When to Get Hitched

9 Jun

Atefeh looks for some help on the best age for marriage, using a leading question and some remarkably low numbers…

Atefeh –

You’ve asked an important question, one which has stumped experts for years. If the current divorce statistics are any indication, any answer is a wrong answer.

I married my first wife when I was nineteen. We had known each other throughout high school and had worked closely together on everything from the Homecoming gym decoration committee to the “Remembering Our Homecoming King and Queen” tribute dinner the following week, which memorialized Johnny and Sarah’s last moments in life which they spent fighting off circling sharks in San Diego Bay. (The other lesson here, if there is one, is that drinking and Truth or Dare do not mix. On the other hand, drinking and skeet shooting do, which is yet another mystery of life.)

After dropping out of high school to raise our first child, my wife and I began a long and torturous road to happiness, occasionally catching vicarious glimpses of the “best years of our lives.” Just when things seemed like they couldn’t get any worse, we had a breakthrough brought on by my draft number being called.

Soon I was off to Korea to rid the world of Communism and she was home, working just as hard to rid the kitchen of field mice. We both had unanswered questions, such as would this long-distance relationship work? and how the hell did field mice make their way six miles into the city?

As I honed my skills in the Armed Forces and my wife practiced her trap-setting, our marriage went on nearly unattended. I found myself often unable to write due to various illnesses, infections and uncomfortable rashes. My wife apparently was short on time as well, as I received letters sporadically, detailing the escalating “war at home” and various recruits who had stopped by the house to lend a hand with the field mice.

It seemed unlikely that the marriage would hold together. We were too different. Even in high school, we were polar opposites. She was voted Most Likely To Drop Out of School and Combat Field Mice and I had been voted Most Likely To Travel and Get Shot At. We were like Romeo and Juliet, if Romeo was an Army line cook with a bum, but not bum enough knee and Juliet was surrounded by contemptuous mice rather than warring families.

But in the end, it all worked out. I returned from the war somewhat worse for wear and began to start our life over again. There were some bumps in road (and mice in the cupboards) but like any journey, it started with a single step. 31 years later we were still married and bracing ourselves for oncoming grandchildren. The mice had moved on as well, consolidating their forces and heading towards the new housing developments springing up like identical weeds all around us.

So, in the end, I don’t think it matters what age you embark on this lifelong journey. What matters most is that there is a single event inextricably tying you together and field mice to join forces against. There’s no “me” in team and only one “i” in divorce. Do the math.

Clifton L. Tanager

27 Responses to “When to Get Hitched”

  1. davehambo June 9, 2010 at 2:42 am #

    CLT, so you left Korea in 1979?

    • Clifton L. Tanager June 9, 2010 at 7:10 am #

      Dave –

      Possibly. I’m very vague on the year of my actual expulsion. Somewhere between ’54-’82, if I’m not mistaken. (I’m fairly sure I’m mistaken though.) I’ll check with my biographer.

      I know this is off the topic (hopefully distractingly so) but I know how you love acronyms and I just wanted to share one of my favorites:

      One of the many software companies to get folded into Britain’s Rockstar Games was DMA Designs. DMA, of course, stood for “Doesn’t Mean Anything.”

      Thanks for the visit and conundrum, Dave.

      • davehambo June 9, 2010 at 11:57 am #

        Vaginal expulsion?

        I get the DMA, akin to FKW!

  2. elizabeth3hersh June 9, 2010 at 7:18 am #

    As a three time loser, I can advise Atefeh when NOT to get hitched. Never decide to get married while in bed surrounded by pharmaceutical paraphernalia. Never decide to get married while in bed surrounded by beer bottles. Never decide to get married while in bed surrounded by pharmaceutical paraphernalia AND beer bottles. Basically, get your ass out of bed. These kinds of decisions are best made over an organic arugula salad, some Evian and a very clear head.

    • Clifton L. Tanager June 10, 2010 at 5:58 pm #

      Elizabeth –

      That is some very wise advice you’re dispensing, along with pharmaceuticals and self-prescribed alcohol. Presumably being of “sound mind and body” is right out the window at the point of engagement and continues on right through the marriages of varying length.

