Sunday, September 02, 2012

Modern Love

Statistically, about half of all marriages in the United States fail. The other half are still extremely hard work. This tongue-in-cheek essay is about the reality. If you want fantasy, buy a romance novel.

What starts out as a partnership agreed on for purposes of certain companionship, occasional sexual satisfaction, and guaranteed living expenses for life for at least one of you, quickly devolves. Most couples even throw in the lofty goal of creating children, raising their offspring to adulthood thus building a future society. Good luck with all those goals these days.

#20 Andrew with Aunt Emma

The individuals that choose to get married do bear most of the burden of making the partnership work. However modern society, at least the way it is structured since 2000, quickly starts to tear apart the team. The announcement of a marriage is typically greeted with suspicion and deep concern by family and co-workers. "Congratulations!" is soon followed by "Can you two afford to take this step now?" If you intend to have a traditional wedding be prepared for the onslaught of vultures ready to land you deep in debt. The wedding dress, the caterer, the hall, and even the religious venue will all be looking to see how deep you or your parent's pockets really are.

You will be pitted against all other couples planning a wedding. Good luck finding a good affordable photographer, a source of music or a decent cake. The jeweler will tell your wife to expect several months salary invested in a rock or she should doubt your sincerity. The mortgage broker really does not want to loan you any money, until you two prove you can live together renting a tiny apartment for a few years. The lawyers typically wait patiently on the sidelines, though all are willing to pen a pre-nuptial agreement for $500 or so, if you dare to ask your spouse for such a contract.

The wedding dress is only one of many dresses that must decided upon and paid for. Just deciding who gets invited to the event nearly destroys many a marriage before it ever takes place.  Planning to buy drinks for your guests? Set aside at least a few hundred dollars for an open bar and a trained bartender.  If a rookie tends bar and serves a few minors your new married life could start out with a lawsuit. Your friends must understand this may be the last time you will ever buy them a drink. Think a limousine would be cool? Think again. The honeymoon arrangements also involve plane tickets, hotel rooms, tours and meals. Take a taxi to the airport.

Most workplaces are very reluctant to give any worker two weeks off work for any reason, much less to get married and honeymoon somewhere. Start asking your boss for the time off far in-advance. Also be certain that your employer is going to be in business for years to come, being married and out-of-work is quite stressful. Don't ask me how to figure that last one out, even the government has become an unreliable employer these days.

All of the above concerns pre-suppose that you and your partner really will learn to live with each other, after a few years. Even strangers argue over dumb stuff, some married people learn to argue about everything. Those that do not argue sit around stewing about their pet peeves for months before blowing up. Lovers in public are far more likely to throw plates at each other in private.

There are many wonderful moments, be sure to savor the pleasant hugs before you get to the smelly Huggies.

Getting the baby on board is seen as the fun part, right? Wrong. She's too tired. Now is not the right time in your new career. The pharmacy makes the money at this stage, selling you everything you need to keep from getting pregnant.  You two can keep on rocking in the free world but don't make a little mistake, babies are often the result of slight mistakes.

So far so good right? You can have a baby when the time is right, when you are both ready.  Millions of couples soon learn they cannot have a baby so easily. This is where the very expensive doctors step in to ask for every single detail of your most intimate moments together.  Everyone promises to keep it all confidential, how you perform in bed is just between you and your doctor and all the other doctors in the practice and your mother-in-law and your wife's friends.

Somebody even tells you to stop wearing Jockey shorts. A friend suggests oysters. When you supposedly have a sexual problem the world somehow learns about it and loves to offer coy suggestions.

If the fault is with his apparatus there are ways around that. Pills and tools and even a special bank will help make sure your deposits are there when needed. You can even borrow a little from another guy for a small fee. If the issue turns out to be with her landing gear things get a little trickier. There is no shortage of doctors ready to tinker with the tubes down there.  All this for a price that will shock you over and over again. A Mercedes Benz costs far less than most fertility clinics will end up charging you and hopefully your health insurance company.

Careful about messing with fertility, triplets can also be a side effect. Fertility treatments have other side effects too. Read the packages and pamphlets carefully. Ask questions. Don't trust all the answers you get.

Finally you get pregnant. He is so happy. She is so happy, until she starts vomiting every morning.  You bring home some takeout food and find a raging bull has possessed your dear lovely spouse. He doesn't have any idea what you're experiencing and you don't care if he does care. Soon she is fat, in a cute sort of way, and spending all kinds on money on special clothing, baby stuff  and turning your home office into a nursery. Hanging wallpaper is not so bad but soon it is tax time and all the important papers are missing.  That's OK, because by now you have a drinking problem and can't remember what report your boss just told you to have ready for next week.

Forget about sex with your wife for a little while, about a year.

