Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Public Marriage Proposal

It's a wonderful life! Let's shoot the moon, hey? (watch out, this one will ramble you to numb, exhausted, worn-out actual reading death, by it's nearly ideal ending) I have to admit I'm having a hard time bringing this one home.

Don't get all excited, there's only one person the joke could possibly mean, and I'm not that stupid. But with people now twittering their vows, or posting on Facebook from the altar, there is a sudden new immensity to public protestations of "forever!"

Marriage too, when it's not part of the Big Business machine, has taken on new aspects of that Platonic Ideal it was always meant to be (you can know it by the hell reserved for those who fall short of this trivial requirement to keep a promise). Or was it just a chattel contract? Oh, who knows? I can never keep these things straight.

It could be just the media exaggeration, and I'm sure someone once somewhere proposed skywriting, say to Virginia Woolf (yeah, right), but it seems they do it now on billboards, and on the megatron at a football game, and people find this romantic!!??

It sure does seem as though good ol' Tiger Woods' marriage was more a contract than a bond, no? I guess everyone has to hedge his or her bets. Or maybe marriage only can be bondage, and enlightened people stay clear of it, or at least clarify the important, which is to say financial, implications.

Marriage is being whittled away now from the side of infidelity and divorce, which make the institution rather more harmful than good considering the financial and emotional ruin which often ensue from its dissolution.

And from the other side, gays, queers and lesbians seem no wiser about the pitfalls of "forever" (I'm pretty sure the "bi" folks have it figured out). But they face financial discrimination to some extreme by being left outside this sacred trust.

Oh, well, lots of people have pointed out that the sacred part should be left separate from the state where it belongs, leaving only the civil union to be concerned about in public.

And the kids. It's all and only about the kids anyhow, and the security they require from eternal bonds (plus the legal apparatus to mandate financial security when the bonds get broken - talk about bondage!). But the state has an interest in protecting the kids, right?

Marriage doesn't seem to be working for anyone these days, and all the extravagant expense and public fanfare some folks put on just serves to beg that question. Or could it be that it works just fine for lots of folks who aren't that public about it? Give me a coldcuts in the churchhall wedding and I'll give you better odds. Mmmmm. Maybe not so much.

Here's my capper: the more liberal and educated you are, the more you seem to treat your kids as property. You hover over them to be sure they don't make any mistakes. You monitor their intakes and outflows; their entertainments and their schooling. You even hire special agents to get them into the right schools.

Yeah, yeah, there I go generalizing again.

Leave the kids alone! You don't own them. Love means letting them figure some things out on their own.  Well, except we don't allow for error. We love zero tolerance, as if we never had unprotected sex, tried drugs, or kissed the wrong person the wrong way. And as if science could tell religion when life starts, or was it vice-versa? I'm so confused.

I can't imagine anyone more prone to failure than the kid who gets coached for the Ivy league from age two.

Well, except for the evident fact that they don't fail. They actually succeed extravagantly, which then just feeds this vicious cycle. Until what? One of them walks on water? I sure would hate to be on the inside of that kind of perfection.

You have to wonder if there are any cases where the person subject to the powerplay of public proposal just says "hell no!" in simple response to the humiliation of being outed like that in public. I guess you'd never do it though - propose marriage publicly - unless you were that certain of the answer.

Evidently also, the more people spend the less really certain they are. It's as if the extravagance of the act can counteract it's fundamentally (Platonically, ironically, if you catch my drift) ideal and therefore fictional quality. But the "yes" answer must be readily enough gotten, given the number of people who pull it  off. After the lawyers work out the codicils. I mean if you're rich enough to require lawyers in on the deal.

There's an interesting play on words in English among resolve, resolution, vectors, pixels and, um give me a sec., yeah trust. Remember back in the last inevitable greed meltdown, when the 'Savings and Loans' were all decimated? They were caught building houses on speculation, down in Texas maybe, and lots of rich developers made it off to the Caymans or someplace while the taxpayers refunded the public coffers. (Remember "It's a Wonderful Life"?)

