Friday, June 30, 2017

Drives Part 2: Yin To His Yang

She said she'd married her an architect
Who kept her warm and safe and dry.
She would have liked to say she loved the man
But she didn't like to lie.

     [Dan Fogelberg, “Same Old Lang Syne”]

     It’s been said innumerable times that men have far simpler psyches than women. However many times it’s been said, however many people have made it an unexamined conviction, nevertheless it’s arrant nonsense.

     The psyches of the sexes do differ, but neither one is particularly complex. Each one has fundamental drives. Neither can dismiss or deny them without adverse consequences.


     In our species’ mating dance, it’s up to him to take the initiative. While she has the greater comfort of being the responder, and therefore possesses the privilege of merely not responding if he doesn’t appeal to her, she also has the more difficult investigative journey.

     No matter what she says or thinks, she wants:

  1. Personal safety;
  2. Material security;
  3. Community acceptance and status;
  4. Children.

     ...and she expects her husband-to-be to provide them, or at least to collaborate in acquiring them. Thus, her selection of a husband involves determining whether particular candidates are likely to get her those things.

     (Are there exceptions? Yes, there are – but they’re exceptions, and few in number. The great majority of women conform to the pattern. Even some women who consciously disavow the priorities above – i.e., who sincerely believe themselves to be exceptions – ultimately discover that they conform, too.)

     When she was expected to find her spouse among the sons of her family’s friends and neighbors, the investigative effort was less. It was mitigated by prior familiarity and the knowledge of her parents. The downside of a bad choice was also less, as there were usually two families to stabilize the match and cushion any failures it might experience.


     "What's eating you, Filthy?" she inquired. "You haven't said two words since we sat down."
     He returned to his surroundings with a start. "Nothing important," he lied-wishing that he could unburden himself to her. "You haven't been chatty yourself. Anything on your mind?"
     "Yes," she admitted, "I've just selected the name for our son."
     "Great jumping balls of fire! Aren't you being just a little premature? You know damned well we aren't ever going to have children."
     "That remains to be seen."
     "Hummph! What name have you picked for this hypothetical offspring?"
     "Theobald-'Bold for the People,'" she answered dreamily-
     "'Bold for the-' better make it Jabez."
     "Jabez? What does it mean?"
     "'He will bring sorrow.'"
     "'He will bring sorrow!' Filthy, you're filthy!"
     "I know it. Why don't you forget all this business, give that noisy nursery a miss, and team up with me?"
     "Say that slowly."
     "I'm suggesting matrimony."
     She appeared to consider it. "Just what do you have in mind?"
     "You write the ticket. Ortho-spouse, registered companion, legal mate-any contract you want."
     "To what," she said slowly, "am I to attribute this sudden change of mind?"
     "It isn't sudden. I've been thinking about it ever since ... ever since you tried to shoot me."
     "Something's wrong here. Two minutes ago you were declaring that Theobald was impossibly hypothetical."
     "Wait a minute," he said hastily. "I didn't say a word about children. That's another subject. I was talking about us."
     "So? Well, understand this, Master Hamilton. When I get married, it will not be to a man who regards it as a sort of super-recreation."

     [Robert A. Heinlein, Beyond This Horizon]

     You have to be pretty old to remember when “she’s barren” – usually uttered in a whisper, and where she wouldn’t hear – was an expression of pity. A woman who reached her middle years without producing children was regarded as lacking, no matter how high her material status, how admirable her husband, or how beautiful her home. Moreover, it was expected that her husband would feel disappointed at her barrenness.

     Today, children are regarded as a sort of luxury good, not to be indulged in until she’s “made it” occupationally. (Her marital status is almost irrelevant.) Yet both her body and her mind demand children. Her reproductive organs are less likely to remain healthy without them. Her psychological inheritance from the thousands of generations of homo sapiens before her strongly suggest that if she doesn’t produce kids, she’s a “failure.”

     More to the point, she expects her husband to want children, and to cooperate in producing them. If he disappoints her in this, she’ll denigrate him and their marriage subconsciously at the very least.


     Today, marriage is attended by extravagant romantic expectations. She’s “supposed” to marry – if she marries – out of “love.” For her to choose a mate because he’s a traditional “good catch” – i.e., a young man of proven character who’s far more likely than not to be a faithful husband, good father, and a good provider – is frowned upon: “But do you love him?” rises the cry, with the unstated implication that if she doesn’t she’s shortchanging herself.

