So I got my first internet based marital proposition from someone in federal prison (minimum security, I was assured!) the other day. I’m so proud. Not since I got debunked by the right wing wackos at junkscience.com has a tribute to my work meant so much. I hear Ann Coulter gets 150 proposals a day, but this is my very first
;-). I’ll call him “Rambo” since he mentioned that movie twice in his (long) email to me.
Now ordinarily I wouldn’t make fun – not all prisoners are bad guys, and it certainly has to be one hell of a lonely life. But the gentleman in question was not overly subtle about his goals in marrying this “rollecking farm girl with a survival orientation” (ok, I really liked that phrase, even though he seemed unaware or unconcerned he was proposing bigamy…can we just skip the Groucho Marx puns here ;-), and I feel it acceptable to make a bit of fun, given the language of the proposition. Particularly since he wanted me to wait until his parole in 2013. I was forced to tell him that a. I’m happily monogamous and b. if I weren’t, I’m really not into delayed gratification.
Now this is pretty funny for me. I’m not the sort of woman that people get agonizing unrequited crushes on. The only way I’ll ever be the loveliest girl in the room is if I have dinner with Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, and these days a date with my husband is an evening spent romantically planting corn or shoveling out the compost pile. I suspect the gentleman in question noticed I was female, the only real relevant requirement, and decided to take a shot. And a lovely esteem enhancement it was, despite the use of the unfortunate term “lay” to describe my person ;-).
What really interested me about the email I got was this – the gentleman in question
graciously offered me his protection in the coming hard times, including an explanation of his experience and training. He knows I live somewhere in the state of New York, and he warned me that I could expect to be overrun by “hordes” of people from Manhattan any time now, when the peak oil apocalypse comes. And as appreciative as I am – Eric, while a wonderful man with many gifts has no experience in underwater demolitions (although given that I live in upstate NY and the creek on my property is rarely more than a foot deep, that might not be tops on the list of survival skills I’m seeking), I did have to decline, if only because I doubt we have until 2013 before the consequences of peak oil begin.
The gentleman in questions seemed sincere, if a little crude, but the proposition he seemed to be making seems a bad sort of deal for me. He’ll protect me from marauding hordes while I farm, have babies for him (oh yes, this was specifically mentioned – I don’t think he realizes that babies already come with the package), and do the “woman-stuff” (his term). Now I’m no starry eyed idealist, nor am I a pacifist. I have a fairly firm and practical relationship to the preservation of my family, my life and my livestock. Guns are useful tools out here in the country, and while I’m not buying my ammo by the crate, I’m also a pragmatist – I’ll use whatever works in my quest to keep coyotes from eating my geese and the wolf from the door.
But I, apparently, get to do all the easy girl work of growing the food while breastfeeding, and cleaning. How nice for me! The gentleman was very clear on this fact – he has no agricultural knowledge of his own, and it seemed as though the “farm” was even more compelling than the “rollicking” part (I just like to write “rollicking.”) Oh, and he mentioned cooking too – he wanted to know if I was a good cook. Well as it happens, I am, and not a half-bad farmer either. And I conceed that in some conceivable situations I might need someone to hold the shotgun while I’m mulching the corn, somehow, the “you cook, clean, plant, harvest, hoe, and I’ll play Rambo” deal didn’t seem like the best trade off I’ve ever gotten. See, I’ve gotten oddly accustomed to sharing work equally, with a real partner. Some days are more equal than others, but the “protection for sex and dinner” deal just doesn’t look that good from my end.
May I offer a suggestion to the male survivalist lovelorn (and any really tough lesbians with the same assumptions ;-)) – peak oil doesn’t actually mean that we get to go back to living the “Put another log on the fire” life (And ain’t I gonna take you fishin’ with me someday/Now a man can’t love a woman more than that…). There are whole forums out there are of people who imagine that handling peak oil is just a matter of a good gun, an isolated homestead and someone to do the cooking and sewing. I’ve got to say, I suspect that the reason those forums tend to have a 8-1 male female ratio (and half the guys seem to be single), may have something to do with the fact that underneath the rhetoric there’s a “Yay, back to the stone age with all the girls” theme. Often, women are referred to as “our women,” most often by people who don’t own any ;-).
But the thing is, it doesn’t matter how many guns you have or how much ammo you’ve got – unless you live in the movies, if the purple haired mutants come around, two people are going to get their asses kicked by 3 or more people. Isolated homesteads aren’t that common, actually – most of them are surrounded by other people who also like isolated homesteads, and they all get to be isolated together. And unless you plan to revise our incest taboos, at least once a generation (and probably quite a bit more often), everyone is going to have to come out of their cave and get to know the neighbors.
So obviously, soloing isn’t the answer (sorry Rambo!). Which means communities. Which means doing the work of community building – you know, having relationships with people. I’m not talking about setting up an ecovillage (no implied attacks on people who are, just not my thing) – I’m talking about building community with the people who live near you. And the way you do that is usually not exciting or dramatic – it rarely (at this stage) involves everyone learning to work together to defeat the marauding whatevertheyare a la the Magnificent Seven (Shoot, I was aiming for the horse!). Mostly, it involves knowing people well enough to trust them. And how do you do that? The boring way. You stop up and have a chat. You ask after the baby or the grandkids. You bring soup when someone gets sick and have a party now and again. You barter. You trade. You talk. You offer to help with something, show up, do a solid day’s work, and do it again next time, proving that you mean what you say. That is, you do all the girly (and men do it too – I’m making fun here) stuff of talking, having relationships, being nice, paying attention and helping out.
Now I can’t swear that Rambo’s services might never be useful. But I do know, that fixating today on Rambo’s solution is the quickest way to bring about the nasty future he wants to protect me from. Social breakdown and violence happens when infrastructure fails. So building shadow infrastructure – ordinary people prepared to pick up the slack when institutions fail is a #1 priority. What we need right now is as much engagement as possible with other people. And even with Rambo at my back, I can only fight off, oh, maybe 12 (yeah, right) marauders (personal nukes are on my “to get” list right after the solar panels ;-). Ultimately, a bigger group of people, or a luckier one or one with less to lose can always take what they want. The best hope I have is to make sure that things don’t degrade that far. Because if they do – I’ve already lost. Civilian casualties, accidental deaths and friendly fire constitute almost 40% of all deaths in any given conflict – not starting the battle is my potential salvation. Speaking as a Mom, I don’t want to win anything that involves my kids getting hurt even accidentally. If it ever (g-d forbid) comes to that, we’ll deal. But when you’ve got an investment in the long term, short term thinking is a big mistake.
So Rambo, I’m afraid we just weren’t meant to be. But I do want to throw his offer open – he didn’t strike me as a picky sort, and I do have quite a few female readers. So if anyone is looking for a man with demolitions experience and an eye to survival, I’m sure he won’t mind if I pass his email along.