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Uncertain Principles

Physics, Politics, Pop Culture

Friday, September 05, 2003

You Think Marriage Is Work, Try Dating

The Invisible Adjunct, taking a brief detour away from academic politics, takes a whack at a remarkably silly argument advanced by Laura Kipnis. I haven't read the Salon interview that IA is most directly going after (I find their Premium policy obnoxious), but this article would seem to be fairly representative, and there are some more bits quoted in this New Yorker review.

The essence of the whole thing is the sort of idiot literalism you expect from addled fundies who think Jesus was a white European who spoke English: Kipnis latches on to the truism that "a good marriage takes work," and goes nonlinear from there, railing against a world in which "the factory [has] become the default language of love." Adultery, by this logic, is a political statement, a rebellion to be celebrated.

This may be one of the most transcendently silly arguments I've ever seen. The Adjunct and various commenters have great fun poking holes in it-- I'm particularly fond of Kevin Walzer's comment ("Dry humping as a political act--now THERE's a novel theoretical position. "), which more or less captures the essence of my objection to Kipnis's position.

I can pretty well localize the instant in my life when I realized I didn't want to be single any more to a bachelor party weekend for a friend from college a few years back. It was started by an off-hand remark. I forget exactly what triggered it-- somebody cooking burgers, or fatty steaks-- but there was a sudden avalanche of "Name won't let me verb" comments, with people listing off the various habits forbidden by their then-Significant Others. And I realized that, well, there weren't really any verbs that Kate forbade.

Later the same weekend, we did the obligatory bar-hopping (single guys still had a slight majority), and I was struck by the further realization that I didn't ever want to do that again. Monogamy has its down side, but the Maxim lifestyle Kipnis glorifies pretty much sucks all the time. There are very few activities that I hate more than trying to Meet People in bars and clubs. I don't dance well, I dislike crowds (I take up a lot of space, and spend a lot of time getting jostled), and it's surprisingly difficult to make small talk in loud rooms with people who are eight or ten inches shorter than you are.

Most of all, though, I hated the pressure, the idea that every casual conversation was a medium-stakes gamble. Play your cards right, and you can get at least one night of sex, and possibly something more. Babble like an idiot, and you're stuck sleeping on the couch because you're sharing a room with a better gambler than yourself. To twist Kipnis's analogy, if marriage is like being on the job 24/7, dating is like a neverending job interview, and it's a rare job that's worse than the interview.

Put those two realizations together, and, well, it was clear that I had a pretty good thing going. And I realized that weekend that I didn't want to lose that. The whole proposal-engagement-wedding thing followed pretty directly from that weekend (so, in the unlikely event that you read this, thanks, Steve...).

Yeah, there are people out there for whom the labor is divided differently, who find picking people up less work than keeping them around-- some of them even lack sitcoms. And yeah, there are trade-offs to being involved in a relationship-- for example, since we've been married, Kate has shown a regrettable disinclination to let me blow vast sums of money on any damn fool thing I want.

But that's a small price to pay for never again needing to deal with the hassle of dating.

Posted at 8:50 PM | link | follow-ups | 6 comments

Thursday, September 04, 2003

Missed Anniversaries

While I've been in self-imposed blog exile (or "in a snit," depending on your perspective), I missed a few major anniversaries. Not my parents', thank goodness (they were on vacation in Poland on the day in question, so I got away with emailing them), but three web-related occasions. The first one missed was the first anniversary of the founding of Blogcritics, followed closely by the second anniversary of the start of The Library of Babel (to which I've added another entry, for those who care), then the first anniversary of my joining Blogcritics.

The first and last of those may as well be the same, and I remain profoundly ambivalent about the whole thing. I like the idea of a blog-based collection of pop-culture reviews, but it's ended up not really being what I'd like. There are some decent reviews posted, but also a lot of utter garbage, and the "Etc." category in particular is a sewer reminiscent of the worst Usenet groups. Personally, I think it was a mistake to open the site up to random political ranting and other bloggishness, but then I'm not running things, and I can understand why they did it.

I'll keep posting things over there (at the time of this writing, I account for all five of the "Books" posts at the top of the page. Ye gods, I'm a dork...), mostly because I'll keep writing booklog posts, and the occasional pop-culture piece here, and I might as well cross-post those, but I think the site counts as a bit of a disappointment, in that it's failed to gel into the useful review clearinghouse I was hoping for. There's some good stuff posted over there, but it's hard to wade through the really bad stuff to find it.

I'm less ambivalent about my own book log (unsurprisingly). It's grown into a bigger project than I expected-- I'm several books behind now because it takes a lot longer to write up my comments than I anticipated-- but I enjoy it. I think more about what I'm reading than I used to, even when I'm only reading trashy series novels, and I've found that I enjoy putting my thoughts down on virtual paper.

The two-year tally is something in excess of 200 books (206, by rough estimate), indicating that I've slowed down a bit from the original torrid pace, but still, quite a few books. The author and title indices are now larger than most of the monthly archive files, which is a little scary. (And, from a software standpoint, we've gone from "I'm too lazy to bother with Blogger" straight on into "It would be too much hassle to import everything into Blogger," meaning that the weblog-by-hand method will continue for the immediate future...)

Posted at 9:48 PM | link | follow-ups | 1 comment

Well, I'm Back

We made it back from vacation with no trouble, and the dog has forgiven us for leaving her in a kennel while we were gone. It was good to be out of town for a while, and miscellaneous thoughts on our Chicago visit may follow soon. Or they may not, given that classes start Monday, and I've built up a booklog backlog that's positively Goulding-esque.

I'll be leaving for work shortly to work on the class prep thing, and I spent a little while this morning making a start on the booklog problem. My comments on Robert Charles Wilson's Blind Lake have been posted, and since YACCS has gone flatline for the moment, if you have any comments to add, post them here.

(And let me just note that the spell-checker with Blogger wanted to change "Goulding-esque" to "gelding essay" and "YACCS" to "YECCH." There's probably some deep meaning in there, but I'm not sure what it might be...)

Posted at 8:49 AM | link | follow-ups | 2 comments

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