Today, my husband and I celebrate 25 years of wedded bliss. Yessiree, that's just the word for it. Bliss. Serene, uncomplicated, utterly devoid of conflict or difficulty - ours is the Mary Poppins of marriages: Practically Perfect in Every Way.
And why shouldn't it be? I am, after all, the Mary Poppins of wives. Seriously, around here, things are as smooth as pudding skin, largely because I have a song in my heart, a proverb on my lips, and a spoonful of sugar in my gigantic valise, suitable for ironing out every possible wrinkle in the cotton/poly button-down of life. And of course, I travel almost exclusively via umbrella. But now I'm just bragging.
So because I am pretty much a saint - honestly, if you knew how many statues of me people have in their compost piles - I thought I would share with you a few of my many secrets to a happy, magical marriage. Really. I insist. It's the least that I could do.
Let's start with the engagement. Once you have decided that this guy / gal is your one and only, I suggest you get married as quickly as possible, perhaps later that same day. This guarantees a couple of things, including the sporting chance that the hormones which have been building in each of you since the first time you saw "A Walk to Remember" won't suddenly spew all over the table in rabid, lustful enthusiasm during the Getting to Hate the New Inlaws dinner at Olive Garden. Take it from me, no amount of alfredo sauce is going to save those breadsticks after that.
The other thing that a short engagement achieves is the bride will still have a few friends after she gets married. There is nothing like the Battle of the Bridesmaids to significantly shorten a girl's Christmas Card list. Young women, I want to tell you a secret: No one wants to be in your wedding line. No one. Your friends love you, they'd gladly take a bullet or a blind date with your peg-legged third cousin for you, but without even seeing the design or the color or anything, they hate your choice of bridesmaid dress with the kind of intensity usually reserved for African dictators and ex-boyfriends. These girls were born hating your bridesmaid dresses. Their mothers tell of profound experiences while your bridesmaids were still in utero, wherein the fetus appeared to them in a dream and said, "You tell her right now, mom, I will be damned if I'm wearing eggplant taffeta with my skin tone."
So you kids like each other? Call the temple, get the license, and tie the knot. It will spare you a lot of grief, and you'll save a fortune in jordan almonds and ham rolls.
Once you're married, you'll need to find a place to live and set up housekeeping. Since you didn't go through all the silliness of a wedding reception, you will be limited to the furnishings each of you owned when you were in college. This means the bride will bring pots, pans, utensils, dishes, a rice cooker, a toaster oven, a belgian waffler, two can openers, a complete set of Gonzo knives, dishtowels, regular towels, towels for her hair, towels with Velcro closures that she can wear around the house, a broom, a mop, a mop bucket, a vacuum, sheets, pillows, three lamps, decorative trash cans, a cute little bowl-shaped chair, a bulletin board she made as a Laurel, a hamper that matches everything listed so far, and her laptop. And the groom will bring eight cinder blocks and a pair of decorative chopsticks he got on his mission.
So you're set!
Eventually, of course, you'll acquire a few other necessities, like children and TiVo. I don't know much about making either of them work, but I'll help you where I can.
First, you should know that kids are just really, really stupid. They can't even walk or talk or anything for, like, months! And don't expect any sympathy from your parents, either. They'll be all, "Hey, we told you not to fool around but you always know better, don't you?" And then they'll turn your old room into a viper pit in case you get any ideas about chucking it all and moving back home.
Anyway, since your kids won't be available to wash the dishes or change the channel for you right away, it's probably a good idea to have some sort of division of labor. Husbands love the idea of dividing tasks into "inside" and "outside", especially when you're in an apartment so small and cramped that the only thing that qualifies as "outside" is the doorknob. "I'll mow the lawn, rake the leaves, clean the pool, trim the hedge-maze, feed the peacocks, and pave the tennis courts," your new husband will offer, "and you can do all the little things inside the house."
Ladies, do NOT fall for this! It's a trick! Your husband has absolutely no intention of feeding those peacocks!
But husbands aren't the only ones with surprises up their newlywed sleeves. Men, you need to know that your wife, and I mean this with all the kindness and Christian compassion of my soul, is a certifiable lunatic with sociopathic and homicidal tendencies. I know I haven't met her yet. It doesn't matter. And it's all because of this process known scientifically as "preParing for iMaginary babies Syndrome". Her innards spend three weeks a month getting an interior nursery ready, and then when it turns out that her outards hadn't really made much effort to actually fill the nursery, her innards have this massive hissy fit, to which she invites her outards in a sort of bizarre salute to internal and external solidarity. So basically, she's 130 pounds of temper tantrum, and the bad news is, it's all your fault. It's been your fault since she was twelve. Don't ask me why, just man up and apologize already.
No, seriously husbands, I really want to help you through this difficult time. When your bride is shrieking and throwing those Gonzo knives at you and kicking your favorite cinderblock bookcase to dust, the best way to calm her down is to tell her that she's just hormonal. Women love that, guys, they really do. In fact, if you can toss an eye-roll and a "My mom never went off like that" into the mix, she'll be purring like a kitten in no time. (tee hee)
Moving on to other matters for the moment, let's look at marital finances. I know that these are difficult economic times, but that's no reason for you not to have everything you want right this second without having to work for it or save or, heaven forbid, wait three minutes to see if you still want it after the commercial is over. Why do you think they put the 800 number on the bottom of the screen? If you want your marriage to be as fiscally robust as mine, I advise that you memorize this mantra and repeat it every time you have the impulse to buy something new: "Come on, honey. We can't afford NOT to do this. Look, if we order in the next seven minutes, they'll send a giant cardboard box for us to live in absolutely free except for the $29.95 shipping and handling." I know it's a long, cumbersome mantra. But it has served us well.
Finally, the best advice I can offer those of you just starting out on this long road o' luv is to find someone as wonderful as the guy I married. Twenty-five years into this gig, he's still the best person I know. Rich or poor, kid or solvent, hormonal or sedated, I wouldn't want to do this dance with any partner but him.
And, lucky guy! He gets to share that big ol' cardboard box with me, Mary Poppins, shovels full of sugar and my umbrella poised for flight.
It's been a great adventure.