Thursday, July 07, 2011

Urban wildlife

This visitor was spotted in a neighbor's driveway:
I know wild turkeys are common in New England, but I just can't get over the novelty.

And this is an update on my fungi:
Apparently, I can't even keep hardy invasive species alive on my windowsill. The whole indoor herb plan is doomed.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

“GGG”: The best conservative argument for marriage ever

Why doesn’t my husband fill my cavities or cut my hair? Because, according to Dan Savage via Mark Oppenheimer, he isn’t GGG for these activities. Fortunately, we never had to negotiate this particular outsourcing of extra-marital labor, because we already live in a society so accepting of the primacy of our dental needs and hair-styling desires that it makes expert providers of these services commercially available to us outside our marriage. So why doesn’t it accept that our exotic sexual interests ought to get the same professional—err—touch? If I would like sex to involve donning a pink bunny suit and being whipped by a clown on an elephant while hanging upside-down from a trapeze, but my husband, who lacks trapeze and elephant-riding training, can’t or won’t accommodate that, why shouldn’t I seek out someone who can? And not someone who will replace my husband, who is perfectly acceptable in other, non-trapeze respects (he makes great scrambled eggs!), but in addition to him? Our marriage isn’t the least bit undermined when I get my teeth cleaned by a dentist or my hair cut by a stylist, so why should getting my sex from the circus be any different?

Even if my husband offered to make a sincere effort at the elephant-and-trapeze, he’d unlikely surpass a professional in his skill. And I don’t select my hair stylists or dentists based on the sincerity of their effort, but on the final product. So why should I settle for DIY sex when I could have professional results? Just as society doesn’t expect me to stick with one hair stylist for life and call that person my husband, it should relax its expectations about sex.

If you are skeptical of this proposal, perhaps that’s because you’re wondering what the point of staying married to someone is if I’m getting trapeze satisfaction from someone else? Maybe that’s a sign that the marriage ought to end? [Clarification: Phoebe points out that she only means pre-marital relationships here.] But whoever said that sexual exclusion was some fundamental aspect of marriage? I don’t want a divorce, just a circus in addition to a marriage! Oppenheimer doesn’t really say what the purpose of marriage is because I guess that would counterproductively narrow the choice-iness that Savage stands for, but whatever it is, sex is no necessary part of it. Still, Savage is “conservative” about marriage because he wants to keep marriages together even if we don’t know why they are formed in the first place. Well, that’s a kind of conservatism, I guess, though a strangely ungrounded one for someone whose argument relies so much on rational contract-making. So we may not know why we get married, but we do know that once we do, we have individual rights to sexual satisfaction (which is to say, the satisfaction of any sexual desire we might entertain, so long as we think through what we want rationally) and these are pretty sacred, if not yet legally actionable. So it follows that if our spouses don’t satisfy these desires, we are within our rights to find other means to their satisfaction. There is no more necessary connection between spouse and sex than between spouse and hair styling.

And what will become of our spouses once we start shacking up with the circus? Potentially, there are the children, though these need not be strictly connected to spouses either. Oppenheimer channeling Savage seems to think it’s somehow psychically better for children to be strictly connected to spouses, though their interests are so unfortunately contrary to the “nonmonogamy” preferences of adults (pesky children!). But it has been pointed out that nonmonogamy may also lead to children who will lack such psychically beneficial spousal connections, and moreover, when individual sexual rights are pitted against the psychic goods of children, we can’t always expect the kids to win out even in the most flexible nonmonogamous arrangement. (At some level of nonmonogamy, do the psychic benefits to children of their parents staying together begin to erode? Like when I install the circus in my backyard?) So, if all else fails, I guess we will still have the scrambled eggs! Long live marriage.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Photographic representations of mid-summer

1. I have been trying for two years with remarkable un-success to grow herbs indoors. Every single thing I've attempted to nurture has died with the sole exception of catnip, which I can't even eat. Given that the cat for whom this nip is intended is a determined destroyer of all my other potted plants, the survival of the catnip is doubly ironic. Anyway, I got a new batch of herbs last April, and the oregano has been looking droopy and brown since June, but then I woke up this morning and found this horrifying development:
WHAT IS THIS??? It's so repulsive that I refuse to touch it with even a stick or a projectile, but I'm afraid that if I don't remove it somehow, I will have a whole pot of them by tomorrow. How can I evict this slime??

2. The best sidewalk stencil I've ever seen, spotted in Watertown en route (or, getting lost en route) to Target:

3. I'm doing research on monarchist and sovereignty theories this summer for a professor. Being paid by the hour to read and digest early modern tracts is kind of an ill-fitting adaptation of the wage labor model for scholarship since, on the one hand, I can't read fast enough to justify my hourly wage, so I am overpaid, but on the other hand, I have to read all the time to produce the quantity of notes that merits my hourly wage. Here, Nigel is helping me with research by making sure that none of extra desk space goes unused: