As part of a conversation I had in recent weeks, I was talking about a young couple I know and their adorable little daughter.
"Are they married?" I was asked.
"Oh yes," I said, adding sarcastically, "they did it backwards and actually got married *before* they had a baby."
I guess I'm an old-fashioned fool.
I still think couples should get married before they live together. I even think they should wait to have sex until they're married. And certainly they should not have children until after they've made that lifetime commitment.
Now, don't get me wrong.
I'm not condemning anyone. I'm not talking about anyone in particular -- although if my nieces and nephews ever have a live-in girlfriend/boyfriend, they're going to get relentlessly harassed by the then-Uncool Aunt Penny.
And I'm not saying my own past is without blemish. Far from it. I wish I'd done better than I have.
So, "let he who is without sin cast the first stone," and all that. You won't find any stones in my hands.
But ... why don't most people in society even strive for these "old-fashioned" things anymore? Do we try at all? What is at the root of this change?
I know, I know -- I'm ridiculously "behind the times." And, as I said, I have no perfect track record on maintaining self-control, so perhaps I shouldn't talk about it at all.
Still, mentally, I ask ... are we really that blasè about sex now?
I guess "we" are.
'Cause as I was thinking about this as a possible column topic, I read Dear Abby for Wednesday's paper.
The pertinent excerpt:
DEAR ABBY: I'm in my 60s, fit, sexually able and I desire physical relations. My wife, because of health issues, is no longer interested in sex. In fact, it would be at least mildly painful to her.
I recently met a lady my age who is in the same predicament. She has a sexual appetite; her husband does not. She hinted she would be interested in being "friends with benefits." I didn't pursue the hint because it caught me by surprise and I wasn't quick-witted enough to follow up on it at the time.
I am wondering if such a relationship is acceptable with today's mores and the circumstances. No, I won't discuss this with my wife. It would only hurt her feelings and strain our relationship. Should I pursue the hint? -- FOLLOW UP ON THE HINT
DEAR FOLLOW UP: I would not advise pursuing the "hint" -- which appears to me to be more of a full frontal assault -- without thinking very carefully. The problem with adulterous relationships is that more often than not, the spouse catches on. If you think that by not talking this out with your wife you will be sparing her feelings, you are wrong. When, not if, she finds out, she will be devastated.
As women age their bodies change, and sex can become painful. But that can be remediated in many cases with prescription and other medications. It's possible they could help your wife. Of course, that's not going to happen unless she talks with her OB/GYN about the problem. And that won't happen unless you talk to her.
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Really? This guy even had to ask this question? And write to Dear Abby about it, no less?
As a fan of The Big Bang Theory, I can't hear the phrase "friends with benefits" without thinking of the scene in which innocent Sheldon doesn't understand the meaning of this when one of his buddies is in such a "relationship."
"What exactly does that expression mean, 'friends with benefits?' Does he provide her with health insurance?" he asks, clearly puzzled.
But I digress.
I suppose it's all about instant gratification. What once was a rarity -- throwing out the "rule book" and doing something wildly against societal norms -- has become commonplace.
I like rules. I think they're good for humans. I like self-control. I think it's valuable.
And I hate to break it to all of us, but we don't always get what we want. Life isn't fair, and it's guaranteed to not be a lot of the time.
Do we just not value ourselves enough to hold back? I know people who've had sex as young as 14 or 15 -- and it's not like they don't have good role models in their lives when it comes to self-control and its advantages.
I just don't understand it.
Some people might say "men can't help it." That's the way guys are wired, some folks may contend.
I refuse to believe that. I will not be convinced that a man -- or a woman -- is so completely weak and without self-control, overcome by surges of testosterone or estrogen, that they can't (gosh, so many euphemisms here that I can't use ... ) keep their hands to themselves when it's appropriate.
Perhaps the problem is that "appropriate" is in the eye of the beholder.
I do see good things in societal changes along these lines in the last 50 years. A child shouldn't be harassed and bullied as a "bastard" because he or she was born out of wedlock. That is just nonsense. And certainly, to see women be more in control of and comfortable with their sexuality in comparison to decades past is overall a good thing.
But, I'm sorry, there have got to be some "rules," some limits, some restraint in life. Otherwise we'd have nothing but chaos.
Look at what so many people are missing: the value of anticipation of a future with that one person who is your soulmate; the tradition of family (encompassed by the many definitions of "family," including stepparents, half-siblings and civil gay marriage, as examples); the reasons why intimacy is -- or should be -- making love, not just having sex. The two are not the same.
When Playboy founder Hugh Hefner died recently, I was inwardly appalled at the "tributes" to him. The man made his living encouraging the objectification of women and catering to men's unhindered sexual appetites. I wouldn't wish anything bad on someone else, but my personal opinion is that saluting him with such vigor is practically sacrilegious.
I know. You didn't ask what I thought.
Perhaps I'm just a silly middle-aged fool. I should "get with the times."
I don't think so. I'll keep my opinions to myself around other folks -- just because I disagree with these things doesn't mean I'm right and others are wrong; I know that -- but these kinds of "times" are leaving me behind.
And I'm glad.