Sunday, November 22, 2020

How Not to Marry?

It’s one thing to write an essay about loneliness. It is certainly an important issue, become more important with social distancing and lockdowns. And let’s not forget the loss of face involved in mask-wearing. If people who get together are no longer allowed to face each other, then they are effectively failing to connect on a basic level.

Anyway, Financial Times journalist Claire Bushey turns an essay on loneliness into an essay on her own loneliness. As a rule, I discourage such moral exhibitionism, except in extreme cases. (FT columns cannot be linked)

Of course, we learn very little about Bushey beyond the fact that she is very sociable and very friendly. She recently took a job working for the FT in Chicago; not having a teeming office contributes to her loneliness.

As does the fact that she is not married. To be truthful, we do not care about why she is not married, but she does. And she chooses to share her story about how not not to marry. She does not quite put it this way. She thinks that she is not married because she is principled.

She has not married because she has a set of unrealistic expectations about today’s marriage. In more vulgar terms, she is a feminist and she is married to her feminist principles. Not surprisingly, she has not found a man who is willing to live according to the terms of that ideology.

Consider this paragraph:

Contemporary US society tries to solve that problem with marriage. A boyfriend or a husband – why don’t I have one of those? I’m financially stable and have my own teeth. (Mostly.) Alas, I have yet to find someone I want to marry, who also wants to marry me, which saddens me. The sexist response is that I should have secured a wedding ring on any terms – a response I would happily burn in an oven right alongside the Cookies of Traditional Femininity. Loneliness is terrible, but I’d rather be alone than compromise on the basics: someone I fancy, whose company I enjoy, who does housework and doesn’t assume his career comes first. Two decades of romantic experience have made me faster at figuring out who isn’t a match for me. 

She has no use for traditional femininity. She sees life in all-or-nothing terms. She believes that she must get her way and that reality must respond favorably to the fictional world she inhabits. She refuses to compromise on her ideals-- which makes her a fanatic. And fanatics are insufferable.

She wants a man who will do housework. And she is having trouble figuring out why she can’t find a husband.

Rather than blame herself-- she is a true believer-- she blames marriage, the venerable institution designed to create an alliance between families, and to provide the best circumstances for producing and raising children.

Are there real alternatives? Feminist researchers say that there are. There aren’t. Obviously, different communities have tried different arrangements, especially those that fall under the category of extramarital arrangements. At times when marriages were arranged, these must have seemed especially appealing.

But a better question than “Why isn’t she married?” is “Why is marriage the only model for long-term, caring, adult relationships?” Writers Jessa Crispin and Briallen Hopper have explored this, unearthing alternative models from the past. In the late-19th and early-20th-century, women in New England lived together in partnerships in a practice nicknamed “Boston marriage”. In the medieval Low Countries, women known as beguines lived together in separate sections of the city. They could work, keep their own money and live without men, but they were not nuns. They did not take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, and they did not always stay in the beguinage for a lifetime. We don’t need to reconstruct this on a grand scale, but a lonely world would be better served if there were more models and more visibility for cohabitation between non-romantic partners.

Of course, these were social experiments. We have no problem with social experiments, even with arranged marriages if that is what people want. And yet, Bushey notwithstanding, there are many models for cohabitation between non-romantic partners-- in the past they were called families. Doesn’t she know that when marriages were arranged, husband and wife were generally not romantic?

So, if you don’t want to get married, become a true believing dyed-in-the-wool feminist. You will be striking a blow against patriarchal oppression. When it boomerangs, remember to duck. Now, that was easy, wasn’t it?


Sam L. said...

Ah, the "poor, poor, pitiful me" trope. Next up: "I'm gonna go eat worms". I am so not bummed for her. After all, it IS her choice.

Anonymous said...

20 years of romantic experience! Hmmm! I think THAT is what she wanted and THAT kind of puts off marriage proposals.

370H55V said...

Problem is that when the number of Claires reaches a critical mass, the microdecisions they make have adverse macroramifications.

Anonymous said...

Gosh, who'd thunk a gal who proudly proclaims her feminist bona fides so insistently would wind up old and alone?

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I think you hit it best in noticing her all-or-nothing attitude, which, by the way, no one made her put down on record. She expressed of her own free will that the rules must be hers in any marriage. The traditional vows included nothing about housework or careers, but did include "For better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health, so long as we both shall live." We may have only learned by trial and error that such vows were useful, but they did seem to help. And inspire.

Jerry said...

There's things that work... that we keep doing.

There's things that don't work... that are used as cautionary tales.

I think we're at a point where people don't believe the cautionary tales, and have discarded a lot of hard-learned lessons in favor of 'if it feels good' sort of thinking. Which, with the addition of effective contraception, will end up with quite a few folks feeling like her... deeply lonely after pursuing physical pleasures... and never forming any sort of bond with someone else.

After all, the next good time was right around the corner... isn't it? Until suddenly you realize you've pursued the wrong things for the last 20 years, and have no idea how it happened or how to change it.

Anonymous said...

"The sexist response is that I should have secured a wedding ring on any terms." Strawman argument. No one has said this in decades. She is inventing excuses for her ludicrous demands of men. ENJOYS HOUSEWORK? Women don't enjoy housework, why should men? Oy vey.

RebeccaH said...

It appears this woman can't find a husband who will knuckle under to her feminist demands, but she can't even find another woman who's willing to live with her and be her friend. Maybe she should be asking herself why that is.

Suzannemarie said...

Beguines had male guardians for all matters financial and legal. In Old English these custodians were called 'mundbora'.
Beguines made a vow of chastity.

Ken Mitchell said...

A simple search for the word "beguines" brings up several links to articles that ALL say that "beguines" are a quasi-religious groups that "led lives of religious devotion without joining an approved religious order" ( or "lived in semi-monastic communities but did not take formal religious vows" (

In other words, ENTIRELY DIFFERENT than what the author was talking about.

ruralcounsel said...

Sounds like she might enjoy a females-only social club. Sorta, kinda like what males used to enjoy until feminists destroyed it for them.

Eclectic Kelvin said...

The story didn't say how many cats she owns

Anonymous said...

So a selfish, high maintenance, aging careerist can't find love on her very demanding terms? And she claims "its not my fault" too? What a sad pathetic joke. I can foresee her end and it isn't pretty. Alone in her early 70's she realizes just how vulnerable and uncared for she really is. Off to the euthanasia clinic for her, followed by cremation since no one would visit her grave anyways. She'll pay a stranger to do something artsy or creative but ultimately meaningless with her ashes and be forgotten as soon as her assets are distributed to some feminist cause.