5.14.2007

Marriage, Divorce, and Mitt Romney's Delusions

Every once in a while, we can all get caught up bemoaning the progressive decline of "American Family Values." I just wrote a piece on childhood obesity, in fact, that cited some discouraging statistics: 40 percent of American meals are eaten outside the home; Americans now spend more than $100 billion a year on fast food, up from $3 billion in 1972; 53 percent of kids aged 6 or younger eat meals in front of the TV; 31 percent of eighth graders watch four hours or more of TV per day.

This week over at denialism blog, Mark debunks another oft-quoted (like by the Family Research Council) sob-story statistic that 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce. This is "statistical nonsense," he says, that:
...comes from comparing the number of marriages in a given year to the number of divorces in a given year. However, since the marriages and divorces aren't occurring in the same year, this doesn't give an accurate picture of how many marriages are failing and is notoriously susceptible to population dynamics. Your actual chances of a failed marriage are about one in four.
The myth is interesting in itself, but I was more interested in one of the comments made on Mark's post, by one Michael LoPrete:

The other, other, alternative is to abandon this notion of marriage as permanent.

They may only exist right now in Romney's bizzaro-France, but 7-year marriage contracts make a whole lot of sense.

What what what'd he do? About a week ago, Romney indeed said to a crowd of more than 5,000:

"In France, for instance, I'm told* that marriage is now frequently contracted in seven-year terms where either party may move on when their term is up. How shallow and how different from the Europe of the past."

Whatever jokester intern told Romney that must be having quite the chuckle now, for no such contract exists in France, or anywhere else. (*A few clever internet punks have offered various hypotheses for the source of Romney's misstatement...my favorite is that it's actually a reference to the 1992 sci-fi novel, The Memory of Earth, a fictionalization of the first few hundred years recorded in the Book of Mormon. In the book, marriages just so happen to be contracted out for seven years. Romney's not only Mormon, remember, but also loves sci-fi....)

Anyway, maybe a seven-year marriage contract DOES make sense. The scariest thing about marriage, after all, is that "forever" concept (which includes the "omg I'll never be able to sleep with anyone else for the rest of my life"). When I was young, my parents used to send me away to summer camp in Connecticut. Some days I loved it (especially archery and synchronized swimming), but some nights I cried my homesick self to sleep. The only thing that got me through the tough times was knowing that it would all be over at the end of the summer. I actually had a piece of notebook paper taped to the top of my bottom bunk bed where I tallied the days left until the end. But then, by the time the next spring rolled around, I was always itching to go back. Go figure.

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