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A Story Book Story That Really Happened

The couple on the left is John Betar and Ann Shawah on their wedding day in 1932. The couple on the right is John Betar and Ann Shawah Betar eighty years later. On sunday, November 25, 2012, they will celebrate their eightieth anniversary. In fact, it’s such an unusual milestone that the baker called to double check that it was an anniversary cake and not, say, a birthday cake.

John immigrated to America from Syria with his family in 1921. Ann was the daughter of Syrian immigrants. They grew up together in a Syrian community in Bridgeport, Conn. Ann’s parents had arranged for her to marry a much older man who they felt could support her well when, at the age of seventeen, she eloped with twenty-one year old John.

Of course she was nervous. Getting married is not a light step at any age. Eloping at seventeen with a neighborhood boy rather than the man she was technically engaged to… well, that’s got to be pretty momentous.

Still, it’s worked out pretty well, I’d say. John worked himself up from peddling fruit in the streets to owning his own grocery store. They had five children, who gave them fourteen grandchildren, who have given them sixteen great-grandchildren.

Now that John is one hundred and one years old and Ann is ninety-seven, they still live independently. John still goes to the store to buy fresh produce for the soups they make from scratch. He still advises other customers on their fruit and vegetable choices. Ann has taken up painting. They are interested in current events.

Most of all, they are still delighted with one another.

So what advice do they have for us about marriage, as opposed to fruit?

Well, John advises to get along, compromise, live within your means, and ‘let your wife be the boss.’

Ann dismisses the idea of having a boss at all. Her advice is not to hold grudges.

Their granddaughter Heather Mitchell has yet another take on their success:

“I’m always blown away by their incredible optimism, deep sense of compassion and modesty. They are true beacons — inspirational people who emit such joy without even knowing it.”

Optimism, compassion, and modesty strike me as a very good recipe for married happiness.

Then again, so do compromise and lack of grudge holding.

Happy anniversary, Mr. and Mrs. Betar! Even though it seems a bit superfluous, I wish you every joy.

After all, this is true love. The best thing about it is that it actually does happen every day.

In Arlo’s Darkest Hour

I’m not in the obituary business here at Manolo for the Brides. Death rarely gets a mention around here, and rightly so. We’re here to talk about weddings, and all the hopeful stuff around that grand institution of marriage.

But sometimes death brings perspective. Yesterday, I was saddened to read of the death of Jackie Guthrie, wife of folksinger and all around fabulous entertainer Arlo Guthrie. This is what they looked like at their 1969 wedding:

… held on their front lawn with Judy Collins serenading them.

Forty-three years later, she’s gone from liver cancer, but the love remains.

Here’s what Arlo had to say about their marriage:

“We didn’t always like each other. From time to time there were moments when we’d have our bags packed by the door. But, there was this great love that we shared from the moment we met – a recognition – It’s YOU! And we would always return to it year after year, decade after decade and I believe life after lifetime.”

I can tell you from experience that you won’t always like your spouse. If one of you is a performer, spending weeks, even months at a time on the road, the hardships are even harder. There are moments when I look at Mr. Twistie and wonder what the hell I was thinking all those years ago.

But when it’s right, when there’s true love, you get past those moments. You find ways to appreciate one another and you reconnect.

For Arlo and Jackie, it worked for forty-three years and four children (as well as her child from a previous liason with David Crosby) and ten grandchildren. That’s not a bad legacy to leave behind.

So the next time you don’t like one another very much, take a moment and see if you still love one another. Sometimes that’s all it takes to get past the moment.

On the International Day of the Girl

I know that most of you are here for the pretty pictures, etiquette advice, and ideas for saving money or making your longed-for wedding more unique. That’s what I’m usually here for, too. But today is the International Day of the Girl and it’s time to talk about something very serious:

We think of child marriages happening mostly in India and Africa, and these are two of the places where it’s most prevalent, certainly. The image above is of a married couple from Afghanistan. Turkey has one of the highest rates of child marriage. Still, it happens right here in the US, too.
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Do All the Housework, Stay Married, Die Young


Two studies were recently published concerning housework. One focused on how division of responsibility affects – or is related to – divorce. The other focused on how the division of responsibility affects – or is related to – overall health of both men and women.

