Okay, I have to get this off my chest, because I simply can’t believe this exists. Not that I believe the women who are talking about it are lying, but I simply wish that the humans who share my gender and my interests weren’t such complete asshats. It’s pretty well established by now that I’m not exactly a feminist (as a friend said recently, “I’m not a misogynist, I’m a misanthrope, there’s a difference”), but this shit is beyond the pale.
Lately I’ve seen some (lots of) stories about women being called fake geeks and being chased out of the community of gaming/comics/sci-fi/whatever for not being “real nerds”. Really? And this is happening because… why? I’d ask if the guys who are doing this are twelve, except that I remember being a twelve year old geekling, and if a girl ever showed any interest in the sort of things I cared about I’d be more likely to chase her away by falling all over myself showering her with attention and praise (you know, being creepy) than by challenging her right to be there (you know, being an asshole).
The weird part of this to me is that I’ve walked into a game store and comic shops with my wife and I’ve seen the reaction. First I walk in, and nothing changes. A few guys might look up, they notice one of their own, and then they go back to whatever it was they were doing. Then SHE walks in. (You can even see the capital letters running through their minds when it happens.) A girl. It’s always a girl, never a woman. There’s a sudden pause, like deer caught in the headlights, or possibly roaches caught in the kitchen light. All heads turn towards her to see what she’s going to do, and more importantly if she’s with someone (free range is fair game after all). Then their eyes surreptitiously follow her around the store until we leave. After seeing this happen a few times I could totally understand why neither she nor any woman would want to go into any of those kinds of stores (the weird funk of basement boys aside).
But that at least evidences, albeit in a crude and creepy sort of way, that geek men at least crave the presence of women. And having spent far too much time around geeks, I can say with some authority the only thing they love more than their hobbies is talking about their hobbies. So when a woman comes along who is ready, willing, able, and in fact eager to do just that, what is their response? To chase her away by calling her a “fake geek”.
Mr. Spock, your analysis?
“Highly illogical, Captain.”
That’s what I thought. I’ve heard the (bullshit) argument that at one point in time there were a few media outlets that hired models to pretend to like video games or other things to appeal to geeks and somehow that means all females who ever exhibit any interest in anything geek are forever tainted. Wow, that might be the first time in history anyone has ever used sex appeal to sell anything to anyone ever! </sarcasm> The worst part of that argument is that video game trade shows had been using booth babes for YEARS before that, and these same guys were eating it up with a spoon.
So what happened? Did a girl come along and ask you to engage her in conversation about the relative merits of Star Wars versus Star Trek instead of expecting her to wear both a Princess Leia costume and an original series Trek uniform?
Guys, there are women out there, real women, who share our passions, who care about the same things we care about, love them with the same intensity we do, dive in with the same ferocity and joy, and best of all they want to share it with us. It’s everything we ever dreamed of, and you want to shut them out.
Grow the fuck up.
Dear Madame Curie,
I desperately need the advice of a strong woman like you. I have a major crush on this guy at school, and I really want to tell him, but none of my friends like him. I’m also kind of a nerd, and he’s a football player, so I doubt he’d even be interested. Not to mention he probably doesn’t even know I exist. But I really do think he’s great. What should I do?
Unclear in Love
Dear Radiant Love,
Here’s the thing: I can see right through all of your excuses. You’re scared, and that’s understandable. What if he doesn’t feel the same way? What if things don’t work out? What if your parents forbid you to see him? What if, what if, what if…? But you need to take risks for the things you want in this world. Is there a chance you could get hurt? Of course there is, but nothing worthwhile comes without a price. If you truly wish to achieve success in life, regardless of your pursuit, you must commit yourself completely. Only then will you attain the prize you seek.
Dear Dr. Heisenberg,
I have been dating the same girl for a couple months now, and I thought everything was going just fine. Then the other week she started talking marriage. It seemed totally out of the blue to me, but she acted like it was the most natural thing in the world! It’s not that I’m totally against the idea of getting married, but I’m not sure we’re ready for that conversation yet, you know? Which one of us is right?