      There are decisions that can safely be made under the influence:

      – New tattoo(s)
      – Naming first thru third child
      – Applying for a third mortgage
      – Applying for a second degree
      – Applying at Denny’s

      Anything else should be left to the sober.

      Thanks for the comment and advice, Elizabeth. We can only hope that Atefeh is sober enough to read it.

  3. superdupermommy June 9, 2010 at 7:38 am #

    Lol! 🙂

    I met my hubby when I was sweet 16 (okay, not totally sweet LOL!!!) He was an older man (gasp) and still is. He’s a pilot so sometimes he has to travel for work so I can totally relate to the long distance relationship thing.:(

    I think people should just get married when they are head over heals in love. I did and it completely worked for me!!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

    • Clifton L. Tanager June 10, 2010 at 6:01 pm #

      SDMommy –

      Welcome to Unsolicited Advice! Your story sounds like a match made in heaven, except for the statuatory rape part of it (your mileage may vary according to prevailing laws).

      It’s very true that you should be head-over-heels in love when applying for the marriage license, if not at the wedding itself. Be aware that you can be “too much” in love, thus blinding you to potential downfalls, such as your new hubby’s concurrent marriage with a “separated” partner.

      Thanks for the visits and the smiley faces, SDMommy.

      • superdupermommy June 10, 2010 at 8:36 pm #


        (huge blush). When I said “not totally sweet” I meant I had a bit of a temper! (Still do according to Jack. Ha. He’s such a man! Lol!) 🙂 🙂

        You are soooooooo right about people being too much in love. My sister loved her cat way too much and it ended badly. I’m so lucky that I’ve never really been too much of anything!!

        And just so you know, Jack and I really are a match made in heaven. We must be – our children are total ANGELS! (ughhhhh! Sorry LOL!)

        Thanks so much Mr. T (ha! Lol! :):) You are so smart and funny.


  4. Scott Oglesby June 9, 2010 at 8:22 am #

    Your advice was great Clifton, but your metaphorical mice were even better. I am of course just assuming that you used mice as metaphorical references to you and your wife’s demons of adultery, substance abuse (I know what goes on in the Koreas) and possibly dead Korean prostitutes (if your time in Korea was anything like my time in Thailand) but I could very well be way off base.

    I know that if I had it to do all over again I would have done it in a completely different order. First I would have gotten the money. Then I would have gotten the power. Then and only then would I have gotten the woman. Oh well, live and learn I guess.

    • Clifton L. Tanager June 10, 2010 at 6:09 pm #

      Scott –

      Thank you very much for the kind words. You have picked up on a layer of subtlety that I obviously intended but was not aware of until now.

      Of course they (the mice) were metaphorical. And annoying. They would metaphorically run through the crawlspace and leave metaphorical droppings all over the lower cabinets, so much so that we decided to literally move our storage containers to higher ground.

      There were several demons in our relationship, most of which you mentioned and a couple that we didn’t actually have. We also were “possessed” by a lack of communication, condensation rings on the coffee table and a series of overdue bills.

      You are correct in it being all about the Hamiltons, as we said back in the day. Without that, all you have is a rapidly failing relationship haunted by metaphorical and all too physical mice.

  5. jill June 9, 2010 at 12:56 pm #

    Clifton…I’ve seen you around the blogosphere, dropping comments, but had no idea you started your own blog. We apparently hang around with some of the same deadbeats (ooops, I didn’t say that) but now that I know you’re here, I’ll be back since I can always use advice!

    • Clifton L. Tanager June 10, 2010 at 6:11 pm #

      Jill –

      Welcome. Yes, I have made my windy presence known around these parts, spending all too much time with some very familiar deadbeats.

      With all that internet out there, you’d think we would have done more than colonized one tiny corner of it. But I guess that’s just how some things work out. I’d think it to be a joyous coincidence if only it weren’t so oddly suspicious.

      Either way, it’s good to see you and I’m looking forward to your return.

  6. thestuffinbetween June 9, 2010 at 7:59 pm #


    The metaphor of the mice was so beautifully put. What? It wasn’t a metaphor and there were really mice? Ew. Well, I LOVED it and I am still hoping that it was all true only minimized down to just a few mice and maybe bills to pay and mouths to feed (but not mice’ mouths).

    I now know that my first and only marriage lacked mice, because it certainly had enough other trials and tribulations!