There were significant savings and loans up here in Buffalo which were wiped out by that fiasco. And as I recall, there was a new quasi-government entity called Resolution Trust which was called in to buy up all the toxic assets and complete an orderly dissolution of the bankrupted and newly so-called banks.

Who knows a person really when they first come into your life? Over time the deal changes, and the contract you thought you'd signed gets changed as the rules change.

Sure, those savings and loans used to just lend out your savings to other people needing money to build homes, say. And there was plenty of trust involved in the transaction. But then the rules changed, and the banks could package up their liabilities and assets and sell them to the highest bidder. And leverage them. And empty meaningless houses got built in Texas because they had paper value, even though nobody was around to live in them. And the banks could make do with cardboard frontage, since no-one was buying the fiction of stony permanence anyhow. As long as the paper was good.

I'm sure I've got most of the details wrong, and no one person was hurt in the end (um, except for shareholders and rich people, but they don't count). We all got dinged with the tax bill. And some people moved in to moldy plastic cardboard houses later on.

Outsourced trust can be a terrible thing.

So, the rules change in marriage too, effectively, as all around a person spouses are being traded up and down. And anyhow, the person you thought you could know and trust might come into sharper resolution - that's the wordplay part - under stress. Earnest fictions might develop cracks in the face of temptation, or reality.

Hence the pre-nuptials, which bring marriage contracts into contact with reality outside the fantasy of romance. Sure sure, I absolutely do trust that you love me. Now. But, you know, we all change, and well, I have to look out for number one. It kind of makes you wonder what would be worth dying for, no? If not family.

Which brings me back to the kids. No matter what might happen in the relationship between Mom and Dad, each of them must resolve to love the kids forever. But what if all these ego investments in the wonder-kids don't pay off? Are you allowed then to turn them in? Pay up or you can't see the kids seems to keep Dads away if that's your goal. And people do get away with murder, just as they can be put away for fictional murder that never happened.

Well, I'm certain they don't let over-parented kids into Yale, say, and that all those hyper-achievers did every single bit of it on their own. For Yale, it's all a matter of predicting success - it's a kind of vector math - so that if, for instance, your name is Bush, then you have pretty good prospects for success. And if you score highly on some standardized assessment of potential, trued over the years and against your peers. Success, as they say, does breed success. And vector graphics keep their resolution no matter how zoomed in they get. Cool, huh?

And if at first you don't succeed . . . well, you can always pay Kaplan, the idea for which was started by a subversive friend of a friend over at Princeton who was fed up by the silly propaganda that you can't game the testing system. Yeah, yeah, and why are so many Asians crowding the Ivys? Genetics, what? Um, I don't think so.

Now "they" have all sorts of compatibility measures for personal matchups too. Some of them are free on-line, and some probably cost lots of money, especially if there's lots of money at stake. I wonder if Tiger can sue the one who trued those two? His wife won't need to, hey!

I think I told you before that I got jilted by eHarmony. They said I couldn't be matched, which turned me off to them forever. I can't believe they're still in business, since public relations folks will tell you that bad PR goes around ten times times further and lasts ten times longer than positive PR. And since eHarmony tried to make me feel good by assuring me that there was nothing wrong with me - it's just that 20% of their applicants can't be matched and no hard feelings. They prove their integrity. But right there is a good clue why integrity never quite works in the real-world market place, or politics.

If you do the math, eHarmony pretty much shot themselves in the foot. Come to think of it, I haven't been hearing much from them lately. But hope does spring eternal, and maybe matchmaking isn't subject to the rules of the marketplace. Maybe, as with politics, there's no such thing as bad publicity, only publicity.

