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Stupid Cupid: Romantic love and the marriage game

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As Valentine’s Day approaches, Peter Sherwood reflects on romantic love and the marriage game.

Write about love and marriage, she said, being unaware that me writing about blessed nuptials would be like Willie Nelson singing Cantonese opera. She clearly saw the prospect of some dark comedy… but why me?

Until recently, the only wedding I ever attended was decades ago in Sydney, and it wasn’t my own. Still I came away traumatised, in a state of considerable psychological distress that still sees me misspelling the word – appropriately, enough – as ‘mirage’.

A month or so ago, I attended my second wedding – the welding together of two Discovery Bay friends, Marc and Rosie. Making their vows, they made it clear that the single life is no substitute for matrimony. But then bachelordom doesn’t have to mean existence in a smelly monastery cell.

Given what professionals have told me about mood changes, I am persuaded that romantic love is really an ancient physiological drive to reproduce the species. This utilitarian move by Mother Nature removes all romance from the romantic, leaving the horror of waking up one morning with a detested spouse, gargantuan school bills, extortionate legal fees and half a house. (When M. Nature has done the job she loses any interest in the on-going state of your relationship.)

Sexless in the city 

Apart from finality, something pseudo-scientific bothers me about a wedding’s aftermath. I refer  to surveys on wedlock and sex. Beginning with the famous ground- (and relationship-) breaking Kinsey Reports on sexual behaviour (1948 and 1953), every study on the subject is riddled with distortion.

Everyone lies about how much sex they have. Everyone. And as we all know, polls are based on the opinions of people in a shopping mall who are not savvy enough to avoid someone coming at them with a clipboard.

An infinite subject is couples  complaining they don’t feel like having sex anymore. So the agony people direct them caringly to marriage guidance and hormone  treatment, or a visit to a retail outlet for new-and improved lingerie  and a range of devices to titillate. I don’t get it. What’s the problem? For years I read self-help books and even wrote a couple. Then I didn’t  feel like it, so I stopped. Same with  tennis after 40 years. Why should  this be so difficult?

I’m often told that DB is a hotbed of everything salacious and forbidden, with countless broken alliances and  busted heads. But if young married  women are throwing themselves at  us single blokes, I can only whine that too few are flinging their nubile bodies in my direction.


Peter Sherwood has lived in DB for 17 years. The former head of an international public relations firm, Peter is the author of 15 books and he has written around 400 satirical columns for the South China Morning Post.

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