Marrying Up

Whole Nuther Worlds (or Maybe Nuthers Worlds)

June 25, 2008

In countries of the Third World, you often find American men in their fifties or sixties who have wives twenty or twenty-five years younger. In my considerable experience, they seem happy together. However, the arrangement upsets people back in the US. Why, I wonder?

A couple of upsettances are common. The first, from feminists, holds that the man is exploiting the woman sexually (a flattering thought to a man in his sixties; more likely, she wishes he were) or that he wants a docile and pliable woman. The view springs from the common notion among American women that a female who isn’t intolerable isn’t really a man. I suggest that if feminists married more Chinese women, they would learn a great deal about docility and where it isn’t. But, as I have often said, feminists hold women in much more contempt than do men.

The second upsettance, from both men and women Stateside, is that the wife is a brazen-clawed gold-digger. We are left, I suppose, with a docile, pliable brazen-clawed…ah, never mind.

It is perhaps worth noting that marriage has always had a large element of self-seeking, and that women, when they have not actually sold sex, have at least bartered it. This practice is hotly denied, and as hotly pursued.

Take identical twin brothers, introduce one as a recent graduate of Harvard Medical, and the other as a bus driver, and compare their amatory successes. There will be no comparison. Give me a Ferrari and money enough to leave hundred-dollar tips for a beer, and women will line up for blocks outside my door, though I have the appeal of a tree fungus. And while sex is often associated with marriage, not always accurately, it’s far cheaper to rent than buy. Only the crazy marry for it.

What usually happens is that a guy of, say, sixty arrives in Bangkok. Or Manila, Panama, Mexico, Saigon…. He’s looking at ten or fifteen years, and knows it. He has enough money to live well on the local economy. He doesn’t have a whole lot more.

For a young man, such places are candy stores. An old guy has done that, especially the kind of old guy you find in the Third World. Running the bars gets old. He’s looking more to warmth, to not coming home every night to an empty apartment, to having someone to hang outwith in the day. He’ll find buddies around town, but it’s different.

Now, there is a curious social convention regarding guys in the later stages of life. A man of fifty is a silvering figure of masculinity but, somewhere around sixty, he becomes in the public mind a doddering idiot. The phrase “little old man” comes into play. He is either a dirty old man (implying that he has the instincts of all males from the age of fifteen) or a manipulable dunderhead subject to the wiles of any bit of fluff. How pitiable.

Actually he is much more likely to be a bush pilot out of Alaska or ex-Special Forces or a veteran of thirty years in the oil business in the Pacific. Dimwits and weak sisters don’t often show up single in such places. They’ve known the girls and the places where you find girls for decades, some going as far back as BC Street in Koza. They know what is what, and are unlikely to get flensed.

Here it is important to get beyond the often unconscious but powerful condescension that so many have toward Third-Worlders. This attitude urges that women (and men, but we are not here interested in men) in most of the world are ignorant if not illiterate, uncouth and, not to put too fine a point on it, not very bright. This view doesn’t hold up well to experience.

Women are naturally classy unless, like so many American women, they have consciously appropriated the manners of cattle rustlers, running backs, and rabid badgers as an intensely sought ideological goal. In most places women dress well if they possibly can, and behave well. Many are intelligent, which is more important than formal education in being good company. They generally are just plain good people. And they are far tougher and more self-reliant than are cosseted editresses in New York.

So things look pretty good from the guy’s point of view.

From the woman’s point of view, American (and in general First World) men also look pretty good. The cold fact is that American men treat women well. In a lot of countries, the men are—I’m trying to think of a polite euphemism for “real dickheads”; one will come to me in a moment. They beat their wives, cheat on them, treat them like chattels. American men don’t. (There are exceptions to all of this, of course, but they are exceptions.) A gringo wants his wife to be part of his life. He will go to dinner with her, take her desires into account, and treat her as an equal. Koreans won’t.

This is a novel concept in many places but, I promise, it flies really well.

Often the woman will have a kid or two attached, maybe from an earlier marriage or maybe just accidents. Now, in the US certain people get huffy about--oh, the thought!—illegitimate children. How déclassé and other French words. I note that American women are as sexually active as any other. They just believe in abortion more. At any rate, the gringo often figures, hey, they’re kids. Let’s raise them. It’s what you do with kids.

This too goes over really well.

He figures if he’s going to have a girlfriend, or wife, he might as well get a pretty young one. Too young means boring, but for a guy of sixty, thirty-five or forty is young, and not boring. So that’s what he gets. American women hate this like poison, which keeps me awake at night.

For the man, she’s great company, nice looking, usually cooks well and takes care of the house. For her, he’s a nice guy, treats her like a human being, makes sure the kids go to good schools, and provides much-needed security. They actually like each other, which can add a lot to a marriage.

Usually he marries her, if he does, because when he croaks he wants her to have legal or financial benefits of one sort or another. She of course knows this will happen, but so what? The arrangement differs in no obvious way from an American woman’s expectation of getting the life insurance. They appreciate each other. The kids see a dentist, the woman doesn’t have to work in some godforsaken shoe factory, and the guy has a life worth living.

You may not believe me. But I know a lot of these men. None of them would ever, under any circumstances, change.