My mother gave me six months to get married. Or else.
You must understand that my mother is not one of those meddling mothers. No, my ma is hands-off with her adult kids. She leaves us be until she sees one headed for a cliff.
Thus, her first call about three months back.
"You have six months to marry!" she said.
I can't fault her for her concern. She knows single men can be knuckleheads -- that we don't take care of ourselves as we should.
The statistics bear it out. Married men are physically and emotionally healthier. They avoid risky behavior. They live longer. They earn more.
Married men are much less likely to wake up in a pile of dirty laundry still clutching the tequila bottle they began drinking from just before the party broke up.
Mark Twain found tremendous happiness in his marriage. He wrote that there is no greater beauty and sweetness than the closeness of a husband and wife who adore each other, and that is what I long for.
The fact is, marriage is good for everyone. Married people produce happier, healthier children. Marriage produces stable, thriving communities. Marriage has way more upsides than downsides.
Thus, my mother has been phoning me regularly.
"You have five months, one week, four days, two hours and 12 minutes to get married!"
But, ma, I try to explain, the world is so complex these days. It's not like the old days when you got a job, worked 35 years, then retired. The world is moving at light speed. It's much harder to find a woman you can stay with forever.
"You have four months, two weeks, six days, 12 hours and three minutes!"
But, ma, I say, what's the hurry? Being a fellow in his 40s isn't like it was with your generation. Fortyish is the new thirtyish! More and more people are marrying and starting families in their 40s and 50s.
"You have three months, three weeks, five days, 18 hours and 12 minutes!"
But, ma, I say, fewer people marry these days. In 1970, close to 80 percent of adults between the ages of 20 and 54 were married. Today only 57 percent are.
"You have two months, two weeks, six days, seven hours and 18 minutes!"
But, ma, I tell her, younger generations are much more likely to get divorced than your generation did -- some 45 percent of marriages end in divorce. Brad Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project, told the Associated Press why. He said people have a high degree of "expressive individualism" these days -- people are demanding an unrealistic level of fulfillment in marriage. When their sense of fulfillment wanes, many don't feel like being married anymore.
"You have one month, three weeks, three days, four hours and 27 minutes!"
But, ma, I continue, Wilcox is on to something. Everyone these days is looking for a soul mate -- that perfect person who will make him or her feel warm and fuzzy all the time. Our expectations are impossibly high. We're all thinking too much. No one person can ever live up to our ideals and so we stay single.
"You have two weeks, four days, twelve hours and 18 minutes!"
But, ma, I finally say, part of my problem is finding a lady just like you. You are the most honest, caring, compassionate woman I have ever known. You taught me what really matters in life: family, laughter, honesty, beauty. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a woman who holds all the qualities you hold. Ma, you have set the bar so high that...
"Put a sock in it. You have one day, two hours and 24 minutes to get married!"
- Tom Purcell is a columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and is nationally syndicated by Cagle Cartoons (Purcell@caglecartoons.com).