I Do


Don’t head to the altar unless you mean it, and then, hang on like a marsupial. If you’re lucky, you won’t lose your grip.

by Cherri Ellis

It is wedding season, and we take that seriously here in the Deep South. You can’t open your car door at Botanical Gardens without smacking into a bride, and that means it’s June. It’s time for countless fresh–faced pairs of people to turn to each other and earnestly repeat vows that 50 percent of them are going to call mulligan on.

That is a staggering statistic. Half of the time any given marriage crashes and burns? You wouldn’t take those odds shooting the gap at an intersection. Why do it? Haven’t you heard the jokes?

“Why do men die before their wives?” Because they want to. “Why is divorce so expensive?” Because it’s worth it. “Hey, guys, don’t get married. Just pick out a woman you hate and buy her a house.” Everyone knows  that man cannot know true love until he marries, but by then it’s too late.  I could go on but you get the point.

The truth is, people wouldn’t get divorced so frequently if they’d quit getting married so much. Allow me, as a public service, to tell you some bad reasons to marry.

Don’t marry because you like her family. You most likely don’t know them yet. Don’t marry to get away from your own family. Get away if you need to, but don’t trade one set of problems for another.

Do not marry your best friend. When people say they’re marrying their best friend, you can just about always put them on the future divorcee list. Best friends are FABULOUS. I have several. Friendship is love without the sexual spark, so marry your best friend and life will rock along companionably until one or both of you is dying inside for the kind of romantic love you don’t have. Hot sweaty crack monkey sex doesn’t last forever, but if it wasn’t there in the first place, it for damn sure won’t be making any guest appearances over the years.

Don’t marry because you want to be part of a family. The role of stepparent is the most challenging of all. Worse than that, your place in the kids’ lives is contingent on you remaining hooked to their biological parent. You split up, and faster than Donald Trump can show you out of the Board Room, You. Are. Fired. It’s sort of like in a downsizing when you’re told you actually did a great job but your position has been eliminated. Everyone hopes you’ll stay in touch, but you no longer have keys to the office.

Don’t get married because you want to star in a wedding. Have you ever seen Say Yes to the Dress? It’s fascinating. Watching a firefighter approve the purchase of a $30,000 gown for his daughter to wear for six hours is not ludicrous at all. One bridezilla insisted her 13 attendants wear the same lipstick, even though they were different races.

So why do it? Why should anyone jump in and try to be one of the 50 percent who make it? Because… the concept of family is so beautiful that it is its own Holy Grail. The possibility that two people can grow as individuals and grow as a couple and have children and help them grow to conceivably do the same is miraculous.

Life is dynamic. Marry at 25 and you won’t believe who you wake up to at 40, both next to you in bed and looking back at you in the mirror. People change. People embrace and abandon lifestyle choices, careers, spirituality and other people.  Humans lose themselves and find themselves over and over in life, and they will lose and find each other, too. If there was real passionate love there to begin with, then hang on. One of the prime benefits of marriage is that when you fall out of love it keeps you connected to each other until you fall back in again.

And forget examples. There are none. If every human is unique in its DNA then the combination of any two of them is just as individual. What is a deal breaker to one person is not to another, so save your opinion about another couple’s marriage. Look unbearable? Trust me—they don’t want to be in yours either.

The magic of family lies not in the milestones, but in the little corners of our days, tiny and funny and true. One night I had a complete and total breakdown on my deck. I had just had a long conversation with a friend who was a hospice nurse, and it had finally sunk in that my father, who was in the later stages of cancer, did not have a lot of time left. I became increasingly upset and finally walked out to the deck to surrender myself to the full–on activity of crying. I leaned against the rail, and in between racking sobs, I heard my then 14-year-old say to her dad “What do we do?” Then I heard bath water running. When my world falls apart at home, the only thing they know to do is get me a baked potato or put me in a bath. Any physical or mental torment can be helped by one or the other. I watched my daughter illuminated in the interior light as she laid out a towel and a robe and some ice water for me, and I cried even harder. As I lowered myself into the water she sat by the tub, staring into my eyes as my breathing returned to normal. I will never forget what an angel she looked like as she said, “Feel better, Mommy?” I smiled. “Good!” she responded brightly. “Then can Courtney spend the night?” I laughed longer than I had cried.

So, My Cherubs, don’t head to the altar unless you mean it, and then, hang on like a marsupial. If you’re lucky, you won’t lose your grip as you’re buffeted through life. You will have someone to witness all your stages of being, and your shared history will only increase in value as your love endures what life throws at you. If there are times you want to stab them between the eyes with a pair of scissors, don’t.  Chances are good that if the fight is that bad you will be able to laugh about it over dinner five years from now.  Say I do, and then—if you possibly can—do

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