George Saunders on same-sex (and samish-sex) marriages

Writer George Saunders channels Jonathan Swift, but with more math, in the latest issue of The New Yorker:

my feeling is, when God made man and woman He had something very specific in mind. It goes without saying that He did not want men marrying men, or women marrying women, but also what He did not want, in my view, was feminine men marrying masculine women.

Which is why I developed my Manly Scale of Absolute Gender.

Using my Scale, which assigns numerical values according to a set of masculine and feminine characteristics, it is now easy to determine how Manly a man is and how Fem a woman is, and therefore how close to a Samish-Sex Marriage a given marriage is.

Here’s how it works. Say we determine that a man is an 8 on the Manly Scale, with 10 being the most Manly of all and 0 basically a Neuter. And say we determine that his fiancée is a -6 on the Manly Scale, with a -10 being the most Fem of all. Calculating the difference between the man’s rating and the woman’s rating—the Gender Differential—we see that this proposed union is not, in fact, a Samish-Sex Marriage, which I have defined as “any marriage for which the Gender Differential is less than or equal to 10 points.”

Friends whom I have identified as being in Samish-Sex Marriages often ask me, George, given that we have scored poorly, what exactly would you have us do about it?

Well, one solution I have proposed is divorce—divorce followed by remarriage to a more suitable partner….

Also in this week’s New Yorker: an excellent piece on Arthur Russell by music critic Sasha Frere-Jones. Mr. Frere-Jones’ appearance in the magazine is literally the only development preventing me from cancelling my New Yorker subscription with three months to run. (You’ll recall that I’d planned to do that after Caitlin Flanagan joined the staff.)


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