This week my thoughts are very much on the institution of marriage, which is not to be confused with other well-known institutions such as lunatic asylums, prisons and boarding schools – despite their obvious similarities.
The timing is ripe. The merry month of May opens the traditional seasons for couples to risk making themselves seriously un-merry by committing matrimony. Why, that is what my wife and I did 30 years ago this week.
I wish I could say I remember our wedding as if it were yesterday, but I had taken the precaution of sedating myself – as any sensible person does in such circumstances.
I do remember that the invitations were red, white and blue in honor of the Bicentennial, a patriotic flourish that ignored the fact that while the bride was American, the bridegroom was from Australia. Crikey, I said presciently through the mists of muddled thought, brides rule, don’t they?
Perhaps to the astonishment of all, the marriage has not only lasted but also has been very happy. It is true, as my wife likes to say, that we have had our ups and downs – but that is true of most marriages.
Being married is like riding a roller coaster, a tried-and-true ride in which you are up, then down, and all the while there is the clackety-clack of the familiar track with occasional shrieks to punctuate the trip.
Still, I am glad that my wife and I are still bouncing along together through the dips and turns and did not get off the roller coaster because we saw people on the carousel of gay marriage at the other side of the fun park.
Apparently a great danger exists that gay marriage may destroy heterosexual marriage, or so I surmise from the frantic attempts by conservatives to ban it.
But my wife and I do not care how other people love each other. We take the view that this is none of our business, and miraculously our marriage has survived for the past 30 years.
Anyway, gay couples probably have more in common than we do. We married with almost nothing fundamentally in common. How could we? She was a woman and I was a man, a certain prescription for misunderstanding.
This much I know: For married folk of any gender, the hardest thing to sustain in a lengthy relationship is conversation. Over many years, couples tend to abandon speech entirely and communicate via telepathy.
Often I will tell her old jokes telepathically, but this is one thing that doesn’t seem to work too well. I guess that’s because she knows every punch line before I can transmit it, or else she is of half a mind not to encourage me.
When it comes to discussing “The Da Vinci Code,” a joke played on the credulous that will now be playing as a movie, I think I will resort to regular speech in order to discuss with my wife the many issues raised. I would argue that married people are ideally placed to speak about “The Da Vinci Code.” Hitherto, the book and now the film have been the province of theologians, preachers and other chin-strokers.
As an aside, it is extraordinary to me that “The Da Vinci Code” has been taken as such an affront and threat to Christian denominations. This is fiction, folks, so why the friction? Do priests and ministers think their congregations are populated by cretins who will lose their faith in a reverse road-to-Damascus moment as they clutch a bag of popcorn in the local cineplex?
Who but a simpleton could believe, as “The Da Vinci Code” suggests, that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene? Not any married simpleton, that’s for sure.
Married people, especially the gallant husbands among them, know full well what Jesus’ wife would have said to him: “When are you going to stop walking around the country with those dozen bum friends of yours and a get a real job? Disciples? Don’t make me laugh! Loafers, more like it. And when are you going to dress for success? That cloak-and-sandals look is so shabby and I can hardly stand to see the neighbors stare. And will you preach with a bit more caution? We have to live in Nazareth, you know.”
To me, and surely to most married people, it is fairly clear that Jesus’ mission was to instruct, not to be instructed. The heaven he sought was not of this world, not the heaven that we know. Take it from a 30-year veteran who has seen it up and down.
(Reg Henry is a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. E-mail rhenry(at)post-gazette.com)