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Get Committed

by Stephen Lautens


July 26, 2002

If you live long enough and do enough things, you're sure to end up on someone's mailing list. This is especially true if you've gone to university.

My former university is pretty sure that I've now had long enough to make it to the big time. So they figure there's no reason I shouldn't be asked to pony up for a new library wing, football uniforms, or buying new computers so freshmen can look up Internet porn at the library a hundred times faster.

Not only does my former university get some fresh-faced student volunteer to call me at least once a month asking for cash, they send me the alumni magazine listing all the people who aren't too cheap to send them a few bucks.

While I don't keep up with many of the people I knew at university (except of course my wife, who I still manage to see fairly regularly), I always look through the back section that lists births, deaths, marriages and notes.

"Notes" are for people who want you to know they've won either the Nobel Prize or fourth place at the Weyburn frog calling contest. It's also for people begging to get a year's worth of cold calls from insurance salesmen and people selling llama raising franchises.

When I went through the alumni magazine this month, I noticed something odd. The "marriages" column was gone, and in its place was a new heading simply called "commitments".

At first I thought it was to notify readers which of our former fellow students had finally been committed to a home for the mentally disadvantaged. Looking back on my university days, there was no shortage of potential inmates, including the guy who forced his dog to be a vegetarian or the person who hid in the library so he could continue to study after hours. I also recall the house full of guys who kept a pig in the basement so he could be taken to football games.

But apparently the "commitments" column is something far less exciting. Judging from the listings, it's still mostly devoted to wedding announcements, so why the change? Is it because the word "marriage" doesn't seem like that much of a commitment on its own any more?

Statistics Canada says that a lot of Canadians are choosing to live together instead of getting married. While married people get a big deal wedding to mark the occasion, POSSLQs (Persons of Opposite Sex Sharing Living Quarters) rarely have much of a fuss made about them. Maybe they have a few friends over to "see the new place", but it hardly holds a candle to a full scale reception where Uncle Ernie gets sloppy drunk, dances the Lambada with a centrepiece on his head and the bride locks herself in the bathroom. Maybe marking the beginning of happy cohabitation with a notice under "commitments" will help unmarried couples share their good news without having to go through the needless trauma of a wedding.

I also wondered if they were trying to expand the category to include people who would otherwise feel left out. The recent ruling in Ontario that gives the government two years to fix the law that prevents gay couples from registering their marriages kind of leaves everyone in limbo, so maybe this is a way to reach out to these disenfranchised guys and gals.

After all, who needs the Charter of Rights when you can validate your relationship with an announcement of your "commitment" in your university alumni magazine?

© Stephen Lautens 2002

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