What’s Weird About Chelsea Clinton’s Baby

Who gets married and then has kids anymore?

Marc Mezvinsky and Chelsea Clinton attend the 2014 amfAR New York Gala at Cipriani Wall Street on February 5, 2014, in New York City. Photo | Debby Wong, Shutterstock.com

Marc Mezvinsky and Chelsea Clinton attend the 2014 amfAR New York Gala at Cipriani Wall Street on February 5, 2014, in New York City. Photo | Debby Wong, Shutterstock.com

A great big mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky, who announced late last week the impending birth this autumn of an heir to the Clinton dynasty. You may remember their wedding back in the summer of 2010. It was the American equivalent of one of Britain’s royal marriage hullabaloos, and cost, cognoscenti guessed, about three million bucks. But for all its heritage and privilege, Marc and Chelsea’s baby, when it’s born, will be part of a minority — the less than 50 percent of all babies born in this country today whose parents are wed.

There’s a TLC reality show that my daughter Marcy watches sometimes, called Say Yes to the Dress. It follows a standardized format: Three brides arrive at a bridal shop with entourages — mothers, in-laws, bridesmaids, best friends — describe to a salesperson their planned weddings and their fiancés, then try on a series of wedding gowns in hopes of finding The One. This decision is played up as truly momentous — as though the bride’s future happiness depends as much on what she’ll wear for her Big Day as on whom she’ll wed. There’s another show, Something Borrowed, Something New, in which each week a bride-to-be has to decide between a new bridal gown she chooses herself, or her mom’s old gown, albeit in a new, designer-gussied-up version. Marcy likes that show, too.

The typical American wedding now clocks in at $30,000. That’s well over half a typical household’s median income in 2013. And that doesn’t even include all the costs. Marcy was recently invited to be in a friend’s wedding. Her bridesmaid’s dress rang up at several hundred dollars. Her shoes were a hundred more. For the bachelorette party, the bride and her ’maids are flying to Las Vegas. The wedding’s in October. In March, Marcy cut her hair, and the bride chewed her out, saying she should have asked for permission first.

My point is, weddings have become a BFD, culturally and economically. And yet they’re getting rarer and rarer. In a recent Harris poll, 54 percent of millennials said marriage isn’t necessary. More than half the babies of women under age 30 are born out of wedlock. (There’s a quaint old term.)

Why, if marriage doesn’t matter to millennials, does it play such a large role culturally? Why the nonstop coverage of the royal ceremony of Kate and William? Why does the Inquirer run its nuptial-celebrating “Love” column every week? Why are bakeries and charities and florists and dressmakers and jewelers and stationers and even Groupon getting into the wedding game? Why so much attention paid to entering matrimony when it’s a state young people say they don’t much care whether they achieve?

The answer that University of Pennsylvania sociologist Frank Furstenberg gave the New York Times is pretty depressing: “Marriage has become a luxury good.” It’s in a class with Mercedes cars and Prada clothes and Hermès bags and Dom Perignon. The fuss over weddings is aspirational; Marcy and her friends watch young women dither between $5,000 dresses for the same reason they watch their Real Housewives older sisters bitch at one another over brunch — because it’s a life that, because of economic, sociological, and emotional woes, they’re not likely to have.

Some people think this isn’t a bad thing. We’re living so long now, they argue, that we should think of our lives in stages, and change up partners in accordance with our changing needs. It’s odd that heterosexuals should become so blasé about the institution of marriage just as the gay community is finally claiming it as a right. (Say Yes to the Dress has featured several gay couples in the past few years.) Opponents of gay marriage argue that same-sex unions somehow devalue “the real thing.” Seems to me they do just the opposite. If young hetero couples’ main impetus for marriage is so they can have a big expensive party, get lots of attention, and post a bunch of photos on social media, conservatives should rejoice that there are still people who long simply to be united with a single partner for all time.

The Atlantic has run an interesting series of back-and-forth debates on the subject of gay marriage recently. One contributor, Adam Hersh, had this to say on the subject: “The fight for gay marriage is a fight to be recognized as a normal member of society.” That’s the same impetus that drives women, racial and sexual minorities, the mentally ill, the disabled, and all the other “others” in their battles for recognition and equality. Those battles may become easier now that the so-called “normal members” of society don’t much care about being recognized as such anymore. Meantime, poor Hillary Clinton has to deal with a bunch of folks who’re worrying that becoming a grandma will derail her plans for total world dominance. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. 

