There’s a second part to the advice given young men contemplating marriage that is never given. Its omission could be responsible for the other half the divorces, the first half being the advice given prospective brides, but this is my experience, and I am male, born and trained.
Dads tell their sons, “Look at her mother. How would you like to grow old with that?” Despite its emphasis of a woman’s looks being a poor basis for projected lovability in a relationship, omitting it’s corollary can make it all the worse.
Prospective grooms should be told, “Look at her father, that’s who you’ll be expected to become.”
I was nothing like my father-in-law. We had nothing but loving his daughter in common. I never had a conversation with him that wasn’t in front of his TV. He’d come home from his welding job at the shipyard at four in the afternoon, unbutton the top couple of buttons on his pants, sink into his chair where he’d eat dinner on a TV tray and be trundled off to bed when his snoring sent his adoring wife onto action. At Christmas he gave all the men the same aftershave and the women the same cologne, every year. I’m still using the last of mine to clean my keyboad, vintage circa 1970. His slide show of a two week rent-a-trailer, touring vacation we shared consisted of nothing but crystal clear, sharp focus photos of all the historical plaques filling the frame — not one picture of the scenes commemorated.
None of that was me. I was an engineer who put 10-12 hours daily into my yuppie career with IBM going for the unlimited future. I played golf and sailed on weekends, neither of which she cared to share. She said I abandoned her
I married her to relieve the discomfort between us after we’d visit and endure her parent’s scorn at our unwed cohabitation. Ten years and two daughters later, she gave up trying to make me her father, took our girls home to him, sued for divorce claiming ridiculous exaggerations of how unlike him I was and won sole custody of the children. The marriage was to make her happy, I treated the divorce in kind and never contested any of it.
In my first test on what was to become my lifelong research into the ultimate duality of nature versus nurture I failed miserably. After repeated visits to see the girls resulted in the fireworks of her defensive isolation skirmishes, I realized they would always remember me as a disruption of their nest, so I backed off in the belief that relations could resume when they could write and read my letters. I never imagined, as she confessed many years later to me and the surviving daughter, that she would throw my mail in the trash, including a fairy tale I spent two years writing and illustrating.
When it seemed letters had not helped establish a better connection I consoled myself with the hopes that genetics would win out and her curiosity would exceed her mother’s old ex-wife’s tales — another case of naive wishful thinking.
When she did reach out to me it wasn’t out of curiosity — it was to express her regret that I couldn’t be at the afterlife party in heaven with the rest of the family because I couldn’t accept Jesus as my lord and savior! I realized how much she had irretrievably become her mother.
The other day I heard my self telling my friend Crystal’s grown son how small he was the last time I saw him and it took on the reverberations of echoing down a long hall built of the many other times I’d expressed my fondness for loved ones whose childhood was not my experience and my knees buckled.
The grief I’d stoically borne of years with only child support checks getting through uncensored, my daughter’s insistence to this day that I’d abandoned her, her refusal to invite me to visit her family, her eldest son’s graduation from high school came crashing down with all the weight of the cruelty manifested in the world by the unshakable belief in ownership — granted humans by the mythical creator of it all. What a crock of pain.
"WHAT GOD WANTS, GOD GETS"