    If I ever need another mate, I shall make sure I round up enough mice FIRST. To hell with anything like Match.com or eHarmony. What good are they without the secret ingredients? Love? NO!! Rodents!!!

    Does it matter if the mice come from pet stores or do they have to be feral and full of rabies for this to work?

    Thank you again for another fantastic analysis, Clifton!

    • Clifton L. Tanager June 10, 2010 at 6:16 pm #

      Stuff –

      After Scott’s comment, I am confused myself as to whether we actually had mice or my wayward years of substance abuse and prostitute murdering had messed with my grey matter a little.

      After a few years, we got the number down to just a very tenacious half-dozen or so. As for the mouths to feed, well… we were kind of striking out there as well, what with the mice sapping our energy and the metaphors always barging into the bedroom at inopportune times.

      You are dead on with your future plans: first you get the mice, then you get the money, then you get the power turned back on and then you get the women/men/octegenarian millionaires.

      Our mice came with the house, so I’m unsure as to which would be preferable. I’d go with feral so that you can avoid looking like the kind of person who would purpose infest their own house with mice. (Unless you have a boa constricter.)

  7. thecodger June 10, 2010 at 10:43 am #

    I enjoyed your advice, Mr. Tanager. I would add that these days, divorce doesn’t have the same stigma it once did. In fact, it’s so common that there’s nearly a stigma around not being divorced. As for me, the first Mrs. Codger didn’t work out (she was a bit touched), but eventually I found myself living comfortably with another woman for so long that she simply became the common-law Mrs. Codger. So, Atefeh, that’s what you should do. Let marriage become you, and not the other way around.

    The Codger

    • Clifton L. Tanager June 10, 2010 at 6:22 pm #

      Codger –

      Thanks for stopping by again. You’re absolutely correct. No one cares about divorce anymore. Not you. Not me. Not Liz Taylor’s lengthy list of exes. Not even the Catholic Church can be bothered to excommunicate divorcees anymore.

      Common-law sounds like the way to go. You get to spend some time getting to know this person (and their metaphorical animals) before you can both be held responsible for an unpaid mortgage/auto loan. It just makes things easier to swallow when the repo men take a car away from both of you.

      Great advice, Codger. Good to see you again.

  8. jammer5 June 10, 2010 at 4:22 pm #

    When I went to Nam, I had a wonderful young lady waiting for me. When I got back, I was left to find out what topless joints were. I still ain’t made up my mind which was better.

    • Clifton L. Tanager June 10, 2010 at 6:24 pm #

      Jammer5 –

      Sad to say, there were many relationships that began in high school and ended in the strip club. As for which is better? I guess it all depends on how many dollar bills you’ve got in your hand. All else being equal it’s probably equal. Six on one side, half-dozen on the other, chestwise (depending on staffing).

  9. sandwichmaker June 11, 2010 at 11:31 am #

    I couldn’t agree more, Mr. Tanager.

    I married my first husband at the tender, raw age of seventeen, and my second even earlier than that.

    It’s safe to say that were it not for them, my talent for making sandwiches might never have been discovered.

    You are an extraordinary man, Mr. Tanager. Your wife is a very lucky sandwich maker.

    • Clifton L. Tanager June 12, 2010 at 9:44 pm #

      Sandwich –

      Thanks for the kind words. Kids rush into marriage too quickly these days. Their lack of patience is amazing. If only they knew that life itself would force them into unhappy marriages with alarming frequency, they would probably stand back and let nature take its brutally effective course.

      Still, I’m glad their your two marriages (especially the second one, which is first chronologically) put you on the proper sandwichmaking career path. Although it pays little more than the occasional hindquarters smack and even more infrequently, with an actual “Thank you,” it’s an art that needs to passed from generation to marginalized generation.

      Thanks again for the visit. I’ll pass your compliments on to my wife, most likely with a firm posterior smack.

  10. Overconfident Orientalist June 14, 2010 at 1:29 am #

    Just wanted to drop by and thank you for ridding the world of Communism. Fucking Commies.

    • Clifton L. Tanager June 14, 2010 at 5:22 pm #

      O/O –

      Your thanks may be premature. We didn’t so much rid the world (or Korea proper) of Commies as much as we agreed to “live and let live” rather than just keep on dying as we had been.

