Wednesday, December 5, 2012

I Think I'm Going to Marry Someone Your Age

...I told Malissa, my 17-year-old sister, back when I was a minute or two younger than I have grown now, which is 28 + half a year of minutes.  I figure I’ve got some good reasons for this.  (A) It seems like everyone I see on campus is 17, so it just can’t be helped; (B) I’ve got a huge green light from 19th century Britain, my favorite era (I can’t remember if they specify the age discrepancy between Elizabeth and Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice, but [SPOILER ALERT: Jane Eyre] I’m pretty sure that Jane Eyre is about 20 when she winds up with Mr Rochester); and (C) I think it would be wicked hilarious.

I mean, we should’ve seen your face just now when I told you, right?  At least I hope you were appalled—you were, if you had a drop of moral sense!  So lets assume you were appalled, and that you showed it.  I love that!  Maybe I should go off on how one of life’s great pleasures is appalling people (it’s one of my love languages, I guess, but I’m not sure for what).  Few things are more rewarding than an involuntary painful raising of the eyebrows in some fair maiden’s face.  Indulge me just one story (“Forgive me a cruel chuckle”—Prince John, Robin Hood).  My man John Carr and I were running through die Schwarzwald (the Black Forest) in southern Germany, at midnight, with longswords bought from a shop beneath Heidelberg Castle.  For lack of better things to vanquish, we were slashing tree branches of just the right thickness so as to snap cleanly through.  We were feeling pretty medieval.  We liked the Dark Ages, we decided.  That’s when I noticed the sparks of green fire hovering around us, and remembered something my old friend Sheri had once told me: back when she lived in Missouri, the neighborhood kids would play with the fireflies at night—except the terrible ones next door, who would smush them on their shirts to make their shirts glow.

I knelt by a green glowing bush: “Hand me your sword.”  John did, and then I turned it into a light saber.  Of course his blade soon flickered out, and we killed some more fireflies for him and then a bunch for me.  I actually regret that.  It’s not that killing bugs goes against my conscience, but killing beauty does—and that is what I did.  A few seconds of novelty on a sword wasn’t worth lessening the number of beautiful things.  I want to make that clear.  You won’t be happier if you do that—so don’t.  I guess I have two other regrets about die Schwarzwald too.  We didn’t hunt Dave down (where was he?) to make sure he came too, and we didn’t follow through on a glorious vision I had: my sword buried blade-down in the stump of a tree in the heart of the forest, there to be entwined with ivy and there to wait the coming of some doughty and bedestined lad.  I couldn’t bear to leave half my souvenir money (40 Deutsche Marks) buried in the Black Forest.   (The other 40 DM had been well-spent on gelato.)  As if I could have devoted my blade to a more epic cause than the one I had right there.  Shortsightedly, I took it home, where it was later broken by my brother (bless him).  Well, we are slipping towards an abyss of morality, when that was far from my object at the outset.  What I meant to say was that it was fun to appall Sheri with my creative application of her story of childhood trauma.  Of course, this was a bad example because I was hiding how I felt a little sick about it too while I told her.  So lets go back to something I don’t feel sick about—marrying underage women!


I just think it would be endlessly funny to make people squirm (as subtly and politely as they could) by announcing the vast age discrepancy between myself and my espoused wife at every opportunity.  I’m grinning just picturing their faces.  Of course, that was the moral problem I ran into when I imagined dating one of my students, back when I was teaching freshman writing at the Y.  No, lets focus on the immoral part first.  Something (heh heh) gave me the idea to scandalize the grad carrels (instructor offices) by declaring how hot one of my students was, so I did.  Did I get the most wonderful reactions.  Jaws dropped left and jaws dropped right.  The lie went so well I yearned to make it true.  I thought it might be nice to passionately kiss some girl in the Composition Department until asked what I was doing.  With a furrowed brow: “I’m trying to decide if I’ll give her an A.”  A moment’s pause, then, “I think so.”  As I told Malissa when I was a week or so younger, “Probably the funnest thing about teaching is thinking of ways to get fired.”  That actually came out as honest truth, as I realized it myself.  But hang it all I can’t remember what my other idea was.  There were two: scandal by romancing a student, and something equally amusing.

By now I should point out the reason (singular) that romancing a student isn’t funny: her feelings.  The department’s feelings are professional; a person’s feelings are, well, personal, and thus they mean a lot more.  That was probably the biggest reason I didn’t want to date a student (not to avoid getting fired—it is rich that I’m unemployed as I write this though).  While it would be simply funny to professionally appall co-workers, it would be something very different to hurt someone’s feelings: perhaps this would be akin to squashing bugs vs. killing some of the world’s beauty.  Not that I didn’t take the opportunity in class, a time or two, to proclaim: “Only two more months until I can start dating one of you!”  I keep wanting to filter this, but then I think, no: I need to filter out what I am uninclined to filter.

My friend Brett once dated a girl who was several years younger than him—maybe 5 or so.  Boy did I admire the way he would refer to that over meals.   “I always knew I was going to date someone younger than me, even clear back in high school, when I saw how cute those mia maids were.”  I think it made his girlfriend feel a little uncomfortable, but not me.  He made me feel free.  Actually really.  Somehow things are safe once you’ve made them a joke.  Maybe it takes courage to laugh at things, and so once you’ve laughed, you have overcome your fear.  On this principle growing a mustache is a good idea.  My brother said it enhanced his self-image by deteriorating his image (according to some).  Every time it bristled he was forced to remember that he had faced society’s opinions at large, and defied them with a transcendant nonchalance.  With every itch and prickle, he remembered how he was heroic.  It was like a title of liberty, in effect.  For freedom.  For Frodo.

My main objection though—when my heart is right and strong and leans not to its own understanding, nor society’s—to marrying someone much younger than I, is that while there are some lovely “first round draft picks,” as my friend Dan Jones pleases to call them, there is only one thing we can't live without, and not everyone knows what it is.  Some of them are still figuring out what life’s all about, in my grandpa’s phrase (he was serving in a student ward and had a weather eye out for my interests).  Of course, that’s just a tendency or probability—the same way it seems that pretty girls are more often vain, or intelligent people condescending, or athletes arrogant.  Some defy their circumstances; some are greater than their gifts.  When my friend Alli was sort of figuring life out still, she was about to marry a guy, and caught some flack (sp?) for being so young: people kept questioning her judgment.  We talked about it once and I offered her my thoughts, which, coincidentally, align with those of some Romantics: “We do not age by time, but by feeling.”  In other words, time is no guarantee that someone is ready or not.  Time brings experience, and experience (we hope) a better grasp of truth, but it is only truth that matters.  John Keats, for example, died at 25, but oh the poetry he had in his soul.   His writing makes me wonder how much he had felt, and if the sum of those emotions was a life that was eternal yet.  I suppose that that’s the only age that matters, both for me and who I hope to find.

“Faint hearts never won fair ladies!” – Robin Hood

*I should mention I've had plenty of crushes on older girls (beggars can't be choosers)


  1. When my husband and I were dating (he is 6 years older than me) he said, "too legit to quit." I, being from the generation I am from, thought it was a reference to the movie Hot Rod. He, of course, was making a reference to MC Hammer.

    We're doing ok.

    1. I'm glad to hear it, Ande, that you're doing well, that your husband refers to MC Hammer, that you're presumably cool with the oh well tone of the essay (if you're six years younger than your husband). I'll see you six, and raise you like nine. ;)

  2. I like the idea that it takes courage to laugh at things and that doing so helps us overcome our fear. A good reminder that I should laugh more. Keep the writing coming. It is great!