Jewish World Review Nov. 21, 2001/ 6 Kislev, 5762

Marianne M. Jennings

Marianne M. Jennings
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The Big Two-Five -- ON the morning of my 25th wedding anniversary I woke up with a male foot on my neck. Lest you fear descent into debauchery, it was the foot of my six-year-old son who had slipped into our bed during the night owing to nightmares involving 30 spelling words, Nintendo shortages, or other elementary school horrors.

A 25th wedding anniversary should be cause for sounding trumpets! But the world no longer heralds anniversaries. There aren't enough lasting marriages to establish celebration patterns. Queen Elizabeth invited to her 50th anniversary party all the couples in England who were married on the same day as she and Prince Phillip. They could fit in Buckingham Palace for tea and trumpets.

This lack of celebration also has its roots in the fear of offending those who succumbed to the seven-year itch. So, the hard work of staying married passes with nary a note of praise. Could a little recognition for a difficult job well done be so offensive?

When I hear John Lennon sing, "All we are saying, is give peace a chance," I mutter, "Easy for you to say, buddy. Your first marriage ended in an Ono-induced divorce. Try doing 25 years with tykes in bed with you instead of a naked Yoko in a Toronto hotel with room service. Then we'll talk world peace."

Marriage is not for the faint-hearted. It's a breeding ground for revenge. My husband recently complained about my rolling his socks together when I folded laundry. He said this practice stretches the sock elastic, thereby causing drooping. So, I threw his socks in his drawer. He complained of separation and resulting mismatched socks. This little red hen of laundry bit her tongue but then tied all of his socks together in 3 knots. Knee-hi pairs got four knots. Tying the knot is so blissful.

Not only is marriage difficult, there is a dearth of good marriage books (non-fiction). The Rules for Marriage, written by the two ditzes who brought us The Rules, offers this as Rule #42, "Date ASAP after Your Divorce." A book on successful marriage offers post-divorce advice?

Why Marriages Succeed or Fail gives the classic, "Never go to bed angry." Ignore this. Go to bed hopping mad because in the morning you'll have the diversion of sorting through kids. Your marital bed is a gigantic game of Jenga with bodies. When the kids are no longer in bed with you, the blessing of memory loss kicks in. Continue to go to bed mad because in the morning you can't remember where you left your shoes, reading glasses or Metamucil let alone what you were arguing about.

Rules for Marriage offers this advice in its pre-divorce segment: Eat in your lingerie. These gals have been dipping into the kids' Dimetapp. Stretch marks and post-40 bodies revealed via lingerie kill the appetite. Also, children play 20 questions when you show up at the dinner table dressed as a harlot.

Hollywood's view of marriage is almost as realistic as Lennon's world peace. American Beauty depicted married couples as miserable, immoral and daft. Our lives may be entangled in Weed Eaters, but that's as confused and kinky as we get.

When Hollywood doesn't depict marrieds as demented heathens, it offers romantic platitudes such as Love Story's naive counsel, "Love means never having to say you're sorry." I'm still apologizing for accidentally painting the garage floor with over spray in 1982. By 1983 the paint had worn off, but mention Krylon around my husband and the red-floored garage debacle story is yours.

With few literary resources and films from Mars, we're left to chart the marriage trail on our own. Long-lasting marriages are not nearly as mysterious as seven-year itchers believe. I'm just grateful for someone who has been willing to stand by me for 25 years. And in between those tense moments and petty annoyances is the tenderness never adequately documented in book or film.

For 25 years my husband has failed to enter his checks in the checkbook. But he has never failed to call me at least once each day from the office, even on days when his socks were slumped around his ankles or on those when he was late from untying them.

I snore like a Hoover choked with pellets. Despite the resulting lack of sleep, my husband joins me at 6 AM to bathe our child with severe disabilities, employing a lift system that flummoxes nuclear engineers. His cereal slurping irks me, but yesterday I stopped outside one child's room and eavesdropped as the big lug gently eased a sleepy, grumpy lad into the day. Who couldn't overlook the sock whining?

So, there I was, 25 years after my wedding ceremony in bed with a foot crimping my carotid artery. It was a tender moment. We made it to 25 years of marriage in complete defiance of the odds, the films, and advice on eating attire. Sound those trumpets. Just make sure they're louder than the snoring.

JWR contributor Marianne M. Jennings is a professor of legal and ethical studies at Arizona State University. Send your comments by clicking here.


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© 2000, Marianne M. Jennings