I felt a bit drained after last week’s screed on the Mississippi personhood amendment, and instead of researching and writing anything else worthwhile for this week’s Sunday Poll, I began to stream TLC’s “Sister Wives” on Netflix – a reality show about modern polygamist Mormons. I’ve seen three or four episodes of season one.
“Sister Wives” stars an amiable, unkempt man named Kody Brown who was apparently not raised as a Mormon, but became aware of the whole multiple-wives lifestyle, thought, I could get behind this, converted, and began assembling a prodigious family through means decidedly unconventional to the rest of us.
Whoever pitched this show is a genius.
Many forty-something men can say they’ve been married for twenty years. Kody Brown has been marrying for twenty years. He began with pragmatic Meri, added the rotund and dedicated Janelle a few years later, and then proposed to the tenderhearted Christine. Christine always wanted to be a polygamist man’s third wife: she felt that being a first wife would be too much work and being a second wife would make her a “wedge” between her husband and his first wife. She settled on becoming a third wife because that would be “easy”.
Life is chaotic in the Brown household. Kody can’t support so much family on his own, so Meri and Janelle both work grueling hours outside the home, while Christine, massively pregnant with her sixth child, takes primary responsibility for the twelve children that (so far) make up Kody’s total brood. When Kody is not at work, he divides his time between shambling happily from bedroom to bedroom in his sock feet and making the four-hour drive to visit his new fiancée, Robyn, a 30-year-old divorcee with three kids under 10 of her own.
While he’s gone, his three wives rearrange heavy furniture on their own, to make room for the new baby’s cradle. None of them ever expected that she’d have a husband to herself, but their apprehensive sadness is as palpable as their resignation – though to be fair, they’re also pleased to anticipate another set of hands around the house and profess to regard Robyn as a beloved friend.
Christine weeps over her enormous belly. She is devastated because Kody observed the proper Mormon decorum with her and did not kiss her until they came to the altar, but he saw fit to smooch the lovely Robyn upon their engagement. One wonders if Kody could possibly have put off courting another woman until after the baby was born.
At about the same time the Browns hit my radar, I noticed a news story about another extreme American family.
Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar of Arkansas, stars of TLC’s Nineteen Kids and Counting, hear a direct calling from the Lord to eschew all types of birth control. About two years ago, Michelle gave birth to her 19th baby three and a half months early. The child weighed less than two pounds and was delivered due to the crisis of Michelle’s preeclampsia, soaring blood pressure and kidney trouble.
The announcement last week that Jim Bob and Michelle are expecting their twentieth child elicited this comment from NBC’s chief medical editor: “that uterus can’t have any spring in it anymore…I mean, really, it’s gotta be like a water balloon that has no tensile strength.” A variety of commentators eagerly jumped on board, some decrying the Duggar’s irresponsible child factory as fast as others could point out parents’ sacred right to decide the size of their own family in the glorious U.S. of A.
I don’t want to poll you on whether or not Kody, Meri, Janelle, Christine, Robyn, Jim Bob and Michelle are living responsible, healthy lifestyles, or whether their choices should be promoted on wildly popular TV shows. Instead, let’s pretend we’re on a super-long car ride together (or a fifth-grade sleepover), and ask each other one simple question.
Who Would You Rather Be?
Would you rather be Christine Brown, pregnant with your sixth child at age 37 and watching your husband rotate between two other women’s bedrooms when he is not visiting his young and attractive new girlfriend, all in the name of religion? Or would you rather be Michelle Duggar, believing that your primary role in life is to birth an army for Jesus regardless of the growing risk to your own life, pregnant with your 20th child at age 45 while big-shot editors comment freely on the state of your uterus? Everybody please feel free to elaborate on your choice in the comments.
And honestly, I’m interested in the opinion of both sexes here, so men, put your imaginations to work (and no, I will not be asking you which you’d rather have, Jim Bob’s one regular sex partner or Kody’s four).