Mike Zielinski

Mike Zielinski

I was browsing online the other day to waste time so I wouldn’t have to re-grout the guest bathroom when a startling statistic popped off my PC screen and hit me smack between my eyes. Fortunately I was wearing glasses or I now would somehow be typing blind.

The stat that leaped like a jungle cat off my screen is that 55 percent of marriages that occur in the world today are arranged. There are 26,250,000 arranged marriages every year, so don’t send flowers to all of them unless you are a billionaire.

While reading that I somehow thought I had been transported back in time to a more medieval era when arranged marriages were common.

Of course, arranged marriages back then didn’t include peasants because the nobility could have cared less who their serfs married as long as they weren’t marrying their swine.

Well, it seems that the contemporary Western concept of dating still remains taboo in other cultures because of traditions, economics and religious beliefs. Arranged marriages remain a fairly common practice in India, Africa and portions of the Middle East.

Remarkably the average divorce rate of arranged marriages is just 4 percent. That may not necessarily be a valid statistic. In some cultures there are laws on the books that cause women to be stoned if they try to leave a marriage. Consequently, divorce lawyers are forced to moonlight as yak hair stylists.

In those places arranged marriages are viewed as a social and economic necessity so that both families can continue to economically thrive. They don’t want their beautiful daughter marrying a guy who fixes joy buzzers for a living just because he has a cute smile and all his teeth.

For many couples in an arranged marriage, they may meet each other for only 15 minutes before the ceremony begins.

What a crying shame. Dating is the fun part of a relationship. It’s when you really enjoy your partner’s company because you nurture your relationship by doing enjoyable things.

When you’re dating, you go out to dinner, catch a movie or a concert, take a walk hand-in-hand in the woods while praying you don’t contract Lyme disease, hang out in clubs, wrestle in the backseat of your car and drink beer on the beach.

And you do all of this with a silly, goofy romantic grin pasted to your mouth that even torrid kissing can’t smooch off.

Once you’re married, you may do some of the above now and then (although without that lovely grin), but not all the time like you did when dating because marriage translates into shared work and responsibility and often involves rearing kids who talk back and have the audacity to grow up and expect their parents to pay the college tuition.

Granted, single people often have similar responsibilities, but since they’re flying solo, they’re masters of their domain. Married folks have to work in tandem with a spouse, and that my friends, is where the rub of friction can ignite more fires than an arsonist going through a hormone surge.

Hence, married couples at times often have little inclination for romance because their lives are as exciting as Tuna Helper. But at least they have warm memories of their dating days.

Not so for those couples in an arranged marriage. Those poor people who’ve never dated must feel awfully, if you’ll excuse the pun, dated. Not to mention left out.

Mike Zielinski, a resident of Berks County, is a columnist, novelist, playwright and screenwriter.

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