When I’m not blogging for PWPL, I’m a social policy analyst on the marriage and family beat. So when a friend passed on this article by Lori Gottlieb in the Atlantic Monthly, I read it with interest and truthfully, an increasing sense of despair.
You’d think, being the pro-marriage kind of gal that I am (marriage, properly understood, is both liberating and offers protection; it allows families to flourish and in the two-person Mom and Dad form nurtures strong, healthy children) that I might just agree with the author. She suggests women ought to focus on marriage sooner, they ought “to settle.”
And if marriage is such a good thing, why wouldn’t this just make sense?
But marriage as she considers it is not always a good thing. Her understanding of marriage is limited to the “What’s in it for me?” variety. What’s in it for her is something slightly more elevated than the usual romantic pap. She now wants a father for her child. (Quite poignantly, she describes at one point how marriage offers a partner to watch your toddler so a mother can grab a bite of lunch.)
She as a single mom of one artificially conceived son (ie. fatherless) now sees how valuable marriage is.
I could forgive her for getting things backwards, on purpose, but I can’t quite forgive her for giving other women bad advice out of her own feelings of desperation. In the whole article, she never uncovers what marriage actually is.
This article does a lot better. Referring to the Atlantic Monthly piece, she writes:
If only she had been brave enough to inquire into the nature of true love and not dismiss it in a throwaway line (“whatever that is”) she might have done her sisters a real service. Instead, she has tried to persuade us that love can be put in brackets while we persist in our twentieth century habit of getting what we want. Perhaps few people will be swayed by her argument; certainly, no-one will be helped…
And that’s the truth: Gottlieb’s article on first glance is a good read, and seems credible. And to be fair, she highlights quite a lot about marriage that is true. What’s more important, social liberals will listen because of the source. She’s not sitting pretty as a married mom of 2.2 children, with a white picket fence and a van in the suburbs.
But her piece does not help anyone get at the truth of what marriage is. Marriage is not a compromise, it’s not “infrastructure” (exclusively) for children and most importantly, marriage is not and never will be a contract, as so many libertarians are fond of saying. On the academic side, I know a whole lot about marriage; that’s not to say I know anything at all. But in considering marriage, we simply cannot do it from a selfish angle.
If you read the Atlantic Monthly piece, be absolutely sure to follow it up with Mercator Net’s piece; lest the single women in the crowd be pushed toward a sad state of depression and anxiety completely unnecessarily.