Today is my wedding anniversary. We have been married for a long time. Happily married. We seldom fight. We agree on all the big ticket items: religion, politics, child raising, vacations, etc. I agree with everything, except those things with which I do not agree. She agrees with me...usually.
I remind my wife, frequently, that she is lucky to have me. At the same time, I am happy that she puts up with me. I know that I could not have found a better partner and do not want her to think that she made a mistake in choosing me. She was smart enough to leave her first husband for a better deal.
A long time ago I read that the secret to a successful marriage is to give more than you expect in return. I usually do. For example, for a wedding present, I gave her a trip to Mauritius. She gave me two pairs of socks. Now, that’s a successful marriage…
Since the secrets of my relationship with my wife are out there on social media, I will expose a few more details. We have been happily married for 35 years. The secret to happy marriage is a contract (not a prenuptial agreement) that defines roles and expectations.
We have an agreement about who does what. She talks; I listen. She cooks; I eat (and do not complain about menu or quality). She does the wash; I do the garden. She turns on lights; I turn off lights. She sleeps late; I rise early. And so on...
Married women have two functions in life (besides raising children, cooking, cleaning, breaking the glass ceiling, etc.):
I like to work in the garden--sometimes--for a number of reasons. First of all, it must be done. Second, I enjoy some of the tasks and the chance for fresh air. And, I hope to convince my wife that I am not totally worthless. There is a fourth reason, which would remove two of the above: I’m too cheap to pay someone to do the work.
Today, I set a fine example for all men wishing to learn how to have a harmonious marriage. I set out to trim one of our hedges. Because it is high, it would require a ladder to complete the task. One of my wife’s greatest fears (totally irrational and unexplainable) is for me to fall off a ladder, something I have never done and do not plan to do. When she noticed the ladder, she rushed out of the house to interrogate me. Being an honest person and having nothing to hide, I proclaimed my intention. She begged not to trim the hedge, until we return from our Asian trip.
So, I get double bonus points. I displayed a willingness to work around the house...and I gladly desisted at her request. That permitted to return to the computer and turn out these words of wisdom. Everybody wins...
The first hurdle has been passed (if one could even call it a hurdle). My daughter is now married, having completed the civil ceremony in a lovely castle (mentioned earlier), surrounded by family and some friends. The big-deal, white dress, romantic affair takes place next week.
As with most such events, it was pleasant but anti-climatic. It is another example of controlling people through government fiat, elaborate ceremonial words, and manufactured illusion. Most people play the game, even if they have lived together for years without official sanction or start to squabble the moment the ceremony ends.
I could not help thinking of a Doris Day song from the distant past: Que sera sera. Because she used it as her theme song, it became implanted in many peoples minds. Few know that it won an Academy Award, because it was used for a Hitchcock film. The words relate a woman's lament about life not living up to her expectations and her disappointment at everything not meeting the illusions she has created in her mind. Once a milestone was reached, she noticed her mistake and decided to keep on dancing. Que sera sera. Whatever will be will be. The future's not ours to see.
I had no illusions about yesterday, but I'm sure that my daughter did and has plenty about the future. She seemed happy, which was the most important aspect for me. I have given up on illusions and take things as they come, for better or worse. Que sera sera...
In light of my forthcoming ordeal, I feel compelled to write about marriage customs in Germany.
As in all countries, people chose to marry for a variety of reasons and pick a time that suits them. The main wedding seasons in this country are May/June, which seems to have something to do with romance/tradition/women's illusions, and late December, which is driven by the desire to save taxes (grooms hold out until the last minute).
The traditional practice is to become officially engaged (if contraception has worked properly) with the exchange of rings and a formal announcement to the world. A date for the wedding is selected, many months or years in the future, and the battle begins.
Shortly before the weddings (there are two steps, which I will explain), there is something called Polterabend. There is no translation, and I am not familiar with a similar practice in any civilized country. Friends and acquaintances show up and expect to be fed and watered (with alcohol, of course); in return, they bring old plates, dishes, and glasses, which are smashed on the doorstep and walkway. In other words, they create a mess that must be cleaned up. It's supposed to bring luck, but it mostly brings work and expense. This is a chance for people not invited to the actual wedding ceremony to take revenge...and get free food.
The first of two wedding ceremonies is the official government bit. The couple must go to city hall with their witnesses and take the vows in front of a civil servant. This is as unromantic as it sounds. When I did it, I felt like I was visiting the dentist, since the waiting room was thusly furnished. People can redo this bit in a church, but it has no official meaning other than adding expense and guaranteeing entrance to heaven.
The second ceremony (with or without church hocus pocus) is the more traditional bit, as shown in Father of the Bride and other wedding movies. This is the bit that costs a lot of money, because there must be an expensive dress, a lavish venue, enough food and drink to impress relatives and jaded friends, a photographer, too many flowers, a band, etc.
The above explains why I had urged my daughter to fly to Las Vegas, buy the cheapest wedding package, and send me a post card...
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.