Denver Bar Association
February 2000
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Please - No More "Mr. Sappy"

by Doug McQuiston

My editors tell me it’s time again for another syrupy send-up of love and marriage for the annual Docket Valentine’s Day edition. Oh, God, no! Don’t take this the wrong way— I got a lot of mileage from last year’s article ("It’s Valentine’s Day Every Day," Docket, Feb. 1999). My wife (to my bewildered delight) enjoyed it, even framed it. Some readers, too, enjoyed it. Others, however, showed me that the law of unintended consequences applies even to this little throw-away rag.
'This is why some guys have problems - they can't apply football or work metaphors to the romantics arts. There is no "game day," no big "presentation," no trial, and no appeal.'

One guy complained his wife read the article and fumed at him that night, "Why don’t you ever say anything like this, you miserable S.O.B.," or something along those lines. Oops. Another told me he wouldn’t even show the article to his wife, probably fearing the same reaction. I hadn’t planned on that. Had I inadvertently set the "guy community" (Ed. Note—this is not a typo—please use the word "guy") up for a fall?

This year, when the Docket editors asked me to come up with "another sappy Valentine’s Day article," I first recoiled in terror. My wife and I are still getting along great, thanks for asking, but that story has been done, hasn’t it? What if this year’s piece sent even more of us deeper into the doghouse? Was this some type of anti-guy plot, and was I playing right into their hands? Worse yet, am I being type-cast as "the Sappy Guy?"

One thing I am not is a "marriage expert." The worst writing I see out there is the sticky goo the "marriage experts" spoon onto the local papers’ feature sections on how to "work on the marriage." Spare me, pal. I’m not from Mars, my wife is sure as Hell not from Venus, and if I ever said or did any of the things you recommend, she’d probably throw up from all the spastic laughter.

That said, I have learned one thing the hard way. Love and marriage just aren’t like other things guys do. Take football—there we can work hard, concentrate on the fundamentals, practice, and get ready for game day, then apply everything we worked on in one high-intensity power rush. How about work, (which, come to think of it, is a lot like football)? This is why some guys have problems— they can’t apply football or work metaphors to the romantic arts. There is no "game day," no big "presentation," no trial, and no appeal.

Forget what you see and hear from all the jewelers and florists in town, too. Success in marriage isn’t something you can buy, put into a little red velvet box, and open with a flourish over dinner on February 14. Oh, sure, they’ll take the diamond tennis bracelet, thank you, and they’ll even wear it proudly. They may gush over the roses, too. They might even be upset if you didn’t bring them the occasional bouquet or bejeweled tchochke. But this ain’t the big game, stud. There’s no such thing as "leaving it all on the playing field." Diamonds and roses once a year won’t guarantee "victory."

I have never gotten much return on my spousal karma account by giving flowers or jewelry. My wife tells me, (and almost always means it, too) that she doesn’t want to see me spend the money on such trifles. She would much rather spend the dough on the kids, or at least new kitchen counters. "I already have jewelry, and flowers die in a week," she’ll say.

Flowers and gifts are nice, but if you’re a schmuck all year, don’t expect to bring your account current with a diamond necklace on Valentine’s Day. Even if it’s a very nice one. You can’t make the big play, then live on your laurels. It really is Valentine’s Day every day, because it’s what you do the other 364 days a year that counts. Even back when I was young and stupid, I had this one thing figured out: The only reason to get married was to tie myself to someone who made me a better person, and who made life more fun than it could be alone. Otherwise, why bother? Luckily, I found someone who felt the same way. That has made all the difference.

Think about it, guys— what is it about your spouse that would make you want to give up a golf game or a day on the river for her? It is the image of your wife you carry in your head, how she looked on your wedding day, the look in her eyes when you asked her to marry a miserable slob like you and she said "yes," that is the "secret." Odds are if you still have more fun with your wife than your golfing or fishing buddies, you will have a long and happy marriage.

That doesn’t mean you don’t get to have golfing or fishing buddies, at least I hope not. It also isn’t a one-way view. To make it all work, our woman readers, too, need to still see that hunk you said "yes" to all those years ago when you look at him now. He’s there, if you open your eyes to him. That’s what love does—it folds time in on itself, and hides all the wrinkles. Being married, and staying married, is easy if you still see in your spouse the person you couldn’t imagine life without. Look across the table tonight after you read this, and you’ll see what I mean.

At the risk of causing more trouble, (particularly to those with jewelry-loving spouses), I’ll leave my fellow husbands out there with a suggestion: this year, forget the diamonds and the reservations at Morton’s. Bring home a card, then go take a walk after dinner, and maybe neck awhile under a tree in that park by your house.

Happy Valentine’s Day, guys.

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