Apparently, debates about true love and the number of sexual partners is storming the internet. It’s amazing how these catastrophes completely pass one by unless one has the right reading list. The final consensus is that no one really cares about numbers at all, especially their own (or, especially their current partner’s). People have spent enough words on the matter all around so no one could possibly be in any doubt about how little they care about their partners’ sexual statistics.
Which is fine by me. If I never hear a slut-stud debate ever in my life again, if will be too soon.
There is another kind of number in sex, however, which flitted around my head like an annoying buzzing insect for the duration of my last relationship. My ex is considerably older than I am, and this, apparently, is a social crime to mother all social crimes. The first time I became aware of my new criminal status was when we were sitting around a warm and delicious meal on a snowy January evening, celebrating a friend’s birthday. To be politic, she had invited her roommates — two women I didn’t know very well.
The talk turned to relationships, and the connection between one’s relationships, and the relationship thereof to the relationship between one’s parents. The birthday girl’s boyfriend — a very lovely person — told us, with characteristic humour, how his parents were married: his maternal grandfather arranged a match with a much older man, came home, told his daughter she was to be married, and she was. She then proceeded to have a fruitful marriage — in the Biblical sense — with this man, and eventually emigrated to England with her children.
At this juncture, one of the roommates exclaimed, “That’s like being a prostitute!”
The casual chit-chat around the table stopped. Shocked faces stared at her. “What?”, said Roommate 1, taking shelter in aggression. “She was just asked to marry a man, probably old enough to be her father, probably because he had money? That is prostitution!”. “Well”, said one of the social anthropologists of the group, “This was obviously how things were done in her culture, and she had no objection, right?” “How could she object?” interjected Roommate 2. “She didn’t know she had other options. This is just unethical. I mean this is just not a real marriage”.
The product of the unreal marriage very politely kept his own council, but the sheer crudeness of the morality-thumping — despite certain justifications (especially the one about consent) — made me furious. Which resulted, as it often does these days, in instant speech. “I think prostitution is perhaps not quite the term one would want to use for a friend’s mother…”, I began, but Roomie 1 stomped all over my carefully polite intro. “I think selling your daughter ranks higher than semantics”, she snapped. “And anyway, I’m not saying anything wrong. Do you know of a single age-inappropriate relationship that isn’t exploitative?”
“I should like to think mine isn’t”, I said primly. “And what is ‘age-inappropriate’?”
The woman stared at me. “Age inappropriate is when you’re in a relationship that isn’t natural — it isn’t appropriate for you to be in a relationship with a person because of the age difference“, she said slowly, capping it with a loud unspoken ‘Duh!’. Roomie 2, however, was a much smarter listener. “You boyfriend is older?” she asked. “How much older?” “Quite a bit”, I said, returning to the baby potatoes on my plate. Conversation slowly bubbled around the table again, giving us relative privacy. “Like, parents kind of old?” Roomie 2 persisted, but with a friendly, nudge-nudge grin. “Close”, I said, smiling back. “That’s gross!” said Roomie 1. “I hope he has a lot of money to make up for it!” “He’s quite poor”, I said icily, looking at her narrow, disgusted face. “Then why are you even dating him?” she asked, absolutely amazed.
I smiled at her. Then proceeded to regale them both about the ‘lesbian training’ given to unmarried Indian girls in anticipation of their marital duties, for the rest of the main course. But that’s a story for another day 🙂