Chani wrote a fabulous post about this topic yesterday, and my response was way too long for a comment.
I have been married for seven years, and I have never really been tempted to dabble outside of my marriage. Now, that may be because I have been perpetually exhausted by school and work and kids for those seven years, in which case we should look for me to start shopping around for an affair sometime around 2023, when I have finally had a good night’s sleep.
However, I suspect there is more to it than that. Monogamy was not a choice for me. We talk about marriage as though it is elective, but the fact is that, like gender, it is a social construction we have reinforced time and again from the moment we are old enough to recognize that Mr. and Mrs. Mallard are raising their ducklings (Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Oack, Pack, and Quack) together. Sure, we notice that plenty of adults get divorced, but that is supposedly a failure of the institution we all are very much invested in seeing succeed.
The fact is, I did not choose to believe in marriage any more than I chose to believe in shaving my legs, wearing clothing in hot weather, or admiring thin people. It is just one of many traditions that I have absorbed as “right” because that’s what my society is doing.
I have often pondered my willingness to fall in line with so many accepted norms of society. Am I weak-minded and unable to think for myself? If I had been around 200 years ago, I wonder, would I have just gone along with another of society’s “peculiar institutions”? Or would I have had the imagination to realize things could be different?
I hope the answer is that I am able to think outside of the box when injustice is involved. My idea of marriage is a smidge different from the one that I saw all around me as I grew up. In my mind, marriage is exclusively between two adults who love each other and have chosen to be legally bound to each other. Almost sounds like the prototype, except I can honestly say I ascribe no gender to those two adults. Yep, I kicked off one aspect of the societal definition, but when I say that of course I support gay marriage, I am backing the institution all the more.
If I were really able to think outside societal definitions, I would not even see marriage as a preferred state of being. I would assume relationships are just as they have been built by the people involved, and I would have no judgment for polygamists, cheaters, and men who cannot commit. Instead, I cannot imagine why those who are trying to bolster family values do not get behind gay marriage. More people for the cause! 10% more of the population underscoring the value of marriage! Woohoo!!!
Yes, despite all my jabber about gender norms and not wearing makeup, I am a good, old-fashioned conformist. However, I suspect that my lack of interest in extramarital nookie is deeper than that. After all, nowadays, sometime it seems like cheating is a part of half the marriages out there.
No, I like monogamy because it has been good to me. My partner and I have grown towards one another. We are tense, we are tired, we are moving way too often, but we are so much a part of one another that intimacy with anyone else seems absurd. It just could not be like the intimacy we have, that is born of sharing a life so fully together.
So, Chani asks if monogamy is natural. I say, who the hell knows? Probably not. It is probably a convention that, like all conventions, serves some of us better than others.
As I sit here writing this, two little boys in bed, a little girl growing inside me, a husband across the country (where are you this week, babe?), and a picture of the four of us on the shelf in front of me, I can honestly say it has been pretty good to me.
It may be, however, time to start rethinking that whole absurdity of wearing clothes in hot weather.