Gnomicon 168

If you have not already done so, you may wish to read the
Introduction to Gnomica.

Gnomicon  168
Wednesday 24 October 2012
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Marriage is not about age; it’s about finding the right person.
Sophia Bush (8 Jul 1982 –  )

No, she’s not one of those Bush-es.

She starred in a guilty pleasure TV show called One Tree Hill (2003-2012) that I used to watch (and should get back to watching!) with great delight.  I just thought she was a very beautiful young woman who played the part of Brooke Davis in the series. It probably isn’t world-class television, but I found it quite an entertaining exploration of teen-age angst.  And Sophia Bush probably isn’t a world-class actress (but her husky-voiced Brooke is wonderful to spend time with).  Nor, I would guess, is she the sharpest intellect around, but I applaud this sentiment and award it kudos – I’ve never come across it so nakedly expressed.

I mean, really, what’s age got to do with it?

The Chinese aren’t as hung up on this nonsense as so many Westerners are. There is a certain ambivalence about someone like Hugh Heffner, for example, over his fondness for younger girlfriends – at age 84 he was dating a 24-year old.  OK, so?  The founder of modern China (Sun Yat-sen) married one of the Soong sisters, Qingling (another one, Meiling, became Madame Chiang Kai-shek), who was twenty-six years his junior.  In general, some interesting ‘age-challenged’ (if you will) couples include these!  And ever hear of Yang Zhen-ning?  Well – no dummy he! — he was a student of Edward Teller at the University of Chicago where he got his Ph.D. in physics in 1948 and then worked for Enrico Fermi. Zhang shared the Nobel Prize in Physics for 1957, and in 2004 at the age of 82 he married 56-years younger Weng Fan — who at the time was of the neatly palindromic age 28!

A symmetrical universe?

But I stray – back to wise Sophia’s comment!

Isn’t the bias against such relationships a sterling example of age-ism – another of the many isms that we in today’s enlightened society are supposed to be sooo far beyond?  I’ve heard it said, “But your wife’s your daughter’s age!  Isn’t that kind of icky?”  I’ve never put in my two cents’ worth, but have on such occasions felt like saying to these coevally married individuals, “But your wife’s your sister’s age!  Isn’t that kind of icky?” or “But your husband’s your brother’s age!  Isn’t that kind of icky?”

Is it more important to be with the right person or the ‘age-appropriate’ (ugh! and, linguistically speaking, double-ugh!) individual as defined by … what? … you? … ‘society’?  Let’s see, now!  Is a husband-wife difference of one year acceptable?  I believe most people would agree.  How about two years? three years?  Sure!.  Five years, six years?  OK!  Ten years? Well … Fifteen years?  Now you’re pushing it.  Twenty, twenty five … thirty?  No way!  Sooo, where is the line to be drawn?  And, again, who is to decide?

In fact, while we’re at it, let’s put some of the usual suspects of our ism-obsessed age in a lineup with age-ism and see if we can i.d. a perp:  gender-ism , race-ism, able-ism, fat-ism, ideology-ism …

Let me think a sec.

Why does society not privilege the identity axis of weight over age – is it acceptable that a thin man marry a fat woman?  Why not privilege the identity axis of race over age – is it acceptable that a Japanese man marry a Chinese woman (not only was inter-ethnic marriage looked at askance by American society but up until 1967 it was in fact still illegal in Virginia!)? what about a Japanese-Caucasian man and a Japanese-Black woman? Why not privilege the identity axis of gender over age – is it acceptable that a woman marry a woman (only in the last two decades is that legally possible in some states)?  Why does society not privilege the identity axis of political philosophy over age – is it acceptable that a socialist man marry a Republican woman?  Why does society not privilege the identity axis of physical disability over age – is it acceptable that a polio-affected man marry a woman who runs marathons? And, coming full circle, why in heaven’s name not privilege the identity axis of age over all the others – is it acceptable that a 75-year old man marry a 25-year old woman?

The argument I’ve sort of tried to mount here is what philosophers call a reductio ad absurdum, and on that ludicrous note I come back, smiling, to the grounded wisdom of Sophia:  marriage is not about age; it’s about finding the right person.  Or, in fact, only about finding the right person – and only you and you alone get to define ‘right’!

I mean, really, here age just is a number — and some will agree with me about that!

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2 Responses to Gnomicon 168

  1. Miss Alexandrina says:

    I applaud you for speaking your mind on this issue. I have always had a hatred (to put it at its worst) of ageism. I think a lot of the prejudice against age-gap marriages comes from the newer generations. (In the past, of course, it was socially expected that a teenage girl marry a much older man.) Often I speak to people my own age who cannot even consider marrying someone beyond ten years of their own age. This has always perplexed me. Were I to fall in love with a thirty-six year old man, it would not matter to me that he would be double my age, because love defies barriers. I’m also pleased that you argued for reductio ad absurdum. I’d not looked at it that way before, but the argument does work.

  2. laohutiger says:

    Thanx sooo much for that response. I take it you’re about 18 — and so very sharp. I thank you again, and I wish that you find your prince whatever his age … you’llmake a great partner! Stay in touch, if you wish, and keep reading my stuff!

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