Uncertainly In Love
Dear Entangled Pair,
I understand your uncertainty, but you need to stand by your principles. You need to figure out where you are in this relationship before you decide how fast you want to move forward with it. While it may feel as if your partner is exerting an irresistible force on you, you need to remain positive and understand that you are not merely a neutral observer in this. You have to take charge and decide for yourself what you want, and then communicate that effectively. The release in tension you feel will be massive.
Dear Mr. Einstein sir,
My name is Jenny and I have a problem and I hope you can help me. I was going stedy with a boy at skool and I thout everything was fine and I really liked him and I thought he really liked me and then one day he really didn’t like me anymore and now Im very sad and I don’t know what to do.
Ach, the ways of love are more mysterious than the ways of the cosmos. It is easier to understand the structure of the universe than the structure of a man’s heart. Sadly, it has been my experience that emotions, much like matter and energy, can never truly be destroyed; they can only be changed from one to another. In this same way it seems as if this young man who once professed to have a deep Liebe for you has now seen it transformed in the crucible of time to its opposite. I can only offer you the solace of knowing that as strong as his passion is now so it was then, and if you can find the source of the change you may be able to turn him back if it is not too late and you are still interested in making the effort.
I’ve gotten myself into a pickle and I can’t see a way out. There’s a girl I’ve been with for a couple years, and the truth is we only started dating because nobody else would have either one of us. At the time I was kind of chunky, and she’s… well, she’s kind of plain on a good day. She’s a good friend, and we enjoy a lot of the same things, but there’s no real spark. This summer I started working out a lot and I finally got into shape. I also started getting some real attention from other girls, including a girl I’ve had my eye on for a long time. Would it be wrong of me to break it off with the girl I’m dating to pursue the girl I really want? Does that make me shallow that I’m that concerned about the way she looks?
Dear Muscular Mind,
I would theorize you have found yourself in a love triangle… without the love. It is a shame you do not feel eros for the lady you have, and the theia mania has been granted to you for one you have not, but the gods make fools of us all. Still, if philia is not enough to sustain you, and I have never seen it to be such in any man (and certainly not in a young man), it would be an unkindness bordering on cruelty to continue your current relationship regardless of whether your eye strays or if there are others who suddenly find you appealing. But before you sever the ties you have, consider carefully the value of what you are giving up. As you have changed, so may she; and what you once were you may be again. The alchemy of fitness may have worked wonders on a maiden’s eye, but it will do little to sway her heart, and you may find yourself twice alone and twice bereft before you know it.
Today I’m going to talk about a subject I have spent the better part of the last decade proving I know absolutely nothing about: marriage.
When I first started dating the woman who was to become my Not So Humble Wife, she told me I was going to marry her one day. I tried to laugh it off, but I have to admit I felt something when she said it. A certain hush, like all the people who had known me my whole life had taken a collective breath and were holding it in fear… Two years later (and after driving through a hurricane to get the engagement ring – I am not making this up), I finally proposed. It was one of the few times in my life I have managed to both surprise and delight her at the same time (she doesn’t usually like surprises).
So why wait so long? Because we wanted to make sure we were making the right choice. We danced around it, talked about it, noodled on it, even joked about it for a long time, both before and after we moved in together. We both knew we were the “forever and ever” types (none of this “til death do us part” crap – watch our wedding video, it’s in our vows), so we had to make sure this was the right thing. I mean hey, we already had everything we wanted “living in sin”, so did we really need to tie the knot?
We talked about all the things everybody says you should talk about and so many couples don’t because they’re so sure that love is enough. We learned one thing very fast when we moved in together: love is not enough. No amount of love in the world is enough. If nothing else you also need patience. But we also talked about the rest of it. We talked about finances (we agree broadly on how to handle them), we talked about religion (different but compatible), we even talked about kids (she likes them with a wine sauce; I prefer a side of fries).
At the end of I all though we realized that those things, while important to having a successful marriage, are not the reasons why you get married.
