One day while I was getting a haircut at the barbershop, one of the patrons asked, “Why in the hell would anyone get married?” His question was not unusual. My barbershop is one of those old-school places where men just go to hang out even if they aren’t getting a haircut. They like to talk about sports, politics and relationships.
The patron continued, “Marriage is unnatural. The divorce rate in America is 85% (not true, but hyperbole is par for the course in the barbershop) and men were born to be with several women. It’s our nature.”
While the other guys nodded in agreement, my barber and I shook our heads in disbelief. We were the only guys in the shop who had been married more than five years and felt the need to defend the institution of marriage.
“You’re wrong,” said my barber. “I used to agree with you when I was younger, but over the years, I’ve realized how misguided I was. My life has been so much better since I’ve been married. I’ll admit that being married isn’t always easy, but it is fulfilling.”
“See, that’s the problem I have with marriage,” the patron said. “It’s difficult. I don’t want any difficulties or problems. I want my life to be easy. Right now, I don’t have any worries. I can do whatever I want to and I get to be with a different woman every night. Who wouldn’t want that?”
“I wouldn’t want that,” I said.
He looked at me and chuckled. “And why not?” He asked.
“Because I’ve built a life with a magnificent woman who fulfills all of my needs,” I said. “She is my best friend and life partner. I couldn’t imagine living without her in my life.”
“Yeah, that’s okay for you,” he said. “But I like to watch porn and lust after other women. I don’t want any women telling me I can’t do the things I enjoy.”
“How old are you?” asked my barber. This question caught the patron off-guard.
“I’m 39 years old,” he said. “In other words, I’m old enough to make my own decisions.”
“You may be nearly 40,” said my barber. “However, you sound very immature.”
“I’m not immature,” he said. I could tell that he was offended by my barber’s statement. “I’m a grown man—a real man who likes a lot of women. There’s nothing you can say that’ll make me want to give up what I’ve got and get married.”
We went back and forth a few more times, but my barber and I eventually ended the discussion because knew that we’d never convince him of the benefits of marriage.
I know that marriage isn’t for everyone. Each person has the right to form his own opinion about the institution. However, I am troubled by society’s declining views on marriage especially in the African American community. While 62 percent of white adults and 60 percent of Latino adults are married, only 41 percent of black adults are. Even worse, more than 70 percent of African American children are born outside of marriage.
When our marriage debate finally came to a close, the conversation in the barbershop turned to the NBA playoffs. The partrons took turns making their predictions about the Finals and arguing for or against LeBron James’ greatness. Surprisingly, the anti-marriage patron decided to make one more statement about our previous discussion.
“I’m never going to get married,” he said. “But I’ll have to admit that I do care for my baby’s mama. She left me because I was cheating on her. I wish she would come back home.” He slid down into his chair and stared into the distance. My barber and I look at each other once more and shrugged our shoulders. Maybe there is still a glimmer of hope—if not for marriage, then perhaps for long-term, committed relationships.
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