If you're unmarried and choose to cohabitate, don't send Tom an invitation to a housewarming

A young couple I know recently sent me a really fancy invitation, stating that they were moving in together and asking if I would like to come to their housewarming. Ever polite, I sent them back a handwritten note that read, "I'm sorry, but my manners got stuck in the 1970s, and I haven't had the time (or the inclination) to update them."

I'll hold on to the gift in case they decide to get married. As Robert Wuhl once said: Candlesticks make a nice gift. Let's get two!

After hearing from dozens of people over the past couple of years, I feel the need to clarify my position: I swear on my children that I really, really, REALLY don't care if unmarried couples cohabitate. Gay, straight, uncertain--I don't care. It's none of my business.

I wish you all of the happiness and hot, unmarried sex in the world. I hope you stay together long enough to get to the age where the words "boyfriend" and "girlfriend" start to sound silly. Heck, I hope you're together long enough to reach the point where the uttering of the term "life partner" doesn't make you feel like an idiot.

I'm so libertarian on this that I don't even think that polygamy should be against the law. If adults want to enter into a legally binding arrangement of their own free will, who am I to say they can't? (Of course, I'm repulsed by and totally against the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and other cults that breed young girls simply as reproductive vessels to satisfy the lust of creepy old men and to propagate the ever-more incestuous populace inside the compound. Those adults belong in prison.)

In the interest of full disclosure, I could never just live with a woman. And, furthermore, I could never live with a woman who would just live with a man. This doesn't make me superior. It just makes me, me.

The only problem I've ever had (and stay focused here) is when people choose not to get married and then try to convince me and the government that it's exactly the same as being married. As the saying goes, don't piss on my shoes and tell me it's raining.

Actually, being married is the only thing that's the same as being married. Remember in those math textbooks where they would start out with the basic identity stuff, like a = a. I used to think that was a huge waste of paper and ink, but apparently, some people don't get it. They would have you believe that not married = married.

Every time I mention this, I get tons of mail telling me that I'm hatin' on the shack-ups. Well, you'll be glad to know that society is passing me by. According to a survey that appeared in USA Today, cohabitation is booming in America, up more than six-fold from 30 years ago. And public perception of cohabitation has softened over that same period.

One professor is quoted as saying, "Cohabitators 20 years ago were the rule breakers, the rebels, the risk takers ... the folks who used cohabitation as an alternative to marriage." Nowadays, some people see it as a lead-up to marriage, a test drive.

That's all well and good, but here's the fun part: Data have always shown that people who live together and then get married are more likely to get divorced than people who didn't live together before marriage. That's still true, but a significant number of people in the survey don't think it's true! And somehow, the newspaper thought that was worth reporting.

Here's the second paragraph from the story: "While researchers say the overall divorce rate is higher among those who lived together before marriage, now they don't blame cohabitating."

What do they blame? Tainted jalapeños?

In the interest of fairness, I must note that one study found that women who only shacked up once and then ended up marrying--and that's got to be a pretty small number--did not have a higher divorce rate than women who didn't cohabitate. That's about the only non-negative stat in the bunch, except for the fact that 49 percent of the people surveyed mistakenly believe that living together first makes divorce less likely!

Just think if everything worked like that. We could ask 100 Hummer owners if they thought their vehicles got relatively crappy gas mileage. If a majority said no, just think how silly those people who have been driving Honda Civics all these years would feel. Or we could ask some teenagers if they thought that smoking would eventually lead to their getting cancer. If more than 50 percent answered, "Not me!" then light 'em up.

When it comes to kids, 47 percent of those polled think it has no effect on kids if their unmarried parents live together. An astonishing 12 percent think that such an arrangement would have a positive effect on kids!

I wish that those doing the surveys would have had a follow-up question for that 12 percent, something along the lines of, "How the hell?!"

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