Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Anti-Heterosexual Marriage

Ta-Nehisi has a very interesting post about why he and the mother of his son are not married... despite living together, paying bills together, caring for their child together, and having gone and gotten a lawyer to write up the "business" aspects.

It's a great read, and I highly recommend devouring the whole thing, but here is the important bit about what they went through after they found out Kenyatta was pregnant:
As soon as we started telling people, the first question we got was, "Are you getting married?" Now, if you talk to Kenyatta, she has been a feminist since the day she learned to read, and she never put much of a premium on marriage. Still, up until then, neither of us were opposed to the idea. We just didn't think we needed it. But the constant questioning put us in a place where we were able to ask why. Why did people think we should get married? What did that have to do with pregnancy? We both knew we were committed to the life of the child. But we did we think about each other? Truthfully, I don't think we thought much past the child. We'd been friends for two years before we started dating. I knew Kenyatta would be a great mother. I knew we wanted the same things for our kid. What else was there?

Well, a lot, actually. The marriage convo brought out quite a bit. As much as I can recall, there were basically three reasons for us to get married. 1.) I might leave. Marriage would force me to do the right thing. 2.) To declare our commitment to each other before a community of people whom we loved. 3.) The business reasons--the legalities of your estate and guardianship. I found--and still find--the first two reasons were utterly unconvincing. The third held some sway, but with the help of a lawyer we've managed to take care of that. The first turned marriage into a kind of insurance policy, and I just believed that if you felt you needed insurance for the person you were having kids by to stick out, you needed to reconsider the whole proposition. The commitment and community reason held some appeal. But I believed, and still believe, that long-term romantic partnerships are between the two people entering into it.

I see all those points, though I've never felt strongly enough about them to make a stand. I could go either way. With a kid I'd definitely lean towards marriage for simplifying the "business aspects"... it's been thoroughly tested in that arena, and instinctively I would tend to want to go with that. While I imagine you could do it all with a lawyer, I'm just not sure I see the points against marriage to be strong enough to see doing the lawyer thing as worth it.

Otherwise, with kids out of the equation, I'm relatively ambivalent to the concept... though I tend to vacillate slowly over time between "If she wants to, sure" and "It's just a piece of paper, who needs it?" Mainly, as the child of divorced parents, my feelings towards the institution is that I never want to get divorced. Certainly one way to accomplish that is to never get married, but I'd at least like to think it's not the only way... and if you're with somebody for 10, 15, 30 years and split, it's essentially the same thing whether you're married or not. I have some experience with the fact that marriage isn't going to keep a couple together that's miserable, and nor should it. My mom and dad fell out of love with each other, but that didn't stop them from being able to share the burden of the responsibility of raising me... even if it wasn't in the same house.

I mean, unless you really would never get divorced, it's only "forever" assuming nothing changes... or changes in all(or most) of the right ways. So why not just treat your relationship as an organic and evolving thing from the get-go, instead of pretending that it's only "official" if there is a piece of paper involved? I find it somewhat curious.

In case anybody's wondering, unless something's changed recently, Anna doesn't want to get married anytime soon... so this wasn't some bizarre passive aggressive thing to tell her I didn't want to get married. Heh.