Monday, August 29, 2005

Marriage Panacea



Almost every phone conversation with my grandma back in Romania used to bring about the highly-dreaded question - "So... any news of marriage yet?" Needless to say, it was a long-lost battle. But are early weddings truly an antiquated generation gap, or do young women still jump on the marriage bandwagon?

I suppose people in Romania are getting married later into their 20s nowadays than decades ago. Yet, unless your education or parents can support you - given that your job hardly does without said education - the option of the average Romanian young woman is basically the same: get married and do your best not to divorce your husband.

A huge role is played by the Romanian Orthodox Church and its invaluable influence. Since 8 out of 10 people share the same religion, chances are that divorcing a man whom you married in Church is not only ecumenically difficult; it becomes a societal stigma when the next person on the street can claim a similar understanding of your religious beliefs and - hence - the right to pass judgment. In other words, if you marry, you'd better marry for good, unless you want to become "that girl."

Though divorce does happen, more often now than before, I think many families tend to stick together for the simple economic troubles or comfort losses. Men just earn so much more than women in the land where being a housewife is somewhat of a national hobby. Sure, most women have a job, but laundry, cooking, cleaning and all that are top priorities. This is by no means a feministic attempt at misandry, but really - how many Romanian men ever do laundry, considering that cleaner's services are an ultimate luxury?

I don't think I would have been a housewife anyway, but I do wonder whether more women will give up marrying early the better Romania's economy is doing. Is there a direct correlation between the income per capita and the number of marriages per year, in a given country? I suspect so. One explanation would be that in many rural areas marriage is just the thing to do, spinsters are not "top" members of society and it's rather "improper" to stay unmarried after you turn 24 or so.

Economic development and labor migration from rural to urban areas might actually have a pretty beneficial impact on female emancipation. It's not only the effect of Westernization on income, it's also a first-world lesson on equality. So if you are a woman and you ever wondered what those old, rickety men in the Romanian Senate can do for you, next time they sign a free-trade agreement, you might want to think again. I DO.

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