Why get married? Because ideally you found someone who makes you just a little bit happier. Most of life is lived in the spectrum of mediocre. When you find the right person, you live most of life at mediocre +1. The good times are just a bit better; the bad times are not so bad. They don’t “complete you”, they don’t “make life perfect”, and they don’t “give you a reason to live”. If you need that, you need therapy. That’s no kind of weight to put on someone else’s shoulders. A good spouse is a partner, someone who will support you when you need it but will also challenge you when you need calling out. They give you a desire and an incentive to be a better person, in whatever way that means to you.
At least, that’s what I’ve found so far.
As the weather changes, a young man’s fancy turns to love, and My Not So Humble Wife’s fancy turns to… well, I’ll let you decide. But be assured the opinions herein are entirely her own. Especially the ones where she makes me out to be anything less than perfect. Which I am.
This week the annual tradition of putting off mowing the lawn for the first time of the year came to a close as our grass topped out at eight inches and started to go to seed like a field of wheat. Even though I live with My Not So Humble Husband and our two male Not So Humble Roommates, I was the first to break, and had to haul the mower from the stale smelling shed which had become home to hundreds of crickets, all of whom took umbrage to my lawn care intrusion.
As I started the mower and set into my mowing pattern, I realized again why mowing was one of my least favorite chores. Lawn mowing is sweaty, dirty, hard work. I’d put it at a dead heat with cleaning the toilet, but probably not as bad as having to de-clog the sinks and tubs.
But it’s the weird looks I get from my neighbors as they drive, jog, or walk by that I had forgotten about during the cold, hay-fever free months. For all the years I’ve lived in this home, when I mow the lawn I get a variety of looks which are usually some mixture of confusion, surprise, and suspicion.
In the fantastic movie Django (which I saw this weekend) there is a scene where a white German bounty hunter and the freed slave Django ride into a small southern town. When the German asks Django why the locals are staring slack-jawed and wide-eyed he replies, “They ain’t never seen no nigger on a horse before.”
Then it hit me. Maybe a woman mowing the lawn is a just a little bit like a “nigger on a horse”. It makes people a little uncomfortable because it’s unusual and generally a “man-chore”. I never noticed it before because, even though I grew up mowing the lawn on a half-acre lot, we lived in the back of a cul-de-sac away from regular neighborhood traffic.
I’m not pointing this out because I think we need gender equality in lawn mowing; I just think it’s interesting. Next time you’re driving through your neighborhood on a sunny Sunday, see how many of the people that are out mowing their lawns are women.
And for all you lawn mowers out there, be you of either gender, here’s some tips on how to mow the lawn like a girl:
- Get someone else to do it, or at least make them clean the toilet.
- If that fails, dress in jeans, not shorts, to avoid rocks and sticks. Also, apply water resistant bug spray.
- Get a self-propelled mower if you don’t already have one. It’s worth it.
- Mow the most visible part of your yard first, that way if you get tired and decide to pack it in your neighbors won’t complain for a few more days.
- Don’t bag your grass cuttings. If you need a good excuse to justify the laziness, it’s actually more environmentally friendly because it reduces run-off and soil erosion. Take that snotty lawn neighbor!
- If you’ve let your lawn get really long (no judgment) mow in a circular pattern with the blower facing away from the uncut side. If the blower is on the right side of the mower, that will be counter-clockwise. This keeps your mower from getting clogged with cuttings and will save you a lot of time.
- If you ignored my sage advice and your mower gets clogged, don’t tip it to the side with the tank full. This will just flood your air filter with gas and the mower won’t run. Tip the mower to the back at a low angle and remove the excess cuttings from between the blade and the cover.
Finally, if people keep looking at you weird, have some fun with them. You can do something gross like spitting or scratching your butt, look at them with an expression of shock and shake your head in disgust to leave them wondering, or rev the mower engine and challenge them to a race. Be creative!Other posts from My Not So Humble Wife:
By special request (and to maintain tranquility in my home), I bring you this rebuttal post from My Not So Humble Wife.
