Monday, February 21, 2005

Marriage villains at the blog party  

I have three friends that I affectionately refer to as "my geek friends." When I call them that, I can feel like I have friends who are geeks, but that doesn't necessarily make me a geek. Of course, in our group of four each of us refers to the other three as "my geek friends," so they may all be thinking the same way. In all honesty, though, I'm the least geeky of the four. I don't say that to brag—it's just a fact. They all three have vast stores of knowledge about obscure topics that I've never heard of. I know a little about comic books, fantasy, and sci-fi, so sometimes I can converse with them intelligently, but I'm pretty much a geek by default. As a teenager, I looked like a geek (small, bespectacled, with little fashion sense and lots of books) so my peers treated me with a sort of indifference that effectively became a mild form of ostracism. The only social group that welcomed me was the D&D-playing, Star Wars-quoting, advanced physics-studying, Hitchhiker's Guide-carrying, spazzy-down-to-the-bone geeks. So I became a geek by default.

All three geek friends are bloggers now. They are Rey (The Bible Archive), MCF (MCF's Nexus of Improbability), and Jerry (TheWriteJerry). Their geek credentials are impeccable. As if to prove the point, MCF decided to host a party…in cyberspace…for bloggers. The point of the party is to describe "Your Top Five Villains of All Time, from Comics to Cartoons to Television to Film." Even though I'm a geek only by default, I'm still a geek and I must respond. In keeping with the focus of this blog, however, I've figured out what may be the five worst villains in the world of matrimony.

  1. California Assemblyman James A. Hayes
    Until 1970, only one U.S. state (Oklahoma) had a law allowing no-fault divorce. In all other states, any person who wanted a divorce had to go to court and provide a good reason for dissolving the marriage contract. The legislature defined "good reason," and judges decided whether a divorce should be granted. Divorce did exist prior to 1970, but it was relatively uncommon. In 1969, California State Senator Donald Grunsky and Assemblyman James A. Hayes introduced a bill to allow couples to divorce for any or no reason. The bill was signed into law by Governor Ronald Reagan. Subsequently, a national group of lawyers calling themselves the Uniform Law Commission composed the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act—a model no-fault law based on California's bill. By 1985, every state in the union instituted no-fault divorce.

    Hayes was certainly not the only one involved in passing the no-fault law. Grunsky sponsored the bill in the state senate, though his stated intent was to eliminate the "spectacle of private detectives sneaking around gathering salacious evidence against one of the spouses for presentation in a courtroom expose." Reagan signed the bill into law, but he later regretted it as one of the worst mistakes he made while in office. In his book Twice Adopted, Michael Reagan says, "Notice that Dad signed the no-fault divorce law some twenty years after going through his own divorce. His wife, Jane Wyman, had divorced him on grounds of 'mental cruelty.' Even though listing grounds for divorce was largely a formality, those words were probably a bitter pill for him to swallow. He wanted to do something to make the divorce process less acrimonious, less contentious, and less expensive."

    Hayes, on the other hand, was going through an acrimonious divorce at the time and didn't like the rules in place. I choose him as the no-fault villain because his motives in drafting the bill in the first place were utterly selfish, and the effect of his actions has been ruinous to the institution of marriage in modern America.

    (References: No-Fault Divorce Faulty Indeed, California Divorce Reform After 25 Years, Twice Adopted excerpt.)
  2. John F. Kennedy and William Jefferson Clinton
    There's a story—I don't know how true it is—about JFK, one of the United States' most beloved presidents ever. The story says that before Kennedy's election in 1960, American men wore hats everywhere they went. The president did not like wearing a hat, and when the country saw him on TV eschewing headgear, men just stopped buying general-use hats because women everywhere wanted him and men everywhere wanted to be him. His life of sexual promiscuity and extramarital affairs is well-known though little reported. He seemed to have little respect for his wife or his marriage, treating both as a social and political expediency. A lot of men have followed his lead.

    Clinton's damage to marriage was similar, but his influence was more among teens than adults. He told a group of high-school students what type of underwear he wore, he allegedly harassed several women sexually, and he self-admittedly received oral sex from an intern while at his desk in the Oval Office. His initial public dismissal of his actions as harmless told an entire generation of youth that oral sex isn't sex. His actions demonstrated a lack of respect for the public that elected him and for the women who worked for him. Kennedy at least has a legacy of keeping the country safe from foreign nuclear threats. Clinton's legacy is one of scandal, lack of self-restraint, and making it nearly impossible for Generation Y to have a healthy attitude about sex and marriage.
  3. Elizabeth Taylor and Larry King
    Americans do not always emulate their political leaders, but they have always imitated their favorite stars of the big and small screen. Elizabeth Taylor-Rosemond-Hilton-Wilding-Todd-Fisher-Burton-Burton-Warner-Fortensky has been married eight times to seven different men, was rumored to have had many more love affairs, and once said, "What do you expect me to do? Sleep alone?" Whether she influenced or merely personified a cultural indifference for the sanctity of wedding vows, I count her as a marriage villain. Ditto for Larry King, who said of his seven marriages, "I just like diversity. The girl I liked at 20 was not the girl I liked at 30. And in the culture I grew up in, if you fell in love, you got married. I fell in love when I was 20 and 30, and I got married. It didn't work out, and I paid what I had to pay."
  4. Reality Television
    Has there ever been a more insidious erosion of realistic and healthy attitudes toward relationships and marriage? Some of the worst, just off the top of my head, are: Temptation Island, Blind Date, Shipmates, The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire?, and Joe Millionaire.
  5. Pornography
    Pornography has destroyed more lives and marriages than anyone will ever know.

So those are my top five marriage villains. Check out my geek friends' responses on their own blogs: