Kirby: It’s a free country — unless you’re in a relationship

By Robert Kirby

Tribune Columnist

Published: January 7, 2014 01:01AM
Updated: January 7, 2014 01:01AM
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Robert Kirby, Tribune columnist

A couple of months ago, my wife demanded to know why a social network page listed my relationship status as something other than “married.” Was I hinting at the possibility of being available?

Because it’s common knowledge that I’ve been married to the same woman for decades, I had no idea what she was talking about. While a normal quandary for me, this time I sensed the real possibility of having my next meal poisoned.

Me: “Maybe it’s a mistake.”

Her: “Mistakes are what smart people make.”

To prove her point, my wife logged on to the site, brought up my profile and pointed to the “relationship status” line. Right there in letters I remember typing were the words “Not if I can help it.”

I instantly realized what happened. I had gotten the information boxes confused. That was supposed to have gone into the “employment” box above. Meanwhile, in the “favorite activity” box below was “Doing whatever my wife says.”

Not only was it the truth, it was also the correct thing to say. That’s good because I don’t always get those two right at the same time.

I’m married. Other than “single,” it’s the only marital status I’ve ever had. Strong argument could be made for “separated” but the fact is that I was only staying in the garage until someone was done being mad.

Relationships status used to be a lot easier to figure out. When I was a kid, there were only three: single, married and divorced.

My parents were married. That’s what made them my parents. It’s what gave them permission to lecture me about my grades, give me an allowance, lock me in the trunk of the car and whack me whenever telling me something 200 times failed to get my attention.

My friend Danny’s parents were divorced. I only ever saw his mom. He said it was better that way because whenever his dad came around, his mom’s brothers, who were certifiably scary, threatened to kill him.

Being single wasn’t something we thought about much. It was more often referred to as “unmarried.” Duncan’s aunt was unmarried even though she was plenty old enough. Duncan said it was because she was mean but I suspect it had more to do with her mustache.

Back then people lived with their parents until they were old enough to move out, get married and become parents themselves. Sometimes they got divorced. Sometimes they lived in sin. We didn’t talk about that, though.

None of those relationships involved the U.S. Supreme Court. Sometimes the police got involved but it was easy to figure out. There was married and not married.

Not anymore. Today, there are all kinds of relationship statuses: separated, married but available, exclusive partnership, just roommates, NOYB (none of your business) and even it’s complicated.

Relationships are complicated enough without having them defined by others, including churches, governments, civic groups and any number of busy bodies who think they have to mind everyone else’s business.

This is a free country. I would never let anyone tell me what kind of relationship status I should have.

OK, my wife can tell me but that’s it.

Robert Kirby can be reached at rkirby@sltrib.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.