My vow

Mrs. Happy and I used traditional vows at our wedding. Now whenever we attend a wedding where the bride and groom exchange the traditional vows, we effectively renew our own. That’s why we chose to use words that have been spoken by millions of others in the past and hopefully millions more in the future. That’s why tradition is so powerful. That’s part of why I don’t like it when couples write their own vows. I also dislike that practice because most people don’t have the ability to succinctly express their feelings, so they tend to give flowery speeches that say nothing. Even when people know how to articulate what they feel, I don’t think feelings should even be mentioned in wedding vows—a vow is a promise and not a statement of emotion, and original vows also tend to leave out the promise.

Having said that, I should also say that I have never understood the practice of formally renewing wedding vows. I don’t disapprove, but no one has ever explained to me the reasons for it. People I respect have renewed their vows, several times in some cases, so I think there must be something to it; I just don’t know what. Still, it occurs to me that there may be some merit in periodically reminding my wife of what I promised her eight years ago. It also occurs to me that if I remind her in private, I don’t need to concern myself with tradition for the benefit of witnesses, which frees me to write something original.

I spoke traditional vows to my bride at our wedding. I’ve learned a lot about her, about myself, and about in the years since then, and this is now my vow to her:

I, Curt, promise you, Happy Bride, that I will love, honor, and cherish you for the rest of my life. I will do my best to provide for you, protect you, encourage you, equip you, and celebrate you in your beauty. I will treat your hardships as my own and comfort you in your troubles. I will make it my mission to deserve your devotion and be worthy of your respect. I will set an example for our children and work alongside you to raise them with love and discipline. I will grow with you, laugh with you, cry with you, dance with you, offend you, beg your forgiveness, bear your offenses, and always forgive you. I will love you with all of my soul, with all of my mind, and—as long as I have both breath and blood—with all of my body. I thank God now and forever that he has brought us together.

Hindsight is 20/40

I lost my job as a copywriter in March of 2005. I haven’t had a full-time job since then, though I’ve done quite a bit of freelance work. I like the variety that freelance provides, but I hate not knowing whether I’ll have enough money to pay the bills next month. Mrs. Happy and I have always managed our money wisely, though, so even the lean months have not been too scary. Even so, I think I’d prefer having a regular job that provides a steady income and health benefits for my family.

I actually received a job offer a few months ago. It would have brought us fantastic insurance and a so-so salary, but it seemed to be a tedious job that would suck me dry and send my career in a direction I didn’t want. So I turned it down. Our money is now running low, and our insurance is still outrageously expensive. I wonder sometimes whether I made the wrong decision in turning down that job. I believed a better job was waiting for me and that I would find it in a matter of days. I believed I would not stay unemployed long enough for our money to run out. It seems I was mistaken about pretty much everything.

I’m still not convinced I should have taken that job. They say hindsight is 20/20, but that applies only to what has actually happened. I can look back and see with perfect clarity the consequences of turning down that particular job, but I can’t see what would have happened had I accepted it. I imagine that if I had taken the tedious job, I would be abjectly miserable right now. It would have entailed doing the dullest work in an industry renowned for its dullness. It would have meant earning more than $10,000 less per year than my last job. It would have pigeon-holed me for future employers as the kind of writer I don’t want to be.

I can’t know that for sure, of course. I really liked the people I interviewed with. The work might actually have been challenging and rewarding. I might have received a quick raise in pay. The job might have been the first step on a great career trajectory. I’ll never know. What I do know is that, at least in this instance, looking back doesn’t help. Did I make the right decision? Were there even right and wrong decisions to make? Were there other options that I didn’t examine? I’ll never know.

I’ve heard it said that experience is a teacher that gives you the test, then gives you the lesson. As I get older, I’m finding that experience is often a little unclear about the lesson even after the test. If a smart man learns from his mistakes, and a wise man learns from others’ mistakes, I wonder what kind of man can’t even figure out if he made a mistake. Uncertainty is one of the heaviest burdens for someone who places a great deal of value on solid understanding. If I can still have the love and respect of my wife after a decision like that, and my wife does let me know every day that I have her love and respect, it’s a burden I can bear with faith and fortitude.

If cartoons were meant for adults, they’d put them on in prime time

I think my favorite TV comedy of all time has to be The Simpsons. I judge the effectiveness of any piece of art by how deeply it affects my life, and The Simpsons has affected my life to the extent that I find an extreme emotional pleasure in quoting it at every available opportunity. This practice can draw confused stares from non-Simpsons fans, but it can also elicit appreciative chuckles from fellow Simpsonians. These are just a few ways I work The Simpsons into everyday conversation:

Note: The information that follows is not meticulously researched. It is from my imperfect memory, so actual quotes may differ from what you see here. Furthermore, please be aware that this post was almost certainly more fun to write than it is to read, and I won’t be offended if everyone skips it altogether. Also, I got the idea for this post from an article in The Onion.

The setup: Lisa meets a boy her age whose interests and intellect are a direct parallel to hers. He introduces himself as Thelonious. Awe-inspired, she asks, “As in Monk?” He responds…
The line: “The esoteric value is worth the beatings.”
When I use is: This one’s hard to pin down. I just use it whenever someone admires something I have, and that something is more fartsy than artsy.

