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several years ago, i went to a bachelor party. like every bachelor party i get invited to it was not conventional. instead of drunkenness, strippers and vomiting it involved arcades, comedians, and storytelling. at the dinner one of the attendees suggested the married men at the table each offer one piece of marital advice to the groom. we conceded this was a good idea and began. i'm sure mine un-creatively dealt with the importance of laughter and i don't remember the others except for one. the one i do remember was to never judge your marriage against the marriages you see because the public face of a marriage can be very different from its true state. after he finished his thought, the whole table wordlessly stared back at him. let me remind you that moments earlier i said, in comparison what would have sounded like an imbecilic southern drawl, "if she's angry at ya, try to say some funny shit and make her laugh cuz if you can do enough funny things then she'll forget why she was mad at ya to start with." the eloquence and caliber of this other guy's comment, who by the way is the guy who suggested the exercise, told me that he had recently heard it on npr or oprah or read it in some self-help book. regardless of where he got wise, he smoked the rest of the table and his nugget has word-for-word stuck in my head for all these years.

the reason i bring it up now is that i shared the story, for reasons i can't remember, with a couple at the pool this weekend. a funny aside about the couple i shared it with is that when marty and i first met them and introductions were being made, the woman said she was a wedding planner. i jokingly said that sure would be a handy occupation should she ever find herself single again. the wedding planner did not laugh and marty later chastised my comment as rude and graceless. i told marty that she (marty) married a man who lives on the conversational edge and rude and graceless things are bound to happen (rude and graceless things also have a handy way of hanging around in my head in their word-for-word glory).

but back to the poolside chat, i'm not sure how or why that story came up, but it did. and then the wedding planner lady went on to say how astute a comment that was because given the recent economy she was seeing several seemingly healthy marriages implode due to bloated mortgages, leased cars and excess lifestyles. she then looked at her husband and commented that one would think relationships would get easier after fourteen years of marriage and children (it seems she may get a chance to use that occupation-card after all). her husband grinned and shrugged and said it was getting better but it probably would never be perfect or easy. the exchange went back and forth a few more times and i got the sense their woes were communication related. after a break in their thoughts i offered something that has saved marty and i numerous times over the years. i explained that i didn't know where i first heard it but recall once saying to marty, "if you expect me to read your mind and know what you want from me, i promise i will disappoint you each and every time. conversely, have you ever asked me for something, something you said was important to you, where i have told you no? it's never happened and it never will." the couple reflectively took this in and gave each other a knowing look. after a moment the woman said she could see areas where that applied to them. i call this evidence that even the habitually rude and graceless can happen upon a conversational gem.

in america, women have been contemplating what it is to be a wife, since before they were ten years old. men begin considering their role as a husband about three weeks prior to assuming the position. it may not be fair, right, or just, but it is what it is so admit what you need and say what you mean. life with others will flow much more sanely then.




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