Late one night she wakes you up on the couch, spilling that last can of beer, and needs you to drive her to the only hospital that still does babies, 40 miles away. The taxi dispatcher first says an hour but when you shout that your wife is about to give birth, the dispatcher hangs up. She ends up doing the driving but you change places near the hospital so the orderlies don't notice the pregnant woman drove herself to the delivery room.

The birth goes fine, except you fell asleep in the waiting room and then got sick to your stomach trying to take pictures of an event that really does not need to be photographed. Your lovely baby girl looks like a screaming apricot pit and the doctor wants to put her in a heated bread box to let it cook for a few more days. Your lovely wife looks like she was just mugged, plus she is somehow still fat. And probably always will be now. You will always love her, no matter what.

That short time in the incubator costs $25,000.

So you get the baby or babies going. She loses some weight. The baby girl gets first dibs on her breasts now. Now comes the time for you to fully lose what remains of your sanity. Forget about getting enough sleep for the next year or so. Did you ever work on a farm when you were young?  Do you really enjoy that one special part about taking the dog out for a walk? Get ready for a few years of dealing with the mess. Don't leave it all up to her, the kid will somehow remember and hate you for not being there.

You two start searching for a house. The realtors automatically assume you are descended from the Rockefellers. Even your wife seems surprised to find out that is not the case. The homes you can afford are all in neighborhoods with special police sub-stations. Someone spray paints a gang tag on your Chevy while you are walking through a house you know you cannot afford. You buy a house anyway and suddenly something happens in Greece and your house is worthless. The bank could care less, you signed a mortgage loan, they sold the loan and the seller moved to Florida.

You move in but can't afford furniture better than lawn chairs so you never invite anybody over. The roof leaks and the hot water heater needs to be replaced. Your employer stops giving raises and the annual bonus program is history. You sit in the overgrown backyard hoping your Dad will let you borrow his lawnmower, when he starts speaking to you again someday. Your toddler looks so cute running towards the creek but there's too much smoke coming from the grill.

Your wife forgives you for burning dinner, at least the baby did not drown. Please take out the trash and figure out a way to cut the lawn before the town inspector gives us another citation. Oh and that dent in the used Toyota just appeared there after a recent grocery run.

If you or your spouse still have a job and are not heavily sedated in a mental hospital at this point, count yourselves lucky. If your friends or relatives are not answering your calls, that's completely normal. They still like you, sort of, they just don't trust you not to leave the screaming baby girl in their house some evenings. Good babysitters are rare. Babysitters that do not spend the whole time texting a friend are non-existent. Nannies cost a fortune.

Things are going good about now, except your mother-in-law now lives with you, just until your little girl gets a little older, like twenty. Your wife wants another baby and your boss wants you to re-locate to Cincinnati. Your just found a pre-school that suits everyone, but they want $2,000 down.  You go ahead, put a down payment on a house and move the whole scene to Ohio. And then the firm goes bankrupt. Luckily the sale on the first home fell through.

She's pregnant again. It goes a little better this time. You know how to handle your booze. You don't tell the taxi driver your wife is pregnant and the lady cop does a good job with the delivery on the back seat. This kid does not need the incubator but grows faster than the grass in the back yard. It's a little boy so all the first kid's clothes are deemed inappropriate.

The rock fell out of the ring on that trip to the beach last year. She got a job offer from WalMart last week but day care for your two kids costs more than she would make. So she took a job as a waitress in that bar near the old railroad tracks.  You go in there once and notice all the men are trying to look down her low-cut top. Her boss even stands too close behind her. She says she likes the job and the tips keep getting better and better if she dresses just right.

That stock investment your buddy told you about tanked.  Your darling daughter now wants a iPhone and a new iPad. The mortgage payments are two months behind but the bank doesn't care. All your neighbors on this street moved out a year ago. You are just glad to have enough money on your bus pass to get you to the convenience store where you now work. You hope the Post Office calls about that mail carrier job. The benefits would be helpful.

Don't talk about divorce, don't even bring it up. She can do anything she wants but you are not going to go through that mess, no way. You get the kids to bed every night. She gets home late Tuesdays from her "college class" with smeared lipstick. Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays she tends bar. Separate rooms were your idea, remember? She kicks too much and you were falling asleep on the counter at work.  She didn't even hear when you said you were robbed at gunpoint last week. At least the cops caught the guy. Your boss needs you to go to court to testify.

At the courthouse you meet a lawyer who says he can do your divorce quick and easy. Yea, right. He suggests you hire a shamus. A what you ask? A private detective, to catch your wife and her new boss.  You think about it. Then you take the bus past the new boss's house and her old Toyota is parked out there. She fails her college class.

You call the shamus.

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