After extensive observation I have finally answered a question that has plagued women world-wide for centuries. Why in God’s name do men never clean?!
Let me establish my man observing credentials. For over five years I have lived with my Not So Humble Husband and two dirty male roommates who, for the sake of anonymity, I will refer to as Monkey Boy and Grouchy Gus.
I have tried every method imaginable to get them to clean. Chore schedules, bribery, begging, threats, and the silent treatment had minimal success. Eventually I resorted to “fine then, if you won’t clean then neither will I, and you jerks can just wallow in your own disgusting filth” tactic. If I didn’t do any cleaning, eventually they would HAVE to break down and pick up a damn broom. Right? Right?!
I waited for two weeks twitching when the garbage can overfilled, furious as the carpet developed a layer of filth, and at last surrendered when my Not So Humble Husband proudly completed a three foot high tower of empty Coke cans in the basement. But my defeat was not totally in vain.
I had inadvertently discovered that the vast majority of men have a significantly higher “filth tolerance” than women do. Filth tolerance can be best defined as the messiest point at which you look around your home and decide it’s too gross for human habitation and must be cleaned.
On a filth tolerance scale from 1 to 10, a 1 is equal to “slight dishevelment”, 5 is “day after a wild party”, and 10 is “crack house”. As you can see illustrated in the graph below, I feel that I MUST clean around 3.5 when the floor is dirty, stuff strewn about, something smells, and everything is dusty. Whereas the disgusting men I live with range from 6.5 to 9.5 and will barely register old food containers growing mold, dust thick enough to plant shrubbery, and unknown substances dripping down the wall into a pool on the floor.
But, you may be wondering, WHY is the male filth tolerance SO much higher? I’m glad you asked. It’s my hypothesis that men have developed “filth filtering vision”. It’s well established than men are more single-minded than woman. When they enter a room their filth filter vision kicks in and unable to distinguish any detail that is not relevant to their current objective.
For example, a woman might go into the kitchen for a snack and see a very dirty kitchen (Fig. 1). Meanwhile men with low filth filtering will just see a kitchen (Fig. 2) and men with high filth filters may only be able to perceive those items significant to achieving their goal of finding food (Fig. 3).
Fig 1. Women Vision
Fig 2. Man Vision (Low Filth Filter)
Fig 3. Man Vision (High Filth Filter)
I can only hope that by sharing my discovery, humanity can unite to find a cure to the epidemic of male filth filtering (MFF) which takes a heavy toll on women worldwide and contributes to over seventy five percent of the annual incidents of heavy sighs, evil glares, nagging in shrill tones, and restricted bedroom privileges.
Pray for a cure.
I’d like to take this opportunity to explain to the ladies why it is that “men don’t clean”.
You see, this is a lie. A calumny. A slander of the highest proportion. We clean. We just don’t clean the way you clean. There is a difference.
You’re probably thinking right about now that I am simply making things up in an attempt to defend my gender, but the truth is I’m not. In fact, I’m going to paint a situation, walk you through it, and show you how every time you have been making false assumptions about men not cleaning.
Picture this: you ask your boyfriend/husband/son to clean a room. You leave for a half-hour, come back, and it looks no different to you, or at best only slightly tidied up. You say something to the effect of “I thought I asked you to clean in here,” and he maddeningly responds with “I did.” You can either exhort him to actually clean it or just give up in frustration now and do it yourself, because you know you’re going to have to do it anyway.
Now, let me explain what has happened.
You walked in to what, to a man’s eyes, appeared to be a clean-ish room. There might be a few things out of place, but overall it’s in decent shape. When you walked in and said “Could you please clean this room up?” the panic set in. He knows you think the room is filthy, but he has no idea why. He tries his best to guess what it is you want done, but he knows he is destined to fail. The only question is how much time does he intend to waste on this doomed effort. Some younger or over-eager fools will even spend more time and effort, thinking this will somehow earn them mercy. When you return and crush his spirit with an offhanded “I thought I asked you to clean in here”, her replies with the only defense he has, feeble though it may be: the truth. “I did.” He then watches you bustle around the room in a bad mood, engaged in arcane rituals that, when you are done, have made no discernible difference whatsoever.
