One Reason Why I Love Reading

…not only do I learn new things, but I unlearn things that I thought were true!

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For example, when I read Sex At Dawn last year, I was schooled on my understanding of the “typical life span” for humans before the advent of modern medicine. My mother had on occasion pointed out to me, and other sources reinforced the sentiment that, because humans used to only live to around the age of 40-45, marriage was easier, because life was shorter.

But, wait! What does “typical life span” mean to you? Because, apparently, while “[a]t the beginning of the 20th century, life expectancy at birth was around 45 years,” this was largely due to high infant mortality rates. [1] When you average dying babies, aged “0”, right in alongside people living to 75 and beyond, well, yeah, the average age of death might be 45, but that certainly isn’t a typical life span for someone who lived past infancy (which, by the way, I’m pretty sure you have to do to get married…)

So, yeah, married people probably had to put up with each other just as long back then as we do now. That, of course, doesn’t change the fact that they probably found just as varied solutions to the problem of desired infidelity as many couples secretly (or not so secretly) do today, but it’s definitely a little factoid that I felt was worth sharing with my mother on the next occasion she brought up life expectancy averages.

Today, I am reading a different book, The Future of Marriage, by David Blankenhorn.

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Would you like to know what fun fact I unlearned today?

In regards to the concept of a dowry, or “bride price,” which some of us have come to understand as the equivalent of “purchasing” a bride, making marriage a strictly economic transaction, and making the bride “property” of the groom:

“[S]cholars have shown that families frequently expected the economic value of the gifts to the bride’s family to be essentially equal to the value of the return gifts to the groom’s family and the gifts from the bride’s family to the bride, called the dowry.” [2]

Excuse me? Return gifts to the groom’s family? Dowry was a gift to the bride, not the groom? Why did I never hear about this stuff? I was definitely under the impression that the bride herself was a gift to the groom/groom’s family, and the groom/groom’s family presented jewels and goods in exchange for her.

Wtf? o.O

Now, you may have noticed that the two things I have unlearned actually are were pretty good support points against monogamous marriage as we know it today. They certainly were two points that originally influenced my hesitation to embrace the concept. I remain, however, unconvinced that monogamous marriage is for me, in spite of unlearning these things.

Why? Because there is so much more out there that I’ve learned, and which I still have yet to learn. So far, the path leads me away from desiring traditional marriage, and I’m not going to jump ship just because of these two new bits of information. Rather, I now feel more confident in my decision. I am now more well informed on this topic than I was yesterday, and I am proud to say that I still feel confident in my personal wariness toward traditional, monogamous marriage.

More research, as always, is required. Onward!

[1] Sex At Dawn, p266

[2] The Future of Marriage, p50

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2 Comments

  1. The question becomes did your mother accept your new factoid about marriage being just as hard (or easy) then as now?

    Mothers and fathers tend to stick to their myths, like cold weather outside causes you to catch a cold. 😛

    Reply
    • She gave me a curious look, verbally accepted the new information (though whether she *actually* did in her head, I can’t know), and moved on to list other reasons why she things marriage is harder today than back then. It is, after all, a very different world.

      My mother, I guess I should make clear, is happily monogamously married (to her second husband), and believes in traditional monogamous marriage and making it work with the right person.

      Reply

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