Kirsten Andersen

kirsten@politicalusa.com



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Andy Williams' Case for Marriage
In Defense of the Institution

By Kirsten Andersen
kirsten@politicalusa.com

3/16/2001

 

Several months back, conservative columnist Maggie Gallagher co-authored a book called The Case for Marriage (Doubleday) with University of Chicago professor Linda Waite.  It is a wonderful book, brimming with well-researched statistics on everything from health to finances and how they relate to marriage.  Well, I am not here to steal Gallagher’s thunder, but I must add my voice to the marriage debate.

Some of my pro-marriage zeal is just selfish, wishful thinking, I suppose.  Being single is often lonely, and while I have no shortage of wonderful friends, I am waiting for that one special person with whom I will share everything from nights of passion to household chores.

Of course, maybe my dream of marriage is a Darwinian ‘survival instinct.’  In their book, Gallagher and Waite cite compelling evidence that single status is a health liability. News programs all over the country picked up on one statistic and reported it as sort of a "News of the Odd" story—Men who are married live longer (actually, let me rephrase that: married men do not live longer, it is just that unmarried men die sooner) and are generally happier than their bachelor-for-life friends.  What you probably did not hear is that those statistics were similar for women, and that
married couples have a much lower domestic violence rate than unmarried couples.

Gallagher’s and Waite’s book also promotes marriage as a wealth-producing institution.  It makes sense—two incomes are better than one.  But even if one half of the couple stays home rather than working, most married couples still come out ahead of a typical single.  If you really think about it, this also makes sense.  The married couple is no longer spending $100 a weekend on impressing the opposite sex.  They are no longer throwing food out every week because supermarkets do not carry ‘single-sized’ portions of anything.  They can buy in bulk, share a car, and probably eat out less often than they did as singles.  If one person stays home, that saves on lunches and Starbuck’s Coffee and transportation for that individual.  Marriage is definitely a bargain.

So why would leading feminists oppose marriage, especially for poor women who could use the economic boost?  Ask Mimi Abramovitz, Hunter College School of Social Work professor and author of two books on welfare policy and women.  From the NOW website (www.now.org):

"The motivation behind efforts to promote marriage for poor women is power rather than reform.  ‘The ideological underpinnings of this [1996-97 welfare reform] is that to allow women to raise children on their own is a real threat to the patriarchy,’ says Abramovitz.  ‘I always joke that now we know why welfare benefits are so low—women raising children on their own are threatening to men.’" ("Heated Debate on Welfare May Focus on Marriage," Sarah Stewart Taylor for Women's E-News)

Once again, it is all about the men for the National Organization for Women.  Their members make it quite clear that policy should not be about what is best for women—it should be all about shoving and keeping men down.  Needless to say, I disagree.  (What was that NOW said about being a voice for ALL women?)

Marriage is definitely a healthy thing.  In fact, I am fairly sure that two deaths and thirteen injuries could have been prevented along with innumerable tears if one couple had stayed married—Andy Williams’ parents.  Without beating the dead horse that is the school-shooting epidemic, let it be said that if little Andy had had his mommy, things might have been a little different.

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I live in Maryland, where young Williams spent most of his formative years.  News outlets here have been almost gleefully reporting this ‘local connection,’ and interviewing his old friends and classmates incessantly.  Most of the comments I have heard have been from kids who are just plain excited to be associated with a national celebrity, no matter how depraved.  They unanimously say "I never would have thought he would do something like that."  (How insightful, and totally deserving of space in a national newspaper.)  However, a few of Andy’s closer friends actually did offer insight.

Andy’s friends say the one thing you never mentioned around Andy was his mom.  He would become very angry and sometimes violent.  His oft-quoted ex-girlfriend, Kathleen Seek, said that Andy missed his mom terribly and desperately wanted a relationship with her.  Andy also reportedly called at least three friends’ mothers "Mom."

According to Andy’s mother, the last time she spoke to him was sometime last year via telephone.  In that conversation, she says Andy told her he was a tri-athlete, had a lot of new friends in California, and was doing really well in school.  Apparently she never thought to confirm all of that with the father Andy was living with.  Personal pettiness overcame decent parenting.

One need not wonder why Andy lied.  He wanted  acceptance from his mother.  She abandoned him when he was just a child, so obviously there must have been something wrong with him from the start.  His innocent psyche told him that if he could just be the perfect kid, she would come back and love him.  A year ago, he was still naďve enough to think he could win his mommy (I use the term loosely) back.

I do not know what happened in between that phone call and last week, when he became a double-murderer.  All I know is that if Andy’s parents had stayed married, I would not be writing this article.  No amount of childhood bullying can trump two parents and their abundant love.

I will close with one more statistic from The Case for Marriage: Only 18% of divorcees rate themselves as ‘very happy.’  But 77% of couples who rated themselves as ‘very unhappy’ five years ago, but stayed married anyway rate
themselves as ‘very happy’ or ‘quite happy.’  Andy would have had a 77% chance of having a really happy home if his parents had just given it some time...and the nation would have never heard of Santana High School.

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The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially
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© Kirsten Andersen, 2001

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