Considering how meaningless marriage has become, I hereby withdraw any opposition I’ve ever had to gay marriage

Playland at the Beach fun houseFor an almost 80 year run that ended only in 1972, Playland at the Beach was San Francisco’s Coney Island.  Beginning in 1928, and subject to a few minor changes over the decades, Playland settled into the form known to City residents through its final days:  it had roller coasters, the camera obscura, a merry-go-round, and the famous Fun House, home of Laughing Sal (who now lives at the Musee Mecanique).

At its peak, Playland was a vital entertainment hub. It was bright and shiny and fun and funny. The roller coasters and the Fun House were state-of-the-art entertainment. The latter boasted a giant barrel roll; rocking, moving floors; air vents to blow up girls’ skirts; long, wavy slides; spinning floors; wavy, distorted mirrors, and all the other accoutrements of 20th century amusement park culture. You can get a sense of Playland’s attractions from this clip from 1973’s Damsel in Distress, featuring Fred Astaire, George Burns, and Grace Allen:

I went to the Fun House several times in the late 1960s and very, very early 1970s. There was still a musty magic to the slides, mirrors, vented floors, and, of course, Laughing Sal, but mostly the Fun House was a drab, depressing place. For starters, it was filthy, clotted with five decades worth of grime, made sticky from a nice Pacific Ocean salt overlay. All of the attractions were rickety. I always had the lowering suspicion that the moving, rocking sidewalk would suddenly buckle, either throwing me into the air or dropping me into some damp, spider-ridden basement.

playlandfunhouse620x618The Fun House’s clientele was no longer made up of a cheerful amalgam of families, young couples, and children old enough to go there on their on. Instead, it was overrun by screaming, usually overwrought children. It wasn’t bright and shiny. It was less Disney and more Lord of the Flies. We children ran around frantically, evidencing a grim determination to have fun in this hallowed San Francisco amusement park, a bleakness captured nicely in the picture to the right, which was taken shortly before the Fun House closed for good.

I was always delighted with the offer of a trip to the Fun House (I really liked the idea of Playland at the Beach), but I was even happier when it was finally time to go home. I invariably left there tired, dirty, overwhelmed, and both depressed and demoralized. The only magic left was the patina of age, which I was too young then to appreciate.

Sara Gilbert And Linda PerryPerhaps because my brain is wired a bit differently, I thought of Playland at the Beach when I saw this headline: “‘Roseanne’ Alum Sara Gilbert, Rocker Linda Perry Wed.” I have no idea who Sara Gilbert and Linda Perry are, so I was unexcited by their wedding (although I naturally wish them many happy years together).

Thinking about it, it occurred to me that, even if I had known who they are, I probably still would have found the headline uninteresting. Looking at the state of modern marriage, I can no longer articulate a good reason to care about other people’s weddings and subsequent married life.

Just as the Playland I knew was a faded, dirty, broken-down relic of its past, barely hinting at its former grandeur, so too is marriage today leached of the meaning that once gave it such preeminence in Western society. Historically, marriage has been an extremely important event, both at the individual and the societal level, controlling as it did sexuality, paternity, and property.

Up until our very modern era, before a girl got married, she was (in theory, at least) a sexually uninitiated child under her parents’ care. Marriage was her entry into the adult world: she left her parents; her faith and her state both encouraged her to have sex (with her husband); and she began producing and raising the next generation. For centuries, even millennia, the wedding was the single most transformative event in every woman’s life. It marked a profound change in her standing in society, from child to woman.

Victorian wedding photoWhile men weren’t necessarily the sexual innocents their wives were supposed to be, marriage was an equally life-changing event for them. They might not have been virgins, but their previous sexual relations were illicit, carried out with prostitutes or lusty widows. Any children that resulted from these relationships were not supposed to be acknowledged. They were bastards without legal rights, and the man’s obligation to care for these children was a personal decision, rather than something mandated by law or religion.

By marrying, the man got unfettered access to sex, with his church’s and his state’s approving imprimatur, and he got children that were presumptively his, with all the legal and moral responsibilities that entailed. The man’s carefree bachelor days were over, and his days of maturity and responsibility began. If he wanted to be assured that his wife’s progeny were indeed his, he’d better be a good husband.

Marriage’s centrality in pre-21st century society wasn’t just about questions of sexuality and paternity unique to heterosexual relationships. It was also an important economic relationship. For rich people, it meant the blending of fortunes or even of nations. For poor people, it meant that the man and woman formed an economic unit, with the man laboring outside of the house to bring in food or goods, and the woman laboring inside the house (and in the garden), to enable the man to work and to do whatever it took to stretch his earnings as far as possible.

