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This is so embarrassing. They're going to think I am some kind of serial bride who preys on innocent lambs.

Licensed to Be Happy

Things have changed a lot since I last got a marriage license. It used to require drawing blood, like some pagan ritual. Now (at least in my locality) it only requires a superficial appearance of honesty.

We played hooky from work to rendezvous at the courthouse in the afternoon. I sighed when I saw what he was wearing, one of his most worn T-shirts. This is so uncouth.

"That's what you picked to wear to this landmark event?" I asked.

"Yes," he said.

"Your Trademark bar T-shirt?"

But the minute I said it, I realized it was the bar where we had shared our first kiss, five years earlier. The guy in front of us in line at the marriage license office was wearing a T-shirt celebrating the joys of Harley riding. Maybe it had some significance, too (but I doubt it).

At first, I thought I was psychologically sabotaging the process by forgetting to bring the birth certificates and divorce papers, but none of it was necessary. There were two clipboards at the license office, one marked "grooms" and one marked "brides." The questions were straightforward: name, date of birth.

For shame. I write down an age which is more than he's writing.

Is this my first marriage?

For shame. He's virginally writing "first." I have to write "third."

Divorced, widowed? I'm going to check one of each, even though technically it's two D's. I earned the W just by waiting it out as a D.

Next line: address.

For shame. We both write down the same one. We are shack-ups of long standing. This is so embarrassing. They're going to think I am some kind of serial bride who preys on innocent lambs. I am drowning in shame, and look up to notice that the other two couples working on their clipboards are both hugely pregnant, and oblivious to the not-so-subtle fact.

OK, well, at least I don't have that, too.

I finish before the groom and glance over to see how he's doing. He must be nervous. He drove in from a neighboring town where his band is setting up to play, and in the city address line, he's written the name of that town.

"They want to know where you're from, not where you just came from," I point out.

"Oh," he says.

"You'll get the hang of it after you've been married a few more times," I suggest.

Everyone else is processed quickly. I suspect they are running my Social Security number for priors in the back room, but finally the clerk comes out, takes my money, has us swear with our right hand in the air, "I swear on the holy air of the license office that everything I wrote on this application is true," and she hands over our official license, the souvenir one the marrying person can fill out for us, pamphlets on AIDS and birth control, and a sealed plastic bag labeled "Wedding Kit."

I can't wait to get back to the parking lot to see what my county has determined I need to start married life.

The Wedding Kit contains:

A roll of paper towels.
A packet of Mr. Clean.
A packet of Puffs tissues.
Secret deodorant in the Spring Breeze scent.
Two Pepto-Bismol tablets.
A small box of Tide detergent.
A booklet of recipes that all require Reynolds Wrap.

Married life is going to be wonderful! It looks like a lot of cleaning, sneezing, cooking, and indigestion, but you smell like a breeze.

And don't forget the AIDS and birth control.

Back home, I open a letter from my dad. I was hoping for a huge check. He sent $500 the first time I got married, and gave me my bedroom furniture the second time. What with inflation and all, I'm looking for $1,000, or two rooms of furniture. But multiple weddings must translate into diminishing returns. He says he's going to send me a George Foreman Grill this time.

There's nothing in my Wedding Kit I can cook on a George Foreman Grill, so I am disappointed. What will I do with such a thing? But then we watch this late-night infomercial of George Foreman having a cooking contest with other people, all using George Foreman Grills, and we are hypnotized.

This is the greatest thing ever created! How did we ever cohabit in sin this long without one?

Married life is indeed going to be wonderful, with all the fat drained out.

Mariane Matera is a free-lance writer who lives in Richmond.

Opinions expressed on the Back Page are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Style Weekly.

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