Blog – You & Me Bench

Ben Franklin: Inventor, scientist, diplomat, serious player

What sparks new relationships? What makes enduring relationships last? What exactly does it mean to BE in a relationship in the first place?

These are some of the questions we asked ourselves this summer when putting together our You & Me Bench project. We found some pretty interesting answers to our questions right here with one of our Founding Fathers, Ben Franklin.

As a young man, Franklin met his first and only wife, Deborah Reed, in Philadelphia when he lodged at her family's home right around the fall of 1723.

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You know, a classic illegitimate family lodge love story.

This is where things begin to get, as current tabloids call it, “juicy”. Reed was Franklin's only wife, but Franklin was NOT Reed's only husband.

When Ben, at age 17 and Deborah, at age 15 first met, Deborah's mother told Ben that he could not marry her daughter due to Franklin's financial insecurity. Haven’t we all been there in our teens?

This is when Deborah went on to marrying a man named John Rodgers. Unfortunately for Deborah's mother, but fortunately for Ben Franklin, John Rodgers turned out to be a liar and a thief so the wedding did not last.

Since Deborah had officially been married to this "thief", the laws at the time prohibited her to ever marry again.

Even this did not stop her and Ben's rekindling relationship. With certain marriage laws in their way, both of them found a way to institute a common-law marriage.

A common-law marriage is defined as, "A form of marriage, available in some jurisdictions, that may be established by meeting certain legal requirements such as declaring the intent to be regarded as married and cohabiting, rather than as a result of obtaining an official license" (yourdictionary.com).

Therefore, Ben Franklin was NEVER ACTUALLY MARRIED. There was no ceremony or reception, just a document signed to maneuver around strict marriage laws.

Ben brought an “illegitimate” son named William into the marriage and together, Deborah and Ben had two children of their own.

Their "marriage" lasted 44 years before Deborah passed away from a stroke in 1774.

Due to Franklin's many travels as a diplomat of the United States, he was apart from Deborah for a total of 18 out of the 44 years of their "marriage".

Deborah, as many reports say, stayed faithful to Ben, while Ben was rumored to sleep around with a lot of "lower women", something E News would feast on now-a-days.

So there it is. One of Philadelphia's most infamous icons had a very odd relationship (or relationships). A man who had ties to so many people throughout the world never was traditionally tied to his wife.

From 1723 to now, we realize that relationships can take on many different shapes and forms. The motivations may vary and truth be told, who’s to judge what a relationship is or isn’t.

The question then presents itself: Are there any modern relationships that you’d describe as revolutionary or downright unconventional? Did someone say Kanye and Kim? Barack and Michelle? Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell? We’d love to hear about them.

Sources
"common-law marriage." YourDictionary, n.d. Web. 7 July 2016. <http://www.yourdictionary.com/common-law-marriage>.
"How Many Times Was Benjamin Franklin Married? ." YourDictionary, n.d. Web. 7 July 2016. <http://biography.yourdictionary.com/articles/times-benjamin-franklin-married.html>.
Stritof, Sheri. "Deborah and Benjamin Franklin Marriage Profile." About.com Dating & Relationships. About Relationships, 08 Feb. 2016. Web. 07 July 2016.

Pride.

Pride is something that can be felt or something that can be lacking. Pride makes a person speak out, yet silences the voices in their head, telling them to stay quiet. Pride can be found in one’s self or in one’s work. Pride is the reason why we can stand by ourselves and with others.
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This past Sunday. June 12th, was the Philadelphia Gay Pride Parade. Approaching the parade, it seemed as if many people were contained to their friend groups. Everyone had their own way of expressing themselves, yet this expression appeared to also be contained. Relationships were discrete and only slightly noticeable. A seismic shift occurred once members reached the corner of 12th and Locust. People of all orientations, colors, and fashion styles joined together to into one colorful conglomerate. A barrage of speedos, stilettos, short skirts, and stylish shirts invited everyone who wanted to join. No longer was there just the familiar relationships with friends or significant others, but an all-encompassing relationship with everyone participating in the parade. Colorful cocoons cracked into even more vibrant butterflies, as the overall amount of raw pride would take your breath away. Vibrant floats slowly meandered through the rainbow sea of people, each containing a supportive business or organization in the LGBTQ community. The “You and Me Bench” served as yet another colorful platform where these powerful bonds could be captured. Friends, lovers, and family members were all happy to share their relationships with each other and to the community as a whole. All participants were cognizant of the immense pride that they had for each other. Many members of the parade repeatedly honored those who were affected by the mass shooting in Orlando, which happened the previous day. Such a dark and somber event was combatted by an overall sense of strength and vibrancy. Bonds were already strong, yet this horrible event seemed to make the bonds galvanize with everyone there. Pride is something that can easily be lost. It’s an entity, which needs a state of mind that is constantly self-assured and strong. Despite challenges the LGBTQ community constantly face, pride overcame all and relationships were celebrated to the fullest extent. That is what the “You and Me Bench” is all about.