In America’s past, a healthy society depended on the marriage partnership. It regularized sexual relations (and paternity issues), creating social stability and slowing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. It also increased men’s economic opportunities, thereby enhancing America’s potential economic growth, which operated to everyone’s benefit.

No wonder marriages were celebrated, not just by the participants, but by society at large. Add in the fact that traditional religions sanctify marriage, elevating it from a social and economic relationship into a covenant before God, and it’s easy to understand marriage’s preeminent position throughout Western history, generally, and American history, specifically.

Nowadays, every one of those reasons for marriage is gone. Sex is unrelated to marriage. Childbearing is controlled by birth control, abortions, and fertility rituals . . . er, fertility treatments. Paternity is determined by genetic tests. Economically, marriage is a good thing, but the state will step in and help the mother and children out if the father decides that all the responsibilities that flow from impregnating a woman are just too burdensome and too little fun. Only people who have a middle class aversion to poverty and welfare enter into marriage for economic reasons. Religions still support marriage’s importance, but many congregants seem more interested in the party than the sacrament.

Sexy wedding dressAnd of course, there’s modern divorce. Marriage isn’t a permanent commitment; it’s a relationship experiment that is easily shucked. It’s a very good thing that we no longer live in a time when only death would part a couple, leaving married people (usually women) at the mercy of abusive, insane, or absent spouses. It’s not so good a thing that we now live in a time when people divorce simply because they’re bored and want the thrill of a new relationship. (And yes, I have known people to divorce for just that reason.)

Modern marriage no longer serves any of its necessary societal functions. It’s a relic, just like the Fun House I knew as a child was a relic. What once was shiny and central to American life has become a peripheral excuse for a frenetic party. The couple standing at the altar have already had sex (with lots of people), they (with financial help from taxpayers and employers) are controlling the woman’s fertility, and they’re making financial decisions irrespective of their marital status. Societal changes, mass media, and the vast wedding industry have ensured that modern American wedding is primarily about the right dress, the beautiful cake, and the most viral wedding video.

All this means that the LGBTQ crowd is arriving at the party when the party’s already over. Looking back on my Fun House experience — high expectations in advance, followed by a disappointing reality when faced with a dusty ghost from the past — I actually feel sorry for those same-sex couples rushing to take part in an event that’s long past its heyday. As a society, we haven’t quite reached the point of Miss Havisham presiding over her long-gone wedding feast, but the decay is setting in.

The end of Playland at the Beach

The end of Playland at the Beach

Modern American marriage has become a form without substance . . . a Fun House without the fun. Given that reality, why should we care that the LGBTQ crowd is flocking to catch the tail-end of the party? Let them have their last dance as the lights dim and the tables are littered with dirty plates and half-filled glasses.

For those Americans who have a religious commitment to marriage, they should go and have that religious ceremony and live their married life in accordance with God’s commandments. And for those Americans who subscribe to the belief that the children’s well-being is best served in a stable, heterosexual relationship, they should get married (in a church, synagogue, temple, or mosque, or before a registrar) and they should stay married for the children’s sake. For everyone else, the caravan has already passed on and it’s probably long past time for the dogs to stop barking.

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  • Charles Martel

    You’re spot on here, Book. Aside from their having arrived at a party that is now just a drunken, furniture-breaking debauch, Gilberts themselves are like hicks who think that their rented tuxedos and ball gowns bestow social graces upon them. Custom-made cake! Mounds of flowers! Champagne fountains! Vestment-clad clergy! Hurled rice! Cans strung behind the rear bumper! Oh, legitimacy! Oh, acceptance! Oh, sweet living the (dead) dream! You like us. You really, really like us!

    • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm

      It’s so funny that you say that, Charles, because I’d actually lined up the Sally Fields video to add at the end of my post.  The post, however, wandered in a slightly different direction from my original idea, so the video ended up on the cutting room floor. 

      For those wondering what Charles and I are talking about, it’s this famous Oscars’ moment: 

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MWtUVDG5M1w

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    Good points. But we all know that like livestock care, they’ll force people to pay for the marriage benefits of their specialized pets soon.

    • Robert Arvanitis

      I invoke the totalitarian principle — “If it’s not forbidden, it’s compulsory.”

      Government allows ALL forms of “marriage?”  Then government must get out of defining  ANY form of “marriage.”

      Strip it out of the tax code, and the inheritance rules.  Let progressive tax rates wreak full havoc.  No marital deduction if you can’t define marriage.

      End any shield for testimony.

      No more special “family” court.  Minors are possessions just like real property — need title but no starting presumptions about custody or responsibilities, either way.

