Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Little Brother's Advice (A Wedding Toast)

On July 6th, 2007, my big brother Andre tied the knot. What follows is a copy of the toast I delivered at the wedding reception:

Statistics show that up to half of the marriages today end in divorce. And I know that sounds bad; but what they don't tell you is that the other half end in death. Kind of a no-win situation. And yet we find ourselves running headlong into the marital union like lemmings off a precipice. My elementary school English teacher taught me that marriage is a word. But now that I’m older, I’ve come to believe that it’s more like a sentence; life without parole! The worse part is that it is completely self-imposed. But some how, some way, some why, we find ourselves seeking, craving, longing for this imprisonment! Driven by some deep rooted masochistic desire for life-long suffering; we vow to never love another again. They say if life gives you lemons make lemonade, but isn’t getting married a bit like growing your own orchard? If you ask me, it all seems a wee bit presumptuous. Like jumping naked into a barrel full of porcupines and expecting not to get pricked.

Nonetheless we pursue this most coveted union, fuelled by a desire to connect with another human being in the most deep and meaningful way possible. Statistics be damned. We will not be dissuaded. We cling to hope like toilet paper to the bottom of a shoe. But one can’t help but ask, is the union of two human beings nothing but a chimera, and idle dream, a quixotic fantasy, an endeavor as futile as trying to take a close-up of the horizon?

Some people fall in love very easily. I heard of one young woman who was quick to declare her devotion to her beloved: “I love you,” she said, “I want to marry you, have your children and spend the rest of my life with you.” To which the man replied, “Mame, can you just pay for the pizza… so that I can go.” I, however, have never been one to fall in love easily, though I have managed to step in it a few times. Naturally, as the least experienced member of the Archer household, I think I'm in best position to give advice on matters of this nature. After all, when it comes to love, there are no real experts. There are only those who have made a few mistakes and those who have made a few less. Since I’ve been on earth for shortest time I have had the least opportunity to make mistakes. (But don't worry, I'm working hard to catch up.) This fact allows me to give advice with the least hypocrisy.

So here is little brother’s advice. My own limited experience has taught me two things. First, that there is a very fine line between true love and a restraining order. Long story. Second, loving is an art, and like any art, loving must be learned. Now this may seem rather counterintuitive. After all, loving seems about as natural as going to the loo. However, even infants need to be potty trained. And so, I charge you with the responsibility of undertaking romantic potty training. (Don’t you just love that metaphor.) I think it is to our culture's great shame that there is no formal education or training in interpersonal relationships. We devote so much time to teaching the young to be good workers; acquiring the skills necessary to be productive little robots on the capitalist assembly line. And this, undeniably, is a good thing since being a fecund worker is important. However, what can be more important than the making of a marriage, more vital than the honing of a home, more fundamental than the founding of a family?

And yet, this remains an area of insufficient instruction; where awareness is absent and guess-work guides. In matters of the heart, like so many others areas, ignorance continues to be our culture’s most cherished vice. Regrettably, the information available often exceeds our curiosity. Some have even suggested that such education may even be harmful. This notion is but the second cousin of the old myth that sex education leads to promiscuity. I did lots of arithmetic in high school, but you don’t see me sneaking around in dark places doing long division. It is never a bad thing to be informed. It all depends on what we do with the information. But what I can guarantee is this: if you want to make a poor decision, then being uninformed is the best way to go about it.

Admittedly, there is a lot of conventional wisdom on matters of this kind; like, “marriage is a fifty-fifty arrangement.” Well, if you believe that you either have a very poor understanding of women or percentages. But when I talk about romantic potty-training I’m not referring to the type of pop-advice you find in tabloid magazines, daytime soaps or on Fox news. Rather, I’m referring to the wealth of information you can find at your local library, Barnes and Noble, church, family planning centre etc. So I encourage you to set aside some time, even if it’s a couple hours a month, to read up on and discuss with each other, issues related to your relationship. Make it a habit, your own personal tradition. And don’t make the mistake of waiting until something goes wrong to begin educating yourself. Here, as elsewhere, prevention is better than cure.

But even a nerd like myself must admit that books can only teach you so much. In theory, theory and practice are always the same, but in practice they often are not. When it comes down to it, the way we learn about life is by simply living. And so, expect to make lots of mistakes. But endeavor to learn from them. Also, take time to observe other couples. Find out what the successful ones are doing right, and what the unsuccessful ones did wrong. Learning from other people’s screw-ups saves you lots of time to make your own fresh new screw-ups.

Love may be blind, but that does not mean that YOU have to be. By reading together and educating yourselves, seeking out advice, and learning from your own mistakes, you will be taking steps to ensuring that your love remains healthy and vibrant. Let your marriage be a union of heart and head, romance and reason, emotion and experience. The statistics may be grim; and yes, probability may be working against you. But I believe the love you share means there is much more working for you! And so don’t be afraid to cling to hope, to seek after the deepest most intimate connection possible, to devote yourself to each other and vow to establish something enduring. With singleness of mind, earnestness of spirit, determination of heart, and an intensity that cannot be placated, let the steps you take today be your public declaration: we will take a close-up of the horizon!


Rick T Hunter said...

Bravo Nube! Now that is a toastworthy toast. And congratulation et al to big brother.


Nubian Nerd said...

Thanks for stopping by Rick!