I’ve long maintained that nobody -- and I mean nobody -- should be allowed to get married without checking with me first.
I’d spend about 15 minutes with every prospective bride and groom. If they fail to convince me they’re going to make a worthy couple, then that’s it. They’re done. “You guys had some swell times together, but it’s over. Time to move on. Good luck to you both.”
And that would be that.
(I believe the same procedure should be in place for every driver before he or she gets a license renewal, but let’s not get off track.)
This would be extremely time-consuming for me, but in the end it would result in a lot less emotional anguish for everyone.
Case in point: Back in June it was announced that Bob Dylan would be headlining an August 9 street festival on the South Side of Pittsburgh. I’ve seen him 43 times before, but this clearly was going to be special. The South Side of Pittsburgh is my favorite neighborhood. It teems with lively ethnic bars, great restaurants and smoke shops. If it was any cooler they could store frozen foods on Carson Street.
I said to my wife, “This is incredible. We’ll drop the kids off with my Mom. Go to the show. If a band stinks, we’ll split and have some drinks and then come back at twilight to hear the great master play. It’ll be the greatest weekend of the year.”
Then, one week later, it all came crashing down. Val told me her sister was getting married. For the third time. It was on the sandy shores at Virginia Beach, an eight hour drive from Latrobe. It was August 9, of course, and then to jab the stick into my eye even further, her sister decided to forbid alcohol.
The only thing that would have made it worse was if she’d have told me that I had to be the groom.
Dry! Under normal circumstances, I might perish under such cruel conditions. And, yes, I’m aware of the stunning incongruity of having a dry wedding yards from the world’s second largest body of water.
On top of all that, I’m actually in the midst of an incredibly busy time. Two misguided publishers have given me advances to work on books. Now, I’m having to weigh whether I should blow off my family on the long drive and stay home looking like a heel. Or go to something I’ll have no chance of enjoying and won’t improve a bit by being there.
“The only difference between in-laws and outlaws is that outlaws are at least wanted by someone.” That’s what my brother said and it’s absolutely true. Her family’s disdain for me is palpable and perfectly understandable, of course. Me, I always take the high road and would never betray my feelings for her whack-job family.
See, if she’d have had to check with me first, she’d never be in this situation and I’d be spending my time dreaming up potential playlists for the Dylan show. I’ve been happily married since 1996 following a sensible three-year shack-up. But what’s good for me isn’t necessarily good for the weak-minded.
Even my 7-year-old daughter understands that. She asked: “How come Aunt Laurie’s getting married for the third time and she’s not even famous?”
I told her that, in my eyes, she’s becoming famous. Really, for the past six weeks or so, she’s all I’ve talked about.
I knew her second husband and disliked him instantly with an intense kind of dislike sovereign people used to reserve for invading Mongols. He was there making microscopic small talk at my favorite holidays. Two or three times I actually had to take him golfing with me and I’d line up for multiple lobotomies if I could get those memories erased from my tender mind.
I never met her first husband, but I’m confident I would have despised him, too.
The third husband-to-be? Seems like a nice enough guy. But there’s no way I’d let him get married to her. Not on August 9.
I’ve long nursed a theory that marriage decay is the fault our excessive longevity. Really, back 200 years ago when our life expectancy topped out at 40 -- you can check it out -- people would get married at age 18 or so and say, “By God, I’m going to love this gal for the rest of my life. There’s no one else for me! ‘til death do us part!”
Then when they were about 38 and their marriage was a stale mess, he’d say, “I am sick and tired of this old crab and her constant nagging. But, what the hell, I’ll be dead in a year or two, so might as well stick it out.”
So I’ll spend the next few days trying to decide whether I should torture myself and her family by taking my own darling loved ones eight hours to something that’ll only provoke the worst in me. The only saving grace about attending such a booze-free yawnfest will be that it’ll keep me from blurting out myriads of hurtful truths.
It’s truly a lose-lose for me. Because if I stay home, then I’ll only be confirming the worst things Val’s family says about me: “Lazy, good-for-nothing, drinks too much, etc.”
And they’d be right. That’s exactly what I’d revel in for three days without my family under our roof. It would be splendid. I’ll never understand how how three people I love so much can make me so happy by not being here.
Plus I’d get to spend about three hours basking in the genius of the twice-married, now single Bob Dylan. You might wonder how I square my admiration for Dylan with his questionable married history.
Well, there’s still a chance he’ll ask me when and if he ever gets married again. And, guaranteed, he’s not getting married August 9.