Love Means Never Having to Say Youre Sorry

Chicken Soup for the Bride's Soul: Stories of Love, Laughter and Commitment to Last a Lifetime by Maria Nickless, Gina Romanello, Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen; Health Communications. Paperback, 384 pages, $12.95.

No one's picking on brides, least of all me. Invariably, they look like Elizabeth Taylor in the 1950 Spencer Tracy version of Father of the Bride—all dewy and beautiful when they're angry. Nothing wrong with that. Liz Taylor was hot.

I even married a bride a year or so ago—I forget exactly when; my wife won't let me wear a watch. (Thank you, I'll be here all week.)

But this is open season on brides, starting now. Love is a battlefield, a battlefield called marriage season. And leading you through the minefield is the New York Times best-seller Chicken Soup for the Bride's Soul by Costa Mesa authors Maria Nickless and Gina Romanello.

Please hold your applause till the end.

I met Maria Nickless, and she was nice. Brought me a copy of the book. I liked her.

"I'm a jeans and T-shirts kind of girl," Nickless wrote in the "Of Blue Jeans and Buttons" chapter, about getting carsick after her wedding en route to the hotel, and so on. "But like most girls, I dreamed of a fairy-tale wedding with my future husband. . . ."

That's where I started to get a little carsick.

The Chicken Soup series, for those of you who—like me—aren't familiar with it, is a regurgitation of other people's fables on life's foibles, designed to help you live through this. I don't dig it, and I don't get it. Or, I wish I didn't.

There's nothing wrong with big weddings or little girls who dream of them. I'm sure every girl dreams of being a fairy-tale bride at some point in her life, just as I'm sure she dreams of being a fairy-tale princess. That's fine.

The blatant commercialism is what I object to—that and this pervasive attitude that you're not truly married unless you get betrothed on the sands at Newport outside Dennis Rodman's house, permits in hand, reception at Josh Slocum's, band covering Natalie Imbruglia's Torn, $20,000 blowin' in the wind.

Where is the love? And the debt-free start? The bridal mags, like Bridal Guide magazine, which gets a plug on the Chicken Soup cover, are all about finding the perfectcenterpiece (may I suggest the overlooked philodendron?), the perfect shade of white, just the right plastic champagne glass.

There's no way you can get hitched without all this . . . stuff. You can't just elope or run off to the county registrar's office in Norwalk, which is what I did. It wouldn't be, you know, right.

Having narrowly escaped all this myself, I naively thought Chicken Soup for the Bride's Soulwould show the true way. It doesn't. This is the Love Is . . .of marriage-advice books, all goopy sentiment about husbands and wives loving each other no matter what, best friends staying best friends 4-ever, moms and dads being wise diplomats, sisters being your rock of Gibraltar—and marriage lasting till death do you part.

I offer this example from a chapter about a woman whose second marriage, third major relationship, is to someone with a terminal brain tumor. Heart-wrenching, informative, or at least it could have been: "As his paralysis worsened, he would lose his balance and fall. So we developed a code. If he was in bed, he was 'sunny side up' and if he was on the floor, he was 'over easy.'" It reads like the script for an ABC miniseries.

Life ain't like that. And when you're grappling with something as serious as a lifelong commitment, it'd be nice to find a middle ground between the goop—which is why you buy Reader's Digest and Good Housekeeping—and the lame advice most of the serious marriage books dish out: things like start your planning early.

Maybe chicks dig the goop. I dunno; I'm a dude. But even if they do, I think they deserve better. And they sure need it. (Theo Douglas)

 
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