This article first appeared on VICE Canada
Everyone who lives to be older than 100 is a trove of precious wisdom. Cracking a century with your wits intact is doing 30 years of victory laps around your golden years. So when the truly venerable speak—disproportionately Italian and Japanese, wine and fish and fascism, hint hint—it’s always good to listen.
At his 108th birthday party this week, Esmond Allcock of Kerrobert, Saskatchewan disclosed his personal secret to living so danged long: the love of a good woman.
“I didn’t behave myself for a few years there,” he told the CBC. “But then I got a really good wife.”
Amen, brother Esmond. God knows I wouldn’t amount to much without the better half of my home team. Nothing will kill you faster than a truly bad romance, but life without the beloved is like a flower without the sun. This isn’t just waxing poetic: a Harvard study in 2010 found that happily-married men tend to live longer and healthier lives than their single, divorced, or widowed counterparts.
Women get considerably less out of this heterosexist Grand Bargain. The purported health benefits of a happy marriage are only observable in men. One 2015 study in the American Journal of Public Health found that there was no significant difference between the health of middle-aged women who had divorced or never married when compared with their wifely sisters.
That it’s a better deal for men is a feature of straight marriage, not a bug. It’s been baked into the institution since the opening of the Bible where God declares two genders and then immediately gets punked by a snake. In retrospect it’s less likely that Eve was created to be Adam’s helpful companion so much as she was charged with domesticating a literate ape with a dick for a brain. The only thing standing between the so-called average man having his heart explode at 42 while halfway through a 2AM supper of tinned ravioli and rye is 20 years of a woman’s emotional labour.
Some people will shrug that’s Gender for you, folks: men will be boys and girls will be women and the chasm between them is bottomless. Marriage is a wife trying to beat her husband’s sword into a plowshare before he fucks himself to death with it. History is 10,000 years of Married... With Children gags dressed in period costume. There can be no peace or cooperation in the battle between the sexes. The best we can hope is to establish a little domestic demilitarized zone here halfway between Mars and Venus.
Masculinity is rigid and explosive; femininity is pliable and smothering. This gender binary is a cosmic principle, the unalterable bipolar dynamic of all biological life. The motor of the universe only fires between 0 and 1. Defy this order at your peril. Everybody is one thing or the other and any attempt to colour outside the lines will end in social catastrophe.
Vom. What an exhausting crock. The best thing to happen to marriage was its desacralization. Marriage rates in Canada have been on the decline since the 1960s, while common-law arrangements—“living in sin,” as Nan still calls it—are on the up. Common-law these days will net you nearly all the pros and cons of marriage, but with none of the symbolic baggage or the bloodsucking parasites that make up the Wedding-Industrial Complex.
There are few things less romantic than a social and religious obligation to couple off and procreate, except maybe the standard division of household labour that comes with it. In the long view, same-sex marriage has probably done more to revitalize the institution than undermine it, because it places a radical love between two people and their desire to build a life together back at the centre of the whole affair. (Does same-sex marriage undermine queerness more than heterosexism by bringing LGBT couples into the great walled garden of bourgeois family values? Don’t think about this too much.)
I got married in 2016, so I can’t shoot my mouth off too much about the long-term mechanics of all this. And if you follow it this far down the rabbit hole, it does get hard to disentangle exactly where, in desiring matrimony, your genuine feelings of love end and a lifetime of social conditioning begins. Ultimately it’s foolish even to try, if only because all desire (and the language and symbols we use to articulate it to ourselves, let alone others) is never totally our own. Human beings are neither closed systems or meat-filled calculators - another feature that sometimes seems like a bug. Relationships are hard for this reason and it’s harder still to forge a union that works without reproducing all the bullshit background bigotry you breathe in every day of your life. In the meantime, split the housework and drive your own dumb ass to the doctor.
All I do know for sure is that together my wife and I make one another into better, happier versions of ourselves. If every path through life ends in the same destination then we want to walk it with our hands clasped together for as far as fate will allow. Getting married let us throw an amazing party with all our friends and family.Esmond Allcock found the golden key in the arms of his late wife Helen and they shared seven decades of happiness. All you need is love indeed.
So yes, my dudes: find a good wife and odds are you will live very long and prosper.
Women are another story. According those in the know, the best bet for a lady looking to crack 100 is just avoiding men altogether. But really - can you disagree?
This article originally appeared on VICE CA.