Now, I know that sounds crazy, and that’s because it is. Men and women do not perceive the world in the same way. This is insane, but it is something that we simply have to accept. Ladies, what you need to understand is that, when you start going on about “cleaning”, we don’t share your vision. I don’t mean that in the sense of “I just don’t share your artistic vision”, I mean that in the sense of “I’m pretty sure you’re an insane cultist worshipping dark beings from beyond this reality and trying to summon them forth to devour our world”. But we love you anyway.
Because we love you, we want to make you happy. This is why we get scared and frustrated every time you say things like “please clean this room”. It’s like you’ve been watching the Saw franchise again, and you’ve decided that a combination of test and torture is just the thing to brighten an otherwise boring day. We both know there’s no way we’re going to win this one, but you ask anyway. Unless your purpose is to look for an excuse to get frustrated with us, perhaps the following advice will be useful to you.
First, keep in mind that we have different standards of “clean”. Remember the old saying about “if you want something done right”? Well, it applies doubly here. I’m not saying we’re going out of our way to shirk, but when you ask someone else to do something, you really can’t expect them to do it the way you would do it unless you’ve spent a few decades mercilessly drilling them on perfect technique.
Second, consider spending a few decades mercilessly drilling us on perfect technique. If you don’t have that much time to spare, some straightforward directions on what you’d like to see would be better upfront than a disappointed sigh on the back end. Keep in mind that if you do this you don’t get to say “well that was just for starters!” after the fact. Make the list comprehensive or don’t bother.
Third, are you familiar with the concept of “comparative advantage”? If you want the room cleaned just so, perhaps while you’re doing that he can be mowing the lawn. If you also want the lawn mowed just so, perhaps he can pay the bills. If you want that done just so, perhaps you would be more comfortable living alone.
Which brings me to my final piece of advice. Nobody is perfect, and we all find ways to annoy the crap out of each other on a daily basis. Learning to accept these foibles and follies is a big part of what makes relationships work, maybe the only part. After all, the rest is fun, not work. Focus more on the good times getting the rooms dirty than the confusion about trying to get them clean again.For the rebuttal from My Not So Humble Wife, be sure to read “Dirty, Dirty Men“.
I’ve been dating this girl for a few weeks now, and at first things seemed really great, but lately things haven’t been going so well. She’s started to criticize the way I dress, the way I talk, and even the people I hang out with. I like her a lot and I want to make her happy, but I’m not really comfortable with the way she’s been acting lately. My friends say I should ditch her, but I don’t think they “get” her the way I do, you know? What should I do?
Conflicted in Love
Dear Blinded by Lust,
I know you think you are in love, but the truth is you’re not. You are in lust. True love is something that you have with someone who not only accepts you for who you are, but embraces you that way, and loves you that way. They don’t have to love your friends the way you do, but they have to at least be willing to give them the benefit of the doubt as well. If you really want my advice, listen to your friends and leave this girl before you lose sight of the person you really are. Find a girl who isn’t going to try to change you into something that you’re not.
My boyfriend and I have a very rocky relationship. Sometimes things can be going along just fine, but then I’ll say something wrong and he’ll just fly off the handle. We’ll argue for a couple hours, and then we’ll realize that the whole thing was just a big misunderstanding. We make up and things will be fine for a few weeks, but then it happens again. He doesn’t normally have a short temper, so I’m starting to think it’s me. What should I do?
Tired of Fighting
My first question would be why you go a few weeks without problems. If you find yourself walking around on eggshells trying to make him happy, then you are in an abusive relationship and need to get out before things escalate. However if it is as you say and it is simply a matter of the occasional argument, then I have to wonder what you’re not telling me. If there are major communication problems in your relationship, you need to either find a way to resolve them or else you need to find someone else. Clear communication, on both sides, is the key to any successful relationship. You don’t want to be with someone long-term who is going to bite your head off because you misunderstood something they said.
