My Beautiful Wickedness

Six-toed and Strange
September 6, 2008, 6:14 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Abby Normal here, resident slack-jawed yokel professor. What? You don’t believe me? I read it in the New York Times.

It started out ok as a mildly competent article on modern teen marriage. The article highlights research that concludes that teen marriages in the past few decades have a high failure rate and are increasingly less successful in certain segments of the population. Teens in the 1950s commonly married (in part because women had constrained educational and employment options, in part because it was more tricky to prevent pregnancy if a couple had premarital sex, in part because there was social pressure to marry to replace all the lives lost in World War II). The article points out that many of them held it together and the marriage did ok, though the spike in divorce rates in the early 1970s would make you wonder if they just held on until the kids were raised. However, teens recently have been able to avoid preparation for adulthood and instead enjoy a prolonged childhood with more privileges and less responsibilities than their peers would have had in previous generations. They lack essential skills to thrive in independent partnerships and their early partnerships suffer — at least among some demographics. The average American man is now over 27 at first marriage; the average woman is over 25 and that number is likely to keep trending up as the economy trends down. So far, so good.

However, the middle grafs are where it gets ignorant.

“Both Dr. Sternheimer and Dr. Wilcox said that the debate over whether teenagers are prepared for marriage was being framed through the lens of a middle-class, well-educated demographic, for whom marrying before being able to drink legally now may look alien, or hillbillyish. In fact, they said, 18-year-olds in working-class and immigrant families in particular already shoulder a lot of adult responsibilities, including fighting the war in Iraq, supporting their families and raising children.”

Let’s unpack. Hillbillyish is equated with being an alien — which is in line with the observations of those sociologists and cultural critics that note being Appalachian is the acceptably maligned ethnicity, the perpetual Other among whites, the always alien. (It gets even more interesting than that when you consider the influx of Hispanic immigrants into redneck country…no wonder it’s an alien death match between English-Only and No Habla Hillbilly.) Next, hillbilly immediately means working-class and uneducated (in distinction to the “middle-class and well-educated demographic” that presumably can control itself and not fornicate with their cousins. That’s because the real hillbilly, like the real alien, is ignorant, fertile, and dispensable. To be crude, we apparently are good for feuding, fucking, and fighting.

Sometimes I feel like the Geico caveman. I swear, I feel like loading my shotgun and grabbing my rattlesnakes…and I’d do it to, but the Chevy Rock-n-Roll 400 is about to come on and I have a book to write.


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