GQ published a guide for how to convince your bride to sign a prenup, written by Siobhan Rosen and clearly aimed at starting a dialogue about gender, relationships, and money with questions like: Who should pay for her lawyer? (He should.) And: Should you blame your parents for making you ask her to sign? (No.)
All very thought-provoking, I’m sure, in some alternate universe where there are enough Americans left with assets to bother protecting. In our universe, however, income inequality has hit rates that would have embarrassed the fat cats of the 1920s. Half the money made in this country goes to only 10 percent of earners (note that the word is “earners,” not “workers,” to encompass people whose investments and not their labor do the earning for them). More than one-fifth of income in this country only goes to 1 percent of earners. Most of the canoodling lovebirds out there looking to make a lifetime commitment don’t have much more than an aging television set and a collection of illegally downloaded MP3s to protect. Rosen’s piece makes about as much sense to most of us as an article about how to talk your maid into polishing your brass toilet seat.
GQ has always marketed itself to people who have plenty of disposable income, of course, but the gap between the rich and everyone else has grown so vast that it’s hard not to wonder who are these people buying what it’s selling. Maybe that’s why Rosen quotes a lawyer saying: “It’s not just the mega-wealthy people doing it anymore … It’s a lot of normal people, too.” Right.
Rosen does acknowledge the very limited scope of her potential advisees, toward the end:
I just want to drive home the potentially catastrophic consequences (think: Roland Emmerich movie, but in your apartment) of broaching this subject. This could ruin your marriage-to-be. And once it’s out of the bag, there’s no going back. Consider: Do I really need one? Am I an 89-year-old billionaire with a Tony Soprano robe? Is my betrothed a 23-year-old bottle blonde with remote-control boobies named Schmanna Schmicole Schmith?
There have been a number of think pieces lately in places like Salon, the Atlantic, and the New York Times asking if economic pressures are dis-incentivizing marriage for those people who actually need to work for a living. Articles like this one in GQ don’t help, nor do bridal magazines stuffed with expensive dresses, ads for resort vacations, and fancy table settings. It all sends the message that getting married is just too expensive for normal people. Every time a diamond ad suggests men should spend two months’ salary on an engagement ring, the message is crystal clear for the paycheck-to-paycheck crowd: This whole process is not for you. And then you get a bunch of sad and troubled articles wondering why working-class people have kids without bothering to get married first. Maybe it’s because they can take the hint that they’re not welcome into this fancy institution.