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FALL RIVER, Mass.--You get strange benefits from marriage. For one thing, since you're not alone in your apartment all the time, you don't find yourself talking to empty chairs nearly as often. In addition, a mortgage slurps all the money out of your pocket and, because you have less money to spend in bars, your liver gets healthy.
Best of all benefits is the marriage slide, the newfound ability to get out of things because your wife needs you to take her somewhere or do something around the house. When one of your friends wants you to "go in" on a shaky business opportunity/IPO/Super Bowl bet, you can likewise slide. And when you are out in a bar, a flash of your wedding ring shackle keeps the friendlier female occupant at bay, where once her kittenish, vodka-roughened voice would have led you only to misery and quite possibly to an arraignment for beating up her abusive ex-boyfriend.
I got married for the first time at 52, which is like learning to ride a bicycle when you're 90. After three years, I still ask my wife if I'm doing it right.
And, more often than you'd think, the quiet, plaid-clad married man gets off one of those classic lines that belong only to the fellow who fights the little battles.
I was visiting my elderly mother in a hospital where she went to recover after shoulder surgery. Mothers, by the way, always love you, but they don't visibly respect you until you get married.
A kid, maybe 25, came in with a tray containing my mother's dinner.
He was a nice-looking kid, and I couldn't decide if he looked like some guy I went to college with or a movie actor whose name I'd forgotten.
The kid had a goatee and a mustache, and the ends of the mustache were waxed upward into points, like the mustache of a silent-movie villain.
"I like your mustache," I said.