[Letter edited for privacy.] Should I or shouldn’t I?
Dear Star Struck,
I’ve just started dating the most amazing guy. He’s sweet, he’s kind, and he’s generous. We’ve only been together for a week, but I’m already pretty sure he could be “The One”. How do I know?
Ready for Commitment
Ah, to be young and in love. The whole world seems fresh and new, and everything is in harmony. While we understand the desire to press forward and seize the moment, to try and capture it and spin about it a cocoon of certainty to last the ages, the future is as uncertain and unconstant for men as it is for gods. The only sure path is to worry not what the future may hold, but rather to embrace the present, enjoy today for what it is, and let things develop as they will. Tomorrow will come soon enough.
My girlfriend hates my family. I mean, not just hates, but HATES my family. I can’t really blame her, they’ve always been mean to her, but I still love them; they’re my family, you know? She’s made an ultimatum this year: either I spend Christmas with her or my family, but if I pick them I better find another date for New Year’s, if you know what I mean. I just don’t know what to do.
Pulled in Two Directions
Dear Inconstant Son,
We know all too well what it is you mean: that you are an ingrate. Your family has provided for you, nursed you, sheltered you, and you are unsure as to what your proper course of action is? For shame! You should be whipped and reviled! As for this wanton that would tear you from the loving arms of your family, be assured: anyone who would make you choose between them and your family is not worthwhile, and they have only given you the easiest choice you will ever have to make.
There was this boy I liked and he liked me and we liked each other I don’t just mean liked I mean REELY liked liked and then his mommy got a new job in another place and he had to move away and now I’m sad and what should I do?
You poor girl, there is nothing so wonderful as first love, nor is there anything so tragic as love’s first heartbreak. I too know all too well the inconsistencies of men; the sweet promises they whisper, and yet they never stay for long. Always they long for the things they have left behind: their treasures, their vessels, their air. Take strength from this, sweet Jenny, and learn from it. For even as you have loved and lost, surely you will love again, and as my dear mother used to say to me, “there are plenty of men upon the land.”
Ladies, you don’t need to read this post; it’s really meant for the men in your life. If you have a man who doesn’t read this column (and shame on him!), set him down right now so he can learn. You’ll thank me.
Gentlemen, allow me to make your lives easy this year. With the holidays approaching, we all have the same problem: what to get for that special someone (or someones, if you’re that kind of player; I don’t hate the game). It’s a constant struggle, especially once you’ve been together for a while and you’ve gone through the usual things (chocolate, lingerie, jewelry, brand new car… okay, I’m kidding about the car, settle down). This year through pure luck I have stumble across the perfect gift, one that she will love you for and that you will get to enjoy too (and no, it’s not more lingerie, as much as you’d like to think otherwise).
Last week My Not So Humble Wife and I were tired and stressed out from life’s trials and tribulations, and she made a wonderful suggestion: why not go for a massage? Now I know what you’re thinking: “real men don’t get massages, except from certain types of establishments that I would NOT take my wife to.” Well that’s where you’re wrong (about the massage, not the establishments). Allow me to point out that professional athletic teams have sports massage therapists on staff for a very good reason, so it’s perfectly acceptable for “real men” to get a massage. As I was saying… I was expecting to just go in for a massage, but it was so much more. It was a spa day. You may have heard the lady in your life talk about a “spa day” with her girl friends before and had no idea what it meant, or perhaps like me you just imagined it involved manicures, pedicures, facials and saying nasty things about whoever wasn’t there. For all I know that’s what they do, but that wasn’t my experience at all.
When we arrived at Lansdowne Resort, it turned out to be a beautiful campus out in Leesburg, a sprawling estate that housed Spa Mineralé, the spa we were going to visit. The spa itself was beautiful, a serene and lovely room with a welcoming staff. Each of us was taken to our separate dressing rooms. I can’t speak to the women’s dressing room, and frankly I don’t care. My Not So Humble Wife tells me it was just as lovely as I described the men’s dressing room to her, so I’ll go with that.
