“Dave is now married to this woman and both are pediatricians”

Why, as marriage rates sharply decline, are we more obsessed with the institution than ever?   Committed, Marry Him! and TLC’s crack-like horrorshow Say Yes To The Dress all made their way into this More Intelligent Life essay.

I also fought to keep the line that ends with the word “duh.”  I know you should kill your darlings or whatnot but I just never get tired of that “reader” joke in this context.  It is a truth universally acknowledged that you have to make one Jane Austen Eyre joke in every essay you ever write about women and marriage.

22 comments to “Dave is now married to this woman and both are pediatricians”

  • i think your more intelligent life essay is very well-written and insightful, emily. kudos! (just fyi, your editor missed a typo in the first sentence, there’s an “in” where there shouldn’t be)

  • Calista

    FWIW the “duh” line made me larf and larf.

  • emily

    @Stephen, thank you. In the future all copyediting will be done by committee, and also the future is now.

  • Laura

    But it’s not a Jane Austen joke, it’s a quote from Jane Eyre. I still loved it; the entire article was very interesting to me as a 21-year-old woman.

  • emily

    @Laura auuuuughhhhhhhhhhhhh

  • Rebecca A

    Funny funny funny. I am a Jane Austen freak, but assumed you knew something I did not about her since I did not see the joke (alas, I am not a Jane Eyre freak, although certainly an admirer).

    I should trust my own Jane Austen freakishness more.

    I have not been able to purchase your book yet from my B mall bookstore, since I have been immersed in end of Spring Semester hell and have not had time to get over there.

    I really do want to buy it from my pals at the MC Barnes and Noble. Not sure what that means? Mid Connecticut, of course! DUH!

  • red schoendienst

    I don’t have anything substantive to add, except to say that “Say Yes to the Dress” is fucking awful. A little part of me dies each time one of the women profusely thanks the store-owner for dropping the price of a dress from $12,000 to $11,500. “Bless you kind-woman and your charity!! Bless you!”

    I have only myself to blame for not changing the channel.

  • Tim

    In my own 33-years of experience, I am finding that more and more people are becoming unmarriageable not so much because of finances, education, looks, or social standing, but because of their attitudes. People are backing themselves into a corner either because they are incapable of getting along with other people, or because other people find it too difficult to get along with them. There has never been a time in recorded history when the collective human experience wasn’t marked by tension and disagreement, but I’m old enough to recall a bygone time when things were…well, easier.

    I was fortunate to have traditional parents and a traditional family. Imperfect and middle-class as my parents may have been, they still gave my brothers and I the best possible upbringing they were capable of providing. My childhood was filled with all the character-building joys and dissapointments reminiscent of any coming-of-age novel. I think I would be lacking and incomplete in many ways if I had been the product of a sperm donor and raised by a single mother.

    I know, Emily, that feminism places what is best for women above all else. But does it consider children with the same conviction and careful deliberation? Women may not deserve husbands, that is debatable, but I think children at least deserve biological fathers and all the experiences that come with being part of a family. I personally cannot fathom what it would be like to grapple with an existence that is so artificial and incomplete. When a woman chooses to have a baby via a sperm donor, this is the burden she is slapping on her child. People who came into this world by way of sperm donation might see things differently, but I still think the old-fashioned nuclear family is preferrable to the amorphous and ambiguous modern one.

    I understand what all the fear is about, however. At 33-years-old, I feel the clock-ticking pressure to get engaged, hastily married, and then start popping out kids before I hunker down to work my a– off to support them and stay invested in their lives and committed to my wife. It is a lot to add to all my current woes, but I still believe (perhaps naively so) that it can be done. In a few more years…we’ll see.

  • if it makes you feel better, i thought “austen” was intentional (and i laughed).

  • Not to mention the numerous “reality” shows centered on the quest for true love via awkward taped interactions (any of The Bachelors, Millionaire Matchmaker, Rock of Love..).

    In response to Tim, I would disagree that feminism places what is best for women above all else. I would submit that it’s more about equality (which, in the case of child-rearing would mean having the same mobility in jobs as men do; i.e. earning within the same pay range so that there’s a choice in deciding who stays at home and who puts their career on hold to be with the baby. Today, men still earn more and are promoted more often than women, and so it often happens that it’s more economically-sound for women to be the stay-at-homes. Equality in the workplace would more choices; it would actually be okay for dad to raise the baby while mom continues working).

    In terms of the nuclear family vs. sperm donation argument, I would also suggest that not everyone was raised in the same loving household as Tim. Not all moms and dads are supportive and nurturing; many children would have been better raised with one loving parent instead of two angry, unhappy ones.


  • Jim

    Whew. Tim. The perfect childhood you experienced is not perfect for everyone.

    Emily, the issue of not being picky enough is critical. Everyone should be more skeptical about sex and more open to love. Boys and girls sleep together too much and too soon these days. Then they act all jaded and ruin everything.

    Kids, have a few dates, hold hands, kiss in the doorway. Take your time. Draw it out. Find out if you actually like someone before you fuck her or him. There are few things worse than fucking someone and realizing a week or two later that you hate him or her. String together a few experiences like that and your heart hardens and before you know it you’re sitting in a dark bar paraphrasing “Last Time I Saw Richard” to your college girlfriend via text. It sucks.

    Thank god I’m married. Being married is nice.

