Who is the Expert on Marriage? A Typical Breadth of Experience by Today’s Younger Generation
Not for the first time I saw a call for a contest for manuscripts on marriage. As a theme/subject for nonfiction it's an appealing and challenging topic, but a part of the guidelines stopped me, so to speak, in my tracks.
"Document and make sure of your sources." I immediately envisioned an exclamation mark after that clause, or perhaps an emoticon indicating wondering amusement. I wondered if the editors were seeking social scientists or psychologists who work from statistics and anecdote.
Why wouldn't they look to the real experts on marriage: those who have experienced it and been not just happy, but fulfilled by it? That instruction about what could end up as footnotes, at first reverberated like a joke. Only at first. Most young people of my generation had some practice for future relationships that began in their teens. Nothing old or new in that. Most had a lot less practice, and often none, for the physical side of matrimony before entering it than they would today. By and large, none of us had anything like the typical breadth of field experienced by today’s younger generation.
Since our youth was involved with a war that altered almost every aspect of life, perhaps Society's accustomed sway was somewhat reassuring, at least to some of us. There was a kind of desperation like that of the previous generation’s experience with the previous great war, but still, some holds were barred to young people that now would be viewed with amused pity by the current analogous age group.
No couples with whom I was acquainted ever lived with a partner before tying the proverbial knot, though several certainly spent weekends together. Maybe that was a factor in how some of us learned (albeit unwittingly) to decide how to make a choice of a permanent partner. Now I'm tempted to discuss my own decisions, but if I were to do that, I wouldn't be writing about Marriage as such. Hence, an example.
In one case, a girl's meeting with a rather handsome young man, two or three years her senior, took place at a confirmation class at the church near their homes. Imagine a thirteen-year-old being asked to a movie by a sixteen-year-old. Imagine a virginal if not totally naïve girl and a young man with a good deal of 'street smarts,' a student at one of the prestigious special public high schools in Manhattan. Imagine what it might have been like for her when he had enlisted in the Navy, then came home to date as he had before, along with his shipmates. The drinking age was lowered to eighteen, and no bar would turn away uniformed service men.
As it turned out, this was one of those practice-for-marriage times. When, after the war, they met again, each thought they might pick up where they had left off, and both discovered too much had changed. To be honest, they discovered that their separate experiences were too divergent. They were really no longer a couple.
In another case, college seniors who had known each other casually for four years are thrown together by circumstance after graduation. He had been pining for two years after a classmate who was fond of him but in no way serious. The young woman in question had wished for months that she might be the object of his affections, but with no hope, though he was cordial and friendly. Both were working in the same city, so she and her parents became logical places for weekend visits and occasional dinners. In the course of several months, he became more attentive. In less than a year, to her delight, he declared he wanted to make her his wife.
They went to his home, and his parents arranged an engagement party, published the engagement announcement in the local paper, and his father ordered him to the local jeweler to buy a ring.
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