In addition to having all the amenities imaginable, including a sauna, steam room, and whirlpool (because really, you know you’re worth it), I personally found it was the little touches that sold me. Individually wrapped combs for when you finished your shower (with house-branded shampoo, conditioner, and body wash provided, of course), razors, shaving cream and after shave in case you need to freshen up, and even individually wrapped combs so you can make sure you’re presentable. They even had mouthwash to make sure you were at your best. There were both separate men’s and women’s lounges as well as a joint lounge in case you wanted to see each other at some point. The lounges included tea and two kinds of trail mix, some light reading material, and the most sinfully comfortable chaise lounges I have ever been in.
Believe it or not, I still haven’t even gotten to the best part, or even the reason we went in the first place. Perhaps you recall mention of a massage? I was given a choice at booking between deep-tissue and Swedish massage. I was a little nervous since I had been told by more than one person that with the deep-tissue massage “they really dig in”, but since that’s what the wife was getting I could hardly back down- that is to say, I would follow her lead.
As it turns out, I had nothing to fear. What they call “deep tissue massage” is what we referred to in my youth as “massage”. If the Swedish massage is a lighter, gentler version I’m not sure exactly what it is they do other than gently pet you and tell you you’re pretty, although if anyone is willing to pay for me to find out I’m willing to take the risk and report back. I can say, however, that my masseuse was an expert, who did more in 75 minutes for the muscle pain I have been having than all the pills I have taken, and it was an amazing experience besides.
The entire staff deserves a moment of recognition. They were never intrusive, but they were always available, and very polite. They made me feel like a king the entire time I was there. It was one of the best experiences of my life, and I can’t wait to go back.
Needless to say, I’m pretty sure my wife knows what she’s getting this year. Gentlemen, if you know what’s good for you (in every sense of the word), you’ll take my advice and do the same.
“Thou shalt not commit adultery.”
Ah, the juiciest Commandment. If everybody followed this one, where would Jerry Springer’s career be? Where would most of daytime TV be? Come to think of it, most of our entertainment seems to revolve around breaking this one, so obviously it hits a sore spot for a lot of us, even the folks who aren’t married. But should it be enshrined in law?
The first and most important question is, what exactly is adultery? Don’t be too quick to answer that one. Throughout history and in different jurisdictions, even in the U.S. today, the definition can vary. In North Carolina as recently as 2010 it was as simple as premarital sex. The penalties for adultery have historically ranged from the well-known shunning (think of a certain scarlet letter) to the much more serious and permanent stoning deaths that have occurred in some countries even into the 21st century.
Now, before anyone accuses me of being a libertine (I am not; I am a libertarian, big difference), I would like to point out that I am simply arguing against making adultery as such a criminal offense. So far as I see it the government has no presiding interest in the goings on in private bedrooms. But there is a role to be had for the government relating to this Commandment, one that is both simple and just.
I asked before, “what is adultery?” My answer would be, “a violation of the marital contract.” Now that may sound to some to be somewhat akin to the famous definition of pornography (“I know it when I see it”), but in fact it is much more direct and simple than that. Each couple, when they marry, takes certain vows, and in so doing they enter into what is commonly accepted (one might even refer to it as being common law) as a binding contract. Those vows may differ from couple to couple, but that does not make them any less binding than if my lease is different than the lease you have with your landlord. In the same way that if I have a dispute with my landlord, we can choose to resolve it privately, or either one of us can choose to take it to court.
Viewed through this lens, the role of the government becomes not one of deciding what does or does not constitute proper behavior, or even what does or does not constitute a proper marriage, but simply one of performing two tasks the court system is eminently and explicitly designed for: determining the validity of a contract, and adjudicating the proper performance of contractual obligations. If “forsaking all others” was a part of the marital vows (as it commonly is, in some form or other) then adultery would be a violation of that contract, and would be grounds for a termination of that contract, presumably with favorable terms to the aggrieved party.
