Got to talking things over with “First Wife Iris” last week and it came up that we are approaching our 60th anniversary in April. I often tell people the secret of our long marriage is simple. If Iris says “jump,” I say “how high?” That story is not completely true, but one thing is true: we often, sometimes several times a day, tell each other “I love you.”
It so happens, that phrase motivated a column written 20 years ago. I got a kick reading it and think you will to. Here it is:
In my book, the phrase “I love you” when exchanged between dating adults is another one of those things that is a lot like violin playing – it is either wonderful or it’s lousy. It so happens, there has been research into this particular area of social verbalization. Professor William Foster at Texas A&M says a survey he conducted shows men are usually the first to say those three little words in “the course of a developing relationship.” That learned academician did not elaborate in his press conference as to what level of “developing relationship” we are dealing with. There are the first-date terrors in the back seat and then there are those of a serious and endearing nature.
Professor Foster said males say “I love you” first because of several reasons. One is that they are expected to lead the way and another is they often sense the female they find alluring may be “slipping away.” He goes on to say that some relationships are constructed over a long period of time, whereas others are sudden and impulsive. I recall one guy in my fraternity who always was getting blind dates and inevitably croaked out “I love you” within the first hour.
I understand that off-beat stuff, but when the chips are down, I think women have an intuitive cunning and guile for getting a guy to commit himself for real, whether they are interested in him or just playing games. The male in that situation doesn’t remember what he said, she said, or who said what first.
If the male is smitten, the female object of his affection can him to stand on his head and sing the Star Spangled Banner. There is no defense against her power. Even great experience and maximum masculine intelligence is useless – a mere toothpick against the charging rhino. When I had been dating “first wife Iris” for a week or so, I merely suggested she stop seeing a couple of those bb-brains who were still hanging around and concentrate on some top-quality material.
She “remembers” I said “it” first, and that may be true, because the next thing I was fully aware of, we were in a hotel in Vancouver, British Columbia with telltale rice in the suitcases and I fully understood my “wandering days” were over.
Professor Foster isn’t doing research that I feel is useful to the modern young people who are waiting longer to get married. He ran his survey among unmarried students between the ages of 18 and 25. If he wants to develop some meaningful data, he should try asking men who have been married longer and I’d bet a bundle 90 percent don’t recall when they said “I love you.” They are all just like me, carrying out the garbage, making mortgage payments and still wondering what hit ‘em.
That is what I call meaningful data.
G. George Ostrom is an award-winning columnist from Kalispell.