Sunday, October 15, 2006

A few words on marriage

By Nancy Jane Moore

Two articles on marriage in this weekend's New York Times have cheered me up enormously.

The first, published Saturday, says that the right-wing attack on gay marriage is losing steam. Part of the reason is that voters are more interested in other issues -- like the Iraq War and the ethics problems in Congress -- but another reason "is that supporters of same-sex marriage this year are likely to be as mobilized as the opponents."

Despite the state laws and constitutional amendments defining marriage as "between one man and one woman," I think it's only a matter of time before gay marriage is legally recognized in this country. We are moving in a direction where we recognize that there are many ways of setting up a household, and gay marriage is one them.

The other article that pleased me ran in Sunday's Times and proclaimed: "To Be Married Means to Be Outnumbered." The gist of the article?
49.7 percent, or 55.2 million, of the nation's 111.1 million households in 2005 were made up of married couples -- with and without children -- just shy of a majority and down from more than 52 percent five years earlier.
Taken together, these stories tell me that more and more of us are recognizing that there are many possible ways of living in the modern world. You no longer need to feel like an outcast if you're not part of a traditional marriage.

I'm single. Since there are a number of ways to be single, let me clarify that: I live alone, I'm not involved in a relationship, and I'm not looking for a spouse or a lover. I am, in fact, a spinster, an old maid, a maiden aunt, though the term I like best is the old one used in law, a feme sole. And I'm happy.

I also have the good fortune to be part of the first generation of women for whom living as a single person is not considered a major liability. Even in my parents' generation, people made fun of unmarried women, and of course, divorce was considered shameful up into the 1960s. Widows were objects of pity.

Today, though, we all have choices. And many of us do choose to live alone.
According to the same Census data The Times used, 27.1 percent of US households consist of single persons.

The decline in the percentage of married households means that more of us are choosing other ways of living -- alone, with roommates, in group households, with other family members, and in non-traditional relationships. In time, I hope, the law will catch up with us.


Bill said...

I am greatly encouraged by the progress in the opinion of gays in this country. I understand why you might be encouraged by the latter. But, frankly I wish it weren't so. I don't mind people being single and a loss of importance in traditional marriage, but I don't think it makes for a good structure in raising future generations. Two parents brings strength to a family, especially if income can be generated sufficiently for a stay-at-home parent. I have grown up in a traditional family and my mom has pretty much been stay-at-home with a part time job teaching piano at our home. Maybe I'm naive, but I feel very fortunate to have benefited from such a situation.

Nancy Jane Moore said...

I suspect that there are many good ways to raise children. It seems to me that the most important thing is for parents to be involved, but not obsessed, with their children. I don't think it's particularly healthy for either parent or child for grown women to build their entire lives around their children, which seems to be what having a stay-at-home parent means these days.
Most importantly, though, in this overpopulated world, fewer people should have children (and those who do should have fewer children). Increased respect for other lifetyles -- particularly being single and childless -- helps address the population problem in a positive way (as opposed to oppressive laws limiting children, which I don't support).
And encouragement of a variety of forms of family -- for example, of single parents sharing households and helping each other raise their children -- can address some of the problems faced by the single parent who doesn't have outside support.
I once practiced a lot of family law, and while I know divorce is hard on children, so is living in a dysfunctional marriage. There are plenty of those.
Finally, what I'd really like to see is a societal commitment to the next generation. We shouldn't all have children, but we should make sure that all children have education, health care, safe homes, and opportunities. This means providing support to all kinds of families.

Bill said...

Very good reply to mine. I agree with what you say here. I like your idea of coupling single parents.

Nancy Jane Moore said...

Thanks, Bill. You often make good comments on here and we really appreciate your ideas. I had to really think about what I wanted to say in response to you.

Bill said...

I tend to come and go in my habits of surfing blogs and forums etc. But, I've liked what I've heard here in your blog, so I'll try stick around and comment when I can. Thanks for taking the time making these blog entries.