My oldest just left for Vanderbilt University. (She went there because she likes to attend homecoming games and Vandy plays in every SEC school's homecoming.) As a friend who played football for Vanderbilt said, "If there is one thing you learn to recognize as a football player here, it is a homecoming float."
So we planned a nice trip to New York City together to spend some father/daughter time before she left. I always look for life-lessons to show my kids (usually over their objections), and an interesting one occurred while we were in Manhattan.
Near where we were staying, a doctor blew up his $9 million Upper East Side brownstone so his divorcing wife could not get it. Oh yeah, he was in the house when he did it and was buried in the rubble. I guess he showed her.
The demented doctor really loved his home and hated his ex-wife for trying to take it from him. Within minutes, the smoldering scene was on national TV with all the sensational details. It just so happened that talk-show host and centenarian Larry King was in the neighborhood and was awkwardly reporting on it for CNN. Larry is used to sitting on the set, half asleep, listening to Liz Taylor or Barbara Eden drone on about their feelings, but he was thrown into the heat of the battle reporting on this news event.
Larry said that the explosion was the "loudest blast that he had ever heard." (The staff of his show, many of whom have worked in close proximity to Larry for years, disagreed.) Ironically, King, who has had about 34 wives at last count, was the one forced to do the reporting on this divorce-driven event. Larry just loves that new-wife smell, and clearly Viagra and his TV fame have kept him in the game well past the public's comfort level.
Larry, like many Americans, enjoys getting married much more than being married. Too many people marry for idealistic reasons. In reality, marriage (for men) is our actual last chance to grow up. Marriage is not a natural state for men, and we are often pressured into it. Women are genetically conditioned to want a big wedding, and they feel the pressure until that is done. Men, as a gender, are not much -- and women tend to over-think us. Deep down we are really shallow. We certainly don't care about a wedding. There is a reason that there is no such thing as Modern Groom magazine.
A perfect marriage is an idealistic thing. The actual day-to-day of marriage is quite a real thing. Confusion between the two usually results in what happened to the demolished doctor and to Larry King. You never want to go through divorce if you can avoid it. Ask any wise person: Everyone loses. We Americans are too quick to throw in the towel. We see Hollywood divorces after two years of marriage, and both people are remarried before the divorce is final.
Now I love being married -- just ask my wife. And I would never divorce, as I am not up to disappointing another woman. Yet divorce happens with way too much frequency. Most of the time the couple is trading one set of problems for another.
I had a dear friend who went through a divorce once. It was terrible, and I lived it with him. It was a starter marriage of two years, and it went before a judge (something else that you do not want to do). At the end of the trial, the judge delivered his final ruling to my buddy in open court: "I have decided to give your wife $700 a month in alimony in this case. Do you have any questions?"
My buddy looked at him and said: "Judge, that is so good of you, and I will try to kick in some money myself when I can."
Some folks just do not need to be married.
So I have sought to lower my daughter's expectations of men, in hopes that she will not be disappointed. I think I have done my part.
Ron Hart is a columnist and investor in Atlanta. He worked for Goldman Sachs and was appointed to the Tennessee Board of Regents by Lamar Alexander.