Our city newspaper carries a column called “Ask Amy.” In a recent issue, the column titled “Conflicted bride is in the wrong movie” (Omaha World-Herald Living section, Nov 26, 2015.), a young woman asks Amy if she should go ahead and marry her fiancé, a “sweet successful man” or her old beau who is less than successful. Her former boyfriend “wanted to do the right thing but couldn’t afford to get engaged.” She misses his passion and the joy and love she felt with him. “My heart is torn,” she writes.
Amy tells her to decide which Julia Roberts movie she in – Runaway Bride or Pretty Woman. “Marriage is not a contest wherein various men compete over who can take better care of you.” Marriage is what each partner can to give the other. For better or worse! She points out that the future bride is the problem, not the guys. “If you are at all torn, then you are not ready to get married.”
The column reminded me of my past self. As a college student, I liked the movie, “The Graduate.” I thought it was the best. So romantic how, at the end of the movie, Dustin Hoffman’s character, Ben, rushes to the church where Elaine, played by the beautiful Katherine Ross is about to marry Carl, a boring, stable man she dated before Ben came along. Ben arrives just as the bride and groom are about to kiss.
I remember the scene vividly. Dustin Hoffman finds out Elaine is marrying Carl. He jumps into his little red Alfa Romeo sports car and races to the wedding. He parks and runs down the block, the hood of his off-white squall jacket bouncing with every step. He gets to the church and leaps up the stairs of the narrow passageway. He arrives in front of the huge windows separating the loft from the outside wall. The background is covered by white sheer curtains that allow the light to come through. Such a pure scene.
Ben looks down at the wedding taking place, throws his arms up and leans against the glass pane. “No!” The camera zooms in on the preacher and his prayer book. The bride and groom are facing the preacher. Dustin Hoffman yells “Elaine! Elaine!” several times. Katherine Ross and Carl, played by Brian Avery, turn and look up at Hoffman. She answers back “Ben!” and runs out of the church where they meet.
I was 16 years old when the movie came out but I didn’t see it until I was in college and probably around 21 years old. I thought it was great. A wonderful movie. So romantic. So beautiful.
Fast-forward about 40 years.
My son gave me “The Graduate” DVD for Christmas. I was excited to play it and relive my memories.
As I watched, I started to wonder what the appeal had been back in the early 1970’s. Why did I think this movie was so great? I noticed things that I hadn’t noticed when I first saw it.
At the beginning of the film, when Ben arrives at a party in his honor, people are all excited to see the “award-winning scholar.” One woman asks him, “What are you going to do now?
“I was going to go upstairs for a minute.”
“I meant with your future, your life.”
Ben answers, “Well, that’s a little hard to say.”
Right away, I think Ben really isn’t good marriage material. He recently graduated from college and is trying to figure out where to go to graduate school. He can’t decide because he is enjoying sitting by the pool and not working, all the while having an illicit affair with Mrs. Robinson who happens to be Elaine’s mother.
An impulsive cad, Ben doesn’t have a moral compass, let alone goals for the future. Yet Elaine runs off with him towards the end of the movie instead of marrying nice, stable Carl who had goals for the future and good job offers.
In 1974, I got married. I remember having “cold feet” and wishing someone would whisk me away like in the Graduate. (Years later, my husband confessed that he felt like running that day, too. We had a good laugh about our younger selves.) Maybe the reason for the big ceremonies with all the friends and relatives present is so we don’t run. Maybe the best man and maid-of-honor are there to make sure we go through with it. Maybe when we add up how much money was spent on the wedding, we decide we might as well go through with it.
(Nowadays, people spend even more money and time planning their weddings. I often say that, if people spent as much effort and time on their marriage as they do their weddings, the divorce rate would be lower. But that’s a topic for another time.)
Our modest little ceremony “took.” Neither of us ran. We have been married over 40 years now and have grown closer through the years. We have learned to put up with each other’s idiosyncrasies and differences. In fact, we enjoy our differences. We have seen some hard times and many good times, but mostly day-to-day times. We are a couple, yet maintain our separate identities. We don’t try to change each other. We enhance each other. I think that is what Ask Amy meant when she pointed out that a person needs to figure out who they are first before committing to marriage.
Marriage is a partnership, not a prize won. Maybe a lot of people get “cold feet” as the wedding day approaches. It is a big decision. But if you are wise and have chosen the right partner, it can be the best decision you ever make in your life.