I DON’T: A Contrarian History of Marriage | Print |

Less an argument against the institution of marriage than a comprehensive history, this is a fun read that's simultaneously cheeky and no-nonsense.

Cave people didn’t understand that sexual activity led to baby making, so there was little incentive to pair up. The revelation (made around 10,000 B.C.E.), that women don’t conceive solo is where Susan Squire begins I Don’t, her fascinating tour of the permutations of coupledom.

Squire’s trough of allusions is rich: Eve, Greek and Roman customs, St. Augustine’s declaration that “lust is a consequence of original sin,” “caricatures of cuckolds” in medieval literature, Martin Luther urging particularly horny priests and nuns to leave religious life and get married. It’s heady stuff, but instead of easily digestible nuggets appealing to pop-culture-addled appetites, Squire offers depth of example and a tone that’s simultaneously cheeky and no-nonsense (e.g.: “Adam needn’t worry about Eve’s fidelity. After all, he’s still the only man in town”). Less an argument against the institution than a comprehensive history (with notes on its failings), I Don’t ends in the 16th century, when marriage as we know it begins. Readers will be left hoping there’s a Book II.