There are three young men in my office that work in our IT department, none of which are (nor have they ever been) married. They don’t seem especailly happy nor do they appear to be all that unhappy. I guess the best I could say of the three of them is that they are merely… content. They are content with their bachelor’s lifestyle of childless freedom. Content, but as I said, not particularly happy.
Over lunch one afternoon, nosey parker and happily married father that I am (and someone that likes to encourage Christian marriage) I decided to ask one of these young men why he hadn’t yet gotten married? I figured the answer would be more in line with “…well I haven’t found the right woman yet…” or “…I am not the marrying kind of man…” or “…well I don’t know what love is…” or “…no woman has said yes yet, do you have someone in mind?” that kind of thing. No, his answer was completely unexpected, something that makes perfect sense from an economics stand point in our frighteningly real world of the bottom line:
“Unfortunately all the girl’s I’m interested in owe way too much on their credit cards or student loans. So I can’t marry them.”
And number two and number three? Similar situations with their girl friends, too much debt, too much risk.
A dowry is a process whereby parental property is distributed to a daughter at her marriage (i.e. inter vivos) rather than at the holder’s death (mortis causa). A dowry establishes some variety of conjugal fund, the nature of which may vary widely. This fund ensures her support (or endowment) in widowhood and eventually goes to provide for her sons and daughters.
It was supposed to be for her should she ever become widowed. It is not intended to be a BRIBE paid by the parents of the daughter to the would be son-in-law for releaving them the BURDEN of the financial support of their useless and not-fully-functioning adult daughter (who is incapable of supporting herself), but it is quite often used in that manner in parts of Asia. This was also pretty customary in many parts of Europe prior to the Victorian Era even among Christian marriages (particularly ones of greater wealth where the daughter in question was of questionable character.) The belief here was that marriage was good for women (perhaps better for women than for men), and that in some cases, it was necessary to financially COAX the would be son-in-law to marry that girl if he knew that it would (in someway) elevate his lifestyle financially.
So fast-forward to today. Here we are with so many women walking around with Anti-Dowry. They got the bachelor’s and master’s degrees in (what? who knows what?) and with that, $100K or more in student loans for their $42K a year office job. They have to have all the nice shoes and boots and purses and clothes and make up and perfume and jewelry and what-have-you (all at the mall) and because instant gratification quite often trumps delayed gratification (as does lunch out ever day as opposed to bringing a sandwich), you have a girl (age 26, maybe 27) with $29,000 of accumulated debt on her 5 Visa Gold cards (of which she only ever makes the minimum payment.)
Ouch. Anti-Dowry. What man wants to marry that? What man is deserving of that? That isn’t fair. I know life isn’t fair but egads?
Quite often marriage today for young men means making her financially whole. He is going to have to step in and square those debts that she has been accumulating in her single years while she was having fun. Worrying about how she was going to pay for those loans, if you ask a few of these women (as I have) the common response was usually… (giggle) “…Oh I just figured my husband would someday pay for all that.” (Wink and a nod.)
Given these parameters that many young people deal with today, it should come as no surprise that our marriage rate is dropping like a rock. I means seriously, how am I (a happily married man) able to sell marriage for young single men given that this is quite often the reality that they will be facing? I CAN’T. It is just not going to happen. What I find even more distressing is that these kids of conversations are probably not happening enough. I am not even sure my three co-workers have expressed their discomfort with the whole thing. But I know men. Men care about this. They may SAY that they don’t care, but they do. They are just saying that to the women they love want to marry to make them feel good. These are serious problems, problems that society has a way of fixing by way of the free market. And right now the free market is stipulating that marriage is not a hot commodity. It’s a buyers (buyer = men going down on bended knew with diamond) market, the seller (woman offering her hand) has to scramble.
And soceity suffers as a whole, for it.