremarkable unmarried people into "something greater."

(The article also refers to "scientific" studies, but the writer really means sociology and psychology.)

But this is what you expect when folks like Anthony Kennedy have forgotten what marriage was all about and have to cast about for "Whee!" and "Whoopee!" reasons why it gets the Government Stamp of Approval. (Hint: it was never an Approval or a Celebration of Romantic Love.)

And this is not a lone voice crying in the wilderness. There is also this:
The fetishization of marriage as the inevitable endpoint of the revolutionary fight for gay marriage is something about which many critics have expressed anxiety. After the Court struck down DOMA in 2013, Jesse Oxfeld wrote a piece in the New York Observer entitled “Yesterday an Oppressed Minority, Today an Old Maid,” in which he confessed that “all this heteronormativization is only encouraging my dull, heteronormative urges” and leaving him feeling bad not only for not having a husband, but for not having had a husband when he was young. In Slate, June Thomas recalled how, during her young adulthood in the women’s movement, “although we didn’t have marriage itself in the cross-hairs, on a certain level the institution represented the patriarchy.” Despite being long partnered, Thomas wrote, “I just don’t want to be a wife — and I don’t want a wife of my own.”
How can Ms. Thomas be "long partnered" without being a wife or the possessor of a wife? Has she (and everyone else) forgotten common law marriage? Or was the destruction of the common law also part of the objective. The article continues:
The resistance to old hetero marital norms, to the unequal economic, social, and sexual gender dynamics that were so fully embodied by marriage in many of its older iterations, has often gone hand-in-hand with LGBTQ activism. Many who agitated from the margins of married America have roared against the institution’s narrow, ratifying power to define, validate, and give imagined meaning and purpose to adult life.
Because of course, it's all about celebrating yourself, about meaning and purpose and not feeling bad about yourself, the latter fast approaching status as a Constitutional Right. So the SCOTUS decision is now being condemned from unlikely quarters as a slap in the face to "all those Americans whose numbers are growing every day and who live, love, work, earn, and have sex, children, friendships, and full lives outside of marriage."

At least, the writer knew enough to distinguish between love and having sex. But we may ask the old question: which of these things is not like the others? The rational mind is agog. Who ever claimed one should not have jobs outside of marriage? Or that one should not have friends outside of marriage? (Certainly, the Church has always celebrated the single life. So much so she was once accused of being anti-marriage. Think how many early saints are celebrated as virgin and martyr because they refused to get married to the man they had been sold to.)

Over at the New York Times, Michael Cobb asks plaintively:
Isn’t it enough to be denied the “constellation of benefits that the States have linked to marriage”? A constellation my coupled queer sisters and brethren now can hold dearly if they just make it official? Once again, being single is the dreary, awful, mournful alternative to marriage. A condition to be pitied, and quickly corrected by a sprint to City Hall.
Notice that "constellation of benefits" thingie. That seems to be all anyone talks about. Except Justice Kennedy. (The first benefit TOF received upon marriage was to be bumped into a higher tax bracket by the act of joint income. Hooray.)  He goes on to say
Why can’t I put a good friend on my health care plan? Why can’t my neighbor and I file our taxes together so we could save some money, as my parents do? If I failed to make a will, why is it unlikely a dear friend would inherit my estate?
The reason his neighbor and he can't file their taxes together to save some money is that they would not likely save any money. When two incomes are added together, the joint income will usually wind up in a higher bracket and be taxed at the higher rate. (Unless one of the two does not have an income, which is why the structure was set up in the first place.) He continues:
The answers to all these questions are the same: It’s because I’m not having sex with those people. (To make matters worse, that also means we probably didn’t have children together.) For the only thing that truly distinguishes romance and marriage from other loving intimacies like friendships, other familial relationships and close business partnerships is that sex is (or once was) part of the picture.
The "probably" was a nice touch. An editor should have informed Mr. Cobb that not-having-sex almost certainly means not-having-children-together. Of course, the Church always regarded not-having-sex as grounds for annulment. So it was "part of the picture" because without it, it wasn't marriage. We can hardly wait for SCOTUS to rule that Sears and Roebuck are entitled to spousal benefits. 

Besides, there is a solution for all those lonely singles. 
Chen Wei-yih has posed for a set of photos in a flowing white dress, enlisted a wedding planner and rented a banquet hall for a marriage celebration with 30 friends.  But there is no groom. Chen will marry herself.
###

Speaking of familial relationships, there are also GSA couples. What, you never heard of GSA? Well, not long ago, you never heard of SSA, either.
In the late '80s, the founder of a support group for adopted children who had recently reconnected with their biological relatives coined the term “Genetic Sexual Attraction” (GSA) to describe the intense romantic and sexual feelings that she observed occurring in many of these reunions. 
How dare we condemn this love that dare not speak its name!

Some of you may remember the woman who married the Eiffel Tower, or perhaps the one who married the roller coaster.  (What marriage does not have its ups and downs?)  Or the fellow who married his Laborador retriever.  (The bride was very fetching.)  Perhaps even the woman who married a warehouse, though that may have been a stunt.  There was also a Brazilian man who wed his pet goat – but promised not to consummate the marriage. That should please Mr. Cobb, at least.
For the only thing that truly distinguishes romance and marriage from other loving intimacies like friendships, other familial relationships, close business partnerships and goat-herding is that sex is (or once was) part of the picture.
A brave new world, that has such people in it.

4 comments:

  1. This points out one of the amazing bits that has been ignored into oblivion: that, 20 or 30 years ago, the party line was that marriage was icky and people who married were stupid 'breeders' who were nearly beneath the contempt of gays. I say 'nearly beneath' because, at the time I lived in San Francisco, and the contempt for me and my wife was palpable. Gays considered their relationships *superior* to marriage, and didn't hesitate to say so.

    Then, all of a sudden, there was a 180: all the sudden, it became the height of injustice to deny to gays the very same relationship they had been mocking relentlessly for decades.

    Of course, the 'gay community' as presented by the media is far more homogenous than any sizeable group of gays in reality. What I think we're seeing in the items you quote above is a breakdown in unit cohesion, as it were, in the celebration of the victory.

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    Replies
    1. Now being a "breeder" requires either having "too many" (either two or more, depending) or living as if you think that actually being a parent to those kids was important. (Doesn't even have to be a stay at home mom, although that's the most obvious.)

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  2. From the Michael Cobb piece:

    So yes, marriage equality erases an odious and invidious distinction among straight and us not-straight citizens for which I’m truly glad and which I celebrate. And it’ll make lots of people’s lives better. But it also leaves unexamined the reason sex seems to give you benefits and recognition — and why it orders the world and civilization. [emphasis mine]

    In other words, what does sex even mean anyway? A little late to start asking that question.

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  3. Many of my fellow wingnuts think gay marriage is for the purpose of transforming society. It's more a matter of taking a society that's already been transformed and keeping it from going back. Before the gay-marriage controversy, there was not good reason to claim critics of divorce or illegitimacy were immoral. Nowadays, they can be dismissed as allies of bigots.

    That doesn't mean it's hopeless. The affirmative consent controversy might be a case of people recognizing there's a problem with the "hookup culture" and trying to translate opposition to it into present-day terminology.

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