Friday, February 20, 2009

A Cup of Coffee On The Way, Pt. II: Why Is Getting Married Easier Than Joining a Health Club?

When I was younger, and even more cynical, I once joked that the best way to reduce the divorce rate was to make it a lot more difficult to get married.

It's not as funny as I used to think it was.

When you buy a house, or even a car, you get a stack of many pages full of tiny type, which you are expected to read. Some really important paragraphs are in BOLD TYPE, with lines for you to sign or initial, confirming that the BOLD TYPE got your attention, and that you at least read those parts, and that you say that you understand them. Then, if you change your mind within a day or so, within some limits, you can back out. Heck, in California, if you just want to join a gym, you have to go through a similar ritual*.

If you want to get married, on the other hand, you pays your money, and you gets your license. There's a contract there, all right,** it's just that nobody really demands that you read it, let alone that you have any idea what it says before you sign on for it.

I've spent 29 years wrestling with what the terms of that contract really are, and I've got sort of a handle on it, says the State Bar***
. I used to keep the terms of that contract in a shelf-full of books, which had to be updated annually; now I keep it on my computer, where it occupies a swath of virtual space. Most of those young folks lining up at ring stores in the Jewelry District haven't a clue what's in there.

Next topic up: If you want the "off-the-rack" marriage contract, we've made it fast, cheap, and easy; if you want to think about, and change, what you're signing on for, even if you and your spouse-to-be agree, it's expensive, complicated and takes at least a week.

Why would we discourage people from looking before leaping?

* California law regarding this implies that it came to the attention of our Legislature that miscreants were going out and signing up, say, 90-year-old ladies to expensive "lifetime" installment contracts for gym or "dance studio" memberships, and swindling the heck out of them; thus there are now fairly comprehensive rules for what you have to read, before you can get those mambo lessons.
**Says so, right there in California Family Code 300: " Marriage is a personal relation arising out of a civil contract between a man and a woman. . .". Don't send me a comment about the validity of those last five words; I'll be coming around to THAT debate presently.
*** "Family Law Certified Specialist, State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization"

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mae West said it best: "Marriage is a great institution. I'm not ready for an institution yet."

--Henry W.

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