In August of 2003, my wife, Lynda Faye Barnes Lovett, and I celebrated 30 years of nuptial bliss, and that, indeed, is what it has been. We decided to give a party in honor not just of our felicitous union but of good marriages in general, and my wife chose to dub the evening’s festivities, “Love and Marriage Rule”. She had designed over-sized, hand-made invitations, dripping with pearls, inscribed with these enticing words:
Calling All Brides, Bridesmaids, Maids of Honor, Grooms, Groomsmen, Ring Bearers, Flower Girls and just Plain Old Wedding Guests, Come as you are, Come as you were, Come as you wish you had been Come as you wannabe, Just Come!
And Celebrate Lynda’s and Lee’s Thirtieth Wedding Anniversary In Wild Wedding Style!
Click here to see that Anniversary Invitation. The effect of the foregoing was to inspire 230 people to dress as if it were their wedding day, past, present or future, real or imagined. The only boundary was their imagination, and they did not disappoint us or each other. The event was held at a lovely hotel where there was a very real wedding occurring simultaneously. I shall never forget the look of that 20-something bride, waiting to give her vows, as she observed 115 women, of all ages, sizes and shapes, parade past her, through the hotel to the ballroom, each in their own original or newly created “wedding gowns” or nuptially-related sartorial appointments.
For such a momentous occasion, I, of course, was charged with providing welcoming-remarks, and I spoke to this bevy of 115 radiant brides and equal number of chuckling groomsmen, at some length. My remarks took a satirical swipe at marriage at the outset to evoke some laughs but it then asserted our positive views on marriage and what it can mean to our often struggling world. More than a few asked for a copy of my remarks, but it then seemed too personal to distribute, but, now, ten years later, it seems fitting launch it kite-like into the air. (I am pleased to note that none of Lyn’s or my views have changed in the ten years that have passed since our Thirtieth Anniversary.) To continue, my remarks, more or less, were as follows:
As you well know, this evening celebrates love and marriage. Yet, marriage has likely been the butt of more jokes and satirical slams than any other word in our language. Consider these, satirical, comedic attacks on marriage:
Marriage is the only war where one sleeps with the enemy
Marriage is not a word; it’s a sentence: “Holy deadlock”
Cervantes called marriage “a noose”.
Shakespeare said, “Many a good hanging prevents a bad marriage.”
Samuel Johnson called it “the triumph of hope over experience.”
Disraeli said, “Every woman should marry, but no man.”
Humorist Oscar Wilde said, “In marriage, 3 is company, and 2 is none.”
The timeless wit, Henny Youngman, added his famous line, “Take my wife ----- PLEASE.”
The throng of 230 brides and grooms tittered but began to twist in their chairs, to tug at their bridal trappings and, finally, to groan and even hiss. Untrammeled by such rejoinders, I continued my remarks with unabated verve. I continued:
So, what in the world are we doing here tonight? Well, we’re disagreeing, with the forgoing wits and all of marriage’s naysayers, and we’re offering a whole bunch of empirical data to support our case. [Thunderous applause broke as I intoned the word “disagreeing”, and the spirit of the musical Brigadoon’s famous boozing and wooing Wedding Day scene kicked-in. The partiers never looked back.] I, thus, began again:
Let’s begin by talking about the theme of this Party: “Love and Marriage Rule.” When you think about it, even to be able to use the words “love and marriage’ in the same phrase, after 30 years of marriage [and again after 40], is no small feat, and to link them with the verb “rule” is even more startling.
Of course, the concept of “ruling” in marriage is a bit of a joke in itself. Whoever said, “It’s a man’s world,” was never in love with a woman!
In our family, we have a standing joke about “ruling”. We call it “The Pants Fight”. At the beginning of our marriage, many mornings, when we awoke, we’d have a fight to determine which of us would wear the pants that day, and whoever won was “boss for the day”. Some days, I won, but Lynda Faye won more and more often. Finally, I realized that life would be better for me if I simply let Lyn have the pants every morning. So, I did. With My Girl in the pants, “ruling” became a non-issue; and I could concentrate on doing what I do best: simply looking as seductive as I can in my Bermuda shorts! Anyway, for a good marriage, my first recommendation is to establish clear ground rules as to who’s boss – and I have adopted the rule of the famed British comedian who always referred to his wife as
“She Who Must Be Obeyed”.