     At its best and least destructive, romance is a preliminary, not a characteristic of a married couple.

     Romantic illusions, both about him and about marriage itself, compound all the problems a married woman can face. Also, she’s more collectively oriented than is he. The attitudes of other women can steer her away from the course best suited to her – and the attitudes of women generally are being continuously engineered: away from traditional conceptions and expectations about marriage, and toward the notion that a marriage should possess the characteristics of a love affair, lifelong.

     Quite a lot of women’s current aversion to childbearing, in defiance of the demands of their bodies, can be traced to that notion. Motherhood is “not romantic.”


     Part of the appeal of feminism derives from the supposition that she cannot rely on a husband for her desiderata: that she must contrive to protect herself, to provide material security for herself, and to attain community acceptance and status through her own efforts. (Children, of course, will require a modicum of male participation...at least, as of this Year of Our Lord 2017.) Unfortunately, owing to contemporary social complexities it’s difficult enough to gauge a young man’s “prospects,” and there are enough men who ultimately prove to be unreliable protectors and layabouts, that the feminist argument is not without some power.

     The romanticization of the “bad boy” or “rebel” makes matters still worse. If she believes marriage to be just a socially-certified permanent love affair, she could be deluded enough to marry a “bad boy.” But the “bad boy,” no matter how much of a thrill she gets from his “rebellion,” nearly always makes a bad husband. There’s precious little salve for the wounds from that kind of marital mistake.


     Have a second look at the Dan Fogelberg lyric at the top of this piece. She “married her an architect / Who kept her warm and safe and dry.” That marriage satisfied at least some of her desiderata: personal safety, material comfort, and status. Let’s stipulate that she also got children out of it. But we’re told she doesn’t love him. Is theirs a successful marriage?

     I would say so, at least from her perspective. Romance is nice; few emotions are more thrilling than the intoxication of romantic love. But it pays no bills, mows no lawns, and does nothing for one’s standing in the community. Moreover, if he’s a faithful husband who’s also satisfied with the match, and she’s capable of appreciating his good qualities, she might be deceiving herself about not loving him.

     There’s much insight in this scene from Fiddler On The Roof:

(Tevye)
"I have decided to give them permission to become engaged. I have to.... go inside and-"

(Golde)
"What?! Just like this? Without even asking me?!"

(Tevye)
"Who asks you?! I'm the father!!"

(Golde)
"Who is he? A pauper! He has nothing, absolutely nothing!"

(Tevye)
"I wouldn't say that. I hear he has a rich uncle, a very rich uncle. He's a good man, Golde.
I like him. And what's more important, Hodel likes him. Hodel loves him.
So what can we do?
It's a new world... A new world. Love. Golde..."

(sung)
Do you love me?

(Golde)
Do I what?

(Tevye)
Do you love me?

(Golde)
Do I love you?
With our daughters getting married
And this trouble in the town
You're upset, you're worn out
Go inside, go lie down!
Maybe it's indigestion…

(Tevye)
"Golde I'm asking you a question..."
Do you love me?

(Golde)
You're a fool

(Tevye)
"I know..."
But do you love me?

(Golde)
Do I love you?
For twenty-five years I've washed your clothes
Cooked your meals, cleaned your house
Given you children, milked YOUR cow
After twenty-five years, why talk about love right now?

(Tevye)
Golde, The first time I met you
Was on our wedding day
I was scared

(Golde)
I was shy

(Tevye)
I was nervous

(Golde)
So was I

(Tevye)
But my father and my mother
Said we'd learn to love each other
And now I'm asking, Golde
Do you love me?

(Golde)
I'm your wife

(Tevye)
"I know..."
But do you love me?

(Golde)
Do I love him?
For twenty-five years I've lived with him
Fought with him, starved with him
Twenty-five years my bed is his
If that's not love, what is?

(Tevye)
Then you love me?

(Golde)
I suppose I do

(Tevye)
And I suppose I love you too

(Both)
It doesn't change a thing
But even so
After twenty-five years
It's nice to know.

     And a woman prepared to marry – to be a wife – should hearken to it.

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