The other day, I took my car in for an oil change. It was a bit overdue, and I had a coupon, so I ended up at the local Midas with my fiance. While we waited for the mechanics to get done with my car, we chatted some with the manager. He saw that we were a young couple, so he ended up telling us the story of how he met his wife. It went something like this.
“I’m not from here originally; I’m from up north. I came down here 30 years ago for a two week bike trip. But close to the end of the trip I got into a wreck; some woman hit me as I was driving down a mountain. I ended up in the hospital for awhile. Right before I was supposed to be released the nurse came to do one last check and I told her, ‘I’m only here for a day or two more. Wanna go on a date?’ I didn’t think she’d say yes, but she did. I got back up north, and after a couple weeks I called her and said, ‘I’m thinking of moving down south.’ And she said, ‘Okay. You can move in with me.’ So I moved in with her and her roommate, and six months later we were married. We’ve been together 30 years now. That’s a lot longer than most guys my age.”
At that point my thought was, How cute!
Then he added, “Thirty years…it’s about time for me to get a new one, don’t you think? Ha ha ha.”
The cuteness vanished. Instead of thinking how sweet his story was, I felt sorry for his wife. I don’t know his life, or his relationship, or his wife. But I would bet that he doesn’t say stuff like that to her. To me, it sounded like he still loves her. I mean, he told us their story in detail, and seemed proud that his marriage had lasted longer than many of his friends’, even if it was because it began earlier.
I could be wrong, of course. It could’ve been that they married when they were very young, and realized they weren’t right for each other, but stayed together anyway. They could be having issues. I don’t know. But that comment really rubbed me the wrong way.
Making that thoughtless comment, in my opinion, devalues the person you’ve committed your life to, for better or worse. Most marriages, at least in the beginning, are entered into because two people love each other and plan on doing so by combining their lives for, hopefully, the rest of them. Thirty years ago, the man that did my oil change loved and valued his wife enough to envision a life with her, and to commit to her. But now he feels okay joking that it’s been 30 years, and for whatever reason — they don’t love each other anymore? he’s restless? she’s too old? — he should “get a new one.”
It’s been said, but I’ll say again — women aren’t like cars that you can just replace when you get tired of them, or when they quitting running as well as they used to, or when you decide you like the newer model better. Marriage is a serious commitment, and whatever your situation is, you’re not going to make it any better by joking about replacing your wife like you would a vehicle.
As I said above, I bet the man doesn’t say stuff like that to his wife, even jokingly. And I do understand that the comment was meant as a joke. But why is staying married to your wife for 30 years, which to me is an incredible accomplishment, something he felt like he needed to make an excuse for? Does staying married to one person, admitting you love her to strangers, make you feel so uncomfortably vulnerable that you have to joke that oh, I don’t love her that much?
I know he didn’t mean any of this. Even my fiance, when I mentioned it later, didn’t think anything of it. It’s seen as normal, because tons of guys make this joke. Everyone gets that it’s a joke, so it’s okay. Right?
I don’t think so. To me, a woman who will be a wife very soon, it sounded harsh and stinging. I wouldn’t have wanted to have been his wife, even though she wasn’t around to hear the comment. I’m tired of jokes like this, about wives being the “ball and chain” and about how 30 years is too long to have one wife, especially given the fact that marriage is more beneficial for men than women. See this quote from the link:
“Not marrying or cohabiting is less detrimental among woman than men,” said Dr George Ploubidis, a population health scientist at the UCL Institute of Education.
“Being married appears to be more beneficial for men.”
I’m ready for us as a society to quit devaluing women as wives. Not spouting off comments like the one he made would be a great place to start.