With this column, I thee wed

Hey, I just realised, with three years of writing this Sunday Times column and about four or five years writing this blog, you guys are one of my longest relationships yet.
Here’s yesterday’s Sunday Times Column. Hope you enjoy it.


Gloria, my cleaning lady, tells me she prays for me every Sunday. She prays that I meet a man and get married and have some babies quickly (neither of us is getting any younger). I always tell her she should save her prayers for more important things, like world peace, an end to hunger, or a fiery asteroid colliding with the ANN7 satellite. I’m just not the long-term relationship type.

Although my work partner and I have been together for seven years. But that probably doesn’t count, since she goes home to her husband and son every night. A new young intern at the ad agency where we work told us it took him his whole first week to realise that when we said we were partners, we meant work partners, not life partners. She’s currently very pregnant with twins, so I can only begin to imagine the vivid life he’d built for us in his mind.

Don’t get me wrong, I like wives very much. If I could have one of my own I’d be there like a shot. They’re the glue of every household, generally keep the laundry in check and can whip a terrine or gammon out of nowhere in minutes. But somehow I was at the back of the queue on the day they handed out the ham and terrine gene.

Although there were a couple of stories in last week’s news cycle that made me briefly reconsider my stance on long-term relationships.

96 year old Fred Stobaugh from Tone Deaf, Illinois, entered and won a song-writing competition with a little ditty he threw together about his late wife of 75 years, Lorraine. Imagine being married for 75 years? They must have seen some things! I was expecting the lyrics to be something along the lines of; ‘If I have to eat your meatloaf one more time, I think I’m going to commit a crime, there just isn’t enough wine, why do you make it all the time?’ And the only words I could think of that rhyme with Lorraine are pain, migraine and strain. But instead what Fred came out with was a touching tribute to his best friend of over seven decades.

They clearly breed long-term commitment in Illinois. Nora (88) and Robert (92) Viands, who were married for 71 years after meeting on a blind date, died just 16 hours apart in August. I suppose they couldn’t bear to be alive without each other. Their children said that when they went to parties, Robert would always say his quick goodbyes when he was ready to go home, then wait outside in the car for Nora, who took slightly longer. The family joked that after Robert died, he was just hanging around outside for a few hours, waiting for Nora to say her goodbyes.

And in a coincidentally similar story, at the same time over in Ohio, Harold (91) and Ruthie Knapke (89) died just eleven hours apart, days before their 66th wedding anniversary.

The longest recorded marriage on Wikipedia lasted 87 years. Karam and Kartari Chand were married in 1925 and lived in the UK. I like to imagine that they also passed away together, peacefully holding hands, on the same night. Either that or she bludgeoned him to death with a garden gnome, after he put the milk carton back in the fridge empty for the millionth time, or sighed continually for nineteen years.

In close contest, according to the Guinness Book of Records, when Herbert Fisher of North Carolina died in February 2011, it ended his marriage to Zelmyra Fisher, of 86 years, 9 months and 16 days. Just two months and fourteen days short of the Wikipedia record. Zelmyra will tell you Herbert kicked the bucket just short of the record specifically to annoy her.

In this age of quick marriages and even quicker divorces, you have to wonder what the secret was to the success of these incredibly touching unions. Perhaps they lost their hearing early.

I always have a snorty laugh when I see celebrity couples throwing huge, P-Diddy-style celebrations for a first, second or third anniversary. Congratulations, you managed to stay together for a whole 365 days, bring out the champagne and diamonds. But then marriages in Hollywood do tend to operate in dog years. A five year celebrity relationship is the equivalent of a 33 year relationship for normal people.

Mr and Mrs Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick, and Iman and David Bowie are some of the longest wedded celeb couples in the wood hood. At 23 (152), 24 (158) and 21 (138) years respectively they’re giving the Knapke’s a run for their money. But let’s not get too excited, by the time you’ve finished reading this column, one of them will probably have divorced.

4 responses to “With this column, I thee wed”

  1. Sarel says:

    Value systems and circumstances have changed since the days these people got married. Imagine I have lived in the 16th century in Cape Town and mailed a letter to a guy in London. He would get the letter 3 months later and I would get a reply a further 3 months down the line. I get very agitated if I don’t get a reply on an e-mail within the hour.
    Both husband and wife are professionals these days. With the children and their after school activities, it becomes worse. The husband and wife move in different directions and their is no way of talking anymore.and sex becomes a myth.
    I propose the following for a long lasting marriage under these circumstances.
    Build three houses on a large stand. (Three pondokkies or a three story house on a small stand) The wife and husband has each got their own house with own lounge and TV. The children and the Au Pair live in the 3rd house. There is a communal braai.There is an intercom between the wife and husband bedrooms. This intercom is on the bedside table and includes a ” lust” button. That is just in case certain services need to be rendered. Now that is what I call space! Call me a mad man if you wish

    • paige says:

      Hi Sarel, you’re too right. That sounds like a dream to me. But on the flip side of the coin, it also sounds a bit like Nkandla.

      • Sarel says:

        No Paige. One wife and one husband. They can only visit each other if the lust bell rings. This leaves it wide open for a skelmpie or two. You seldom eat a piece of meat or a piece of fish by itself. You always have a side dish or two. Don’t you?

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