Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Starter Husband

A MSN article examines the increasing depiction of marriage as an experimental activity with no real committments:

For some, a starter husband is like a starter home — a semi-commitment where you're willing to do some of the surface work, like painting the walls, but not the heavy lifting, like gutting the whole foundation; he's just not a long-term investment. Others compare a starter husband to a first job, where you learn some skills and polish your resume before going after the position you really want.

In our everyday life — one where we're encouraged to pursue the bigger, better anything (witness the average college grad who now burns through seven jobs before turning 30) — how can you commit to something, or someone, forever? "That's a huge promise. We live in an incredibly fast-paced consumerist culture," says Pamela Paul, author of the book The Starter Marriage, who herself was divorced less than a year after taking her vows at age 27. "Ours is an H&M culture, where you go out and buy 10 cheap items for the season, then toss them, rather than investing in one beautiful coat you'll wear for another 10 seasons. More and more women have that throwaway mentality with their first marriage — the 'I want it now' attitude." Until, of course, you don't.

And that's just our prerogative, says Generation Me, fingers poised above the do-over button. We can pick and choose among limitless possibilities seemingly unattached to consequence because today's 20-somethings are living out an extended adolescence in a manner unlike any generation before them. We're still knocking around and figuring it out, often on our parents' dime.

Helen Smith responds:

A man is not a car and anyone who compares a human being to an object this way has more issues than I care to discuss in a blog post. I realize these self-centered articles and books such as The Starter Marriage and the Future of Matrimony are fun to write and really make women feel "empowered" to act in the same manner as the sexist men of yesteryear who spoke of women like chattels. But in reality, women who use men for starter husbands are the opposite of empowered--they are the archetype of the weak female: afraid to say no, afraid of independence and afraid to be unmarried in their 20's. Yeah, the "you go girl" movement has really done a lot for these women--and reinventing marriage in this way is not empowerment of a new sort, it is just a new twist on an old theme, leaving a lover with a broken heart.

Hat tip: Glenn Reynolds

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