      Oh, and with no guarantee of future taxpayers, no government borrowing for consumption.  If we don’t breed, we can’t defer taxation.  Debt is only for capital projects, repaid out of user fees for things like bridges and roads. Maturity limited to the life of the assets.

      • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

        The problem with all government solutions is that once evil obtains real power, evil won’t allow solutions to exist. So it becomes a chicken and egg issue.

  • http://photoncourier.blogspot.com David Foster

    There are several interesting blogs frequented by young men & women trying to navigate the mating marketplace. At these places, the assertion is commonly made that: only about 20% of men are sexually attractive to women, whereas more like 60% of women are sexually attractive to men. Nevertheless, in the era of almost-universal marriage and strong social disapproval of premarital sex, most people paired off at a fairly young age. Whereas today, women spend their 20s and early 30s prospecting among the top-20% males, seeking social status, sexual pleasure, and the hope of eventually marrying a member of this top group. But 60% into 20% doesn’t go, mathematically, so a high % of women wind up “settling”…once they see their prospects diminishing…for someone they find less overwhelmingly attractive than they had hope. And then are perpetually dissatisfied with their choice.
     
    I don’t necessarily completely agree with the above set of propositions, but they are very common among young Americans.

    • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

      There are certain social controls that make a partnership work out better. Trust and reliability is a high note. But modern Western decadence places too high of a priority on social status and visual perception, all of this is merely superficial and of little functional value. Genetics is a deeper and more important subject than glamour standards.
       
      In any human group, even a group of 2 or 3, there must be one leader. And that person leads by taking into account the interests and desires of the members of the group. If any member of the group begins to recognize an external power as having higher worth or authority, then this will cause the authority of the leader to be undercut. Once that occurs, dissatisfaction in the group automatically begins. The leader isn’t given full authority by all the members, so can’t take care of people, and people seeing that the leader is being undercut, will begin to look for better alternatives.
       
      All of this translates directly to marriage. If a woman doesn’t view her husband as smart, as a protector, as knowing what’s going on (perpetually lost, dumb, racist, domineering, chauvinistic, stupid, helpless, etc), while holding external models to a higher position such as actors, porn stars, various politicians, so on and so forth, then the woman won’t help to maintain the social group dynamic. Hence the partnership falls apart. When Hussein tells American families to talk healthcare at Christmas and Thanksgiving, that is Obeyed because the Democrat said so. Because the President said so. When her husband tells her he wants this or that, she ignores him.
       
      See how that works?

      • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm

        Interesting point, Ymarsakar, that pop culture destroys marriages.  I need to think about that some more.

        • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

          The rest of my thesis has the Forbidden Words in it. Things that the Left’s English doublethink was designed to prevent people from saying, in order to stop them from thinking it. And I know this has happened because while conservatives and patriots feel what the truth is on this venue, they don’t have the words for it. Without the words, they cannot defend it, espouse it, or analyze it.
           
          So I will, soon, write down the words that the Left does not want you to hear concerning relationships.
           
          And for people that think I’m going off on a tangent to the moon, remember what common sense said about my remarks concerning mind control as being the Left’s true power. Not so funny when people think about what’s really going on now, is it.

  • http://phillips.blog.com phillips1938

    I really like your thinking.  Perfect blog.
    You are usually perfect on the details.  The camera obscura was always at the Cliff House and still is.  Nice place to visit.
    I find serious couples these days, before children, avoid the marriage ceremony and the legal documents.  They just say they are married and have been together for 9 years (or whatever).  

  • shirleyelizabeth

    I that marriage has been through a long journey of being chopped up, shredded, and stolen away, and that there are too many people believing the resulting zombie version to be the gross option available. When something has been stolen from you, there is still a very strong interest in recovering it – and believing that it can be.
     
    Something that drives me crazy is that marriage is considered to be such a huge decision that is probably wrong to be making at this point in your life (this being ANY point), but, the same people that will say that are the ones that have no problem spending the night with someone on their first romantic encounter, and definitely long before ever considering marriage. (like all of the FINALLY DISNEY! over “you can’t marry someone you just met”) This is what puts the lie to these people. They deny truths and create false truths regarding both sex and marriage. It will take time, but I believe people will begin to open their minds and see the lies. All of human history is cyclical. We just happen to be at this point.

