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Speak Now Or When You Get Around To It

Tom 'mazeltov' Waters
July 1st, 2005

Thirty and forty years ago couples married off in their late teens, made each other miserable for fifty to sixty years and called it a day.

I just got the news this week about my friend Jeff and he doesn't have much time left. I was one of the last people to know and I was crushed when I found out. When he told me over the phone (which I think was a little impersonal), I had to sit down quickly because it felt like the wind was knocked out of me. To be honest, he hasn't looked so hot for a long time now, and it shouldn't have come as such a surprise. His skin's been pale, his eyes have been a little buggy and he hasn't been around as much. He's getting married in August. And he was in his prime! Death be not proud, huh? Another one bites the dust. We'll have to cherish our last months together before he departs.

This makes Jeff one of five or six of my friends who are getting married this year. It's like last call at the bar and I was in the bathroom when the bartender called it out. Everyone is scurrying off to parts unknown and I'm wondering if someone spit in my drink while I was washing my hands. The synchronicity of it all is shocking, that so many people I know would tie the noose, take the plunge and forfeit their bachelorhood so quickly. Actually, there's nothing quick about getting married in your late 20s or early 30s. Quite the opposite.

Thirty and forty years ago couples married off in their late teens, made each other miserable for fifty to sixty years and called it a day. My parents have been married for almost forty years now and had their first child three years after they got married. That would put my mom and dad in their early 20s, which wasn't uncommon at the time. They bought their first house within five years of their marriage. I didn't even buy my first car until last fall and the closest I've come to parenting a child was when I watched my parents' cat for the winter while they were in Florida. The times they are a changing.

These last round draft picks are starting to get to me, though. To have so many good men fall in the heat of battle is disheartening. Did they get a mailer that I lost in a move? Was I sick the day they told you that marriage was mandatory at 30? I've always been a late bloomer with everything in my life, so I'm not concerned about it. I'm a bit slow. I'm really soft in the head, so it takes me a bit longer to do things that most functioning adults have already accomplished. I am starting to think about marriage (and that I should hurry up about it), but I don't like to be rushed.

My goal is to time it perfectly so that I get married, have kids, and drop dead shortly after their high school graduation before they grow up and disappoint me. Some may see that as slightly pessimistic. My girlfriend's family has been leaning on me harder than a bookie on Norm McDonald after Superbowl weekend. Dropping hints. Making subtle references to the sanctity of wedlock. Leaving dowry and prenuptial agreements on my bedside stand. The neon sign was a bit much. I've always thought that marriage is the last off-ramp on the highway of independence. The final push out to pasture after a good run of oat sowing. I've still got some oats to sow. I've got a lot of oats to sow. I keep a spare trough in my glove compartment to keep up with my oats.

This hit me hard about my friend Jeff, though. He was one of the only partners in crime left. A wild, reckless poet who'd work a cocktail party like Warren Beatty in his heyday. A man who could pick up the slurpy clerk in a convenience store on a whim with a wink and an inappropriate non sequitur. And now he's gone to the dark side. And there's Jen, who's getting married for the second time. I just called my friend Derrick last week and in the time since we last spoke he got hitched out in Vegas and has a newborn baby now. Apparently, I need to call my friends more often. All the maverick bachelors are getting picked off and that's what scares me. At our age, women are targeting the broncos cause we're the only one's left out to pasture.

I'm not against the institution of marriage, but I've seen what it does to people and the odds of both parties being happy are grim. My generation divorces over leaving the toilet seat up, for god's sakes. I'm going to do it once and that's it. Eventually. I don't want to get really fat, spend my weekends roaming the aisles at Target looking for something else for the house even though I've got everything, or have a ‘poker night' once a month where I'm actually allowed to be a man with my friends until curfew. I really don't want my amorous activities pared down to anniversaries and how the other half feels after two wine spritzers or a Brad Pitt film.

Let's face facts, though. If a guy is single for too long without kids or a divorce under his belt, he stinks of fear. He is branded as ineligible for commitment. My friend Davey and I have a bet about which one of us will fall in battle first. I've been trying to decide who the winner will be. It's getting so we're the only two left, and I don't want to be at a Spinster singles night in five years with a white name tag and a sad smile. Or an all night bar with a divorcee telling me that her kids are with their father for the weekend. It's an evolutionary process, and by your mid-30s, you're not left with Darwin's finest. The scraps stand alone. So in the mean time, I'll go on the marital world tour of the century this summer and fall, write some checks and congratulate all interested parties. I'll just make sure to palm a cyanide capsule while I'm shaking the groom's hand.

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