And, I am constrained to add, that, once your spouse believes that you are obeying, it gives you lots of latitude to disobey.
Anyway, how do we interpret this theme, “Love and Marriage Rule”? To be a tad serious, after many eons on this planet, I have found three key ingredients to making marriage (and life in general) a happy experience for me; these three are: LOVE, LAUGTHER AND WORK, because,
* without work, we risk having an empty stomach or, worse, no self-respect. However, “All work and no play…” isn’t the answer either.
* then, too, we need laughter: “Laughter saves us from insanity,” as the philosopher and poet, Voltaire, observed. His motto, “Laugh and make laugh,” may be the greatest guarantee of happiness – second only to love.
* finally, and most important, we need love. Socrates insisted that we define our terms before venturing our views. The Greeks have five words for love; the Chinese, seven. Our modest tongue offers only one. There have been so many definitions: For example,
Rin Tin Tin (the first great canine movie star) said “Love is a bitch.”
Wayne Babbit, after having his “Boy” removed by his girlfriend, said “Love hurts.”
Jerry Lee Lewis called it, “Great balls of fire”.
To Michael Jackson, it was all simply “Baby love”.
Pinocchio felt love was “A many splintered thing”.
To the very late Duke of Windsor, love was “a hard spanking”.
To Hugh Grant, love is “Paradise by the dashboard lights.”
Such varied views. Enough frivolity and satire. Let’s get serious about love. What have some of the great minds said about love?
Ovid said, “The joy of love is loving,”
and his formula was: “To be loved, be lovable.”
Emerson admonished, “Give all to love; obey they heart.”
Mozart said, “Love is the soul of genius.”
Virgil told us, “Love conquers all.”
Sophocles said, “One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life, and that word is love.”
Philip Sidney’s Sonnet may have summed up love and marriage best:
“My true love hath my heart, and I have hers… By just exchange, one for the other given; Never was a better bargain driven.”
To me, love is giving up the pants. No, seriously,
Love is chemistry, and it’s wanting to give just about everything you have -- and then giving it all without keeping score.
So, those are some varied definitions of love, but these definitions beg the central question: WHY do we love?
Pascal said, “The heart hath its reasons, which reason knows nothing of.” Christopher Marlow queried, “Whoever loved that loved not at first sight?” Plato said, “Love makes the best eugenics [offspring].” Santayana said, “It is wisdom to believe the heart.” Poet, George Sand, added, “There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved.”
Tonight, Lyn and I proudly say, “Love AND Marriage Rule,” because love is the ideal Ruler of the Planet, and, we submit, Marriage is THE vehicle, the cement, that has advanced love more than any other. Love and Marriage Rule our lives because we want them to do so, and, because, for 30 years then [and 40 now], Love and Marriage have done just that for us.
For Lyn and me, marriage has been and remains the very best part of our lives, but it hasn’t always been a smooth ride. During our first five years of marriage, we had some difficult times, as court-appointed custodians of the four boys (whom I earlier introduced), with Lyn in her mid-twenties, our marriage exploded with the kind of duties and strife that don't beset most newlyweds or most marriages for 10+ years, but, we not only survived those marriage-jeopardizing issues, our love grew stronger. Then, 10-12 years into our marriage, just when we seemed to sailing smoothly, we encountered career-threatening tragedies, but, once again, our love grew new dimensions; the traumas became bonding agents, and our souls were magically glued ever more closely together. The inspirational English philosopher and statesman, Francis Bacon, explained it this way,
“Prosperity best discovers vice; adversity best discovers virtue.”
Washington Irving said,
“There is in every woman’s heart a spark of heavenly fire, which lies dormant in the daylight of prosperity, but which beams and blazes in the dark hour of adversity.”
Yes, we have found this in each other. So, for us, Love and Marriage Rule.
I have been asked, "So, what's the secret?" If there were a secret, I certainly don't know what it is -- lest it be simply to do all that you can to make the other person’s life better, AND do your best to keep the chemistry alive. It has been said that
“Perfection consists of two things: giving and forgiving.”
