When I became an adult, not marrying was not really an option. No, Sir.
It was when I was doing my residency that my parents informed me that they were ‘looking’ for a girl for me. That I may also have been ‘looking’ for one did not occur to anyone- alas! Such were the blasted times when I emerged into adulthood.
I did look, and many girls who were ‘looking’, locked their bewitching gaze on my confused countenance, and the mores of the times told me to put these undesirable urges into what they call the back-burner, whatever that is. (Back-burner- what a word.)
This lack of personal freedom when I was a twenty-five year old would strike us today, as ludicrous.
Oh- Would it?
Jump down, dear reader, from your cirrus cloud in the rarefied liberal western stratosphere of your imagination. Climb down from the intellectual high horse or pedestal or whatnot and look around you. Things haven’t changed much, when you look at the vast teeming masses that are us, humans. A billion people with modern ideas are nothing. Humanity is like, what, eight billion?
Marriage was always, a social institution. A study of tribal societies tells us that eighty percent arrange their marriages. And they are mostly between children. Most would consider twelve or thirteen as old enough. Even those that allow, some ‘romance’, ultimately ends up tightly controlling who weds who.
Population genetic studies and study of ancient DNA point to ‘patriloqui’. This means that the women moved from tribe to tribe, while the male composition of a tribe remained fairly constant. The implication is that girls were ‘given’ as brides to neighbouring friendly tribes, the societies ‘arranging’ all these. And this has been going on for tens of thousands of years.
Does this mean that this has to go on? Absolutely not.
The triumph of modernity has been our ability to transcend primitive aspects of ourselves, and reach for the stars. Seek esoteric things like equality and individual fulfilment. The suffocating grip of the collective on our young people has to ease, if at all for the simple reason that they are no longer needed. We live in a much kinder world, and please, let us show that kindness too.
This is how Marriage became a contract between two consenting ‘adults’.
Now then, who is an adult? Why eighteen? Why twenty one? What is the significance of these numbers?
It is when we look into that that we reel in amazement. This are completely arbitrary numbers. British common law had twenty one as the legal age for voting. Later USA made eighteen the age at which they could take people into the army. In 1971, they made eighteen the legal age for voting too. Why ?
“Old enough to fight- old enough to vote.”
The whole world, sort of followed. (Countries do differ in this).
What should we base it on then? The facts.
The last few decades of brain research has shown that the Brain continues to grow, and show synaptic pruning, especially in the crucial pre-frontal cortex, till at least twenty five years of age. And some humans don’t become mature till their brain is thirty! Generally, female brains mature two years earlier to males.
So, if we need an age that would make you competent to enter a contract as serious and messy as Marriage and having children, it should be at least twenty five.
Oh. I am not an old guy who wants to prevent young people from getting on with their lives.
For one thing, I am remarkably young, I don’t know why. Secondly, get on with whatever you want to do. (With whomever you want.)
But why would you want to get into lifelong commitments with inconvenient legal implications at a young age, when your brain is not mature enough? Having children is a grave responsibility. Our ancestors took it surprisingly lightly, and look at the mess we are in! The last thing the world needs is more children. We do need a responsible next generation, but not maladjusted masses in large numbers; please excuse me.
As we shed our tribal past, and the constraints of our biology, questions which are infinitely more inconvenient, are going to make their appearance. That is inevitable.
Like- Why Marriage at all? What the hell is it anyway?
How will we have the next set of humans, then? How are we going to bring them up?
I am glad I do not belong to the present generation. When I was younger, the Box of Pandora had remained tightly closed.