Now (I know, I know, when's it gonna end already!!) labor contracts sure are an anti-romantic aspect of real reality. Labor contracts put a person in mind of the good old marriage longed for by those who think that morals have all gone to hell. The power is all on the side of the employer (read "man", as in "the man") and the labor is all on the side of the worker (read "woman" as in ends in "ee", like manner and mannee, or bonder and bondee, or cooler and coolee how about).

Now right wingers these days seem all mixed up about sacred and profane arrangements for love. It's kind of as if they expect that a person can know all about himself, the world, and everything before even trying and screwing up a few times. There's no redress for mistakes, and no allowance for variation. And they tend to be father-knows-besters. And instead of hovering over their kids, they just let their kids know what they expect, and then, by God, they get it.

And some of the left wingers can't seem to figure out if they need to always include the baby with the bathwater, as in, sure it's OK who you lust after even when it's a different person every time. And they love their kids so much that they sometimes don't seem to have a life themselves.

Naturally, in the political arena, you find the right wing on the side of "the man" and the left wing on the side of the "ee", the one subjected. You know, you've got your screwer and screwee. Employer and employee.

The only thing conceivable to redress the imbalance of power is a labor union, right? I mean, left? Unions are able to approximate equivalence to the power of owners, and make the agreement a more equitable exchange between laborers and the profiters from that labor.

So, I guess here's the trouble with public protestations of love. They always still seem to come from men. What's up with that? And labor unions still always seem to wait for management to move and then they move only in defense.

What would be so wrong for the unions to stand up and say hey, since you aren't providing what we need to keep working, let's change the rules a bit? Let's say now that you've been outed as a cheater, and so now we might be able to set the field markers.

I mean, we've already got socialism; that bandied-about terrorizing term. The drug companies, in cahoots with the health insurance companies, own the elected officials who must keep in place the system which provides Prozac or like-minded post-modernisitic drugs so that our soldiers can keep up their sociopathic act. AND, supply the permanently unemployed underclass with both a new way to go to jail when they sell their prescriptions, PLUS, a way to endure the unemployment and sense of zero-worth. As I was told just yesterday by someone in a position to know - healthcare for the poor is incredibly expensive!

Someone's getting all that money, and I'm pretty sure it's not you and me. How the hell did we survive before, and fight actual bloody wars, and, well I suppose we did co-evolve with alcohol. Maybe that, like the hookworms which might cure auto-immune diseases, would be the cheaper way to go. No wonder we had to make it illegal once upon a time!

No no, I've seen firsthand how post-modern drugs can work. And post-modern capitalism, which isn't capitalism at all. More a sort of corporatism where size really does matter. But it's not all bad. On balance, I think we all turned out OK.

Which takes me back to the marriage bond. Best honored in the breech (sic)? Well, maybe, but can't a person have some privacy anymore? (Um, no, since Google already knows all your secrets) I think we ought to come down off our overheated rhetoric sometimes (yeah yeah) and try for a little humor among our aspirations. I mean, come on, tell me that sex with strangers is really all that great. No, wait. I don't wanna know. I've got my ears in my fingers and I'm singing nah nah nah nah. You do what you want, and it won't bother me. I'm going for the real thing.

Now, if I could just figure out what real is. I know you know I'm a little reality challenged. I get my hi-res porn all mixed up with my low res vector graphics gaming, which,however, moves!! I get the real woman all mixed up with the ideal one, and then I keep falling in love all over again. It's pathetic, really. But reality usually is. And I've never played a computer game. Honest!

Ah well, real life sure is a muddle. A nice muddle. Happy with the kids I've got. Happy with the man I'm not. Happy is as happy does. Happy with the man I was. Happy with the man I am. Well, for the moment, that's what I am. Now that ideal woman I'm looking for, she doesn't exist. But the real one, ooh la la.

Sheesh! What's a fellow to do when the world's all topsy-turvy? I'd say, go for the cosmic forgiveness, do your best to honor your promises and your promise, but let in a few screwups once in a while. We make the world a more interesting place. And, um, nobody's perfect.

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