Could it all be so Simple Then

Hey dude, how was your night? Oh, it was ok? That’s good. You went out with that girl? That’s good. Tell me more, did she put up a fight? Ow, so you mean she was willing, so you didn’t have to rape her. That’s good.

Although this conversation could easily have been one partaken in by some random frat guys, it’s actually from the musical Grease (paraphrased of course). It’s in that tell me more, tell me more song that’s so cute because it gives both the guys and the girls side of summer lovin’. The girls want romance, and the guys want to sexually dominate their women, and then drive around in silly hotrods.Now, if you ask me the worst thing about Grease is that it’s an awful musical. But I bring it up not to do a review of a thirty-year old production, but to prove a point about the “good old days”.

The reason that things were so much simpler fifty years ago, the reason that Lucy and Ricky stayed together so long was that women were treated like cattle. That’s not to say that things are perfect now, but I think it’s important to point out where things got complicated in the world of relationships. When women were allowed to have their own opinions, and stand up for themselves, things got tricky.

I bring this up because speaking to a female friend last week, she lamented the reason that things are as difficult as they are in relationships. “What happened to stability? A guy loves a girl, they get together, and they’re happy ever after. I’m rarely even happy the next morning, let alone forever!”

Stability can easily be translated into female repression, and my friend did not really seem to realize it. As soon as both parties in a relationship are allowed too freely express themselves, things get more complicated than when one person is exploiting the other. Just look at South Africa. Things were much more “stable” during apartheid that doesn’t make it better! Surely, some men still treat women like meat. And surely MTV, Cosmo magazine, and FOX television teach girls from an early age that they are sexual beings, not real people. But we are still much better today than we were fifty years ago. The “good old days”, to me, has never been anything pretty. Whether you’re a Mississippi farmer who misses the days when African Americans weren’t considered people, or an old Vermont man who hates girls in revealing clothing because “they used to know their place: in the kitchen”, you’re surely mistaken on the definition of progress. If you ask me, the fact that relationships are more difficult now that both people involved are allowed to express themselves is a good thing. There never was a time when marriage was easy. There never was a time when two people were wholly happy with one another. Having a rising divorce rate does not mean that people love each other less than they did fifty years ago, it just means that more people are allowed to do what they want. If a woman got divorced in 1953 at the age of fifty there was no Internet dating service. There were no supportive divorcee-friends to lend a helping hand. There was no child support, or alimony. There was social stigma and perhaps a low paying secretarial job. That’s why people stayed together, because women had no choice other than to submit to a life of servitude and repression. Clearly, we have a long way to go before we all respect each other completely, and stop asking questions such as “did she put up a fight?” But the way to a better life cannot be found looking backwards. Old people may act like they know what there talking about, but lets think about it for a minute.

Your grandparents may have fought against desegregation. Your grandfather may have lynched a black man because he was “uppity”. Your grandfather may have forced himself upon your grandmother because “she put up a fight”. Your grandparents may have hated each other, but for the social stigma stayed together. I’m not saying it’s definite, but not out of the question. When we are seventy, I hope that our grandchildren look back at our time with disgust and fear of a return to it. I hope they have reached a point where sexual assault and racism have been almost totally eliminated, and they look at our time, and the things that we do, and shake their heads.”Why did our grandparents allow their government to go on a crusade against non-Christians? Why did our grandparents try to stop two people who love each other, despite their gender, from marrying? Why did our grandparents allow men to take advantage of women and get away with it? Why did our grandparents allow the police to murder and brutalize minorities in most every major city?” Despite how difficult it may be to live in a more equal society than thirty or forty years ago, I truly hope the good old days stay good and old.