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Why get married if you’re not going to have kids?

I’m sure it was a rhetorical question. But like many rhetorical questions, one of those little hand trolley guys in my head takes it and chases it down the track.

So why should one get married? Is the only underlying reason for marriage to have kids? And if presumably the only reason to date is to get married, then why date? And if the only reason to meet new people is to date, then why meet new people? Why not just spurn them, turn them, and mock them on the way out?

But that’s too far, even the trolley guy knows that. So let’s start, as we so often do around the ol’ switchyard, with dating.

Bitterness aside, I’m still very much of the opinion that dating, the act of pursuing a relationship with a person that is outside the bounds of the roles you fill in each other’s lives, is at its core, a response and reaction to the loneliness of singledom. In other words, if you are simply exploring your current role, I don’t call it dating. But taking a random stranger to dinner in the hope of “starting something” or engaging in some synthetic progression of activities, “Tonight’s the second date, so I try to involve live music;” this is just fake intimacy.

This is the stark contrast between dating and friendship. You have some reason to be around your friends; comfort, similar interests, shared memories, common enemies, but you have no reason to be with your date other than the fact that otherwise you’d be alone.

So frankly it sounds like there are two ways to wind up married. Either as a natural progression of exploring your role in someone else’s life, or as the logical conclusion to a prearranged and pre-approved sequence of activities, events, conversations, and exchanges.

So yeah, I can totally see that in the second case, the logical next step is makin’ babies. Man, even trolley guy can tell that’s a depressing track to commit your train down.

So what is the natural progression of exploring your role in someone else’s life that winds up with you standing in front of God, your families, your friends, and a few random second-rate artists (no offense to the former wedding photographers out there) and swearing that you’re going to stand by the person your standing by till you can’t stand by anything any more?

By role, I’m really talking about how two people walk together. I have a great many relationships that are very mentor based, so I’m often sitting to the side of my friends addressing style and form concerns while observing the walk of the other. I also have quite a few leader/follower associations, where the roles often flip flop, but it results in one of us walking behind the other. And I hate to say it, but many of my old friends are falling quickly into that passing friendship, where we walk our own paths, but when they intersect, we pause and catch up and reminisce before each heading our own ways. But there are a cherished few where we walk the same path for a while, sometimes following, but often walking, talking, experiencing together.

There are quite a few women in my past who by their very character force the people near them, at least on rare occasions, to think and feel things that I want them to think and feel; women who say and do things, at least once or twice, that make me value life and living and loving; women who I believe are lovable enough to witness, to walk with, whose eyes I want to look through and whose heart I want to hear. That said, while those walks are in-step for a while, we eventually come to a fork in the road and each of us walk our own way. On a few occasions, I have chosen to walk with her instead of the way I would have rather gone, if only for the company. But I’m working on the assumption that at some point I will find a woman who is rich enough, deep enough, sincere enough that I don’t want her to have to walk her path alone any more.

If such a woman happens to come along and she doesn’t want to have kids, the walk together might just possibly still be worth the loss. Me and the trolley guy both agree that either way she’s the kind of woman worth waiting for, and until then, a real friend is worth a million fake loneliness suppressants.

Jennifer said on 2008-03-24

You wrote this a long time ago, it appears, but I thought I would comment anyway. I really enjoy discussions with you about dating. Several years ago, in 2001, I listened to a discussion between you and Thomas about dating, and I wrote about it in my journal. Dated March 29, 2001, I wrote, “Thomas’ thought was that dating is when two people have come to the agreement that they don’t see any reason why they could not eventually marry. Mike saw another perspective. He sees dating as a glorified lust or a forced affection.” I came away from that conversation realizing that I was completely confused about dating and marriage. Dating is so prolific nowadays, but I’m not sure if anyone has a clear idea of what it’s about. I know I would much rather pursue friendships than go out on dates with strangers.

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