By Carolyn Hax
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 7, 2005


Regarding the woman who lives with her boyfriend and can't understand why he doesn't want to marry her. The reason is not a secret! Why should this man, or any other, marry a woman who is willing to live with him outside of marriage? Our elders have warned us for generations that men in this position conclude, "Why buy the cow when the milk is free?"


Having just declared that there are only three certainties in life (death, taxes and that highlights are expensive to maintain), I realize I omitted a fourth: that anytime I advise a woman who's cohabiting and wants to get married, some indignant readers will advise me, "Why buy the cow when the milk is free?"

So I'm getting this off my chest. Beginning with:

Well, gosh, thanks. I hadn't heard that one.

If I sound exasperated, that's only because I am. This homespun bit of mock-wisdom contains more sexism per syllable than a Monday night beer ad. Its grounding principle is (pick one):

1. That all men are emotionally bankrupt opportunists.

2. That all women want to marry men (because, of course, all women want to marry men, duh), but the only reason a man would possibly want a woman around is for sex. Love, companionship, trust, devotion, legal security, financial security, commitment, family, respect? Snort. Chick stuff.

So, pick your principle: an insult to all men of character, or an insult to all women of character.

Whichever you choose, any "cow" that was "bought" solely for "milk" should pack up her oats and find herself a new barn. If she hasn't done so already.

That some "cows" mooove in with milk freeloaders only to get their hearts broken is true, and unfortunate. But the same applies to all those "bulls" who get duped by opportunistic "cows." Either way, having their hearts broken after marrying these jerks doesn't strike me as an improvement. (Just no babies, please, till you're all sure you're sure.) Still, if the cows-have-no-inherent-value argument is the kind of bull you want to buy, then you're welcome to it; I get it for free every day. Just know before you start spreading it around, please, how bad it's going to smell.

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