A friend of mine has been delving into ideas about instinct and pair-bonding in humans. Desmond Morris’ theories include the idea that relative human hairlessness evolved because the “skin-to-skin” contact they tout so heavily now for parents bonding with their newborns, is equally key to mate bonding. She recalled something from Finland in the 1990’s she hadn’t understood at the time. She was with two middle-aged couples catching up on one another’s news over dinner. Whereas American parents of a teen might say how quick the kids were growing up and how Alex had his license now and Bella her first summer job, this conversation included one pair telling the other fondly that their teen’s girlfriend was regularly sleeping over with him now. They genuinely seemed to think it was poignant and sweet.
My friend recalled not knowing what to make of what at the time seemed an unhealthy interest in the child’s private business. Although this is commonplace in other Northern European societies as well, it’s tempting to see it as just one more instance of Finns merrily doing something half or more of Europe finds ostentatiously weird, only to find out it has much more adaptive relevance than anyone specifically realized. If in your heart, you understand that what young adults need is the extended time to safely bond with potential mates, including skin-to-skin, it actually seems far less prurient and more charitable than the pious Southern European regime at that time where if you walked through the wrong low-lit piazza or urban park in the twilight, you could find yourself surrounded by desperate, furtive couples straddling each other on benches and pressing together in alcoves.
Finns might be weird, but maybe they were just among the brave few unencumbered enough with hang-ups to know that, for long-term health and divorce rates, actually, the kids probably should just “get a room!” And stay overnight.