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Tucson Weekly The Mating Game

How To Achieve A More Perfect Union

By Jeff Smith

MAY 24, 1999:  I'VE BEEN THINKING. This man/woman thing is troublesome. I mean it's the old Tale of Two Cities deal: the best of times, the worst of times. We fall in love, we get married; half of us go bowling, the other half go shopping; we argue over the remote, we get divorced.

Why can't we all just get along?

Well, for one thing, some of us are women and some of us are men. This is a workable arrangement from a plumbing point of view, but problematic on the personality level. For purposes of our discussion I am defining personality in terms of intellect and emotion. Either way, us boys can't fathom you girls, and verse-vica.

In the global model, the boy/girl thing works just fine because all we really have to do is breed and then leave each other the hell alone. Unique in the animal kingdom, however, we find humankind breeding and then bugging the bejesus out of one another until death or divorce us do part.

Your lower orders have the common sense to couple, and then single again. The boys head out to pasture to rest from their exertions and then go to kicking the shit out of each other to see who gets to do that thing the next time the girls come in heat. The girls build nests, have babies, feed them, raise them, teach them, keep house, and then go out again and flirt with the boys when the time is right.

It's a wonderful system.

It only fails when we try to apply arbitrary intellectual and emotional standards to it. Traditional marriage is a legal contract that decrees that men and women better not act according to natural law or there will be lawyers to pay. Non-traditional partnership says we've got to hang out together because we want to, and compromise--meaning nobody gets to do what they really want--or there will be hell to pay.

Despite its flaws and pitfalls, marriage will prevail in human society because we've got these oversized brains that lead us into mischief, all the while deluding us that we can think our way out of it. I myself was married for 23 years, and still favor the institution. Sober reflection, however, has brought to my attention some changes we could make to "achieve a more perfect union."

First, this custom of letting post-pubescent boys and girls date, and then encouraging them to marry and start families, has to go. In the animal world, callow youths of little experience and physical immaturity would be gored and stomped by the senior bulls, who would breed with the young females by virtue of brute strength. In the human world the old bulls simply hire the young bucks and make them work at humiliating chores for low pay. This leaves the young bucks poorly equipped to support all the young they sire upon the green and fertile does. This is your classic double whammy: overpopulation and out-of-balance distribution of the means of support.

Then, as the junior breeders grow stronger, teeming with hormones and ambition, they naturally seek new worlds to conquer. In the natural world this is called survival of the fittest. We humans call it adultery.

My system for solving this problem is to discourage young men from marrying. They've got too much testosterone and not enough cash to make good husbands and fathers. Young men should apprentice as companions and lovers to older women, who have reached the ripe maturity of their sexual drive and skill, and who possess the wisdom and the patience to teach a robust and rough-edged youth how to please a woman, how to order wine at supper, which spoon goes with the sorbet, and when to shut up and go in the other room to watch a ballgame.

Once a boy has known a wise, mature woman of years, has grown through his--how shall I put this?--cavity-prone years, and learned to appreciate the gentler things in life once the raging torrents of his endocrine system have slowed to a trickle and his stock portfolio has brimmed to a reservoir of financial security, then he is ready--and far better suited--to marry and to support a family.

Whom shall he marry?

Well, by the time our lad reaches the maturity, stability and fiscal security of middle-age, his mentor is going to be ready for shuffleboard, square-dancing or synchronized swimming. She's past child-bearing age, and by now weary of boys, whether young or old. Don't feel too bad for her, or think me callous: bear with me until my entire thesis is presented and you will see that life has rewarded her amply.

Obviously but one course recommends itself to the rational mind: the mature male marries la jeune fille.

She is young and sweet and innocent of experience in the ways of love, but she is eager and brimming with nature's fruitful essence. He, as is characteristic of his gender, has taken a longer path to that sweetness of character that comes to men once their battles are mostly behind them. He is wise in his years but still appreciative of the potency and potential of life. His time under the tutelage of older, wiser women has taught him to appreciate what his young bride is, and what she is to become.

Plus, he may be running low on sperm-count by now, which is terrific. With luck and artificial insemination, he and the girl might make one baby of their own; otherwise, they can adopt.

Thus we have solved a plethora of problems: overpopulation, maldistribution of wealth and resources, adultery, poor sexual performance.

Plus, we have provided youth with an opportunity to benefit from the wisdom and experience of years without having it beaten into their brows by Mom and Dad. How much better to learn these invaluable lessons from a partner, a lover, a friend, a spouse? And to middle-age we have given new hope, new enthusiasm, a new lease on life and a new perspective to go with it. We have given to the adult world, to ourselves, youth, literally and figuratively.

Hell of a deal, no?

And where do we all end up? Well, the aged woman who mentored the callow lad and then shuffled off after readying him for marriage already had spent her years as a young bride and mother, before reaching middle age, burying the old man, and enjoying their estate while being courted by her young lover. The old man, if he doesn't croak, can let his by-now-middle-aged bride enjoy her flings, while he romps with his high school sweetheart at their 60th reunion.

They've been doing this sort of thing, somewhat sub rosa, in France and other more-evolved cultures in Europe for centuries. I think it's quite a sensible system and that after nearly 400 years of North American Puritanism, we ought to try it on for size.

I'm willing to make the sacrifice and volunteer.

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