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.)

for impolite company

Religion and politics. It’s not to be discussed at dinner parties, cocktail parties, any gathering of people of diverse backgrounds, or Thanksgiving. But I love to discuss either. Till dawn. Ad Nauseam.

I think it all started back when I was in the first grade, and a boy said to me during recess: “Do you go to church?” I answered, “No.” He concluded, “You’re going to hell. You pray to the Devil.” I said, “No, I’m not. No, I don’t.” He wandered off, being all of 7 years old. I remembered, and learned pretty early that sometimes people who believe they are right feel they have a right to hurt others.

I watched the news every night with my parents. I liked President Carter, because he was not associated with that other guy who had to leave because he was, in fact, a crook. My dad encouraged me to write the President a letter. I did. I was 7. The President responded with a nice letter and picture. I learned pretty early that sharing my opinion mattered.

I visited India when I was 10. Children my age begged for food or money, from me. Younger children too. I learned pretty early that I had more than most on the entire planet, and it didn’t feel right.

When I was 12 I saw the biographical film “Gandhi,” which depicted a Hindu assassinating Gandhi because Gandhi was trying to be fair to Muslims. I learned pretty early that religion and politics are mixed on purpose, to no good end.

When I was 17, a dear friend of mine told me he thought he was gay. In fact, he had fallen for a guy he met, and that guy was concerned he had HIV. My friend, raised Catholic, was distraught, and was terrified that his parents would disown him if they knew. He wanted to die. I learned right then that anybody who would make my friend feel unwanted and unworthy was absolutely, undeniably, wrong.

I was a minority growing up in a beige small town in the Midwest (oh, hilarity ensued–I’ve been called nearly every ethnic or racial slur out there, since it was hard for many to pin my looks down to a particular spot on the globe). I learned pretty early that before many people see me, they see the fact that I don’t look exactly like them.

I think about these events, and I wonder what has occurred in another’s life–another, who disagrees with me politically and religiously. And I want to talk about it.

What has shaped the person who believes, for example, that waiting for hours to eat at Chick-fil-A, because Mike Huckabee suggested it, will really show ’em? How is it that they can so easily conflate an “assault on free speech” with “manifestation of market preference?”

I don’t think I believe it’s a simple case of ignorance. I want to know what happened to those folks when they were 7 or 17 or 27. Something shaped them, just like something shaped me.

Religion and politics are said to be unfit for polite company, ostensibly because the topics reveal differences among us, differences that cannot be quickly or painlessly reconciled.

I think those differences can be reconciled, relatively quickly and painlessly, if everybody in the conversation is honest about why they think the way think… and if everybody in the conversation is curious about why another thinks differently.

We all have our reasons. Why do we so often keep them to ourselves?