Saturday, March 12, 2011

Relationship advice pour les nuls

Dan Savage answers a letter from someone whose boyfriend doesn't want marriage and fatherhood just yet. The twist: it's a 27-year-old man. What's surprising is not that a gay man would want a family, but that one usually hears about this in the context of rights, of couples in which both men want to be settled down, and would but for societal oppression, they'd be the most boring couple on the block. Here, however, we have a standard-issue biological clock complaint, up against a standard-issue commitment-shy boyfriend. These people could not be more predictable, but for the one detail.

Where I'm not 100% behind Savage's answer is the bit about how the boyfriend, if they do have children, "won't be the first person who agreed to have kids under duress." This is not the realm of gender-neutrality. The nature of same-sex parenting - indeed, one of the points about it its defenders often cite - is that unless children are already present from a previous relationship, it requires above-and-beyond effort on the part of both parents to get that kid. Whereas since forever, men - and women! - in heterosexual relationships who are ambivalent about parenthood have had that decision made for them, or at least have reached a point where not having a child is what would take above-and-beyond effort. Indeed, above-and-beyond effort not to have children is the default in hetero relationships.

While it's a nice and romantic notion that the not-so-sure boyfriend would come around just to keep his partner, it seems unlikely, given that the letter-writer has already explained that he really wanted to marry his boyfriend, but would also be happy to just raise kids with him, and the boyfriend wants neither. This is a case where the imbalance of interest might shift if the woman got pregnant (accidentally or 'accidentally', and yes, the latter is bad news), and, as has historically been known to happen, the man decided to stick around and ultimately came to be pleased to have a family. But a gay man in this scenario doesn't have that option, and can't really play the 'oops I seem to have gone through the complicated and expensive process of adopting a child' card. I would have thought this would be obvious - to Savage, to the letter-writer, to anyone with a basic sense of what acts between which people can and cannot make a baby. Anyway.


Sticking around, meanwhile, in the realm of the obvious, there's this fluffiest-of-all-Styles-articles, about how the Middleton-Windsor nuptials will include a gaggle of exes among the guests, and whether we the readers would attend an ex's wedding, or invite one to our own. The entire story, the entire conflict it presents, could be easily resolved by assessing whether the theoretical wedding guests are friends who are also exes, which is to say, more 'friends' than 'exes,' in which case the relevant question is whether the particular person is a close enough friend to be invited, or whether the subject at hand is people using Facebook to look up people they dated years ago and then lost touch with, and sending them invites to make some kind of neurotic point. It seems obviously tacky and a bad idea to invite exes as a category, like 'friends, family, and exes,' unless there are children in common... in which case the ex is being invited in the 'family' category. (And, as an aside, how much do we want to bet that Crowley's ex-wife does not, in fact, want him back, and is now or will soon be rolling her eyes at his new wife's assumption that she does?)


Anonymous said...

One of my brother-in-law's best stories is of having gone to the wedding of a woman with whom he had remained friends after the romance ended, looking around at the reception, and realizing he was at THE EX-BOYFRIENDS' TABLE! Doesn't get much better...dave.s.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

Dave S.,

That would be pretty amazing.

Flavia said...

Of course, in the case of a royal wedding, inviting the exes can be seen as an entirely appropriate consolation prize (with a dash of noblesse oblige thrown in): you didn't get me, but you DID get an invitation to the social event of the year. Thanks for playing!

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...


True enough, esp for the Prince's exes. But it must be frustrating for them to have been so close.