“Sadie, Sadie, Married Lady! Meet a mortgagee. The owner of an icebox with a ten year guarantee. I’ll do my nails, read up on sales, all day the records play. When he comes home I tell him, ‘Oy! What a day I had today!” “Funny Girl”.
I have been flattered with all the attention I have gotten this week upon the announcement of my marriage with Ron Davis. I have had so many messages from dear friends, congratulatory greetings in the Ingles parking lot, and even gifts. Tuesday night at the women’s dinner at the Friends Meeting House, an announcement was made that, “The bride will not be allowed to wash dishes.” I feel like a celebrity.
I am interested in how attitudes towards marriage have changed since Fanny Brice’s day. Back in my mother’s era, women vowed to obey their husbands, and husbands were appointed bread-winners. My mother wouldn’t consider getting a job because it would undermine my father’s position as head of the household. My mother was charged with running the household, cooking, and cleaning, but my dad was the boss.
I graduated from college in 1968 and was in a sorority. That too was another, long-ago era. At graduation, Mother Bickford, the house mother, presented each of the engaged girls with a doll dressed in a wedding dress she had sewn to look just like their own. Most of the girls in my class were engaged. The weddings were all scheduled later that month. Those few of us losers who were not engaged were presented with silver-plated candy dishes. Yipee. I lost it years ago. It didn’t help that my grandmother had told me that I was a spinster and that I was, at twenty-two, too old to get married. I did feel like a dried up prune. The engaged girls were golden, and the rest of us were like leftover chopped liver.
In spite of my grandmother’s curse, I was married just one year later, and really didn’t know what to expect out of marriage. It wouldn’t be like my parents’s marriage. But it was the sixties and I wasn’t sure what our marriage would look like. The first two years we spent as he served as a second lieutenant in the Army and I went along with him as Mrs. Lieutenant. I was forced to join the Officer’s Wives Club and to wear a hat and gloves to any of the club functions. We left calling cards on silver trays at the upper echelon wives’ houses when we went for tea. The Army was a hierarchy and as Mrs. Lieutenant, I was slave to Mrs. Major and Mrs. Colonel. I was chastened for doing a poor job in ironing my husband’s fatigues and for declining an invitation to a tea at the home of the General’s wife. My punishment for that crime was to be forced to clean up at the tea, which I had been forced to attend.
I believed we had a modern marriage when we returned to New York after those military years. I worked full time and expected Alec to do certain chores such as taking out the garbage and trapping and disposing of mice in one apartment we lived in. But I harbored expectations that were based on my mother’s view of marriage. I earned an income, albeit small, but expected my husband to be the bread-winner. Other than that, we might as well have been in the forties.
So times have changed, and it’s 2019. Ron and I have been together for thirteen years. We have a committed relationship and aren’t planning to have babies! The idea of actually getting married seemed unnecessary. We share our lives, good and bad, with each other and live in a state of mutual support and admiration. We talked about marriage from time to time, but never made any steps towards getting a license until recently. It just seemed like a practice left over from the past. How would it change anything?
Of course, there was always the question of how we referred to each other. I felt silly calling Ron my boyfriend. Significant other was too much of a mouthful. And while I called him my partner for years, many people at Juvie believed that Ron was a woman because of that title. (No. They had NOT met him.) I sensed a certain awkwardness too, on the part of Ron’s children and mine. How should they introduce us to their friends? We called each other “husband” and “wife” just to ease the situation, but we really thought of each other as in a permanent relationship.
Recently, though, we have thought about wills and health issues. What would happen if one of us became hospitalized? Would the other be kept away because of the lack of a license? All those senior citizen problems loomed large in front of us. Why NOT get married? What was stopping us? My daughter Abby was tired of hearing us talk about marriage (and about finishing the apartment in our barn so guests could stay there. And about finishing the pergola. ) So she gave us a little shove and we made it happen. The pergola is completed and the apartment is just about done.
People all over town have been asking me if I feel different now that we are legal. The simple answer is no. In my heart I was committed to Ron “til death do us part” before we got the notarized piece of paper. Now, though, if questioned by someone official, we can look that person in the eye and say, “Yes, we are married.”