Those Wedding Bell Blues

Burt Prelutsky

2/29/2008 12:01:00 AM - Burt Prelutsky

At times, you find yourself thinking that nothing ever changes, and then, one day, you look around and you feel like Rip Van Winkle. Over night, it seems, the whole world seems topsy-turvy.

For instance, when I was a youngster, I didn’t know anybody whose parents had gotten divorced. Even though none of my friends or relatives were Catholics, the whole idea of divorce was so alien that when a cousin of mine split up with his wife, everybody in the family had to take the equivalent of a blood oath not to tell my grandmother. To this day, I don’t have the slightest idea what story they concocted to explain Beverly’s disappearance. For all I know, they may have implied that my cousin had severed their relationship with an axe. Anything, after all, was less shameful than divorce.

These days, not only has divorce become rather commonplace, but among Hollywood’s role models, having children out of wedlock is considered tres chic. Unlike some people, I don’t entirely blame the fictional Murphy Brown for setting a bad example. But she certainly didn’t help things.

What I fail to understand is how it is that couples in long-running relationships, especially those couples with children such as Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins, Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis -- couples who give every indication of growing old together -- decide not to make it legal.

Are they that terrified of not appearing hip? Are they afraid that after 10 or 20 years of living together, the marriage ceremony will make the magic vanish? Or have they managed to convince themselves that, without the vows and the rings and the toaster ovens, they’re proving that they’re staying together because they choose to, and not just because they don’t want to risk ever finding themselves on a first-name basis with a gaggle of divorce lawyers?

Or maybe, even after the babies started showing up, they still weren’t sure it was really for keeps. After that, not being married just became something of a habit. And what with their friends and agents telling them how cool they were, they didn’t dare risk looking square.

Being a traditionalist myself, I’m hoping that down the road, after their various sons and daughters have grown up and left the nest, Goldie and Kurt, Susan and Tim, Johnny and Vanessa, will all finally tie the knot, explaining as they do so: “We just stayed single for the sake of the kids.”