Times change, and so do customs. I never knew that Michigan was once a magnet for quickie marriages, but then I wasn’t around when that was the case, and neither were you.
The whole concept of marriage has changed through the years. Once I was talking to a student who comes from a culture where arranged marriages are still the norm.
“What do you think the main difference is?” I asked.
“Well,” she said, “I think about half of all arranged marriages turn out happily, and half don’t… and in your culture it is exactly the opposite. I always hate it when my students are smarter than me. Times were a little different a century ago, when couples were flocking to Michigan to get married. Back then, you pretty much had to be married to live together unless you wanted to be a social pariah.
As for sex, the theory was, as Frank Sinatra sang much later in his song Love and Marriage, “just like dad told mother, you can’t have one without the other.” Most modern experts take a dim view of quickie weddings. They say that their chances of long-term success are probably lower than more conventional unions.
They may be right, but I am not sure that was the case a century ago. Marriages were then much harder to get out of, and while that certainly made for some suffering, it is also possible that people tried somewhat harder than Britney Spears to make their marriages work.
Someone close to me has parents who married when her mom was a pregnant teenager. Thirty-some years later, they have gone on to earn graduate degrees, and have an incredibly happy marriage.
Another friend of mine had parents who were married after a quickie, week-long romance during World War II. This too was a very happy marriage which lasted until he died last fall.
So you never know. Michigan clearly lost a lot of money when the state got out of the quickie marriage market in 1925. As if to prove that politicians never change, the sponsor of the law immediately took off for Buffalo, New York . . . for a quickie marriage.
If Michigan lawmakers really wanted to make a dent in the budget problem, they could pass legislation making our state the only place to sanction legal, same-day, same-sex marriages. They could charge a thousand dollars a license, and still get a torrent of applications.
But you never can tell. Four years ago, when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a law outlawing acts between consenting adults, it seemed to many that this opened the way for legal same-sex marriage.
“You ask them gay guys something,” a man who has been married for 40 years told me that day. “Do they know how good they have it? Why do they want to rock the boat?”
My guess is that rocking the boat is human nature.
Happy Valentine’s Day.