Thursday, November 8, 2007

File Under Life Is Unfair

I just can't seem to stay away from the advice columns.

So today, on Dear Prudence, which we know what I think about, this woman wrote in. And, to paraphrase, she and her German husband agreed before he was willing to propose (but she was kind of drunk!) that they would live in America for five years, and then move to Germany. And now the five years are up and she doesn't want to move to Germany. She wants to stay in America. Her parents are needy. She's going to have a kid. She doesn't know German, although she's tried, a little bit.

And Dear Prudence says that they need to take the deadlines and pressure off and talk about it and acknowledge that one person is going to feel always slightly screwed.

Which, I guess, to the extent that you think the sanctity of marriage is important, is probably right, because the letter writer seems prepared to throw a huge fit about moving to Germany. And I guess some of the whole premise of marriage is that circumstances change, that things that seemed worthwhile and super-important before you get married seem less important afterwards, that the person you love should be more important than some half-baked condition you set way back five years ago. I wouldn't know for sure, myself.

It just seems unfair in one of those no right answer ways. You tell this woman, look, I'll marry you if you'll agree to move to Germany for five years. The promise to marry being what a contracts professor would call "consideration." And you do what you promised to do, and now she's saying that it's too much to ask her to do what she said she would, that you're not properly understanding the difficulties of her position. When she had the opportunity years earlier to consider the difficulties of her position and say, you know what, thanks, but no thanks.

I guess what really set me off about the whole thing, though, was this quote. "He is a lovely person but not terribly social, and he wants to move to Berlin—where he has no family and few friends—and I don't feel comfortable relying on him to make new friends for us."

I don't know if I've already written something about this (this being the abstract point I'm about to make); I know I've talked about it with everybody who reads this blog. She wants to stay in America. He wants to go to Germany. It's not enough for her to say, "I promised; I've changed my mind; please don't make me go to Germany."

She has to give reasons. She has to explain why it's better for everyone that they don't go to Germany. It's not enough to have a simple game of chicken, where they each decide what the relationship is worth to them vis a vis their presence in a foreign country. She has to be right, too. Even if it's right in a cheap-shot kind of way. I hate that. It's some kind of repulsive colonization of other people's preferences. It should be stopped.

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