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Before You Were Born: Married at Thirty-Nine
Stories from our parents' surprisingly romantic youth: how two free spirits finally decided to settle down.
by Elyssa Goodman
While some parents can tell you about going to prom together, my parents will do no such thing — they settled down at the ripe-young age of thirty-nine. Their shiny (only) bundle of joy, me, arrived two years later. While being single for such a long time may sound daunting, taking a little extra caution, in a country where the divorce rate is now something like fifty percent, seems wise to me.
When did you meet for the first time?
M: I think it was... was it a board meeting, Jeff? It was a board meeting for the condominium.
D: She was bookkeeper or something, and I was some kind of a director. I thought she was bubbly and intelligent and she knew how to handle a ledger.
M: We were friends first. We didn't start going out until August of '85, and we'd met maybe six months earlier. We used to go for walks around the complex. I used to go every night for exercise, and Daddy joined me a few times. Well, he wasn't Daddy then, but you know. I liked his shoulders and his eyes, and he was able to hold a meeting.
What made you eventually decide to ask Mom out on a date?
D: I was getting tired of the same old people. I was interested in who she was as a person. I'd never felt that way before. She had a personality and intellect, and all that was more important to me than anything else.
Mom, did you have any serious relationships before dad?
M: Yeah, but they were kind of in-betweens. You mean like marriage-worthy kinds of things? In all honesty, maybe there were two of those before in my life. One was kind of early on but I just felt like I didn't want to be married then. I felt like I was too young to be married — there were too many other things I wanted to do.
How old were you?
M: Twenty, twenty-two... someplace in there. The other one was in the '70s. It was a very good relationship and everything but I found out that the person — it's funny, it comes back to that — I found the person couldn't have children, so I kind of weaned myself away from the relationship.
When did you realize in your relationship that you started to move toward marriage?
D: She made me bread.
She made bread? You knew you wanted to marry her when she made bread?
M: We had been going out for a while. We were dating from August of '85; Daddy asked me to marry him on January 16, 1986.
D: I just generally had a good feeling throughout that time period. There was no "tipping point." It was just a consistent good feeling about our relationship.
That's all you felt you needed to get married?
M: Well, listen, when you're single for forty years...
D: At that time in my life, yeah.
M: He came up for dinner and I had baked some bread. This is kind of stupid, but he and his best friend Steve were into this song at the time, "Who's Zoomin' Who?" by Aretha Franklin. You know that that's our song, right? So Daddy sat down and said, "What is that?" I said, "It's bread." He said, "You made bread?" I said, "Yeah, I baked bread." He said, "Will you marry me?" So I laughed and I said, "No, I'm kind of busy tomorrow." And I looked back at him, and he was serious! And I went, "Oh my God, you're serious!" I went to the bar, I poured myself a glass of scotch — you know I don't drink scotch — and I said, "I'm sorry, I didn't realize." And then I said yes. And as soon as I said yes, "Who's Zoomin' Who?" came on the radio. It was like, "Uh-oh..."
How about you? When did you know that you wanted to marry Dad?
M: When I first laid eyes on him. I just had this feeling about him. I came down out of the elevator with my best friend, and he was at the mailboxes. And I started whispering to her — I said, "I think I'm going to marry that guy." She said, "You're out of your fucking mind." It was just really strange. There were some other comments that went on, but I'm not going to discuss it. Daddy was wearing a Speedo.
M: No, no, it didn't help. He had just gone swimming!
D: Shrinkage! Don't forget shrinkage!
Oh my God. I... okay, next question. What was it like to be single for so long?
D: I was just bored. I wasn't meeting the right people. The people I was meeting, it was all about sex, and it was all over after that.
M: It gets to be a point where you're having a lot of fun, you're wild and you're sowing your oats and everything, but after awhile, it's just "When is this going to be over already?" I was older and I did want to have a child — I didn't want to go too much longer. In fact, I had kind of canceled myself out — I said, "If don't have any children by thirty-five, I'm not having any children."
But you were forty-one when I was born.
M: As it worked out, you never give up the ship. Sometimes you just don't meet the right person. It doesn't matter if you want to get married or not. If you don't meet the right person, you're not just going to get married just to get married. I don't care how fast the clock is ticking.