Marriage is like ….

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A phone call in the night
By Nathan Day Wilson

Today is my wedding anniversary. It’s also my wife’s.

I’m not going to tell you how many years we’ve been married. Don’t want to mess up the math. Let’s just say that, for me, it seems like our marriage began yesterday; for my wife, I think concepts of eternity come to mind. We’ve been married somewhere in between.

Perhaps due to the anniversary, or perhaps due to a recent writing conference, or perhaps due to the many weddings I am celebrating this year, or perhaps due to indigestion, I was wondering what a good metaphor for marriage is. You know, “Marriage is like ….” and then you fill in the blank to describe this abstract idea of marriage.

To help me develop a good metaphor, I started to ask my wife, but then remembered wisdom of one of my late heroes, comedian Rodney Dangerfield, who said, “I haven’t talked to my wife in years. I didn’t want to interrupt her.”

I took his advice and decided instead to check with others. Of course, lots of people have had lots to say about marriage.

From philosophers, even the esteemed Socrates: “By all means marry. If you get a good wife, you will become happy; and if you get a bad one, you will become a philosopher.”From film directors, such as King Vidor: “Marriage is not a word; it is a sentence.”

Similarly, from authors, such as John Mortimer: “Marriage is like pleading guilty to an indefinite sentence. Without parole.” And Helen Rowland: “Marriage is like twirling a baton, turning handsprings or eating with chopsticks. It looks easy until you try it.”

And of course, there are words aplenty from comedians, such as Evelyn Hendrickson: “Marriage is like a phone call in the night: first the ring, and then you wake up.” And I’m sure you’d be surprised that Dave Barry has said a word or two about marriage: “Contrary to what many women believe, it’s fairly easy to develop a long-term, stable, intimate and mutually fulfilling relationship with a guy. Of course this guy has to be a Labrador retriever. With human guys, it’s extremely difficult.”

Of course, no column that mentions marriage is complete without quoting Mae West: “They say love is blind … and marriage is an institution. Well, I’m not ready for an institution for the blind just yet.”

That’s enough already. Let’s move on to something worth remembering. For instance, the sentimental side of me — yes, there is one, I just hide it — likes this quote from Ivern Ball, “A good marriage is like a good trade: Each thinks he got the better deal.”

That’s something I would include in my metaphor for marriage. As well as something about how my wife inspires me with her concerns and commitments. Something about how she impresses me with her capacity to remember schedules and balance interests. Something about how she impacts my life, the lives of our children, of our family, of people on the other side of the world with her love.

With all those words from others and thoughts of my own, I decided it was time to develop my own metaphor for marriage. So I asked myself, “Self, what is marriage like?”

But before I answered, I was interrupted. Go figure.

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