I have a full-time job. I also do other stuff and I have some friends, too. So it would be nice if I had someone to clean my apartment and buy groceries for me and make them into scrumptious meals each night. Oh, and to wash my clothes. And maybe they could give me a back massage while I went over my work papers.
Some days work is stressful, or I feel like I have too many things to do, and I wish I were just giving someone a back massage. When I worry that I’m not good at things I want to be good at, I sometimes think it would have been better had I just made a baby and put all my dreams into the baby so it could worry about being good one day. Actually I never think that, but what I’m driving at is that I understand why some people are nostalgic for traditional gender roles and the traditional marriages they played out in.
I know some people who live in arrangements where someone stays home and all that, but I’m not talking about them. (I also know people who have babies but no arrangement, and I am not talking about them, either.) Such arrangements are different when they comprise two equals trying to figure out how to make their lives work. Marriage and babies are different things for women when we can choose not to have them. I’m talking about the opposite of that.
If I were a man with old-timey values, I probably wouldn’t mind owning my very own woman. As a woman, being owned would probably save me from having to worry about certain things. Considered as a system for organizing your life, traditional marriage was probably pretty good. When you fuck with a system, lots of things become problems that were never problems before.
For starters, when traditional marriage was the thing, you didn’t need to worry as much about dying alone. You didn’t have to go on dates as an adult, or come to the slow realization that men can have babies at eighty and date twenty-year-olds their entire lives and this has implications for the way they relate to you. I mean, in reality you did have to worry about those things, but I’m not talking about reality.
Even if you get out into the world and do alright by yourself, you still need a home. With traditional marriage, work life and home life were divided among two people. Now they are both squished together in you. Work life and home life hate the shit out of each other and if you put them together in one person they will fight until one destroys the other and feasts on its heart.
The end of traditional marriage has been pretty crummy for dudes. Not only do they have to make their own goddamn dinners, they have to compete with women in the workplace. This sucks for them, because when you prevent a people from doing something for a million years, and then let them do it but publicly doubt them, they usually work pretty hard to prove you wrong. If you are a heterosexual woman who works pretty hard, this sucks for you, too, for reasons that would merit a whole ‘nother post.
It sucks sometimes if you’re any kind of woman. With freedom comes responsibility and responsibility is sometimes a bummer. Responsibility can also be disorienting. I think maybe the most appealing thing about traditional marriage is that it was a life that made sense, even if it probably sucked way more than responsibility does. Who do you know who can make sense of their life?
Then there’s the whole thing about having a baby when you’re not traditionally married. I can’t speak to that, except to thank my mom for having me even though she works million-hour days, and for raising me to also work million-hour days, even if I one day have a baby.
At the end of the day, traditional marriage is just an awesome fantasy for when life feels chaotic. Not unlike the fantasy of moving to the Hebrides and becoming a pagan. Actually, that’s a way better fantasy.