It was a very nice meal at one of those restaurants that people save for special occasions. It had included Cloned Breast of Duck with a delightful artificial orange flavoring, genetically engineered hydroponic rice and even a very nice bottle of Ohio’s finest hybrid sugar beet wine. Afterwards the couple walked along one of the main thoroughfares, down the escalator and into the public transportation dematerialization chamber.
They rematerialized several hundred kilometers away and walked from the station to her home. He followed her inside and sat down as she removed her coat.
“What a nice night,” she offered. “I know lots of girls have sex with their dates just because it’s expected, but you really went out of your way to make me feel special, so I’m actually looking forward to it.
“Uhh, I’d rather not,” he replied.
“Are you breaking up with me?” she asked.
“No,” he replied. “But, we’ve known each other ever since we were kids, we’ve been spending a lot of time together and I think you’re special – really, really special.”
“You think I’m special so you don’t want to have sex with me?”
“Not exactly.” She looked at him puzzled as he continued.
“You know I’m working on my dissertation in anthropological history, and as I was doing research I came across some very old data files. I mean these date from before the twenty-first century. They were so old that they had originally been printed on paper in a form called a magazine.” He paused.
“You could at least come over and sit by me,” he offered. She hesitated and sat next to him making sure to leave space between the two of them.
“Anyway,” he continued, “They used to have a custom in which one man and one woman would make an agreement to spend their life together and share everything. They promised to stick together through the good and the bad. The only people they had sex with were each other.” She looked at him with interested amazement.
“Did that arrangement work?”
“Not always. Some couples parted when life got challenging. Some got bored with each other. Some had sex with other people – they called that ‘cheating’ and since it negated the exclusiveness it seriously endangered the marriage.”
“Why did they stop this marriage thing?”
“As near as I can tell, the celebrities were the trend setters and didn’t value marriage, so people lost interest. The definition of marriage changed and eventually marriage could include two or more people of whatever combination of sexes. Once it lost the sense of commitment, it eventually just faded away.”
“So how did this marriage thing originally work?” she asked.
“Well, a couple would date for a while – like we’ve been doing – and decide if they loved and liked each other enough to commit to each other exclusively. This led to something called an engagement, a period when they let others know that they were planning to be married. Finally, they would have a big ceremony with family and friends at which they would be declared married, followed by a huge party. Then they’d start their life as a couple.”
“That sounds wild and radical,” she began, then paused. “And very romantic.” She tried to move closer to him on the couch, but to her surprise he suddenly stood up, turned to face her and knelt on one knee.
“The engagement usually started with the man proposing and offering his intended partner a gift.” She watched as he opened a small box that contained a diamond ring. He asked her a question, but she didn’t really hear his words. All she knew was she answered with a yes.