I almost called this “TV Review:” to fit in with the other reviews of new shows, but this is less about the quality of the show and more about a couple of themes it brought up. The basic premise of the Better With You (as with other shows such as “Til Death” and “Rules of Engagement” as well as the British show “Cold Feet”) is following the adventures of three couples at different stages in their relationship. In this case, you have long-married Joel and Vicky, long-term yuppie cohabitants Ben and Maddie, and newly-coupled Mia and Casey. The only two other things you need to know are that Joel and Vickey are Maddie and Mia’s parents and that Casey knocked Mia up and so she’s pregnant and they are immediately engaged.
In the first episode, everyone meets Casey and the situation that she and Mia are in. Maddie and Ben are stunned when the parents are extremely supportive and excited about the engagement and the grandchild. Though he’s a dimwit and not responsible like Ben, Casey is immediately accepted as a member of the family. The entire situation accentuates the fact that Ben and Maddie have been together for nine years and are neither married nor parents. Leaving aside the marriage issue (I’ll get to that in a minute), the parenthood issue struck home a bit with me because in that sense they are doing the “responsible” thing and waiting until they are settled down and entirely ready before taking that next step. And for all of these shows of responsibility, the parents start half-favoring the irresponsible ones that are unintentionally giving them a grandkid.
It hit home with me because my parents are getting antsy about grandkids. My brother Ollie has kids, but it’s not quite the same since Ollie has always been so independent, a little different, and not a Truman by blood. He did buy us some time, but they still want both Mitch and I to have kids. And since Mitch has already said that he won’t… well… we become the designated grandchildren-bearers. Naturally, they want us to do it the right way. But we’re already married and now that we’re not moving around every year or two (we hope) the timing is getting good. But for reasons I’m not getting into, it’s not going to happen for another year or so, assuming that everything goes account to plan. According to plan. Though they want us to do things the right way and though having a baby back when she was a resident would have been a logistical nightmare, they would have been ecstatic nonetheless. They probably would have been happy even if Clancy and I hadn’t been married yet, cultural disapproval aside. Sometimes, I wonder in retrospect if they would have been happier if one of those pre-Clancy pregnancy scares with others would have at least given them that grandkid.
In that sense, I could relate Maddie and Ben. “Wait… all we had to do to get you this excited for us is f*ck up?!” That’s pretty unfair, though, as they were very happy for us at our wedding and they do like Clancy a great deal (a lot more than they expected to like any woman that I would marry – they expected me to find someone that they disliked). But… it’s hard to overlook that had a pregnancy test with Julianne actually come up positive, they would have an 11-year old grandkid. A divorced son, most likely, but a grandkid nonetheless. Maybe more than one before the likely divorce.
While I could relate to Maddie and Ben on the issue or monogamy and children, they lose a lot of my sympathy on the marriage issue. On the third episode, they are upset that Ben is not allowed to be in the family Christmas card while Casey is. Joel, the father, had pretty simple reasoning. “They’re having a kid and you’re not and they’re getting married and you’re not. If you get married, he gets to be in the Christmas Card.” They object on the basis that he’s really family and that Joel is being unfair.
I don’t think he is. I mean, to me it’s something that could go either way, but something I see on TV pretty frequently is this notion that non-married, long-term cohabitants deserve the same respect as married couples. The nature and love of the relationship is more important than the piece of paper. I don’t think that’s inherently true at all. If you want the respect that marriage brings, then you should get married. If you want the rights and privileges of being married, you should get married*. This has been an issue on some legal shows I watch where unmarried people claim that they are being discriminated against because they’re functionally married but didn’t want to be bound by that piece of paper. Sorry. That piece of paper carries meaning. Legally, but also culturally. If you choose not to respect the institution of marriage, the rest of us do not have to go along.
Both Clancy’s and my parents held the same attitudes, so that’s probably where I get it from. No matter how obvious it was that we were serious about one another, when visiting we slept in different rooms right up until the logistics of it made it too impractical (our wedding, at that point, was imminent). It never occurred to us to complain. I suppose with our own future kids Clancy and I will be ridiculously old-fashioned by maintaining the same standard. It’s something I expect we will do even if they are cohabitating like Ben and Maddie.
* – Assuming you legally can. Gay couples get a pass outside states that allow them to marry.
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