Apropos of Nothing: Thirty Years of Marriage
An Editorial by Jamie Beckett
Thirty years of marriage. It’s nothing to sneeze at. We’ve loved, we’ve raged, we’ve laughed. And we’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.
This year is special. In fact, 2020 is a landmark that has been decades in the making. Because this year I am celebrating 30 years of marriage to the same woman.
Don’t get all excited and start applauding yet. There’s more to it than just counting up the days, weeks, months, years, and decades. Marriage is much more challenging than that. It’s not as simple as calculus, or brain surgery, or sending humans into space and keeping them alive throughout the journey. It’s marriage. It gets messy now and then.
In truth I’ve been married for longer than 30 years. Estimates range anywhere from 32 to 35 years, depending on who you ask, how you do the math, and what the court records say.
There have been three different Mrs. Beckett’s staring me down from across the dinner table. They all kept the last name, but the first two ditched the original owner in favor of a life of fanciful freedom and cheerful individuality far, far away from me.
I can’t blame them, really.
There are days when my current wife truly believes her predecessors made the right choice. And sometimes she’s right about that. Then again, there are brief periods when she’s not as disgusted, disappointed, or despondent about choosing me as she might have been.
Let’s get serious about this marriage thing. Somebody has to tell the truth at some point, and frankly, I’m deep enough into the institution that I have no fear of being open and honest anymore. Not even at the risk of my own personal safety.
One truth you’ll have to adjust to if you hope to have a long-lasting, successful marriage that other people will describe as, “happy,” is understanding that happiness is not going to be the predominant emotion you’ll experience. Frustration, anger, and an almost total inability to understand why your spouse is thinking, doing, or attempting to justify ideas and actions that are borderline insane will be far more common.
Fortunately, like the pain of childbirth, the animosity and recrimination of marriage morphs over time to become the entertainment of our lives. Given enough time and therapy, moments of actual rage become stories of great humor remembered with fondness.
For example, one prior wife once whipped a candy bar at my face as I was putting away the groceries. She was trying to kill me with a confection because she thought I had handed the treat to her in a disrespectful manner. A much younger version of myself responded by pouring the ice-cold half-gallon of milk in my hand over her head. It dripped down her long, carefully styled hair, until she whipped her golden tresses around like a weapon, drenching the living room in a milky splattering of quickly souring liquid that clings to select picture frames to this day.
Oh, how we laugh about it now.
Of course, the incident is far enough back in our histories that we both remember it slightly differently. Truthfully, it’s possible that it never really happened at all and we’re just misremembering a dream, or a movie, or a story one of us heard from another couple that we adopted as our own.
Who knows? Who cares, really. You win some, you lose some, and sometimes you just have to enjoy playing the game until it gets called on account or rain, or irreconcilable differences, or whatever.
Anyway, it’s been 30 years for me and the current (and hopefully last) Mrs. Beckett. It’s a time of celebration and reflection on a life lived together, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, for these past many years.
I still remember the Justice of the Peace asking me that powerful, all-important question, to which I replied with confidence, “I do.” Seconds later he asked my fiancé and soon to be wife the same question, to which she replied, “Uh, okay.”
True story. It’s the little things really.
Henny Youngman turned out to be right when he quipped, “The secret to a happy marriage remains a secret.” But what the hell. We’re here. We’re both too lazy to hire a lawyer. So, we might as well stay together for a while longer. Neither of us drinks milk anymore anyway, so there’s one major risk factor that’s been taken off the table.
Onward, I guess.