The setup: Homer is on the grounds of Mr. Burns’ mansion, threatening him. Mr. Burns tells him to leave immediately. Homer responds…
The line: “Or what? You’ll let out the dogs? Or the bees? Or the dogs that have bees in their mouths so when they bark they shoot bees at you?”
When I use it: Whenever someone gives me some sort of cease-and-desist imperative.

The setup: Mr. Burns has hired some old-school strike breakers to end the labor walk-out at his power plant. The guys he hires are the ones who used to break up strikes before labor laws were passed and enforced, so they’re all really old. Grampa Simpson, one of the strikebreakers, explains that one of the techniques they use is to tell stories that go nowhere. For instance, the time he went over to Shelbyville in aught-six. It was during the war, and…
The line: “…I was wearing an onion on my belt, which was the style at the time…”
When I use it: I like to explain complex ideas with metaphors that approach a given topic from a completely different direction than the discussion at hand but reach a conclusion that satisfies the original problem and illustrates the process of…um…sometimes I go so far afield that I forget the point I was trying to make. Also useful in this situation is a dialog between Homer and Bart, when Bart wants something his parents won’t give him:
Homer: Son, when I was your age, I wanted a dog worse than anything in the world, but my parents wouldn’t give it to me. So I held my breath until I passed out and hit my head on the coffee table. The doctors said there might be brain damage.
Bart: What’s the point of this story?
Homer: I like stories.

The setup: Bart perpetrates an elaborate hoax on his teacher, making her believe she has a pen pal who is a handsome fighter pilot that has fallen in love with her. Through the letters they exchange, Bart sets up a date for her and her “boyfriend.” She shows up at the appointed time and place only to wait two hours for the dream man who never arrives. She drops her head and sobs into a dying candle as Bart watches from afar and says, “Aw, she’s heartbroken….
The line: “I can’t help but feel partly responsible.”
When I use it: Any time I do something ridiculously stupid that I can’t even tangentially blame on someone else.

The setup: Comic Book Guy wins a Batman-style utility belt at a Star Trek convention, then tries to return it to a novelty shop because it is a medium size and will not fit around him. He berates the proprietor in his trademark fashion, but the shop owner is unimpressed, saying…
The line: “Ooh, a fat sarcastic Star Trek fan. You must be a devil with the ladies.”
When I use it: I use this only when either MCF or Jerry ticks me off with a snide quip.

The setup: This line is actually a combination of two unrelated lines. I can’t remember in which episode the first line occurred; I just know Homer says it, I think to Bart. The second line came from an episode in which Homer brags to Lenny and Karl about how smart Lisa is, telling them that some sort of scientific institution hooked a computer up to her brain to make the computer smarter, but she was so smart the computer exploded. Lenny asks him if that’s really true, and Homer says yes, yes it is…
The line(s): “Your ideas are intriguing and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter. On a completely unrelated matter, I have to go.”
When I use it: When someone I like blathers on about something so trivial and unimportant that it tests the limits of my considerable tolerance.

The setup: Homer and Moe try to go bowling one night only to find that the entire alley is occupied by a bowling league. They sit at a table and complain, when Moe speaks a beautiful and farcical bit of self-pity…
The line: “They’re treatin’ me like dirt. Well, I’m better than dirt! Except for that fancy store-bought dirt. It’s full of nutrients. I…I can’t compete with that stuff.”
When I use it: When I feel the need for a bit of beautiful and farcical self-pity.

The setup: Homer gets a job taking cannon shots to the gut in some sort of Lollapalooza-type traveling music show. When he appears on stage, a teenager in the audience deadpans, “Here comes that guy who gets shot with a cannon. He’s cool.” When his friend asks him if he’s being sarcastic, he sighs and says…
The line: “I don’t even know anymore.”
When I use it: My sense of humor tends to be pretty dry—so dry that people often don’t know when I’m joking. Every once in a while someone will question whether I’m being serious.

The setup: Bart is developing emotional problems due to difficulties in school and draws a picture of a monster called Satan Clause. Marge asks Homer to look at it, but Homer is watching TV, so he simply raves about the picture’s beauty and insists they should hang it on the fridge. Marge forces him to actually look at the drawing, and when he does…
The line: “Eek! Send it to hell! Send it straight to hell!!”
When I use it: This line, and my delivery of it, never fails to make my wife laugh hysterically. Therefore, I say it any time I see any piece of mildly disturbing art.

The setup: Bart is in some sort of academic competition at school. His project finds favor with the judges, and Principal Skinner gives him the big award, but repeats his words as he hands Bart the trophy. Bart wakes from what turns out to be a dream, only to find Lisa bending over him and saying…
The line: “First prize! First prize! First prize!”
When I use it: The brilliance of this line is that Lisa says it for the sole purpose of messing with Bart’s dreams. I sometimes use it when I wake up Mrs. Happy.

There are other lines that occur to me when the moment is right, but I’ve already gone on too long. I’ll just end with a few that I love but hardly ever get to use:

  • “You know what I blame this on the breakdown of? Society.”
  • “Can’t we have at least one meeting that doesn’t end with someone digging up a corpse?”
  • “Beer—the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.”
  • “I’ll be deep in the cold, cold ground before I recognize Missour-a!”