  • http://ritestuff.blogspot.com/ Karl

    I’m inclined to agree with this.
    One of the things I’ve been exposed to through reading science fiction is the notion that marriage can be a lot more flexible than we tend to assume.  Heinlein explored a number of forms, including the “line marriage” in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and group marriages in other books.  (Although the focus remained male-female bonds.  In the group marriages in Time Enough For Love, the other men in the male speaker’s group marriage are “co-husbands”, not “husbands”.)  Coupled with the belief that differences between men and women are mere accidents of “the shape of a person’s skin”,  (Yes, I’ve heard that phrase used — to dismiss a point I was making.)  expanding the theoretical model to include same-sex bonds would have been inevitable.  I think the only surprise is that legal acceptance of same-sex marriage came before legal acceptance of polygamous/polyandrous/group marriage.  But the poly advocates don’t have the lobbying group same-sex advocates do.
     
    So does this destroy the institution of marriage?  No more, I think, than demolishing the Big Dipper ride destroyed Playland at the Beach.  Bookworm writes:
    <blockquote>Nowadays, every one of those reasons for marriage is gone. Sex is unrelated to marriage. Childbearing is controlled by birth control, abortions, and fertility rituals . . . er, fertility treatments. Paternity is determined by genetic tests. Economically, marriage is a good thing, but the state will step in and help the mother and children out if the father decides that all the responsibilities that flow from impregnating a woman are just too burdensome and too little fun.</blockquote>
    Marriage may be, as Hugh Hewitt calls it, “a bearing wall of civilization”, but if you add enough additional walls, supports, struts, pillars, etc to a building, you can get away with tearing down that wall because the load gets distributed among these other structures. One can seriously argue, as Bookworm suggests, that marriage is no longer needed to address any societal issues.  Once alternative processes are available, then it becomes reasonable to ask what interest the State has in solemnizing any couple’s “best friend forever” status.  To many people, if not most people, the answer is going to be “none”.  The only reason to marry, or to enter a domestic partnership, is to obtain benefits — either government benefits or any social benefits that may still obtain.   And frankly, I have to wonder how long it will be before someone brings a 14th Amendment “equal protection” challenge over the disparity in benefits available to married vs. unmarried people.
    In the end, I suspect if marriage continues to exist as an institution, it will retreat into the churches, possibly being renamed in the process.  Civil marriage will cease to be seen as “real” marriage.  It will also disappear as a compromise acceptable to most religious people.  If you’re not married in their church, then by their lights you’re living in sin.  At this point, I suspect the effect on society will depend on how many people still care what religious people say.

    • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

      The Left controls homosexuals about as well as Palestinians are controlled by terrorist aristocrats like Abbas or Arafat.
       
      Thus it’s not homosexuals adding things to marriage that breaks it. Issue is outside the box.

  • Poirot Fan

    I always find it frustrating when people make this argument because logically it’s irrelevant. The fact that some people don’t take their marriage vows seriously has nothing to do with the question of whether people of the same sex can marry.
    I thought this was an April Fools thing at first.

  • Charles Martel

    Marriage may be, as Hugh Hewitt calls it, “a bearing wall of civilization”, but if you add enough additional walls, supports, struts, pillars, etc to a building, you can get away with tearing down that wall because the load gets distributed among these other structures.
     
    This reminds me of how tropical fig trees work in the rainforest. The fig begins encircling a host tree with gradually intertwining creepers, sinking roots into the host and deriving its sustenance from it. Eventually the fig kills off the host, and what’s left is a hollow latticework—a freestanding fig tree. Yes, the plant that occupies that patch of ground is still a tree, but it is not at all the same as the tree it killed.

  • expat

    Is another difference that previously young people had more insight into how partners need to support one another?  A young man might want a woman who knew how to run a household and would help him out when he needed help with the harvest. A young woman might have looked for a man who was competent and reliable. Both might have looked more for a person who shared basic valueswhom they could trust. Think of John and Abigail Adams.
    Today’s young are so spoiled, so isolated from having to help out in the family that these qualities no longer seem so important. Looks and coolness trump character.  These young have never had to care for younger brothers and sisters or aged grandparents. Their soccer schedules set the pace for family activities. Even in college,  I had some classmates who had never been to a funeral because the parents felt it would upset them. They haven’t had a chance to look for enduring qualities.

  • lee

    I have heard many, many natives of the Bay Are talk about Playland at the Beach. I finally looked it up after reading this. I came across one site that you, Bookworm, might find interesting. (http://www.outsidelands.org/playland.php ) But I also came across this one:
    http://ponderingpig.wordpress.com/2007/01/22/what-happened-to-playland-at-the-beach/
     
    Now before I went to that one, my thoughts had been that Playland, and other like it, (like the one where I grew up) were doomed. I COMPLETELY disagree with what the writer at Pondering Pig says—he blames it on suburbia, Disneyland, and other bogeymen of the left. I was thinking that these places were doomed because of the teens coming of age in the late sixties/early seventies. These were the ones who became hippies, who couldn’t be bother with summer jobs at places like Playland (which had young teens been working their over the decade before it closed in 1972, might not have become so dingy and dirty.) The ones who were too cool for the Fun House, because it wasn’t nearly as fun as dropping out, tuning in and turning on.  The Haight-Ashbury scene killed Playland. And its equivalents elsewhere killed the other places like it.
     
