I wonder if monogamy is a myth, better left in the past with starched aprons, martini’s delivered to your husband at 5, and stay at home mom’s. Simply put, we are not hard-wired for monogamy. According to Christopher Ryan, we are the ‘most sexual species on Earth’ and that in the past (about 10,000 years ago) we led a Goldie Hawn circa 1969, non-possessive lifestyle that was the ‘norm’ up until we started farming and literally settled down. This theory is apparently the basis for the surplus of articles out there espousing that ‘by nature’ we are serial daters, lovers and leavers, and simply incapable of sustained conversation that may or may not include children, glass-shattering arguments, and the softening of old age.
I have never been married. I chose a very different life than my mother who was born in 1918. Hers was a life where monogamy was expected, a sure-fire reality, and not an apparition on the all-girl dormitory of her university. My mother doggedly pursued monogamy, through the birth of eleven children, the death of her husband, and the requisite life of solitude that she felt was her lot in life because she simply could not imagine marriage beyond the one she had successfully committed to. No post-mortem dating for my mother.
One man. One marriage. One life.
Fast forward to her daughter (me) who used to find all that adoration slightly ‘weak’ and vowed to avoid following in her footsteps. The other day however, I found some pictures of my mom and dad on their honeymoon. They’re shacked up in a cabin that looks like it doesn’t have running water and you’ve never seen two people happier. If we’re not cut out for monogamy, how do you explain the life these two young lovers had with each other? Through the toughest times imaginable (death, disablity, poverty) and yet, and yet–they were happy and still loved each to the very end.
So what, in fact, separates us from the apes? Some would say very little, our frosty fake wedding industry is based on a lie because biologically, we are meant for multiple partners, all coalescing into a euphoric jungle hybrid of the Jersey Shore and the Bachelor.
What if, instead, we agreed that we’re not much further along than apes in the commitment category, but defied this by sheer spiritual will? Because if we cannot summon something more sacred than a desire to hump half of any room we happen to be in, we don’t deserve all the rest of what it means to be human.
So, I wonder, perhaps it is what sets us apart from our wee hairy primates that we should rest our starry-eyed romantic visions on–the ability to find reverance in another. As Yeats once wrote to Lady Gregory, he loved the , ‘the pilgrim soul’ in her, that essential self that one comes to know only with loving another over time.
Maybe my mother wasn’t weak, but just the opposite, filled with a steely, human determination to rise above her apparent ape-like instincts and stick with the short, Irish guy who first made her breathless on a dance floor, filling her mind with decidedly animal instincts that led to her life of loving: children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, more gifts than anyone imagined, filling the world with tangible results of a monogamous love.
Perhaps for those of us still dating, we need to look past the knuckle-dragging and rise above our ape-like selves and think instead of another species, that dancing singing kind portrayed by none other than Bambi, who got all ‘twitter-painted’ in the woods and fell in love. Crazy in love? Maybe that’s what monogamy really is and why not? Dancing shoes and a little dance card are truly human ways we can avoid looking like chumps or chimps.