“I am an ex-inmate. I realized my mistakes. I’ve paid my dues to society. I am rehabilitated. Today I am out here on a business mission to get a job in customer service. Yesterday I had an interview and right now I am waiting for a call on my Bluetooth headset.”
“We’ve been married for 30 years. We first met in a hospital in New Hampshire and knew each other as friends for two years. Then I moved to New York, but we reconnected. I hitchhiked every weekend until she sent me a telegram: ‘Please, come to me. I can’t live without you.’”
I thought the story was nice, but still asked them my customary question about the key to a successful marriage. She launched into a heartfelt praise, describing how he was the most generous person she knew and how he wanted everyone around him to be happy.
“I guess I agree with that,” he said, “but I should also add: frequent and intense sex.”
“What do you think is your greatest accomplishment?”
“Let’s see. I’m 80 years old. I’ve lived and traveled all over the world — from Europe to Asia. I’ve climbed the Matterhorn — 14,690 feet tall. I’ve swam naked in Tahiti…But my greatest accomplishment? I am still learning.”
“As a kid growing up in India, I always wanted to study in the U.S. When I turned 18, everything was ready — school paid for, all the preparations finished. But I must have looked worried, because my father asked me, ‘You always wanted to go to America. Why the long face?’ I was 18 and didn’t want to admit any weakness.”
When I first noticed them they were walking fast and smiling widely. I hesitated and lost them in the crowd. When, a few minutes later, I spotted them again, they were all still smiling. I followed them from a distance for a few minutes, and they kept smiling. As I asked for their photo, they started to laugh. I fumbled my camera, it got stuck, and I just couldn’t take a picture. “Is it broken?” one of them asked, and they all burst into laughter. “Just bear with me for a minute,” I said, and they laughed even harder. “Why are you so happy?” I asked at the end, genuinely intrigued. Unfortunately, as one of them tried to give me this possibly life-changing answer, her words were drowned out by the loudest roar of laughter yet.
The average length of their marriages was nearly 50 years, so I thought they could answer authoritatively my question about the key to marital success. Their answers, however, diverged along gender lines. While the wives stressed the importance of conversation, the husbands’ emphasis on “keeping quiet” can best be summarized by this answer: “Whenever we start an argument I just give in.”