Monday, January 9, 2017

Should You Buy a Mail-Order Bride?

Love for sale!

I mentioned in an earlier posting the story of an aging Navy Veteran and his Filipino wife, who could not wait for his body to be cold before she sold off all his shit and moved back to the Philippines.  It was a funny story at the time, but also a poignant one.  People get into relationships and stay in them often for economic reasons - but we don't like to talk about that.

A friend of mine married a girl from Vietnam.   Over the years, she bided her time, bringing over one relative after another from the "old country" until the house was filled with parents, grandparents, cousins, uncles, and the like.   My friend told me he felt like a stranger at home, as he would come home and everyone would be speaking Vietnamese, which he only understood a smattering of.  But he would hear his name mentioned in these conversations - followed by laughter - as he was sitting at the same table.

She served him with divorce papers once the last relative got their green card.

Another friend of mine relates the story of her British Mother, who met an American in London.  He wrote to her and offered her plane fare to come visit him in America.  She flew over and he drove her across country to visit his relatives.   She married him, she said, because "he went to all that trouble" and it seemed like it would be impolite to merely return home.   How terribly British.   They had an unhappy marriage for nearly 50 years before she died.

Others merely cut to the chase and just order brides online.  In the olden days before the Internet, you could literally buy a catalog of women who were looking to leave their impoverished home countries and move to America, even if it meant marrying some slovenly American.   And there were enough American men with low-self-esteem issues to literally buy into this scheme.   Today, of course, this idea continues to prosper on the Internet.

Still others, like the Navy man or my friend, end up meeting girls when they are stationed or travel overseas.   "Hey, G.I., I love you long-time!"  Love blossoms.

At first, it is tempting to characterize men who marry mail-order brides or who bring back home women they met overseas as being insecure or ugly or having some other personal defect.   But it is true that people do fall in love and indeed, often with someone from an entirely different cultural background.   And it is temping to characterize women who marry such men as schemers who merely want a ticket out of a dreary life - as little more than prostitutes.  But that would be wrong, too, at least as a generalization.

But while it may be comforting to sit in judgement of others this way, we should be careful about being judgemental.    Because if we examine our own relationships and marriages too closely, we might find that economic motives and incentives are indeed what brings us together and keeps us together over time.   "Love" is a many-splendored thing it seems, but so is economic necessity and comfort.

Similarly we often sit in judgement, as Westerners, of arranged marriages.   Surely nothing good can come of a marriage arranged by your parents when you were only seven years old, right?  Sometimes yes, sometimes no.   I've had friends who have had "arranged" marriages and the success rate doesn't seem much different than the non-arranged "falling in love" kind.

Maybe it is possible to love someone without "falling in love" with them.   Moreover, maybe such relationships could be stronger as a result - they are a built on a foundation of shared work and mutual respect - when they work.   Love might come later on, down the road.

On the other hand, many a young couple, "madly in love", end up in a bitter divorce only a few years later when the business-end of their relationship hasn't worked out.  It ends up a race to the bottom, with each trying to out-spend the other and no common goals or hardships are shared.  Most marital difficulties are related to economics, not romantic difficulties.

As mammals, we meet and mate and reproduce.   Historically, we were most likely to meet and mate with whoever was closest to us, but preferably not immediate family members, which was taboo for good genetic reasons.   Even today, you are most likely to marry someone who met in school or at work or in your immediate social circle.   It is damn hard to marry someone you've never met.

Of course, online dating services have changed this somewhat.   And they have been around a long time - before even the Internet.   "Lonely Hearts" advertisements in the local "alternative" newspaper (and even mainstream ones) existed for decades before the Internet took over this lucrative business.  And before that, there were "matchmakers" who arranged marriages, often based on social and economic guidelines.

Marriages, particularly among the ruling classes, have often been strategically made, to build alliances between different tribes or families or even countries.  The story of Romeo and Juliet is more often than not a true story - but an alliance between competing families, rather than a source of strife.

The house of Saud has stayed in power through the use of strategic marriage - of course, it helps that in their culture, you can marry more than once.  Marriage, worldwide, is far more than merely flowers and candy, going out on "dates" and falling in love.   In fact, that seems to be a unique Western, or even American trait of marriage.

Starting in the 1970's and expanding today, computerized online dating promises to pick the "perfect match" for you - although I think their algorithms are flawed.   A mate should not be someone you compete with, but compliment.  Thus, matching up with someone who mirrors your own interests may cause more problems that marrying someone whose interests compliment yours.

But the point is, a relationship is more than just love or sex.  It is also an economic proposition - and often a very profitable one, in a healthy relationship.   As we get older and start losing our hair, the support of a spouse becomes more acute, something that we notice all the time on Retirement Island.

I met a couple the other day who had been married for nearly 40 years, and now retired, were thinking of divorce.  "Are you kidding me?" I said, "You've made it this far, why not just keep going?"   And their reason for splitting was pretty lame - they just had drifted apart over the years, but were "still friends".   Hey, that's enough to get you to coast to the end at this point - and far more than most people in that age group have.

Sadly, the stereotype of older people - and it is an accurate one - is that they are largely female and alone.  If you have a husband at that point, you might as well hang onto him - otherwise the widows will snatch him away in a heartbeat, and I am not kidding about this.   Both Mark's and my Fathers were approached by widows bearing casseroles within an hour of our Mother's funerals.

But I digress, yet once again.

Should you "buy" a mail-order bride?   It depends, I guess.   My gut reaction is that marrying someone from an utterly foreign culture is going to have its own unique set of challenges.   And you have to make sure you are not letting "love" - or worse yet, lust - blind yourself to the possibility that your overseas "true love" is truly in live with the United States and a Green Card, or better yet, Citizenship.

But how we meet and marry people is at best, an inexact science, based mostly on the laws of probability more than anything else.   Such marriages seem to work as often or not as any other type, so it is hard to criticize the remaining types, particularly since they seem to be the most predominant in the world.