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Science: it’s not as much fun as it used to be.

Our parents’ generation got to split the atom and invent internet porn. Before that, science involved discoveries like gravity, magnetism, penicillin, electricity … What did our generation get? Nintendo, selfies, and viagra. But if you go back far enough, science gets to the really good stuff: dinosaurs wiped out by asteroids, the discovery of fire and tools, inventions like the wheel, marriage, and divorce.

Science tells us, for example, that even though one out of two marriages today ends in divorce, it’s not our fault—nature makes us do it. Dr. Helen Fisher (an anthropologist who must know what she’s talking about because she’s been on BOTH the “Today” show and “Good Morning America“) uses scientific theories to explain the history of the family, test for love, and bring new meaning to the term “no-fault divorce”.

[image credit: Steven Appleby for The Guardian]

History of the Family

  • IN THE BEGINNING: Adam and Eve eat the apple and then get evicted about six million years before history’s first homeless shelter.
  • 6,000,000 BC: Our ancestors climb into trees. Females are single mothers, responsible for bearing, rearing, feeding and carrying their young on their backs for four years. Men are responsible for sleeping and scratching. Nobody is interested in marriage because:

1. Department stores don’t exist yet, so they can’t register for china and small appliances. Plus, cash hasn’t been invented so they can’t return the wedding gifts for anything but slightly past sell-date antelope bits.

2. In a divorce, the female gets the tree and the kids, but no child support. The male gets to sleep and scratch, but no sex.

  • 4,000,000 BC: At the urging of political action committees representing the NRA (National Rocks Association), our ancestors climb down from their trees, get up off their knuckles, and start to kill things. According to Dr. Fisher, you can either view this as the end of sexual equality, or the beginning of marriage. “What a difference this adaptation made!” she says. “Walking upright, females had to carry their babies in their arms instead of on their backs. Can you imagine carrying a 20-pound bowling ball for four years?” The next step was the division of labor—

Early Woman: “How about if we females form social groups to gossip, visit and gather nuts and berries. Meanwhile, you males get to protect us, invent fire and the wheel, and kill sabertooth tigers with a rock.”
Early Man: “Why should we?”
Early Woman: “Did we mention that we’ve evolved into being continuously sexually responsive instead of only for brief periods?”
Early Man: “Where’s my rock?”

The only problem with this system was that every four years, the females set down their bowling balls. This, says Fisher, led to a pattern of two-income families, daycare, and divorce which she calls “The four-year itch.”

Early Woman: “Honey, I’m getting a divorce but I don’t want you to feel bad. It’s not because although I have my own career, I’m still the one who does all the cavework while you’re out on your business trips with the guys for days. It’s not because I’m the one who’s been lugging around the bowling ball for four years even though we can’t join a bowling league for another four million years. It’s not even because you’ve only evolved a seven-word vocabulary. It’s just that Dr. Fisher says after four years, there are… adaptive advantages to ending one mateship in favor of another. I get to gather a mate with a bigger cave, and you get to wander around hunting for a young, nubile trophy-mate.
Early Man: “Where’s my rock?”

  • 3000 BC to 1900 AD: Western culture turns to agriculture instead of hunting and gathering. The divorce rate plummets because, Fisher says, “… neither partner could dig up half the crop and take it with him or her.” The more acres you farmed, the lower your chances of divorce would be.
  • 1910: The U.S. divorce rate is 8.8 per 100 marriages.
  • 1916: The Womens’ International Bowling Congress is founded. [For reals]
  • 1936: The U.S. divorce rate doubles to 16.5 per 100 marriages. The automatic pinsetter is invented, and bowling explodes in popularity. Coincidence?
  • 1992: 5O% of American marriages end in divorce. 52% of American women admit to having at least tried bowling.
  • 2018: One in four Americans will never marry. Or bowl.

What does this mean for your relationship? Well, like over fourteen million people, you could check your compatibility with Helen Fisher’s Personality Test or evaluate your feelings for each other with her Love Test.  But let’s face it: those tests take a lot of time and you know the real problem is with your partner anyway. So to save time (and siphon off some of Dr. Fisher’s test-development grant money), we here at The Barb Research Institute have devised our own Relationship Test.


  1. How old is your bowling ball?
  2. How many acres do you farm?
  3. In 2016 did you vote Trump, Clinton, or whoever the heck those third-party-guys-were?


  1. Your marriage is safe as long as you get a new bowling ball every four years.
  2. Your marriage is safe even if you only grow zucchini and tomatoes in pots on the patio, as long as you join in each other’s activities. Join her gathering nuts and berries at the Piggly Wiggly. Join him sitting motionless for hours in the flickering TV-light of the NFL playoffs. Then wander over to the bowling alley together because “Men are born to wander, and women ought to wander with them, side by side.”—Helen Fisher, Anthropologist, writing for USA WEEKEND, 10/25/92
  3. Actually, this question has nothing to do with your marriage. Now that Cambridge Analytica has been kicked out of the barn and Facebook is scrambling to get that barn door closed, I see an opportunity to sell my Test results to politicians for big bucks (or perhaps rubles). Our youngest bowling ball just turned 25, so the Hub and I could use the cash to wander off to Paris for a spot of bowling.

Springtime lawn bowls in Paris. Cheaper than a divorce.