      We also made several agreements to other countries as well, including the installation of a Communist despot on an island less than 90 miles away in exchange for several boatloads full of convicts.

      But your thanks is appreciated all the same. I just like hearing it, so much so that I often take credit for actions and ideas I had no part of.

      • Overconfident Orientalist June 15, 2010 at 10:35 am #

        Mr. Tanager,

        Perhaps I was feeling nostalgic for a time I never knew. At least you got to kill good old commies. Now all one can do is find “evil doers” and “bring them to justice.” Hardly the same thing. And that was only up until last January. Now, I’m not sure who exactly we are “bringing to justice” since the term “evil doers” is passé.

        However, credit where credit is due, the big O doesn’t mind launching rockets from unmanned drones at evil doers (or whomever), bringing the justice two them (http://www.longwarjournal.org/pakistan-strikes.php). This is economical since we have an excess of justice and they don’t like to travel.

        Remain Vigilant!


      • Clifton L. Tanager June 16, 2010 at 7:18 am #

        O/O –

        Ah. If only they’d preferred sending stuff via airmail rather than all the travel in my day. Could have saved us from many a case of incurable STDs.

  11. bschooled June 15, 2010 at 11:55 pm #


    I apologize for my tardy comment, truth be told I’ve spent the last couple of days feeling a little under the weather.

    I thought it was the flu, but turns out it had to do with this sandwich diet I’ve been on. Apparently too much gluten makes me feel nauseous. And burnt out. And a bit like the creepy hermit lady, who spends all of her time on the computer while her loved ones wonder if they should contact A&E and stage a televised intervention.

    So yeah, if you have any sensitivities to gluten, I wouldn’t recommend it.

    Anyway, now that I’m back on quinoa and white rice, I feel lucid enough to comment on your fine post. The advice you gave to Atefeh was brilliant, and I hope she takes it to heart.

    I always told myself that if I ever got married, it would be for love. or, more specifically, long distance love. Call me crazy, but I’m a firm believer that nothing brings a couple closer together than being as physically far apart as possible. And unanswered phone calls/uncomfortable rashes only make that feeling of closeness even more palpable.

    It’s like my favorite Singer-turned-influtential Twitterer Solange Knowles sings in her sure to be a hit (because it’s Solange!) song, “Thinkin’ About You”:

    Thinkin’ About You
    Where are you?
    Cause I need to hear from you now
    It’s a mystery
    Help with me
    What is happening to you now?
    Thinkin’ about you
    Where are you?
    Cause I need to hear from you now
    Cause it’s a mystery constantly
    Thinkin’ if you love me
    Scooby Dooby Dooby Doo

    …Scooby Dooby Doo indeed.

    *moment of silence to grasp the enormity of it all*

    Thank-you for sharing a little more of your personal history with us, Clifton. Your matter-of-fact stories about love in the time before Cholera, never fail to make me feel as though I’ve somehow been cheated.

    • Clifton L. Tanager June 16, 2010 at 7:24 am #

      Bschooled –

      I’m glad to see you are back on your feet and expanding the number of grains you’re consuming. Too many people ignore this important part of the food pyramid or octagon or Moebius Strip or whatever they’re using to tell us all that we’re eating too much of whatever these days.

      I think you make some very good points about long-distance relationships. They tend to be healthier because each member is allowed to “fill in the blanks” during any uncomfortable silences on the phone or mysteriously long gaps between letters/emails/tweets. It’s this sort of vicarious “roleplaying” that allows the parties involved to imagine that the field mice are deeply metaphorical.

      Thank you also for the Solange Knowles quote. I’ll have to do some more research on this fascinating individual whose songwriting is so strong that she has no fear of the Hanna-Barbera lawsuit machine.

      They’ve got some seriously fiesty lawyers as I discovered when I left the house in a homemade Captain Caveman outfit. I had only yelled at and clubbed a handful of people before I was taken down by a pack of police officers and cease-and-desist letters.

      Thank you for the visit and splendid comment, bschooled. Stay healthy.


  1. Word Around the Campfire – the Water Nymphs edition « Hidden Leaves - June 13, 2010

    […] Clifton L Tanager: When to Get Hitched […]

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