My favorite new fact about marriage is not the Census Bureau’s 2010 report that four in ten Americans feel that marriage is becoming obsolete. (In my book, Marriage Shock, I’d already found that women were running away from marriage in droves–even young, newly married women. And that was over ten years ago.) No, the great new fact is that older people who want sex with one another are hiding it from their kids by PRETENDING to get married. Yes! Heaven forfend their little darlings find out that their widowed grandma or divorced daddy are “doing it” or, more horribly still, “living in sin.” I’ve been hearing about this idea of having the ceremony for appearance’s sake, but not signing the papers –and just read it in this month’s AARP Bulletin. As personal finance expert Jane Bryant Quinn, speaking about the financial concerns older couples should address before they marry, pointed out, over-50 couples who want to hang together (like kids do) are afraid to let the kids know they’re doing so. Ah, American morality! Don’t you love it? We eviscerate those who lie to us about their inappropriate sexual practices, but happily lie to our own families about our own appropriate ones! Funnier still: The over-50 crowd, whose sex lives are assumed by the young to have long since hit the road, are lying because they, like everyone else, are happily hitting the hay.
How crazy is it that, at a time when there are more unmarried people in the country than married, we’re afraid to be unmarried? How frightening that age-ism of this kind makes the older among us cower to this bizarre cultural fantasy! How nuts are we that 13-year-olds are proudly announcing their “adulthood” by having “Rainbow Parties” in which the girls give the boys blow jobs with different colored lipsticks….but real adults, those whose grandkids are throwing these parties, feel the need to hide their perfectly lovely desire to be together and live together?
What and whom are we “protecting” here….and for what? Lying to keep age-ism in place? To further confuse our kids with this goofy idea that Love in the Middle Ages is to be hidden? It’s so profoundly funny….and sad.