On Relating to All of Ourselves

“I’m fascinated with that relation, which we all have, with our previous selves. We all have that, that’s all we have, our whole life—who you were as a kid, who you were at 20—the great thing about getting older is you can reference yourself. But I’m equally sure that if we really could meet ourselves, we’d be surprised. Because we’ve re-characterized ourselves so many times to fit our current needs: ‘Oh, I was an idiot then, but now I’m smart.’ Not giving yourself enough credit, or giving yourself too much. It’s a fascinating relationship.”

via Links Through Their Lives « The Dish.

Just think of the credit we withhold from ourselves, or indulge in, as we grow and change over time. Maybe the key to a successful, long-term relationship with another is making sure that you give the other the right amount of credit… that you are fairer to another than you are to yourself, and s/he is to you.

Scared of same-sex marriage?

This guy, Ross Douthat, definitely is: Marriage Looks Different Now – NYTimes.com.

Oh, to be as comfortably inept as Ross Douthat. To him, gay marriage — which is not yet universally recognized — is contributing in some way to the decline of traditional marriage. (“Correlations do not, of course, establish causation,” he offers as a perfunctory qualifier for a column’s worth of dribble.)

Now, anecdotal evidence does not, of course, establish a trend (there’s my perfunctory qualifier). But let’s review what I’ve seen in the past three years among the roughly 20 women I’ve met since moving to this little suburban and religiously conservative enclave in the Southeastern United States:

  1. January of 2010: a friend shares that she’s divorcing her emotionally abusive husband. Divorce was final within months, with shared custody of sole child.
  2. Summer of 2010: a friend shares that she’s fallen in love with another man, that she’s never loved her husband of well over a decade. By the next year, their divorce is final, with shared custody of two children.
  3. Early 2012: a friend shares that she and her husband decided to split up. He has likely been unfaithful, but that was not the precipitating factor. Divorce final by early 2013, with shared custody of sole child.
  4. Late summer 2012: a friend decides to leave her husband, after years of trying to make it work. Shared custody of two children.
  5. Late summer 2012: a friend shares that after years of trying to work it out, she and her husband will split, amicably. Their divorce is to be finalized soon, with shared custody of two children.
  6. Fall 2012: a friend learns of her husband’s affair. They decided to divorce, but reconcile months later.
  7. Spring 2013: a friend falls in love with another man outside her marriage. She and her husband try to work it out. It’s not working.

That’s seven out of twenty women I know. Women with serious marital issues, the majority of which could not be resolved. Of those 13 remaining, two have been divorced for decades and chose not to remarry.

Based on this sample, here’s what’s responsible for the decline of traditional marriage. (Or at least, here’s my educated guess, which I can assure you is infinitely more reliable than Ross Douthat’s):

First and foremost: women have earning power, and no longer need to stay in a marriage just to have food on the table.

Second and most fundamental, foundational, and monumental: Women and men–PEOPLE–have communication problems–and are more aware of them now, since it’s the 21st, and not 19th, century. Those problems affect one’s ability to commit, to manage finances, to ensure intimacy–all of it.

That is IT. There is no other reason… other than perhaps, perhaps, we marry too early in our lives, before we’ve fully matured as individuals, which you know, has been the traditional way to go.  The average age at  first marriage in the United States? 28.9 for men, 26.9 for women. Did you know that key areas of our brains, especially the prefrontal cortex that controls many higher order skills, are not fully mature until the third decade of life?

Anyway. You know what divorce has nothing to do with? Same-sex marriage.

As a friend aptly put: “I don’t care if you are gay or straight, I will do my best to talk you out of getting married equally.”

Marriage is hard.

Traditional marriage? Where all a woman had to do was stay home and have babies and raise them and support her manly man? Because she had far fewer choices? That stuff was easy, by comparison.

(And I mean no disrespect to your mother or grandmother, or mine. I’m being dramatic, for effect.)

You get what you pay for

Andrew Sullivan notes Jonathan Chait’s examination of campaign spending, by campaigns themselves and Superpacs. Chait discusses ad buys and associated rates, and cites that “Republicans are paying their staff twice the rate Democrats are paying theirs, allowing Obama to have twice as many people working for him for the same amount Romney is spending.”

That’s based on a report from the Los Angeles Times, which found:

[T]he Obama campaign had 901 people on its payroll last month, and paid them a median salary of $3,074 a month, or $36,886 a year. The Romney campaign, in contrast, had 403 people on its payroll, and paid them a median salary of $6,437 in August, which would mean $77,250 a year. A Romney campaign official said the median staff salary is actually $51,500 a year. The August payroll may have been inflated by back pay owed to new employees, the official said.

Even at $51,500 a year… that’s a decent monthly salary. The median salary for a public school teacher in Boston, Massachusetts, is $55,970, for example.

At $36,886 a year, the Obama campaign seems a little frugal. But the median salary for a community organizer in Chicago, Illinois, is about $36,000.

Maybe Romney staffers are much like public school teachers–often with too few resources, too little appreciation, and far too complex a job to do given the directives they receive from their administrations (i.e., Romney) and their students’ parents (i.e., potential voters). Maybe Romney is hoping his staff can fix what he seems to be having trouble doing himself.

Maybe Obama staffers are much like community organizers–who, like teachers, often work with too few resources, and like teachers, often work because of a calling to serve (i.e., confidence in Obama’s candidacy), acted on because of a true faith in the work (i.e., sharing that confidence with potential voters). Maybe Obama is trusting his staff to motivate others, much as he motivates them.

I’m sure I’m not being fair. Maybe, as Mr. Sullivan suggests, Romney simply isn’t as good a businessman as one might have expected.