I’m an expert on marriage. I’ve done it three times!
Sounds like a bad Borscht Belt joke, doesn’t it? But it’s true.
Fortunately my third marriage has lasted approaching twenty years now and looks to be a keeper. I fervently hope it is. (And if Sheryl is reading this — which she probably is — I hope she feels the same way.)
But I am, in my own way, an expert in marriage. We all are. And we’re all idiots about it too.
In the modern Western world, marriage is something most of us enter into in a state of near besotted limerence only to wake up one morning and find another human being there.
Then the noble struggle begins. And when I say noble, I mean it. Committing to another human being and raising a family is the most ennobling and meaningful activity any of us – except perhaps those few curing cancer and such like – undertake in life.
Trouble is — fewer and fewer of us are doing it. The statistics are everywhere. I’ll give just a few: According to a Pew poll from January 2011, 39% of Americans think marriage obsolete. (Up from 28% in the 1990s.) Forty-one percent of babies are born out of wedlock. (That’s up 18% since the 1980s.) Barely half of U. S. adults are married — the lowest percentage ever. And so on.
Pretty sad, isn’t it, for a variety of reasons I think are almost too obvious to enumerate. But if there ever were a radical change in our culture, this is it.
Meanwhile, the Republican Party seems riven these days over the issue of same-sex marriage. The debate is everywhere. Karl Rove weighed in, predicting that a 2016 Republican presidential candidate might even support gay marriage. Who knows? I drive around L.A., listening to my friends Hugh Hewitt and Dennis Prager on the radio, inveighing against the dangers of homosexuals tying the knot.
But they are all missing the forest for the proverbial trees.
America’s problem isn’t gay marriage; it’s marriage.
Conservatives should be grateful to gays. These days they seem to be the only ones who want to uphold the institution.
Well, some of them anyway. And that’s part of the point. Those gays and lesbians who want to get married are largely domestic types who seek to participate in a traditional lifestyle that conservatives normally admire and advocate.
I have seen it up close and personal, as they say. My oldest son from my first marriage is gay. (Ironically, he came out to me years ago as a Yale student, just like Rob Portman’s son.) For nearly twenty years he has lived in a relationship with his partner that appears as committed as any heterosexual relationship I know. They now have two four-year-old twin daughters who are quite adorable and healthy. My son might blanch to read it, but it’s as bourgeois as could be.
This personal story is anecdotal, of course — but it’s also real. And I suspect it is not terribly exceptional. Those homosexuals, I repeat, who aspire to marriage are a self-selected group, more so, perhaps, than heterosexuals, especially given the data I rehearsed above.
So when I listen to Hugh and Dennis, much as I love and admire them, they seem as if they are coming from another planet on this issue. The horse has been out of the barn on gay marriage for so long it’s already lapping every track from Hialeah to Hollywood Park.
And guess what — nothing has happened to the institution of marriage, except, sadly, from those heterosexuals deserting it. And that is clearly not the homosexuals’ fault.
Yes, I know that the Bible says this and that, but I am not going to enter into a theological debate. (Certainly not with Dennis — I would be an unarmed man!) I would ask, instead, for social conservatives to take their fight off the political playing field.
I have previously pointed out that they would be more successful persuading us gay-marriage adherents of the rightness of their cause outside that arena. It makes psychological sense.
More importantly, as a serial monogamist and devoted romantic about marriage, I would remind them to concentrate on the real problem. Marriage is in serious jeopardy. Pay more attention to that, not to a tiny minority who seek what you already have.