I wish I could say I finished Kate Bolick’s superlong Atlantic article on reaching middle age as an uneasily unmarried woman, but I didn’t. It was way, way too rambly. Nevertheless, I highly recommend diving in and sticking with it as long as you can, because it raises a number of challenging questions about the way we live today. [...]In other words, women have been sold a big lie about having it all--but when they wake up and realize as they approach 40 that their prospects are shrinking and the idea of eventual wedded bliss on the horizon is looking like a mirage, they end up blaming not the culture's big push toward the triumph of individual autonomy over every other way of living, but something external, such as economics, the shortage of men with M.B.A's and six-figure incomes who actually want to marry 39-year-0lds, or some other such thing that has nothing to do with the sad, even tragic, choices they themselves have made during the course of their lives.
She made a hash of her own marriage prospects because she believed in the emotivist, consumerist idea that maintaining autonomy and maximal choice was critical to the good life. It is inconceivable to many Americans today that true freedom comes through limiting your freedom by committing to a worthwhile discipline, which entails self-giving and self-denial. It is a paradox of life, one recognized by Christianity, that by giving up your life, you gain it — but only, of course, if you give it up for something worth the sacrifice. In a way, Bolick is a more sophisticated version of JD Samson, the lesbian punk rocker I wrote about the other day who penned the HuffPo essay howling against the unfairness of life because she took advantage of her liberty to live exactly as she wanted to, and failed to get rich by so doing. Have cake and eat too juvenilia. [Link in original--E.M.]
Continuing on this topic, Jennifer Fulwiler writes about how silly some marriage customs have become in a world full of cohabitating couples:
All this week I’ve been thinking about weddings. My husband and I recently celebrated our anniversary, and then Hallie Lord is hosting a little online party where bloggers are writing about their honeymoons. Reading through the stories of all these Catholic weddings and the ensuing celebrations reminded me of something I haven’t thought about much since my own nuptials: Many of our cherished wedding traditions make no sense with the new, secular understanding of marriage.
I was an atheist when I got married, and I held a common secular view of marriage: It’s simply a public statement that two people are going to stay together for the long term. That’s it. Quite a few of my friends got married around the same time I did, and we all shared this view. I don’t think any of us thought that our understanding of the institution of marriage was that much of a departure from that of the millenia-old Judeo-Christian tradition. Sure, some of us were atheists, but it was basically the same old thing, just without the God stuff. However, when we actually sat down to plan our big days, and started asking ourselves why we were doing all of this stuff, we were startled by what we found: Almost none of the time-honored traditions, practiced for generations by our forebearers, made sense anymore.
Jennifer goes on to list five specific customs that no longer make sense: honeymoons (because the couple is already living together and thus doesn't need time to adjust to life together), bachelor/bachelorette parties (because the couple is continuing their relationship, not beginning it), wedding registries (because the couple already has all of the stuff they need), dad walking daughter down the aisle, and "till death do us part," because neither of those really means anything in a postmodern world. In fact, there's really no need to have a wedding at all; the couple isn't changing anything, they don't promise anything they can't get out of later, and the only people who benefit are the Wedding Industrial Complex and the divorce lawyers.
Again, the glorification of the autonomous individual is at the root of what is wrong with marriage in the modern world. Without the concept of sacrificial love that subjugates the self to the beloved other, marriage means little. Selfish hedonism may be good for some things, but it's hardly the best basis on which to begin a family. And the modern people who forgot this would rather blame anything else but the exaltation of the Self for the failure of marriage.