“It is the duty of every man, who has sufficient means, to maintain a wife. The life of unmarried women is a wretched one; every man who is able ought to save one of them from that fate.”
— George Gissing, The Odd Women, p. 93
I wrote earlier about how George Gissing’s book The Odd Women, published in the late 1800s, has caused me to reflect on both how things have changed and how they have remained the same.
The passage above, spoken by a male character who remained engaged for nearly twenty years while he built up the means necessary for marriage, reminds me of some of my dating encounters in Los Angeles.
One man I dated for a while, a man who is nearing fifty, still shies from marriage because of his failure to launch his career. I doubt he will ever marry at this point.
Another fortysomething man I briefly dated came from a wealthy family and was their last living child, as his only sibling had passed away. He wasn’t traveling the world or devoting his time to worthy causes or a demanding career; on the contrary, he was spending his time having fun with entertainment industry projects and decorating his newly-purchased home.
He showed no interest in getting married or having children, and I admit, I judged him for that. It seemed unmanly. With all the people out there who struggle to afford children, he could have easily provided for a wife and kids, and I’m sure his parents, who are deeply religious, would have been thrilled to have grandchildren. To top it off, he was one of the last people I dated before I had to go on medication and kiss the idea of having kids goodbye.
And yet. If I want to see a world in which single life is accepted, a world in which people aren’t forced into unhappy marriages, I have to respect his choice to remain single with a dog as his favored companion.
The problem is, we’re not there yet. The world is still in transition, so my judgments are too.