The Norwegian study ironically entitled Equality in the Home, suggests that households in which women come home from full-time jobs and then do all the housework while hubby sits back and chills are less likely to wind up in divorce court than couples who share the work more equitably. Apparently Norwegian couples who share the housework 50/50 have a 50% higher likelihood of divorcing.

Co-author Thomas Hansen is, however, quick to point out that there is little indication of causality in the matter. He stated that the real answer is that couples who share the work are more likely to have a ‘modern’ attitude toward marriage in general as a ‘less sacred’ institution.

He does also note that women who have jobs of their own enjoy more economic autonomy and thus are more likely to be able to leave marriages that aren’t working for them.

But in a truly baffling – to me – moment, he also claims that there may be causality in the idea of blurred gender roles:

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A Scientific Approach to Marriage


Charles Darwin is remembered today mostly for the Theory of Evolution. Yeah, I can’t argue with that one. It kind of changed the world.

What is less commonly known about him is that he was married for forty four years to Emma Wedgewood, with whom he had ten children. He was, as he might describe himself, evolutionarily successful.

By all accounts the Darwins had a happy marriage, too. There was none of the emotional abuse, scandal and divorce that, say, Charles Dickens created in his marriage. But Dickens and his marriage are a subject for another day. This is Darwin Day.

As with other matters in his life and work, Darwin seems to have taken something of a clinical approach to the question of marriage. And since it wasn’t something he could run an experiment on before taking the leap, he did the next best thing: he wrote out a list of pros and cons about marriage in his diary in April and July of 1838.

On the upside he listed things like ‘female chit-chat’ and ‘constant companion (& friend in old age) who will feel interested in one.’ Oh, and my personal favorite: ‘Better than a dog, anyhow.’

On the downside he listed the misery of living in London all the time, a duty to work for money, and no collecting books. I have to say, my heart went out to him on the no books thing. After all, I’m a lifelong biblioholic. We feel kinship.

In the end, it appears the the comforts of family and chit-chat won out over books and travel. Of course, Darwin did buy more books, travel, and write. See, in a really good marriage, spouses recognize the needs of their life companions, both personally and professionally and do their best to find ways to support one another through the decisions that need to be made. Emma Wedgewood Darwin knew her husband needed books, just like I know Mr. Twistie needs music… and Mr. Twistie knows I need books.

It can be tempting to make the decision to marry all about big, sweeping emotion. And I’m certainly not saying it can’t work out. It can. I’ve witnessed it in my own family.

But there’s still something to be said for taking a breath, taking a moment, and considering what it all means when the constant passion begins to mellow into something else. It never hurts to consider what will change about your life after you make the leap, and determining whether it’s truly what you want.

So a list may not sound terribly romantic, but I can certainly think of worse ways to decide whether marriage – in general, or in particular – is for you.

Oh, and for the record? My list when it came to Mr. Twistie pretty much read ‘duh! Perfect for me! Set date, create wedding!’

On This Auspicious Day….

… also known as the one hundredth birthday of the spectacular Julia Child, it bears repeating that a little sauce is as good for marriage as it is for food.

This card? Was Julia and Paul Child’s Valentine’s card in 1956.

Yet Another Court Rules Against DOMA


This time it’s in Connecticut.

US District Judge Vanessa Bryant, an appointee of George W. Bush, ruled yesterday in a 104 page decision that the Defense of Marriage Act violates the fifth amendment of the US Constitution because it denies federal marriage benefits to legally married same-sex couples.

Joining the other seven courts that have found the precise same thing (five district courts, one appeals court, and one bankruptcy court), Bryant’s decision found there was ‘no rational basis’ for the denial of benefits to same sex married couples.

You know what? That’s what I’ve been saying all along. About time a court put it that plainly.

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