When you get married, you sign up for a totally new life of permanent bliss (obviously!). There’s a lot of great things about marriage. If I list them, you’re going to think I’m sappy, so just trust me that I know what they are (for example, I know that “cooperation” is a great thing about marriage). The thing about getting married, though, is that if you’re a guy, you’re marrying a girl. Think about that for a second.
I moved out of an apartment full of guys to marry a girl. They were cranky and lazy and mostly intolerable, and I would never marry them, not for millions of dollars and an impenetrable prenup. But they did have a few special insights about my needs in life. They knew that sitting slumped over on the couch together for a long time was important, no matter what we were watching on TV, or even if the TV was off. Guys get that just sitting there in the family room doing nothing but talking about really random stuff is kind of a mental hygiene. Brainstorming about good inventions or funny date ideas or ways to make a football out of garbage, or what kinds of Mexican food would be good combined with pizza.
We spent a lot of time sitting around doing this kind of stuff in college. It’s interesting now to look back on how these strange conversations developed, and where they took us. One such conversation twisted and turned until somehow we decided to put together a huge 64-spot bracket of the hottest girls we knew of, and spend an entire day and night voting on each bracket to find a final winner of all the hot girls (ties were decided by calling a random guy we barely knew from another apartment and telling him to just choose one of the names we told him. And yes, we did take into account a girl’s character and accomplishments as well). Another conversation ultimately resulted in someone writing down a really strange nickname for each of us on the apartment whiteboard, nicknames that everyone used really faithfully for about two weeks (most of those nicknames have faded from memory, except that we all still call Norm ‘Jordache’ from time to time). Yet another conversation wandered around until eventually two of us were taking girls to the science building to look at cadavers for a Friday night date.
Such a good date
Though I’m sure there are exceptions, these are conversations you don’t often have once you get married. You leave them behind. What you do get when you get married is “working together,” and “compromise,” so it’s definitely worth it. But you are unlikely to ever spend several nights in a row sitting in the kitchen tossing a potato back and forth to each other, over and over and over. And you’re quite unlikely to just wander out to the nearest patch of open space to every so often to punt things to each other. Because of that, marriage is both a very good thing, and a little bit of a sad thing.
We took a trip with my family a few weeks ago, where all the siblings and my parents got some condos together by a lake. The condos all back onto a big, huge field of well-kept lawn. We had balls of every kind on hand during the trip, and they were all just sitting there on the grass by the doors to the condos. And there were a bunch of dudes on hand– brothers and brothers-in-law and Dads and even little nephews and nieces (who can be laudably guy-like in the right circumstances). On a normal vacation I might pick up a football or volleyball or frisbee just to palm it and toss it from hand to hand three or four times a day, and then set it down and go do whatever my little family needs me to do– braid Lucy’s hair or spend an hour and a half trying to fit an outfit onto Molly’s Polly Pocket. But on this trip, I’d pick up one of those balls, hold it for a second, and then look out to see one of my brothers or brothers in law streaking down the grass waving an arm at me. That guy would always be rewarded with a well-timed football, or an aerobie, or maybe a grape thrown perfectly into his mouth. Every time one of us picked up a ball, there was someone who wanted it thrown at him. You could hardly walk into your own condo without spending ten or fifteen minutes transitioning through a game of catch of some sort. What a great thing it is to have a few dudes around.
There it is. The grass field. Makes you want a frisbee, huh?
After playing catch, we’d always walk in and join the family, help with dinner, clean up the place, etc. And each night was filled with the great conversations and “communication” that you come to expect when you’re married. In that way, it was an absolutely perfect environment. You’re with your wife, you’re helping and enjoying each other, but at any moment, a super-intense soccer game might break out, and you won’t have to drive fifteen minutes and organize ten other married guys to all show up there at the same time (they won’t ever all show up at the same time).
It made me realize that even after ten really happy years of marriage, sometimes I still miss that old easiness of having several dudes around. My friends are all just a phone call away, but there’s nothing like just picking up a football and immediately having someone to throw it to. And I’ve found that you don’t just call up one of your buddies to come over and throw the football around, or a potato. There is one thing about marriage, though, that specifically mitigates this problem. Sons. I got a little giddy in the last month, as Rex has started being able to catch and throw a full-size football, even on long routes. That goes a long way toward replacing those guys I left behind. We had a birthday party here on Saturday, where we filled up dozens of helium balloons for ambiance. After the party was over and the clean-up was done, the girls went inside with Mom to play with the new dolls received at the party. Rex and I grabbed my wrist slingshot and walked out into the dusky backyard. We lay there for 20 minutes shooting rocks at all the balloons. We got so we could pop a balloon from 25 yards on the fly, in the wind. After ten years, it’s nice to have that kind of company around again.