In two days, my wife and I will officially celebrate thirty-six years of wedded bliss. I say bliss because that’s what you’re supposed to say. I’m sure it’s been more bliss for me than it has for her. In addition to the married years, we had another four years of dating, so our total time as a couple has been forty years. Forty years. It doesn’t seem possible and in some ways it seems like yesterday when we met. I do recall that in order to marry my then girlfriend, I had to jump through a few hoops; none of which at the time seemed easy. The first thing I had to do was ask her dad for her hand in marriage. Whoever came up with that prerequisite, may have been a sadist.
I remember the night of the inquisition, when her dad led me into the television room, just inside and to the right of the entry to their house. I was invited to sit down on the couch and noticed that her father then proceeded to shut the door of the room. Just him and me, in a small room with the door closed. Being a businessman, her dad had a few questions for me,written down on a piece of paper, and even though I had no intention of letting myself be turned away, I had a feeling that there would be a pass/fail with this quiz. Most of the questions centered on me treating his daughter the way she deserved. I answered all those questions in the affirmative and seemed to be doing well. Then he threw a question at me that I thought was way out-of-bounds. “How do you plan on earning a living and taking care of my daughter?” Can you believe it? He wanted to make sure that his daughter wasn’t going to marry a bum. The nerve? Even though I thought, How do I know what I’m going to do? That’s why I’m going to college, that’s not what I said. I explained that while I was going to school and earning a degree, I was making a living at one of the local factories, and when I finished my degree, I would go into something in the business field. He bought it. I made it through that gauntlet, but unfortunately, I wasn’t finished jumping through hoops. There was still one more.
Since my girlfriend was raised Catholic, in order for me to marry her I would have to attend classes. Marriage classes. They weren’t like the business classes I was taking at school, but were more designed around the spiritual world; a world that at the time was foreign to me. I was nervous. The class was held in another town and was led by an official from the Catholic Church. We weren’t the only couple attending the class, as a number of couples from neighboring towns were invited along with us. The format of the class was mainly question and answer, with all of us sitting in a circle on folding chairs. The facilitator would offer up topics designed to stimulate discussion in the group. Some of the topics were practical, but one of the questions posed to the group still stands out to me, and my response remains fixed in my memory to this day.
When the question in reference was posed to the group, I could hardly believe my ears and barely contain myself from an immediate response. Here is the question and I’m not sure why it was asked. “What percent of a marriage do you think sex occupies?” At first the entire group was silent, and there were nervous glances around the room. Finally one of the couples, after much whispering between them said, “Twenty percent.” Everyone looked at the facilitator to gauge his reaction, but his face gave away nothing. Moving around the room, the other couple’s answers, maybe in an effort to give the instructor what he wanted to hear, stayed in the same vicinity as the first. As if there really was a correct answer.
When it came our turn to answer, I spoke for us both. “Sixty percent” I blurted out; a huge smile appearing on my face. I’m sure I came up with that percent for a number of reasons, one of which was shock value. I had a habit of sharing out loud the first thing that entered my mind, and loved to stun the teachers in school with my answers. Another reason I came up with that answer is that I hoped it would turn out to be true. Some of the group tried hard to stifle their giggles and the facilitator himself couldn’t keep the smile off his face. I wasn’t to be deterred and said, “Well it is, isn’t it?” Although he admitted that sex in marriage plays an important role, the instructor also made sure that everyone understood that my expectations were a little on the high side. Being a fine Christian man, I don’t think he wanted to hurt my feelings; or dampen my enthusiasm. I was all of nineteen years old at the time, and my answer gives an insight as to what subject frequently occupied my thoughts. Most of life’s learning’s were still ahead of me. Even with my overzealous answers, we somehow passed and were allowed to marry. I sometimes wonder, How many of the couples that attended those classes are still married?
You may be curious to know, now that I’ve been married thirty-six years, what the actual percentage turned out to be. Well, I’ve never kept track, but I do know that the sixty percent I shouted out those many years ago, was incorrect. Which side of my original guess turned out to be true, more or less, shall remain a mystery. I have learned a few things over the years, and one of them is that some secrets never need see the light of day. I will say that the thirty-six years I’ve been married, to the girl of my dreams, have been a pleasure beyond my expectations.