Another Insane Devotion

Free Another Insane Devotion by Peter Trachtenberg

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Authors: Peter Trachtenberg
combine specificity and generality, skepticism and idealism: only somebody very idealistic expects to find unconditional love in adulthood. Their specificity is the specificity of the educated consumer who knows what she wants or, more commonly, what she doesn’t want (e.g., a smoker, an FWB, or an NSA relationship). Even so, consumers may sometimes be overwhelmed by the abundance of choices available to them, and the variety, the latter suggested by such categories as Strictly Platonic, Men Seeking Women, Women Seeking Men, Men Seeking Men, Women Seeking Women, Casual Encounters, and Misc. Romance. This vertigo, the vertigo of the shopper staring dazedly into the ice cream freezer at the supermarket, may be the source of the posters’ vagueness. And, of course, much of the language they use has no agreed-on definition. Is a “casual encounter” the same thing as a one-night stand, and
if not, how many encounters can you have before they stop being casual? Does “LTR” mean a lifetime relationship or just a long-term one, and how long is long-term? And is “lifetime relationship” an anachronism, as meaningless as the wish for someone who will love us to the end of time?
    There were no personal ads in the Middle Ages. To the extent that people chose at all, they chose spouses from a narrow pool of neighbors or, more likely, had spouses chosen for them by their fathers or male guardians. (Doubtless, there were also casual encounters and misc. romances back then; that’s why we have the fabliaux.) It was the difference between shopping at the Whole Foods and at the local farmers’ market, your dad standing beside you at the produce stand, reaching over you to squeeze the plums. “He’ll take these.” What did those people want, our great-great-many-times-great grandparents, with their bad hygiene and their lives brief as a struck match? In the case of the upper classes, we know what their fathers wanted. It was they who drew up the marriage contracts:
    I, Thibaut, count palatine of Champagne and Brie, make known to all, present and future, that my loyal and faithful Guy of Bayel and his wife Clementia have made a marriage contract in my presence with Jocelin of Lignol for the marriage of their son Herbert with Jocelin’s daughter Emeline. These are the clauses:
    [1] Guy has given to his son whatever he had at Bayel, at the village called Les Mez, and at Bar-sur-Aube and within those village districts, including tenants, woods, lands, and all other things.

    [2] Jocelin has given his daughter Emeline an annual rent of 5 l . [from his property] that will be assigned by two other men, one to be named by Guy and the other by Jocelin. And Jocelin will give his daughter 100 l. cash [as dowry], which is to be invested in income-producing property by the two appointed men within one year after the marriage.
    [3] Peter Guin [of Bar-sur-Aube, chamberlain of Champagne and Jocelin’s father-in-law] and his son Guy affirmed in my presence that they gave whatever they had at Les Mez to Emeline or to Jocelin’s other daughter Lucy, whom Herbert earlier had engaged to marry.
    [4] Herbert will hold the above mentioned 5 l. rent, the property purchased with the 100 l. cash, as well as the land at Les Mez, in fief and liege homage from Guy, son of my faithful chamberlain Peter Guin, save liegeance to me and save the liegeance contracted to anyone else before the marriage.
    [5] Guy of Bayel and Clementia agreed that if Emeline dies before the marriage, they will have Herbert marry another of Jocelin’s daughters when she becomes nubile, under the same terms.
    Beyond the exchange of property, there was some doubt as to what a marriage was or how it was delimited, especially in the early Middle Ages, when the church hadn’t yet elevated it to a sacrament. As late as the fifteenth century, a lawsuit arose in Troyes over whether a young couple could have their union performed by

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