Paul opens this episode contemplating bachelorhood. He saw a 40-year-old Hank Moody type drive by the other day, alone in the car. The guy had a grey t-shirt and stubble, and looked as though he hadn’t a care in the world. Standing on the sidewalk, Paul wondered whether the man was a carefree bachelor or, in fact, a bedraggled husband and father, stealing a few moments of solitude from his family. The weird thing about 40 is that a guy can legitimately be the carefree, exciting bachelor, or the responsible family man; either lifestyle is possible. On that division line there are trade-offs, profound ones. Bachelor life is cool and it’s exciting to be footloose and fancy-free. But, at 40, a single guy may not be part of standard society and he can become marginalised. The other side of the bachelor coin is loneliness and isolation. Peter and Paul then discuss the idea of Intact Families (nuclear family) versus Broken Families (divorced) and why society holds up the enduring nuclear family as the preferred model. Even the word “broken” implies problems, though the statistics make clear that children of divorce are not necessarily disadvantaged, provided the father remains present. We discuss the plight of a friend who “likes getting married, not being married” and has therefore been to the altar five times. He’s a member of the dubious 1/32nd club. Pete makes the case that divorce can benefit women stuck in abusive relationships but that, equally, it allows men to discard older women in favour of pretty young things. Paul asks if marriage is passé. Marriage is still the default destination for heterosexual (and, increasingly, homosexual) couples but it suffers from several problems. Implicit in the marriage arrangement is the notion that a woman is property, an adjunct to the man. In fact, in the old days, a woman who married Mr. John Simpson became Mrs. John Simpson. It was only after hard-won emancipations that women retained their given names in marriage, to become, let’s say, a Mrs. Sue Simpson. Further independence saw women hyphenating to Mrs. Sue Simpson-Lennard and finally, today, some married women retain their maiden names: Mrs. Sue Lennard who is married to Mr. John Simpson. Finally, the men discuss Paul’s father’s dictum that “A bachelor is the most honest type of man.” In other words, a bachelor is not bound by decorum. He can speak his mind and manage his own PR. He’s got nothing at stake, no one to offend. A man in a relationship checks his behaviour because there’s potential fallout from his girlfriend or wife. This reminds Paul of the Vince Vaughn movie, The Break-Up, in which Vaughn begs his friends to side with him in a disagreement. They all abandon him, each fearing the retribution that will later come from their wife or girlfriend. Vaughn is an isolated man. The unspoken price of society is that the individual loses freedoms as he surrounds himself with others. He is restricted, muzzled, compromised. We speak here of freedoms of expression, but there are many others. However, isolation is very painful for the human species. For mere survival, and for the richness which companionship brings, we agree to limit our autonomy. In many of our relationships, truth is less important than harmony.
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