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On Marriage and, Ultimately, Howard Stern, by Alice Hammond


Who makes the rules? If marriage laws didn't exist, little boys wouldn't have daddies to play ball with and mommies wouldn't have someone to pay the bills while they changed the diapers. Sexist? Hardly. This isn't a judgement call. It's genetics. Instinctually, every life form is programmed to procreate its species. For men, this means they feel the urge to plant their seeds in as many women as possible, to keep the human race going. While a woman's attempt at this endeavor is to keep her children fed, alive and well, which, of course, generally requires a man around. So, I guess women made the rules.

Howard Stern
Men have learned to make do with these rules over the years. They found that masturbating to Playboy satisfies their instinctual drive and have become willing to hang around to feed the kids. Women are okay with this concession, for the most part, the smart ones anyway. As a result, kids are raised with a healthy balance of yin and yang. Of course, we all know, however, that it isn't always so rosy.

Intellectually, we've grown beyond the hunter-and-gatherer days of simple needs and simple minds, and things have gotten a bit sticky. Marriage has become a union with much more meaning. Even more meaning than tax breaks. It's become a bond of trust and friendship, and a lot of baggage. Lifestyles change; careers change; desires change. Issues of right and wrong ensue. Litigation flies. Happy homes become broken homes. Rules are broken. I know the popular belief is that rules were made to be broken, but when they are broken nearly 50 percent of the time, perhaps we should question the rules. Maybe they're obsolete, inadequate. Maybe we're inadequate. Maybe, whether or not we analyze the rules, they'll melt with time regardless.

There were rules particular to the Dark Ages and Victorian times, antiquated rules that now seem ubsurd. Heretics were burned at the stake; mentally ill were chained, straight-jacketed or lobotomized; and women, not only could they not vote, gain a higher education, or compete in business, but they couldn't wear clothing that displayed an ounce of skin – other than cleavage, of course. (Here, men obviously made the rules.) The list goes on. Marriages were arranged; divorce was not only unspeakable, unpardonable and unthinkable, but unattainable.

Who made the rule that a marriage is supposed to last "until death do us part"? Or the more modern liberal rule, "at least until the kids are grown." Times are obviously changing whether we want them to or not. Already it's becoming more accepted to end a marriage after the kids are raised. Why it's okay to stop fighting after the kids leave the nest rather than before is something that I still can't quite grasp, but then this too will change with time.

Given hindsight, we often discover that some rules just don't make sense. Foresight, however, is a different story. With our current upbringing, or more appropriately phrased, our societal programming, it's difficult to question one of our more sacred rules, the institution of marriage. It's difficult to look at divorce as something other than failure. But perceptions change. Values change. Right and wrong eventually change.

Howard Stern has arguably done more than any one person in the last half of this century to challenge our institutions, question our values and our modes of operation, and ultimately, for many, alter our opinions about rules. With his marriage to Alison currently in question, knowingly or not, he appears to be doing it again.

November 1999

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More Howard Stern and Company:
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- K-Rock Dysfunctional Family Picnic II
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