I've mentioned before that I have a slight affinity for TLC's breakthrough reality tour-de-force Sister Wives. For those of you not in the know, this show is the madcap adventure that results from camera folks following around a real-live polygamist family: Kody Brown, his four wives Mary, Janelle, Christine and Robyn and their combined seventeen children. They're a team--over a score of folks--who function as a family unit, complete with drama, dinner and, I only assume, a ton of laundry.
Watching the Brown family's daily life--along with five titillating seasons of Big Love--have put me on to thinking about how I could apply the tenants of polygamy to my own life, weighing the pros and cons of the lifestyle. You know, upon reflection it doesn't seem so bad.
Stick with me.
Let's start with the pros. I propose that the polygamist lifestyle could be a boon to overall feminine health and well-being. For starters, a woman automatically gets a few nights a week to herself. Free from the stress of dealing with her husband's work strife, she's able to pursue her own interests. Hypothetically speaking, if I was one of three wives I'd probably get an average of four nights a week to myself. I wouldn't be alone or lonely because I'd still have my massive family around me, but when it came to turning in for the night I wouldn't be bound to the constraints of my husband's desire to immediately turn out the lights. I'd be able to stay up reading and writing, expanding my horizons. Not only would I have this time to myself but I'd also have a boatload of fodder; everyone in my life knows I'm not above stealing from them in order to write something funny. Imagine what seventeen kids, three extra wives and a husband would offer me in terms of material. I'm telling you: it'd be a gold mine. Also, it'd be a super easy television show to sell, as polygamists are the new vampires (yes, I know Big Love preceded True Blood, but whatever).
I imagine having a few extra wives around means built-in work out buddies. I see it now: waking up in my massive compound of a home, sending our brood off to school, grabbing my sister wives and heading to yoga. I imagine that one of them--a former Olympic swimmer, probably--pushes me to do a few more reps as we're bouncing around the free weights. She tells me my tummy looks so flat. I love her. I thank her for not only being an amazing sister wife (you know, cleaning my room, doing my dishes, bringing me medicine when I'm hung over), but also an inspiring work out partner. Best friends forever.
Polygamy also means having lots of helping hands as you raise children. I don't have children but already know that when I eventually do I'm going to want free, built-in babysitters with similar values to my own (read: rear bilingual children with a strong repulsion for fast food and fascists). If I'm married to someone(s) you better believe we'll share those basic tenants. Therefore, when this mommy needs a cocktail the other mommies can be trusted to hold true to the important stuff in which I believe.
Here's that rub: I don't think this is how polygamy actually works. Enter the cons. Even if we strip away the controlling patriarchal bits, female exploitation and garish cowboy get-ups illustrated by Roman Grant in Big Love, there's still one massive issue on the compound: jealousy, something at which I'm awesome. I don't care if someone gives my boyfriend a friendly hug and kiss--I encourage that, actually, because I'm pretty affectionate with my friends--but I would probably bring down a world of hurt on a woman who tried to put her 'who-who' anywhere close to him. Which begs the question of how someone is happily married when she knows her husband knocks boots with another woman every two or three days. Even though all parties enter the relationship with full knowledge it isn't a monogamous one, I can't fathom jealousy not being a problem. It's a natural reaction, is it not?
Perhaps an even larger problem--for me--is the pervasive female obesity in the polygamist community. In their defense, it isn't totally the ladies' faults. They're birthing four to eight kids each, sometimes spending over a decade pregnant. No thank you very much. That does some major damage to the body. I might be hard-pressed to find a gym buddy in that community.
If I was a bad high school writer I'd say, 'in conclusion, though polygamy seems okay it isn't really for me. I don't want to get fat or share,' and that'd be completely accurate. I don't want to. I want just one inspiring man who thinks I'm great, wants to marry me, wants to have some babies and wants to do all that business with me. Just me. I also want a taut bunda.
There's lots of babble about whether or not monogamy is natural for human beings. The overwhelming consensus is that it isn't. Our eyes wander, yes; we love variety, absolutely--but if you want a relationship with the one (or three) person who knocks off your socks, then those desires must take a back seat. The amazing feeling of waking up next to the person who knows you're kind of the worst and still loves you is worth the work; and I can't imagine it's less work to stay married to three or four people forever. I wager it'd be more, mostly because I have no idea what kind of reaction I'd have to my sister wives' PMS or extra-fatty cooking. I just don't know. I'm wild. I might freak out.
While it's all well and good to mull over the pros and cons of polygamy, I think I'm a one woman man--one who only wants to spend time with one very particular, very bossy man. So no, I will probably not join a compound and don prairie gear anytime soon, but it was a fun hypothetical to consider. What's life without a little soul searching?