When I was about 21 the leader of the ‘male pack’ that I associated with decided it was time for him to settle down and marry. We’ll call him Steve, in part to protect the innocent and in part because it was his real name and one thing he wasn’t was innocent! In truth he did stumble across a very pretty and lovely lady, but the result on the pack was devastating; who was going to lead them to women? Who was going to provide entertainment? How were we going to survive those evenings hanging out at the edges of clubs without appearing to be obvious losers?
The true impact was that within a year of the pack leader’s marriage every other member of the pack was also either married or engaged; mostly to the woman they were dating at the time the trauma occurred. I was the lone exception; it would be nearly ten years before would marry.
I had questions. What is the statistical likelihood that everyone should meet the right person for them at exactly the same time? I remember thinking at the time that the odds were probably very low. I had also recently been “chucked” (English for “dumped”) by my current girlfriend, we’ll call her Sue for exactly the same reason, and maybe I was simply saved by not being connected with anyone at the precise moment the pack leader made his decision. Getting ‘chucked’ seemed to happen to me quite often in those days, for as smart and handsome as I was I knew less than nothing about the opposite sex; I just assumed that their minds thought like mine and we just had a few different appendages on our bodies.
As you might have gathered I was very innocent in those days, unlike Steve and Sue, and it would be a while before I figured out how the world really worked. As an example, consider the evening I remember staggering home alone from the local pub on a Friday night, via the kebab shop of course. Turning on the TV while polishing off the my ‘Chicken Donner’ I stumbled across a program on the BBC showing what I thought to be the worst kind of pornography, two men and a women climbing naked into a large tank of water. It was only when the water began to turn a little red that I checked the TV guide and figured it was late night education on natural child birth. Really, it’s enough to put you right off your kebab!
My subsequent thoughts on relationships led me to believe that most people marry because of timing issues and not because they have found their ideal partner in life; how else could I explain the statistical anomaly of all my friends deciding to marry the person they were with at the time? Actually I really thought the girl I was dating at the time was ‘The One’ and I was badly depressed on being chucked one more time.
Two brief side notes here. Firstly my theory on timing resulted in almost ten years of serial dating for me, determined as I was to avoid marrying for timing reasons and to wait until I had found the right person; this would have been much more efficient with the advent of Internet Dating Sites. Second, being the pack leader has its price, and this is usually paid off at the ‘Stag Night’ (Bachelor Party in America). Our pack leader ended the evening very drunk, wrestled to the ground and stripped naked. His genitals were then dry shaved with an old razor; he was then tied and dumped on the last train to London with a one-way ticket tucked under the ropes. Taking leadership responsibility can be tough and is not for the faint hearted, or those that get bad razor rash. Or those that are embarrassed at public nudity, especially when it happens to be them on display.
How did my friends and their marriages fare? Not so well. But why should this be, isn’t this the way things have always happened, why should the divorce rate have suddenly exploded? We have to look back at the concept of marriage and how it has been impacted by changes in modern life.
In addition to the timing issue, I think that there are two challenges brought about by longer life expectancy and globalization.
Longer life spans means that people are married for longer; instead of being married for 10-15 years and then dying aged 30 or 40 as people did thru the middle ages, people are now married for 50-60 years (my parents included). This is a long time to be with one person, especially if you consider the impact of globalization.
When my pack married most of them had steady jobs, but jobs with relatively limited upside; they were effectively in a steady-state. Now if their partner was also in the same situation then maybe they would stand a chance, but if one is in a job where they travel on business (or leisure) or either has an enquiring mind then the chances are that one or both would continue to grow. Hence they run the risk of growing apart. With travel so cheap and easy and communications continuing to educate us on world affairs, I think people continue to grow longer in their lives. Continued growth over longer periods (life spans) makes marriage a tough thing. Apparently it is a fact now that if you are an American woman born after 1961 statistically you will have more husbands than children!
So what does this have to do with fashion?
Have you ever bumped into old school friends and noticed they are wearing the same fashion (clothes, hair style, etc) as when you saw them 15-20 years ago? Note to self: lose the mullet, high-waistband trousers (with 6 side pockets down to the knees) and Bay City Rollers tartan sleeve-less shirt.
I think that many people hit a steady-state in their personal styling in much the same way that people that don’t grow thru travel or electronic communications. These “steady-staters” are frozen in time and if paired my have long, happy marriages. Of course their children are doomed to being ridiculed at school for their appearance.
What conclusions can we draw and what options are open to us:
(a) Marry someone and lock them away from the outside world, and yourself with them! Adopt a no-growth, steady-state lifestyle. (10% population and decreasing)
(b) Find someone with exactly the same brain fingerprint and grow together for 60 years (<3% and decreasing)
(c) Marry x times; where x is increasing exponentially in direct relationship with Internet communication bandwidth (>70% )
(d) Recognize that we all change and find a path that works best for you (the rest of us)
Of course there are other factors at work. Every woman should understand the Menaissance and Dating Darwinism.
Once you have figured out your path, perhaps you might be ready for a little Marriage 2.0!
Divorced Dad, Tech God, Ex Pat and Lover of rhubarb