20 / CHRONICLESnthis country, John Updike, both ofnthem over 50, had published ThenWitches ofEastwick here. Meanwhile,ntoo, Henri de Montherlant’s devastatingnnovel The Girls (1937) has justnbeen reissued in this country. For whatnmen have kept more or less to themselves,nand this notably in the writingnof fiction as well, until recently, is this:nover 50, the average male is a hopelessndunce if he has not by then commencednto see through the variousnHolely MatrimonynThere was a time when guests at anwedding did not take bets on hownlong this one would last. Husbandsnand wives did not always resemblenstar baseball players trying to jumpncontract and get into this year’snfree-agent draft. Not too many decadesnago, marriage was still regardednas something more than a contractualnpartnership. It was annindissoluble union that transformedntwo separate individuals into a singlenbeing, “of one flesh.”nBut something happened on ournway to the current 50 percent (projected)ndivorce rate. Firm religiousndoctrines in the 1950’s melted awayninto a treacle of good feelings, andnas the churches waffled on the divorcenquestion, it was too much tonexpect that the state would holdnfirm. Soon high-minded reformersnwere agitating for “no-fault divorce,”narguing that divorce lawsnkept many people trapped in “unfulfilling”nmarriages and forcednthose who did get out to submit tonthe indignity and hypocrisy of andivorce trial. In The Divorce Revolution:nThe Unexpected Social andnEconomic Consequences for Womennand Children in America (NewnYork: Free Press; $19.95), Lenore J.nWeitzman reveals that the effects ofnno-fault divorce have not been exactlynwhat the reformers promised.nWeitzman has studied divorce statisticsnin California since 1970,nonly to find—to her utter surprisen—that “on the average, divorcednwomen and the minor children inntheir households experience a 73nfemale manipulations which have keptnhim in thrall to women for want ofntheir sexual favors. Anthropologistsnhave observed that in some primitivensocieties the old men tend to getnmerry, as time goes on, while the oldnwomen become morose and withdrawnnamong themselves.nWith the publication of these twoncurrent novels and the new edition ofnde Montherlant’s, something may benafoot. It is from such generally unrec­nREVISIONSnpercent decline in their standard ofnliving in the first year after divorce.”nShe also discovered thatn”gender-neutral rules . . . designednto treat men and women ‘equally’nhave in practice served to deprivendivorced women … of the legalnand financial protechons that thenold law provided.”nThis shift to “gender neutrality”nin divorce proceedings has not yetnmuch affected the 20th-centuryncustom of awarding child custody tonmothers, but the new rules havenmade it more likely that a fathernwho is willing to fight for custodynwill win. Phyllis Chesler discussesnthis new legal climate in MothersnOn Trial: The Battle for Childrennand Custody (New York: McGraw-nHill; $22.95). Though the book isnabominably written — a merenhodgepodge of interview quotes, feverednpolemic, free verse, and fracturednsociology—the patient readerncan glimpse the outlines of a wholennew kind of courtroom combat innwhich children are the usual casualhes.nDistressed that “40,000 fathersnhave won judicial custodyneach year since 1977,” Cheslernseeks a way out of the problemnwithout returning to tradihonal sexnroles. The solution, she argues, is annew custody presumption in favornof the “primary caretaker” of thenchild, i.e., whichever parent whonhas changed most of the diapers,ndone the shopping, feeding, andncleaning, provided the toilet training,nhelped with homework, andnotherwise done the work of childrearing.nIt is easy to sympathizenwith devoted mothers who havennnognized disproportions that the law ofncompensation may now reassert itselfnin the particular matter of feministnexcess today. Do we see in the making,nindeed, a new literary genre that willnbecome the subject matter of futurencrihcism: the male animal no longernperceived as hero, or even as antihero,nbut as victim? Only then, perhaps, willntrue equality have been achieved betweennthe sexes.nprovided such care only to lose theirnchildren to a calculating husbandnand a sharp lawyer. Much harder tonaccept are Chester’s arguments onnthe custody rights of mothers whonare adulteresses, criminals, and lesbians.nDivorce traumatizes childrennenough without forcing them tongrow up with a mother whosenhobby is robbing banks or who prefersnconception via turkey basters tonthe more traditional method.nIt would be unkind to say “I toldnyou so” to these writers, but it is thenonly possible response. What sensiblenperson didn’t know the havocnwhich relaxed divorce laws wouldnwreak? The sad part is that neithernof the ladies is willing to concedenthe whole thing was a mistake.nChesler has gone so far off the deepnend that she finds it “enraging andnterrifying” that marriage oncenmeant that a wife could not jumpninto bed with anyone—male ornfemale—whenever she chose. Lessnhysterical, Weitzman at least acknowledgesnthat “the current nofaultnsystem of divorce is inflicting anhigh economic toll upon womennand children” and that traditionalnunderstandings of marriage affordedngreater security, and yet she refusesnto repudiate the disastrous “nonfault” legislation. Because these reformsnaimed at “fairness, justice,nand economically based equality,”nthey must be recognized as an”major step forward,” even if somen”correction and refinement” isnneeded. A few more steps in thisndirection, and we can start takingnour divorce law from our swingingncousins, the chimpanzees.n