Marriage as an insititution

TV Hagenah

When I was growing up, there used to be a riddle that went, “What is it that everybody wants to give away, but nobody wants to take.”

And before too many of my readers jump in, no it isn’t my mother’s meatloaf. Actually, I kind of like her meatloaf. I enjoy eating it as a matter of fact, not just using it as a door stop as some friends suggest.. I will admit it is chewy, but it is edible, despite what my wife says. Anyway, the answer to the riddle is, “advice.”

I have always felt that this riddle does not apply to the advice I give, of course, because I am sure that everyone I speak to, hangs on every word of advice I put out. For example just the other day, I gave advice to a fellow who is thinking about getting married, and I am sure it changed his life.

Like many people who have been dating for some time, he wanted to know if actually taking that “final step” was the thing to do. I did not bring up Socrates’ comment that every man should marry, if he chooses a good wife he will be happy, and if he chooses a bad wife, he will become a philosopher. I have a hunch that Socrates slept outside on the back porch for a while after that particular pronouncement (for historical clarification it was not Socrates’ wife who gave him poison to drink thus causing his death).

Speaking as a man who has slept on the back porch on occasion myself, I can only say, I too feel that marriage is a wonderful institution. And I do not want any of my readers to confuse how I use the word “institution” with how people who describe prisons and mental asylums use the word “institutions”. They are completely different usages. My wife explained the differences to me just the other day while helping me choose which clothes to wear .

“You do realize that in prison, inmates don’t have a choice of what clothes to wear, don’t you?” she asked.

“Yes dear…”

“You’re not going to wear that shirt today are you? And those socks…I thought I threw them away. Did you take them out of the trash again?


“Another thing I’ve heard,” she continued, “in prisons inmates have no choice of what they eat. They have to eat whatever is put before them. Don’t you think that is horrible?


“Which reminds me, we are having liver and onions this evening for dinner. You know how you love liver and onions.”

“Really, I don’t know, I…”

“And I want you to come right home after work today,” she said. I don’t want you taking any of your detours. You know how you can be. Another thing about prison. Did you know that even inmates on ‘work release’ have very strict schedules.”

I firmly agree that marriage is wonderful. Let us look at some statistics about marriage. Did you know that only 34 percent of convicted murderers are married men? Of course, 88 percent of their victims were their wives, but you have to admit that initial number is impressive. It should also be noted that marriage can help men become successful. Only one U.S. President was a bachelor and he got married while in office. Also 98 percent of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies that are headed by men are headed by married men. You’ve got to respect these men. I am sure that pushing a company so hard that it becomes one of the most successful businesses in the world is a time consuming business and I feel sorry for them because it must take them away from wife and home a great deal; not seeing their…

Humm. I wonder….Nah, that can’t be.

Well, I’ll just have to ask my wife about it.