L. Neil Smith's
Number 332, August 14, 2005

"What has become of us?"

The Things You Learn When You Get Married
by Jonathan David Morris

Special to TLE

Men learn a lot of things when they get married. I know because I'm a man and I got married a year ago. The way I see it, marriage is a totally awesome institution. There's nothing better than two people who love each other pooling their time, energy, and resources together in an effort to make life better for both of them. But I guess with divorce rates being what they are in this country, some people just don't see it that way. If you ask me, the problem with marriage is a lot of people think their wedding is supposed to be the high point of their love. They don't realize marriage is an adventure full of learning experiences. I don't know who to blame for this, but my gut says it has something to do with Jennifer Lopez. Either way, in an effort to make marriage easier for future generations, here's a list of five things every newlywed guy should expect to learn.

1. Marriage doesn't change anything. It's impossible to "feel married." The only thing that changes the day after your wedding is you don't have to plan a wedding anymore. That, and there's an off chance you'll break down crying during the climactic "Somebody's Getting Married" scene of The Muppets Take Manhattan. For this reason, I don't recommend living together before marriage. The way I see it, living together is the only thing marriage can physically change. Without it, your wedding is just an excuse to refurnish your apartment with gifts from the bridal shower.

2. There are other channels on cable besides ESPN. Most of these channels bear simple, non-intimidating names—like Lifetime and Style. If you're not careful, you may have to watch them. Style, for its part, is usually harmless. Most of its programming consists of Elizabeth Hasselbeck walking through a mall. But Lifetime's a bit more insidious. Other than the Golden Girls, the entire station seems to exist as an answer to the question: "Whatever happened to Meredith Baxter-Birney after Family Ties?" Real men know they don't want to know the answer—which is, she dropped the Birney and assumed the role of a woman scorned in no fewer than 6,000 made-for-TV movies. (I'm not even kidding about this. She actually played the lead in a movie called A Woman Scorned: The Betty Broderick Story. She even filmed its sequel: Her Final Fury: Betty Broderick, the Last Chapter.) Marriage is all about compromise and sacrifice. If you absolutely must watch Lifetime, at least watch baseball during commercials.

3. Sometimes staying in on a Friday to watch 20/20 won't sound so bad to you. Sometimes you won't even stay up late enough to watch 20/20. I used to laugh at the scene in Old School where the kids at the party ask Will Ferrell to drink from the funnel and he says no because he has a big day ahead of him tomorrow (going to Home Depot to pick out some flooring, maybe Bed Bath & Beyond if he has enough time). But I cringe now when he takes that drink because I know from experience BB&B is infinitely less fun when you're hung over and nowhere near the pillow aisle. The fact is, marriage shuffles your priorities. Strange things become important to you. Things like duvet covers. (If you have to ask, don't.) That's when you stop hearing from your single guy friends. For them, fun is going out and getting trashed on a Friday evening. For you, it's drinking a beer over dinner and passing out at 9:30 after doing the dishes and watching Dateline. I know this sounds depressing, but don't let it give you cold feet. There's something oddly satisfying about the skeletal nature of Stone Phillips' head.

4. Marriage doesn't mean the end of dating. If anything, your life on the dating scene is just getting started. Only now, instead of singles matches, you're working the tag team circuit. That's right: Once you get married, you have to find other married couples to go out with. And while it may sound like an exaggeration, I can assure you that this process absolutely resembles ordinary dating in every conceivable way. My wife and I met a nice couple at the neighborhood pool a week after moving in. We agreed to get together for happy hour the following Wednesday, and three Wednesdays later it finally happened. They seemed like very nice people. Both of them were scientists. We enjoyed light conversation and drinks at a local brewery. Afterwards, I told my wife I really liked them. But then something happened. We invited them over and they said they had to pass. Then they stopped returning our phone calls. And now we haven't seen them in months. I think about them sometimes. Were we too pushy? Was it something we said? My wife swears: "We're too good for them." But if we're too good for them, why won't they go out with us?

5. You will no longer have to subsist strictly on pizza. In fact, you won't be allowed to. Women like pizza, but they don't like pizza every night. They want variety. And pepperoni one night, meat lover's the next won't cut it. Basically, you won't have a choice but to familiarize yourself with the kitchen. Occasionally, Hamburger Helper will ride to the rescue. But after that, all bets are off. Soon you'll learn about these neat contraptions called ovens. Did you know there's a box in your house that can cook things up to 500 degrees... safely? Me neither. But then I got married. And then I learned. And if you get married, you'll learn, too. Soon ordering pizza will make you feel like Roberto Duran when he said "No mas" and quit on his stool. You'll start bookmarking recipe websites—researching salads and world-beating marinades with the same veracity of unmarried men looking up porn. Dinner will become the focal point of every day in your life as a newlywed. You'll enjoy dinner like you've never enjoyed dinner before. This lasts until you have your first kid, at which point—from what I understand—you never enjoy a single meal for the rest of your life.

So there you have it. Marriage in a nutshell. It's pretty cool, actually. You just have to learn to get used to it.

Jonathan David Morris writes a weekly column for The Aquarian and other publications. He can be reached at jdm@readjdm.com.


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