Love, like perfection, is active giving and forgiving. When we love (meaning “give”) enough, the love (and giving) will almost always be returned in due course. My father often told me:
“Marriage is an 80:20 relationship; you think you give 80% and receive 20%, But, in reality, you’re probably giving 40% and receiving 60%.”
The point? Percentages don't matter. Listen to your heart and give your all. So much for defining Love and Marriage. What might we say are the manifestations or demonstrative evidence that prove that Love and Marriage Rule? Consider a few examples:
Touching is one, not necessarily in a sensual way, but touching, nevertheless; we so enjoy this, and we find that such casual, tender physical contact, petting, caressing, softly scratching, acknowledges appreciation of the partner and brings closeness, especially subliminally.
Saying the words, "I love you,” helps, too. Words can never have the significance of deeds, but words can reinforce loving actions. However, if repeated every five minutes (“I love you…I love you…I love you, ad nauseam), words can become computer-like, Pavlovian responses, hollow, trite and thus devoid of efficacy, but saying them a time or two daily, with feeling, memorably affirms love, and the failure to say them all can be cumulatively damaging.
Talking about problems has saved us many times. Lyn never allows disagreements to fester or go unresolved. She doesn’t sulk or brood; she communicates; once problems are aired, they are often solved or well on the way to solution. I tend to go silent and sulk, but, when I start sulking, she starts communicating; then, before long, I can’t even remember why I was sulking. As a result, we’ve never had a disagreement that lasted more than a few hours.
Then, too, we're often just together in silence, with our thoughts, sometimes communicating silently, exchanging warm smiles.
Overall, we're together when we're together -- and we're together when we're apart.
It’s a very comforting arrangement – consciously and subconsciously.
My dad, who venerated my mother, startled me once, saying:
“When the honeymoon is over, the marriage is over.”
He didn’t mean that literally, of course; he meant that when we begin treating each other differently than we did on the honeymoon, and, when we stop thinking of each other as “love objects”, problems emerge. This is a very tall order, of course, but we’ve always kept it in mind, and it’s helped us. We still dine alone by candlelight often, and we still enjoy romantic weekends (even in our own home), and we try to think of each other, and do for each other, as we did oh so long ago, when first we said, “I do.” It works; it’s rewarding, and it’s still flat fun.
Many of our friends, in attendance at this Gala Celebration of Love and Marriage, share long marriages and relationships much like ours. So, we are not “preaching” to anyone; we’re simply celebrating an event, marriage, and the love that fuses two souls into one seamless life.
After 30 [now 40] years of doing this, Love and Marriage still “Rule” with us, and I can only conclude that
marriage is the greatest institution on earth;
women, in general, are the most intuitive, peaceful and most fun of the human species;
even if men could self-procreate, without women, civilization would not exist;
the only thing more important than my spouse is my health;
love is the most uplifting and joyous of all human emotions; and
marriage is the vehicle that allows unconditional love to flourish.
When you love someone, it's rarely a sacrifice to put their interests first, because you want their happiness above all else; it is pure joy – just as Ovid said. And didn’t Elisabeth Barrett Browning say it beautifully in her immortal “Sonnets from The Portuguese”:
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight… I love thee with the breath, smiles, and tears of all my life. And if God choose, I shall love thee better after death.
Also, I enjoy some very simple words that convey these feelings -- words of a song that I have sung to My Girl hundreds of times. Indeed, before my voice left me, many of you heard me sing these words to her around our piano or at our earlier Anniversary Parties, before my voice left me. Wisdom and kindness dictate that my singing days are past, but I am, nonetheless, constrained to conclude my remarks with these 60 or so poignant words, which I direct and dedicate to Lynda Faye Barnes Lovett:
Because of you, there's a song in my heart Because of you, my romance had its start Because of you, the sun will shine The moon and stars will say you're mine Forever, and ever, sweetheart.
I only live for your love and your kiss It's paradise to be near you like this Because of you, my life is now worthwhile And I can smile, because of you.
Now, dear friends, you are released from my litany. Go forth and let “Love and Marriage Rule”.
I ask you to join me in this toast to
Love and Marriage: May they ever rule.
Lee, 19 October 2003