Earlier this summer, I was catching up with a mom of two who has been married for almost 20 years. I knew that she had recently gone with some neighbors and country club friends to a Coldplay concert, and when I asked her how the concert was, she leaned in to tell me about how the night unfolded. As she explained, she and her husband met up at a neighbors’ house to “pre-game” a bit. She seemed comfortable enough with drinking some fancy cocktails and letting off a little steam, but soon enough, she said that one of the parents broke out some pot, which was puffed liberally by the majority of the parents present. On the car ride to the concert, the driver popped in some porn for the passengers to watch. She was a little shocked and rather uncomfortable, but she stuck to squeezing her husband’s hand and getting him to lock eyes with her during the remainder of the trip rather than voicing her discomfort with the situation. She told me she would never go to another concert with that particular couple.
Is this scenario unfamiliar to you? Hopefully it is. Unfortunately, it does sound very familiar to a recent article I came across in theawl.com, in which author Amy Sohn examines the “40-Year-Old Reversion”. In her article, she describes how she and her girlfriends call each other Hookers, Sluts and Drug Addicts, and how they spend their Girls’ Night Out time drinking too much, making fun of one another and arguing over which of each other’s husbands they would have sex with if they had to.
Does this sound fun to any of you? It doesn’t sound very fun to me. As Sohn continued, she was shocked by how true HBO’s new show “Girls” rang to her life—not her old life as a post-collegiate single girl, but her new life, as a married, home-owning mother. As she explains:
My generation of moms isn’t getting shocking HPV news (we’re so old we’ve cleared it), or having anal sex with near-strangers, or smoking crack in Bushwick. But we’re masturbating excessively, cheating on good people, doing coke in newly price-inflated townhouses, and sexting compulsively—though rarely with our partners. Our children now school-aged, our marriages entering their second decade, we are avoiding the big questions—Should I quit my job? Have another child? Divorce?—by behaving like a bunch of crazy twentysomething hipsters. Call us the Regressives.
Why do moms in my generation regress, whether by drugging, cheating, or going out too late and too often? Because everything our children thrive on—stability, routine, lack of flux, love, well-paired parents—feels like death to those entrusted with their care. This is why they start drinking at wine o’clock, which is so dubbed not only because it coincides with whine o’clock but because it can begin at six p.m., or five, or even four. (Though the four o’clock mothers wind up in A.A.) I know a mom who drinks only on the weekends because she thinks it’s more responsible… but she starts with a mimosa at brunch on Saturday at eleven, and doesn’t stop until her Sunday night television shows are over.
Sohn describes a life in which moms today are seeking liberation through reading Fifty Shades of Grey, plastic surgery, cocaine, social media, and adultery. As she says, “about a quarter of married moms I know have cheated in some form.” One of her friends recently divulged that she cheated on her husband with a coworker in the back of a minivan, explaining that she didn’t go “all the way”, but that she did “go to third base, both ways”. She didn’t feel guilty because it “wasn’t actually sex”.
In talking about contraception among the 40-something crowd, she confesses that her circle of parents use withdrawal plus biological clock or substitutes masturbation or porn for sex. As CNN contributor Sharon Cook wrote, “It’s a grim portrait of parenthood and marriage”, but she admits that there has been an uptick in Moms Gone Wild. In her article, she mentions how she struck up a conversation at a bar with two women in their early 40s, both married with kids, who were “very comfortable admitting they were having affairs.” Another woman advised Cook that if she were ever tempted by another man, she should “jump in with both feet” regardless of her marital status, because “falling in love isn’t something you should ever pass up.” Even if it might tear her whole family apart.
Is it any wonder that the younger generation is so skeptical about marriage today? We’re making such a mess of love, sex and marriage that it’s painting a very confusing picture for our sons and daughters. In my marriage, love is an every day choice, a commitment and a sacrifice. Every day my husband sets aside his selfish wants to serve, forgive, love and support me, and I try my best to do the same, and it is incredibly rewarding. Marriage is not about self-fulfillment, lust or any other fleeting feeling or moving target—only God can fulfill, love and complete fully. We’ve bought into a selfish, sensationalized and skin-deep picture of marriage—we’ve traded God’s best for the momentary highs of porn, affairs, drugs and drunkenness, and our kids will bear the burden of our mistakes.
As Cook pointed out, “The party moms who delight in taking things into the danger zone didn't invent the art of smoking illicit joints and having tawdry affairs. They're just keeping the torch (or bong, or hot sex flame, whatever the case may be) alive. Yes, it's all been done (although I might argue that it's gone to a new, normalized extreme). The question is, will it be their undoing?” I believe it will. I think it’s time that we stop fighting for the next fling or the next high and start fighting for our marriages and our children.