    I keep picturing “Dirty Harry” which was shot in San Francisco while Playland was on its last legs. Seen the movie a million times. Didn’t know San Francisco back then, but I did know New York City, and it was filthy. Crime was going up. Porn and prostitutes were spreading. The sweet little world of the Ann Maries  and the Corie Bratters was going, going, gone. Indulging teens and early 20’s whether they were committing crimes (“It’s not their fault, they’re products of society” Well, gee, Office Krupke…) or being hedonistic heathens (In a gadda-da-vida, baby!), no one told them NO! Shape UP!  (THAT, more than moving to suburbia killed the Playlands of America.)

    • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm

      Lee, I totally agree with you.  My sense as a child and teenager growing up within San Francisco was that the hippies destroyed everything.  They took a tidy, interesting city and turned it into a filthy mess.  It took decades for Golden Gate Park to recover from their depredations.  Even now pockets of the park are No Man’s land because of the hippie’s direct descendents — substance abusing homeless people complete with filth, diseases, and violence.

      Nothing I’ve learned since I developed that viewpoint has changed my mind.

      • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

        The hippies could never have survived without local charity feeding them.
         
        Good intentions leading to bad and evil consequences. Such is forever the fate of man.

  • Charles Martel

    Tom Wolfe wrote an article called the “Great Relearning” in which he described what happened when the hippies gave up hygiene: “At the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic there were doctors treating diseases that had disappeared so long ago they had never even picked up Latin names, such as the mange, the grunge, the itch, the twitch, the thrush, the scroff, the rot.”
     
    Wolfe commented that the hippies “sought nothing less than to sweep aside all the codes and restraints from the past and start from zero.” I guess the news didn’t reach the germs, viruses, parasites, and bugs that so enthusiastically colonized those Brave New Worlders.
     
    (Speaking of infections, I was thinking about Nancy Pelosi the other day. . . .)

    • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

      The lumbering zombie PillowC or the running zombie one?

  • Mike Devx

    You must be having a really rough day (or days), Book.
     
    Conservatism may be under assault everywhere you look, but don’t give up your fighting spirit.  There may be a large number of people out there trashing marriage, but I guarantee you there are a large number as well who aren’t. THEY are ignored, culturally, and they are rather quiet, but they’re out there.  Almost everybody I work with directly every day has a strong, traditional marriage that they honor deeply.
     
    As a gay guy, though, I’m glad you pointed out that there ARE a lot of problems with marriage today beyond just the push to force government acknowledgement of gay marriages.   But gay marriage does seem to be “the final line in the sand” for a lot of conservatives, regardless of all the other problems.

    • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

      That’s because a lot of conservatives are starting to realize it’s a religious war issue, not just one about tolerating other Americans. The Regime is going to force people to believe and support and acclaim and pay for homosexual benefits. Same for feminist benefits. Same for lawyer union damage benefits. Same for teacher’s benefits. Same for doctor, politician, and health benefits.
       
      As the Duck Dynasty found out, it ain’t about making money off of people’s beliefs. It’s about making people believe and say what the Left wants them to say and believe. That elevates something from a nuisance to a religious conflict.
       
      For Christian communities, they are doing missionary work, charity work, feeding the poor, humanitarian work, and they are being interfered with, killed, and destroyed by the Leftist alliance. Not even Americans sunk deep in the Cathedral of Ignorance can totally deceive themselves over that now.

  • jj

    I go back and forth on marriage.  I guess I don’t actually see a hell of a lot of point to it.  Left to my own devices I would probably not have bothered, and I suspect that applies to a great many more males then just me.  But we are of course  hardly ever left to our own devices.  I think a whole lot of males share in whole or in part the attitude, “well, I don’t really give a rodent’s behind, but it seems to be very important to her, so what the hell.”  I think a whole lot more males think that way than will ever admit it.  (I know I’m the only one here who will!)  We are able to love and cleave to someone just because we love them: we don’t require the implied threat of the marriage contract and ritual rain dance to make us do so.
     
    In fact, I occasionally think that a whole lot of what society does – maybe most of it – is good-naturedly gone along with by the male half.  In ten billion years we never would have thought of it by ourselves (finger bowls?), but we’ll go along with it if it makes ya happy.  Anything for a quiet life.

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