Jewish World Review March 22, 2002 / 9 Nisan, 5762

Lori Borgman

Lori Borgman
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Consumer Reports

Introducing P.P.M. (Partners Per Month) | Being a keenly organized person, I clean off my desk once every six weeks whether the health department tells me to or not. There is a newspaper clipping I have attempted to throw in the trash for months, but I keep hanging onto it. I am saving it the way my mother has a saved a large black suitcase with newspapers from JFK's assassination, the moon landing and Nixon's resignation. It may one day have historic value.

The article itself is unpleasant and of a delicate nature. It is about, well, let's just say it's about a nasty disease you can contract by being overly friendly with the opposite sex. It's not the disease, but the overly friendly part that grabbed my attention. The headline says chances of infection increase with each sexual partner per month.

I must have missed something. Could someone please tell me when we began counting sexual partners on a per month basis?

I have a faint memory of when fidelity was in vogue and then gradually morphed into talk about girls who were "easy" or "loose." I even recall when that gave rise to chatter about the double standard, which was followed by a mish-mash of women's lib which leveled the playing field with a host of transient sleeping arrangements referred to as living together, shacking up, cohabitation and significant others. I even have a faint memory of the open marriage fad with Phil and Sally hosting spirited shows on wife swapping and swingers, but this partners per month (p.p.m.) business has caught me wholly by surprise.

No doubt it's a case where the train has already left the station and once again I've been left behind because I was poking around the coffee shop looking for free mint-flavored toothpicks to stuff in my purse. My reaction to p.p.m. is identical to my reaction upon hearing about the mother of 18-month-old triplets leaving her husband because she's having an affair with another man: Where in the world did she find the time?

When you calculate the hours consumed by working, eating, sleeping, going to the store for toothpaste, paper towels and laundry detergent throw in a few more hours for chores like mowing, changing oil in the car and checking the batteries in the smoke detector and you have to wonder how people find time for something like p.p.m.?

They must be excellent time managers. Of course, if you dispense with time-consuming amenities like dating, courtship, a wedding and discovering one another's last name, operating on a p.p.m. basis might be entirely do-able.

A study released a couple of years ago claimed that half of all single women will go the distance in becoming overly friendly after only three dates. Talk about a fast track.

When I read a story like that and then another referring to p.p.m., I realize I have never been happier to be married to old what's his name. Marriage and monogamy come with a host of benefits you don't have the time to discover on a p.p.m. basis.

When you stick around for the long haul, you grow to know someone exceedingly well. You learn a person's habits, quirks, likes and dislikes. He learns whether you prefer heat in the car blowing at your face or your feet. You learn he'll give you the black olives off his pizza in exchange for your mushrooms. He knows what side of the bed you like and you know not to talk to him for the first ten minutes after he's awake.

Maybe when it's all said and done, the greatest perk of staying for the duration is knowing and being known. (A secondary perk would be freedom from diseases like those mentioned in the p.p.m. article.) To some, embracing marriage and monogamy is equivalent to life in the slow lane. Sometimes it is delightfully so, and so much more.

JWR contributor Lori Borgman is the author of I Was a Better Mother Before I Had Kids. To comment, please click here.

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02/01/02: Age-old words
01/25/02: Abortion: Switching Sides
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06/22/01: Rethinking fatherhood
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06/01/01 Hearing voices
05/25/01 Cyborgs for Better or Worse
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© 2001, Lori Borgman