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  • Vast Right Wing Conspiracy

    What difference, at this point, does it make?

  • dagbat

    Yes to be recognized as a normal human being – I say unequivocally. But respectfully can someone from the gay community explain why the act of homosexuality is normal? I don’t know of any animal that does this naturally. I don’t know of any gene for this trait. I do know that any inborn human trait can only get passed on to future generations through sex. For homosexuality that is impossible, therefore how can it be considered normal? If you believe in Darwin, homosexuality should die out and become extinct but it doesn’t. Why is that?
    I know I am going to get a lot of flack from the militant gay community who have become like fascists and who try to destroy and humiliate anyone who dares say or do something that they deem offensive. But for the rest of gays who I believe are in the majority, can you answer my questions? They are honest and not meant to be judgmental. I happen to know and have many friends who are homosexual and I believe we should all be free to live our lives as we see fit as long as we are not hurting someone else in the process.

    • Gene

      Recessive trait?

    • justthetruth

      Homosexuality is probably not genetic but it likely is somehow biological, and it may be that there is a real difference between the origins of the male and female version. (one theory for the male is that the fetus is exposed to female hormones during pregnancy). In any event, for people who are gay, it seems like the most natural thing in the world, and to a large extent, that’s all there is to say. As far as normal, what seems to be “normal” is that a certain % of the population (likely much less than the old “10 %”) is, and always has been, gay. It is a variation of the human condition, morally neutral, just like people who are geniuses (much less common than gay people). Many heterosexual persons barely have an understanding of their own sexual orientation so it’s hardly surprising they can’t contemplate a different one (and, yes, that may apply to certain gay people as well).. Remember, also, that sexual behavior, gay or straight, can be honest and legitimate OR grossly immoral, depending on the circumstances. The behavior is independent of the orientation.

      • dagbat

        Thank you for your very insightful answer. If there is a biological or hormonal trigger, I still wonder why we do not see the same in the animal world and the mating process. I think the mating act is where you hit the morality question if you are religious.

        • Sandy Hingston

          Animals do exhibit homosexual behavior, though. It’s very common: http://www.yalescientific.org/2012/03/do-animals-exhibit-homosexuality/

          • dagbat

            Thank you. I never saw this research. This study seems to show courtship like displays but it does not get to my original question about the physical mating act itself (sex between like genders). This only seems to occur with humans.

          • Sandy Hingston

            Here’s some more food for thought for you that includes instances of mating: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/04/magazine/04animals-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

          • dagbat

            Wow, very interesting and thought provoking. The two main female-female bird pairing studies were fascinating but I found it hard to draw any firm conclusions. The two females seemed to be bonding to care for an offspring but it was unclear if there was any female-female sex either before or after the bonding. There was also nothing on male-male sex except noting that it did occasionally happen for reasons of male dominance or isolation (no females present). So I am back to my original question regarding the sexual mating act. Is same-gender sex unique to humans? It seems it is.

          • Sandy Hingston

            I’m not sure, in the case of two female birds, what sort of “sexual mating act” would satisfy your stringent requirements. You want them to use a dildo? What?

          • dagbat

            Sorry, good point. I don’t know how it would be accomplished with two female birds. To me bonding and showing affection is different.

        • justthetruth

          The mating act might be the reason that God – or nature if one doesn’t believe in God – makes sure that gay people are only a small percentage of the population. And the truth is that many gay people are not only used to this fact, but believe it gives them identity and a place in the world. A kind of elitism, admittedly, but human nature is inclined toward elitism – hardly exclusive to gays.

          • dagbat

            I never thought of that possibility. Thanks.

  • matthew brandley

    AS for luxury? nah. My wife and I had our dream wedding. Including photographer, caterer, Piano player, Outfits. We had our for under $2,200 on the walkersville southern rr in md . charterd the dinner train for 3 hours. married on the back of the caboose. married in periodic civil awar era clothes. Small amount of imediate family and very close friends. Why people have all this hoopla is beyond me.

  • Wolfy Ghalkhani

    Who gets married and then has kids anymore? hmmm… not whites that’s for sure, but take a look around and you’ll see a definite change in this country’s demographics. Who has kids? Muslims by the score, Hindus by the score, Mexicans by the score, Asians by the score. Soon America’s core peoples- both indigenous and European- will be overwhelmed and that’s when all hell will break lose.