Without a Hitch

I’ve been thinking a lot about marriage lately. Not because I’m any closer to getting married now than I was when I was, say, 7, but because I live near BYU, which emits high-frequency marriage waves. It’s impossible not to think about marriage under these conditions. Even people who never think about marriage, like hermits and Elton John, think about it when they’re in Provo. If the pope were to drive past BYU, he would say, “You know, it’s about time I settled down….”

I have nothing against marriage. My parents have been happily married for 11 months longer than I am old — they were not procrastinators, those two — and they’ve been a perfect example of how a marriage should work. This is because they adhere to one simple principle: no fighting or tongue-kissing in front of the kids. That’s really all there is to it. You don’t need seminars or wish-granting magic toads to learn how to maintain a happy household. My parents could write a book on marriage and parenting, and it would be called: “No Fighting or Tongue-Kissing in Front of the Kids.” And it would sell at least as many copies as the crap Richard Paul Evans turns out.

My parents’ marriage actually is pretty close to perfect. They not only don’t fight in front of the kids; they don’t fight at all. Sure, they disagree — like when Dad wanted to sell me to the gypsies while Mom thought a sack in the river was a better idea — but they don’t let it become heated. They discuss things rationally, often relying on flow charts and schematics to present their differing points of view. Then, being senile, one or both of them forgets what the disagreement was, Mom goes back to addressing her pet chihuahua like it’s another one of her children, and Dad goes back to videotaping my 1-year-old niece (which he has not stopped doing since the moment she was born. Seriously, if my niece is ever accused of a crime, she’ll have an airtight alibi, as my dad will have thoroughly documented her whereabouts with the camcorder. She’s living her own personal “Truman Show”).

But I have divagated from my point, to the extent that I got bored and looked up synonyms for “digress” and learned a new word: divagate. My point is that I have no problem with marriage. I rather like the idea, in fact. I like the idea of Pop-Tarts, too, but I wouldn’t want to hear about them 24 hours a day.

When I was in a BYU ward of the LDS Mormon Church, every single church lesson we had was about marriage, regardless of what it was actually about. We could start out discussing the priesthood or jumper cables or kangaroos, and somehow it would come around to marriage. If there had been some crazy lesson telling us why marriage is evil and we should never get married, the teacher would have presented it as a lesson on why marriage is great and we should get married ASAP, possibly even while quoting the same scriptures.

All the ward activities were centered around getting people together, too. We had a program set up wherein guys would go to the library every night at midnight to escort young ladies back to their apartment complexes. Ostensibly, this was to stem the tide of young-lady murders that apparently had been occurring without my hearing of them; really, it was so guys and girls could walk together in the dark. Family Home Evenings groups are established for the same reason, with the added creepiness of allowing “moms” and “children” to date each other, a practice not normally condoned this far north.

I think we’re not far from arranged marriages. Tevye and Golde had one in “Fiddler on the Roof,” and they turned out to be a very happy, fat couple. I know my parents would have hitched me up a long time ago if they’d found a taker. (I come with an impressive dowry, I’m told.) Some of the polygamists are already pre-arranging their unholy, God-mocking marriages; why not arrange the normal ones, too? Anything to make me immune from the high-frequency marriage waves, which sound a lot like Afterglow songs.

This column has a lot of conditional phrases: If the pope drove past BYU; my parents could write a book; if my niece were ever accused of a crime; if there were some crazy anti-marriage lesson; etc., etc. Just an observation.

Richard Paul Evans is the Utah-bred author of "The Christmas Box" and other second-rate, syrupy books. Afterglow is a Mormon pop/inspirational singing group. I am aware of the sexual connotations of their name, but I don't believe they are.

Family Home Evening is a program in the LDS Mormon Church wherein each Monday night, the family leaves aside all other pursuits and spends time together as a family. (It is so important in the church, in fact, that no church meetings or activities are scheduled for Mondays.) In student wards, they break the students into Family Home Evening groups, complete with a "mom" and "dad," I guess to practice for when everyone has families of their own. I have no further comment on the FHE groups in student wards.

I really did learn the word "divagate" in precisely the manner described in the column, by the way.

This column elicited an unusually high number of angry comments on the Daily Herald Web site (which comments, sadly, did not survive when the Herald changed servers a few years later). I also got this e-mail at work:

I haven't noticed any of your writings made into movies or books [as a side note, don't forget to buy the Snide Remarks books] so all of that "crap" from Evans must be liked by quite a few people including my extended family. [Oh, I didn't say it wasn't popular; just that it wasn't good.] Personally that kind of language offends me and I really didn't see the necessity of using it. Ideas can be put across using a better selection of words. Try it.

J. Weber

That last part -- "ideas can be put across using a better selection of words" -- would be a good suggestion for Richard Paul Evans, too.

One final note on this column: I wrote "when I was in a BYU ward." Yet at the time this column was published, I was STILL in a BYU ward. Why write in the past tense? Because readers were perhaps aware that I had graduated from BYU some two years earlier, and I didn't want to give the impression that I was still living in my college apartment, even though that's exactly what I was doing.