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In marriage, don’t jones for the Joneses

Someone will have to help me out with this: Is it normal, in the depths of February (we can hardly call what we deal with here in Florida “winter”) for young women to begin giggling about, pouring over bride-to-be magazines, comparing nuptial fantasies and analyzing calendars for prime wedding dates the way General Patton sized up the Western Front? Or is it just that I happen to have been consistently in the wrong places at the wrong times for three weeks in a row now?

Maybe it’s the recent passing of Valentine’s Day. Or perhaps it’s possible that spring has already cast its spell, and people of an age otherwise prone to procrastination are simply “on the ball” in ways other tasks – massive thesis papers, for example – simply fail to inspire in them. Or it may just be that, being a man – even a married man – I am simply out of my depth here.

That being said, I feel oddly obligated to share a couple of things my wife and I have picked up along the way – things I believe are worth considering before you plunge into the great “for better or worse” beyond.

First and foremost: Get married with your eyes closed. I’m being hyperbolic here, but you could do a lot worse than to take me literally. Yes, we know: You’re gorgeous, your fiance is gorgeous, you both come from gorgeous families. But guess what? Time is going to have its way with you. Everything that is tight and sculpted and angular on you now is going to round out, go soft and become hairier than you ever thought possible. If there’s nothing of substance underneath all that, it’s a lost cause.

Marry someone smarter than you. Most of us – men, especially – are in love with the idea of being “the brains of the operation,” but it’s only a matter of time before you will run into a problem which you simply cannot handle on your own. When you do, you don’t want to find out that your “better half” is just as lost as you are. Your goal here is to be Fred and Daphne, not Scooby and Shaggy; although sometimes, you just have to play the cards you’re dealt – as evidenced by the fact that I am illustrating my point with a Scooby Doo metaphor.

Find your way into at least three good arguments long before the big day arrives, preferably about world political events, religion or something else that somebody can really get their feelings hurt about. This is important for a number of reasons, the most obvious being that you need to know where your future mate really stands on these things, but also because it’s essential to know if he or she possesses the capacity for reason. It’s not the end of the world if you disagree on a given issue, but if you’re dealing with somebody who feels about a certain way because “that’s just the way it is,” or “that’s what I was taught,” you’re in for a tough ride. Despite what decades of sitcoms have told people, there is nothing delightful about the infinite capacity for stubbornness.

Here’s something you won’t find in Modern Bride: It doesn’t matter what the gays do. I may be veering off-topic here, but listen: My wife and I have lived in the same house for five years, during which time at least four openly gay couples have resided in our neighborhood. At least two are what I’d have to call “married,” but for the love of God, don’t tell Rhonda Storms. My point is that if my marriage eventually breaks apart, it’s not because the dudes down the block with the absolutely fabulous gardenias have “devalued the institution.” If my wife and I manage to celebrate our 100th anniversary together at the end of the century, it won’t be because we insisted on relegating anyone to “civil unions.”

Get rid of your television. Trust me, the only thing it’s good for is reminding you of how much fun all the single people are having.

Finally, quit worrying about a better car, a bigger house or a faster whatever – figure out what the two of you really want to do with your lives, and do it. I can’t count the number of couples I know who’ve given up on their dreams because it would’ve meant “doing without” some ridiculous amenity. If achieving your goal means the two of you giving up the McMansion in some moronic Brandon neighborhood and living in a single-wide trailer for six months, six years or six decades, it’s worth asking yourselves what that added comfort will really have been worth at the end of your lives if all you’ve got to show for it is a job you hate and a dozen vacations you can barely remember. Forget the Joneses – you’ve got your own lives to lead.

Ryan McGeeney is a senior majoing in political science.