June 17, 2004

Love, Celibacy, Monogamy, Bigamy, Trigamy, Polygamy

To say "I love you" would break all my teeth.

Paul Gauguin (1848-1903)

Song lyrics usually rhyme and they usually fit the music. They don't, however, have to make sense. One example is an old song about the "flat foot floogy with the floy floy." Another one is "Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage." What could that mean? It might mean that if love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage, the horse can manage without the carriage and the carriage just drags along. In that lyric, is "love" the horse or the carriage?

In the past, marriages were arranged by the parents of the couple, usually without the couple's approval. Among the rich and regal, marriages were made for economic reasons. There were many considerations, but love was usually not one of them.

In the musical Fiddler on the Roof Tevye ask his wife "Do you love me?" She ridicules his question.

Love can be a woman's justification for having sex. Most men don't need a justification and some use the word "love" as a tool to convince a woman to have sex.

I didn't grow up with an antipathy to the phrase "I love you." I told my mother that I loved her and backed it up with saccharine cards on Mother's Days. It was during my adolescence that I thought that saying "I love you" to a girl was what a seducer did to break down her resistance. It was usually a lie, and lying was not my style. However it was often a successful lie, because many females believe that if there is love, then anything goes. They have been taught that if there is love, then sex isn't dirty.

That does it for love. Now, how about marriage? This subject is great fun because I am sure to offend somebody. All of the mating customs in the title of this article exist somewhere, except trigamy. Trigamy is Ambrose Bierce's punishment for bigamy. With the possible exception of monogamy, all other practices shock some people. Monogamy isn't shocking because it is so common. To keep this column of respectable length, I will only mention polyandry, a form of polygamy in which a woman has more than one husband. It is now practiced by the Nair people, who inhabit India's Malabar Coast.

Celibacy means never marrying, in contrast to chastity, which means never having sex. John Calvin found celibacy in the Roman Catholic priesthood shocking.

Monogamy requires little explanation, although a very common variation can be called serial monogamy, meaning only one wife at a time. It may be as common today as until-death-do-you-part monogamy.

Bigamy usually means that a man marries a woman without legally dissolving his previous marriage(s). Often the new wife is unaware of his previous marriage. This probably comes under the heading of fraud and is, and should be, illegal.

Polygamy, which usually means polygyny(many women), has a long history. The biblical King Solomon supposedly had 700 wives and 300 concubines. There is little question about what he did in his spare time, if he had any. When I lived in Salt Lake City, my youngest daughter 's cello teacher was in her eighties and had lived during Mormon polygamy. I once remarked that it seemed foolish to support more than one wife. She replied, "The men didn't support the women; the women supported the men. I remember a man marrying two sisters in the morning and he had them hitched to the plow in the afternoon." In the late 1800s there was a plank in both the Republican and Democratic party platforms condemning polygamy. Utah statehood probably hinged on the issue. A congressman is reported to have said that he preferred a polygamist who didn't polyg to a monogamist who didn't monog. The Latter Day Saints church gave up polygamy in 1890 and achieved statehood in 1896. There are still polygamous enclaves in Utah.

These days, a good deal of attention is being paid to same-sex marriages and families.

Most people view what they themselves do as normal and what other people do as peculiar. Oh well, if it weren't for mating customs, what would we do for laughs.

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