For several Spring Break holidays when the kids were younger, our family retreated to a resort in southern New Jersey, an older hotel with a huge circular dining room and gracious awnings over the floor-to-ceiling windows. One of the nice things about a holiday is being away from the hubbub of the everyday world. One of the grating things about a holiday is being without a newspaper for a week.
On a cool misty Sunday morning we managed to find a New York Times at a local coffee shop. Mr. Gaelic got the A Section while my attention quickly turned to the magazine in search of the crossword puzzle. On the way to the puzzle, there was an article by a woman about her "radical" parents. An interracial couple, they opted to live together rather than get married. They raised two daughters during their many years together.
Recently, the Pew Research Center's National Marriage Project released study results claiming that 39% of Americans think that marriage is obsolete. The same study concluded that 69% of Americans think it's a bad idea for single women to have children. Apparently, the type of family that I grew up in and that we provide for our children -- working father, full-time mother -- is in the minority today.
I know several women who are single and have children. Some do it on their own; some live with the child's father; some are a bit of both. And I know plenty of people who aren't and never will be ready for marriage or should never have gotten married in the first place. I know lots of people who think that being married is just having a piece of paper and they don't need a piece of paper to prove that they're a couple.
That strikes me as very odd. Intellectually I can understand their arguments. After all divorce is more costly than the marriage in the first place. And there are many marriages that don't adhere to the contract of marriage. But there's something very official about that piece of paper.
It's brought into glaring focus in that New York Times magazine article by the woman with a black father and a white mother who never married. The father had served honorably in the military and when he died was given a military funeral complete with a flag-draped coffin. After close to 40 years together as a couple, through good time and bad, raising children in a loving household, the military and the federal government wouldn't recognize the woman as the man's next of kin. They weren't married. The honor guard presented the neatly folded flag to the eldest daughter sitting next to the woman the man had loved for so long as she looked on with tears in her eyes.
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