My friend, Herb Samuels, is the director of New Life Institute. I collared him at the publisher's party, given in honor of his new book, Life Reform. I asked him whether he gave any thought in his book to marriages and man-woman relations in general.
"The institution of marriage is bankrupt," he proclaimed, waving a carrot stick. "It has outlived its usefulness and it has become impossible to live up to its requirements. This is seen in the many divorces, miserable family lives, scandals, murders, suicides."
[quoteright]"What can one do with the institution of marriage?" I asked.
"It should be abolished immediately," said Herb.
"Then what can you replace it with?" I asked smugly. "Men and women want each other's company."
"Replace it with freedom!" he replied, face glowing. "Total freedom! Man and woman shall freely decide whom to love and haw long to love!"
I looked around to see if my wife heard these heady, liberating words. She was far away, cadging an Armenian recipe. I saw that it was safe to continue.
"But how do you propose to arrange this freedom in practice?"
"It is very simple," Herb answered, face still fiery. "Let's have an example. A man is in love with a woman. The woman, in turn, loves him. They decide to live together. They are proud of the fact that they love one another and let their friends, the whole world know that they are together."
"How do they let the world know? Tell everyone they meet?"
"No," said Herb. "They simply announce it through the newspapers."
"Fine," I said triumphantly. "Then I can place it in the papers that I live together with Miss Pickett, even when Miss Pickett does not want to live with me. "
"This is easy to avoid." Herb did not like my idea. "Both of you announce that you want to be together."
"To the newspaper editor?"
"Then to whom?"
"To some person who does not forget it later when aomeone asks him 'Who does Miss Pickett live with?'. He can tell that she lives with Mr. Ganguly."
"And this person can keep in mind all those men and women who go to him daily with such announcements?" I asked, not without glee.
"No, he can't," replied the reformer. "He will buy a large book and write down the names and dates."
"Now what happens if someone asks Miss Pickett to live with him because he is in love with her?" I pressed.
"The young lady will simply say, 'I don't want to live with you because I already live with a man.'"
"This will be tiring, if ten or twenty men daily ask the young lady whether she is still available to live with. Couldn't Miss Pickett wear a sign that tells us that she is not free at this time?"
Herb thought for a moment. "I have nothing against it. For example, Miss Pickett could carry a name different from a woman who does not live with a man. In fact, as long as Miss Pickett lives with the same man, one can address her with the addition of the man's name she lives with."
"How? Should we say, 'Good morning. Are you the co-liver with Mr. Ganguly?'."
"No, of course not," replied Herb, thinking fast. "This is too long. You could say, for example, 'Good morning, Mr. Ganguly's s woman.' Or even shorter, 'Good morning, Mrs. Ganguly.'"
"Excellent," I exclaimed. "So practical, so simple, so open and honest. But what happens when we get tired of living with each other?"
"Well, Mrs. Ganguly would simply leave Mr. Ganguly and to live with another man." It was Herb's turn to look smug. He refilled his cocktail glass.
"And if I don't want this to happen?"
"This would make the matter a little more complicated. Mrs. Ganguly will have to show that she had good reason to leave. Maybe great differences exist between the two of you -- not just a temporary little spat. If there is an irreconcilable difference between the two of you and she wants to leave, she should go to the person who placed your names in his large book and ask him to erase your names and your association. Some order should exist, after all."
I thought for a while, as Herb was twirling his celery stick. "What happens if I also go to this person and ask him not to erase our names from his book because I continue loving Mrs. Ganguly and would like to keep living with her?"
"That is simple," Herb answered. "A neutral person has to decide."
"And who should this person be?"
"The two of you agree on a decent and clever person."
"And if we can't agree?"
"Then... let's see... maybe the state should decide on the person who will decide whether you two should live together."
"Excellent!" I yelled. Some people looked our way. "I admire the speed and sharpness of your thinking! You find the answer to the most difficult questions! Although... I think the state will have to appoint several hundred such persons to decide on these natters. This is bound to be complicated."
"I have an idea for this, too," countered Herb. "The state should appoint only a few dozen such persons and only they should decide these problems thereafter. Every man and woman should go to these people for a decision. As a further advantage, these persons will have great experience in these matters in a short time."
"So true! These bold new reforms just pour out of your innovative, fertile mind! What now do you suggest for the ownership of the little house we bought?"
"This, too, should be decided by the state's appointee."
"Good. Now a difficult question. If we have a child from the co-living and separate, which one of us should bring up the child?"
"The state should," said Herb.
"But what if the mother, for example, does not want to give her child to the state? Can she be forced? Can her freedom be so abridged?"
"It is a good question," said Herb, taking a bite from a canape. Innovative thinking made him hungry. "But it is not hard to solve - one has only to think a little harder. The same state appointee, who decided the other problems, should rule in this, too."
"It is amazing how quick you find a solution to everything that hadn't been thought of before."
"Thank you," said Herb modestly. "But I did not tell you all this to show my brilliance. I merely wanted to demonstrate how outmoded today's marriage system is and how easy it would be to invent something easier, more practical, something that is really new. Only a little heart, brain, and some boldness is needed to adopt these reforms."
"Do you think that your ideas could ever be carried cut and accepted by our society?"Herb stood up. "Frankly, I do not think so. Remember this: humanity is terrified of reform and new ideas. I am, however, consoled by one thing: in its slow way to progress, mankind will one day arrive at the solutions that I proposed to you today."
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