In this world I envision, so-called immoral behavior would not, shockingly, go up. I say “so-called immoral behavior” because I’m a big believer in expressed preference. I’ve known too many people who talk a good game about their morality but don’t live it, and often those are the same people who want to pass laws to force others to live by that same moral code. What I believe is that if you think something is wrong, don’t do it. It really is that simple. Note that I didn’t say it was easy, but then the right thing rarely is. Still, as I was reminded in a talk recently with the Anglican Anarchist, we were given free will for a reason. If you aren’t free to choose to do the wrong thing, there is no value in doing the right thing.
If the government is not dictating morality, it is up to us, as individuals and as a society, to determine what morality is. We can preach it in our churches, teach it in our homes, argue it in our coffee shops and town squares, and when and if we decide to marry, we can draw up the contracts that suit us as individuals and couples best, without someone else deciding for us what our marriage will mean.
I’m going to go out on a limb and assume I’m going to offend some folks with this post, most likely some of the same people I offended when I addressed my issues with feminism, but I’d like to state for the record that I am not blaming feminism for this one. I am blaming cowardice and stupidity. If you are offended by anything I have to say in this post, I will gladly address your concerns, but I wanted to get that out there first.
So I recently found out that the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill has removed the word “freshmen” from official documents to adopt more “gender inclusive language”. Point of fact, according to the linked article the policy change occurred in 2009, but then I don’t stay abreast of every action I find idiotic in the world, just the ones that come knocking on my doorstep. It’s not even that I find this terribly shocking in and of itself, since this isn’t the first time I’ve heard of something like this happening, it’s the fact that something like this is still happening in 2009.
Look, I love the English language, and I get as much as anyone that words have power. I use them every day, in my job and in my hobby (you’re reading the latter right now, if I haven’t offended you too much already). But there has to be a point at which we say that while words have meaning, there is such a thing as reading too much meaning into words. I realize the deconstructionists out there will disagree with me, as will certain others, but where do we draw the line?
I cite as an example, and the reason I say “why is this still a thing?” the exact same joke I made when this whole question of language use first came to my attention… back in 1993. That’s right, about twenty years ago. At the time I was joking about the word “humankind”. Obviously this word is offensive, as it contains the word “man” and is meant to refer to all homo sapiens. Therefore we should change it to hupersonkind. However even this is offensive, as it contains the word “son”, which is still gender discriminative, as well as making assumptions about family roles. That simply won’t do. We should therefore make it into “huperchildkind”. The word “kind” may remain as it is an affirmation, and something we should all strive toward being.
Ridiculous? I should say so. And that was my point. Any attempt to change a word simply because it contains within it a masculine form which, within the established rules of the English language is the gender-neutral form, is just that: ridiculous. I’m not aware of attempts to change European languages that default to masculine and feminine forms for inanimate objects, although if those exist I would consider them equally silly. The rules of language may be arbitrary, but they exist and we follow them because they work. Taking offense where none is intended or necessary is just looking for excuses to be angry at the whole damn world for not bending to your whims, and frankly there are better windmills to tilt at.
This is not to say I oppose all attempts to make language gender-neutral. While I abhor such ludicrous neologisms as “actron”, I freely accept the interchangeable use of the gender-neutral term “actor” being applied to men and women who ply the same trade, and a magician is equally as talented (or not) regardless of gender. There are also times and places where gender differences are useful in one’s title; or perhaps you are one of the folks who don’t care if you are served by a masseur or a masseuse. None of these, however, are relevant to the issue above; that is simply a matter of cowardice and stupidity, blindly flailing about in a craven attempt to please all and offend none. The end result is often the exact opposite.
Words matter. They have power. They have meaning. They can be used for so many things, to create joy or sorrow, to enlighten or spread ignorance and fear. So long as we give in to the forces who would take away our words in the name of cowardice and stupidity, all we have left is