Evolution and Jersey Shore

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It’s here. The final semester. The last time I will be a part of an undergraduate class. It’s a magical, magical feeling really. So thrilled am I at having almost completed my messy and obscure adventure through college, the usual first week of classes gloom has not set in. I’m okay with whatever projects you want to assign me, dear professor. I am not angered by your insisting I attend every class even though I am the one paying YOU to be here. You can’t bring me down! I even found myself walking around campus on this particularly lovely day with OneRepublic cheering up my brain, smiling to myself. It was a very peaceful and happy experience. Sure, there’s a big scary world on the other side that I’ll be forced to join in just a few short months. But that’s okay, because I am determined to enjoy this last semester’s worth of college life.

But enough about all that. One of my classes is about human evolution and sex. And it already occurs to me that while there are many ways in which evolution has shaped our mating practices and societal norms surrounding mating, there is one area in which we have defied all evolutionary sense. Monogamy. Strictly speaking, it is not really the most beneficial way to survive. Choosing just one person to be with forever and ever, through thick and thin, famine and disease, sickness and health. Well that’s just plain dumb. If your mate gets sick and can’t protect the family? If your mate gets hurt and can no longer bring home food for your survival? What if your mate cannot actually provide their half of the reproductive equation, and thus you cannot pass on your own amazing genetic material in the form of a new person? All because you promised you’d stay with this one person until you both die! Let’s face it, on top of our flagrant disregard for the environment and the existence of television shows like Jersey Shore, monogamy is just one more way humans have really struck out.

Now, arguably, once upon a time humans did not live nearly as long as we do now. In fact life expectancy was about half of what it is today. So, by the time you’d reached a reproductive age and then pop our your kids, you’re only around long enough to see half of them live, and if you’re lucky until they reach a reproductive age themselves and carry on the family line. On top of that, a lot more people died from disease, starvation, fatal accidents…it wasn’t pretty. So really there was only time to pick out and marry one other person, and before you got tired of each other or someone became invalid or infertile, you both died. Harsh, but true.

Now, we’re all living to 90 and there’s like 5 billion more of us out there. Literally. So not only has the mating “pool” gotten considerably larger and more diverse, but you can go ahead and have a kid or two with one person (and you should really stop before you hit five, because they’ll most likely all live now) raise those kids, get tired of each other, and go your separate ways to spend another 25-50 years with another mate! Seriously! We have A LOT of time on our hands now. What are the odds that you’re going to age and change in the same direction as the person you fell in love with when you were in college? I may sound cynical to you, but think about it. Out of 7 billion people in the world, you’re going to run into the “one” you belong with, and then continue to like them as a person for the next 65 years of your life? I have trouble grasping this concept.

That being said, I’m a big fat sap. I love a good romance. Who doesn’t hope the next great romance of the century is theirs? I do. All the time. But more importantly, I think it’s important that it feels like the GREATEST romance of the century to those involved. Whether it last two weeks or fifty years. Clearly reproduction is not a challenge we face as a species. So really, we should be enjoying the ride more. And if that means one romance must end to allow another to begin, so be it! You can only become the person your someone adores by having all of the previous experiences that made you that way. My point being, Monogamy is a good concept, but it doesn’t have to mean monogamous for all time. That is all.

 

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