After 32 years of marriage I’m pretty skeptical of monogamy, but maybe that’s because I tried it and it didn’t work. The thing is, I liked being married the whole time and I really missed being part of a couple when it was suddenly over. For years I searched for the perfect hook-up. Now my lust is contained. I’m in the managed lust program, quite comfortable being single. I have a very nice life with my dog. But as I face the decades ahead and opportunities arise, I have to ask myself if I could be part of a couple again? Is that even a possibility? My inner skeptic slaps her palm on the table and hisses. No, absolutely not. What a ridiculous idea! But my inner romantic has another sip of wine, and half an hour later she’s still swirling the wine around her glass looking out the window.
I read an article in National Geographic about an isolated tribe of hunter-gatherers who are living today the same way humans lived 10,000 years ago — no government, no religion, no marriage, no monogamy. Women in the tribe are equal to men and couples pair up with no expectation of permanence, and no punishment for infidelity. Men and women have sex based on desire. Children are parented by the whole tribe, and everyone has the same rights. A lifelong commitment to anything but the tribe is unthinkable. Living naked in the bush, chasing down their food with sharp sticks, they can’t afford to be idealistic.
But I’m an idealist. That’s just who I am. As I consider the possibility of a gender-neutral lifestyle, I’m envious of the egalitarian freedom of those tribe women. I wonder if they ever break into chick fights over a, particularly delicious man. Does sex ever lead them to feel a sense of ownership of their partner? Do they experience love separate from sex? I think about how I was raised, and I wonder how many of my feelings about love and monogamy are cultural conditioning.
Monogamy is not a law of Nature. In Nature, diversity rules. The animals who are best at sex dominate the gene pool. Sex is power. We kill for sex. We risk food, shelter, wealth, and security for sex. We give up social acceptance, the bonds of family, and the stairway to heaven for sex. Sex drives us mad with desire. Sex masquerades as love. Illicit sex cheats us out of a predictable future. Sex is a high-risk behavior. We endure chaos for sex. We go to jail for sex. Kingdoms are lost and the course of nations diverted because of sex. Sex is a basic animal behavior. Even in this modern world, we are still animals.
Why am I even thinking about this? Because I’m reconsidering my opinion on the connection between sex and love, and love and monogamy. What’s realistic? Can sex really ever be safe? Is the commitment to love the same as the commitment to monogamy? Or are they two different things? Meanwhile, my inner animal is pacing in her cage and I want out. But it’s late in the game for high-risk behavior. I need to protect myself. Cynics are warning me that at my age men just want a nurse with a purse. Then I hear poets sing about late-life love as polishing the soul. And here I am, still sitting in my chair looking out the window, swirling my wine around my glass, wishing I had a Magic 8-Ball to give me the answers.