  • Jane Doe

    Life is overrated. Enough said. ;)

  • Rebecca A

    @Jim “Being married is nice.” –It is when you are happy with it. When you are not, it is horrible and you wish you were single. So can being single be nice, unless you are not happy with it. Then it is horrible and you wish you were married. I think a person’s happiness, whether single or married, is kind of chancy, and mostly up to them and not to their relationship status.

    I really do agree with Emily when she says (and I paraphrase, probably imperfectly) that one person’s individual experience cannot be a guide for what others should do, especially when it comes to marriage.

    At 42, I have several female friends who did not marry. They are not happy. They feel very unfulfilled. I spend a lot of time now a days in our friendship talking to them about it. There is something in our society that makes women feel more like failures if they never marry than men feel in the same situation, and if that is changing, then good.

    @Tim, I do agree with you that more and more people are becoming incapable of the kind of relationship that marriage requires. No one is perfect. It does seem that more and more people are unwilling to tolerate another person’s imperfections long term. It is hard to say, though, what should be tolerated and what should not. With the exception of abusive behavior, I think that changes from person to person too.

    @Emily – as an aside, that guy in the park you saw, the one who was uncaring about his partner’s concerns re: their little one napping. He was probably a dick in other ways too. Undoubtably his partner has been tolerating him for some time, and having a child just gives him a new and seemingly unlimited context for being a dick. And re: your ebbing biological clock. I have known lots of people whose clocks did not start ticking until they were much older than you!

  • I realize that not all traditional families are happy and functional ones (like mine was), and that quite a few children would benefit more from being raised by single mothers and/or gay parents. But I still stick to my original point that it is preferable to be the product of two biological parents. Much of what I know about manhood and fatherhood comes by way of my own biological dad. The examples he set in terms of work ethic, values, expectations, etc., left an indelible impression. It gave me something to aim for and rebel against; and witnessing my parents’ mistakes and how they affected me was also edifying. I do not think I could have gleaned the same visceral understanding of manhood and familyhood from TV, books, and by tagging along on all my mom’s bad dates with potential rapists. Growing up inside the safety and security of a cohesive and natural family, I have always expected the possibility of becoming one “flesh” with another like-minded person to be a real and actual thing. For more and more people, however, it seems the posibility of having what my parents had is becoming an ever-elusive dream, fraught with disappointment, hard work, danger, and loneliness.

    Even with marriage on the wane, the concept of matrimony is still a powerful force. It consumes and defines our early 21st-century thoughts and longings more than ever, perhaps because the glow of marriage’s joys and rewards become most pronounced in its abscence. Even with more and more people giving in to a life of singledom, the yearning for a life partner is still the dominant paradigm. Whether we admit it to ourselves or not, we all expect and hope to get married eventually…or at least I do.

  • Rebecca A


    O.M. F’n G.

    Meghan Daum. Meghan F’n Daum of “Safe Sex Lies” fame?

    O.M.F’n G.

    You don’t understand, Emily. You don’t understand, Meghan.

    I have been using “The Bedford Reader” through no fault of my own—-HONEST—-for a while. And before that, I have been subjected to OTHER anthologies of “current” “relevent” “useful” essays.

    And I have been a part of the…the….the….”problem”? I am not sure. But my ilk have been mocking Meghan’s essay for….well….for quite some time.

    Gosh. I yuv you Emily. I’ll have to re-evaluate my whole place in the friggin’ world. I am not sure how I’ll cope. I’ll emerge after the 19th or so and let you know.

    Also: who will read your book?

    You say: “Twenty-three-year-old girls who have Tumblr accounts.”

    Dang it all. I really have to re-evaluate.

  • I spent a good part of two years interviewing older couples to figure out why and what and how. I’m still baffled as to how most people find each other and agree to spend their lives together based on halfhearted feelings and goals.

    If you’d like, please stop by my blog for a chance to win an original giclee art print…by me :)

  • emily

    @ Rebecca, I was kidding about the 23 year olds, I hope obviously. I was not ever kidding about loving Meghan Daum’s books, all of them, and if you have only ever been exposed to that one essay you are hugely missing out! Meghan is a comic genius with wonderful insights and her style is effortlessly understated and perfect.

  • foikyu

    I agree with everything Tim said, kids need biological fathers as much as they need biological mothers.


  • Rebecca A


    Hi there, Fuck You—-oooo, sorry, I meant “foikyu” –

    I actually agree that kids need fathers as much as mothers. Most of me is inclined to say that a person should not have a child unless he or she is partnered up with at least one other person of the opposite gender to share equally in responsibility for and love of that child.

    Another [smaller] part is not sure because I realize there is much about human experience I do not know.

  • bibliola

    Um, I didn’t read the essay but you do realize that Jane Eyre is written by Charlotte Brontee right?



  • bibliola

    Um, I didn’t read the essay but you do realize that Jane Eyre is written by Charlotte Bronte right?



  • S

    Hey Emily. Just wanted to say thanks for sending your book out into the world. I read it cover to cover on a flight home from the west coast where my now ex boyfriend lives. I’m a 25 years old, single for the first time in a long while, on the verge of a career change, and living in a “roachy” apt with two artists. Your book felt like an encouraging hug from someone who understands how frustrating, bizzare, and exhilarating it is to be in your mid 20s during a “holy shit” phase.

Leave a Reply




You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>