News and Tribune

March 11, 2013

CUMMINS: Don’t ever give away your daughter

Local columnist

— Love and marriage don’t always go together like a horse and carriage. If you know anything about horses, some of them are flighty, others balky. When I discovered love, and then marriage, I had everything except a carriage. When I asked for her hand, my future father-in-law said, “Only if you put your nose to the grindstone.” We’ve worn out eight carriages since then. 

 Love leads to unknowns, including marriages. After marriage, sanctioned by the state and possibly God, misunderstandings may occur, which are usually about the degree of bliss that each lover should transfer. It can get tricky and sticky. Bathroom occupation should not affect bliss, but it does. 

As a family grows in numbers and intensity, love should seep out all over the place. Suffering should be limited to mothers enduring childbirth pain. Fathers witness this and wish they could share the pain. They will upon mother and child arriving home to the nursery where the mother-in-law has moved in with her suitcase. 

There’s all sorts of love relationships hanging from a family tree. You don’t know what bliss is until the cradle rocks. Some think a mother’s love for her children is a sacred one. This may be true, but a father’s love for his daughter(s) is like no other. It’s stashed away in heaven’s realm, too. Sons are a different proposition. A father knows how they are, chips off his thick block. Before it’s time for them to go, he kicks them out. When it’s time to give a daughter away, the trauma is unbearable.  

As a determined father grows his family tree, be it oak or hickory, at the birth of a daughter, a father prepares for war. He arms himself with two shotguns, one under his pillow and one hung in his truck for the boys to see. Come to take her out, and he’ll smile at you invitingly, but you’ll get the message from his dagger-pointed eyes, “Touch her and you’re dead.”    

Mothers begin planning weddings before finishing nursing. They love to re-work the ancestry wedding dress, and it takes years to compile the wedding invitation list. Pain picks up for fathers each time they run to and from the bank. 

Churches play two ceremonial songs for fathers — his daughter’s bride song and his funeral dirge. The mother sits there beaming, watching the father walk down the aisle [maybe at his funeral, too] ferociously holding on to his daughter, appearing as if he’ll walk her right on out the back door.  

One pretty girl I took out years ago had eight sisters. Her poor father didn’t know what to do, nor did I, so I took her back to him. That was not it. I was not ready. How do you know when you’re ready? You don’t, so we guess.  

The history of the world is about love stories. Wars are second. Adam and Eve were the first, and what a mess that was. Two-hundred years ago, the Bennet family in England had five daughters, and what a love story that was. Jane Austen, who never married, wrote a novel about this family. “Pride and Prejudice” is one of the most popular books ever written.  In commemoration, Jane Austen websites, clubs and parties have sprung up all over the world. 

There is no violence in the book and the sexiest line is, “He affectionately kissed her hand gallantly.” The book is about courtship, love and marriage, and the eternal pursuit thereof. The first line sets the stage: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of good fortune must be in want of a wife.” It is also a truth universally acknowledged today that a man without good fortune wants a stacked woman with a rich father. 

 “Pride and Prejudice” is a simple, but intricately complex story about how Mrs. Bennet plotted and maneuvered to find five suitable “gentlemen” husbands for their five daughters. The overwhelmed Mr. Bennet gave up and sequestered himself in his library.  

Why the enduring popularity of an early 19th century love story? Perhaps we’re looking back to see if we’ve missed something. Love and marriage were proper and civil back then. You kissed her hand gallantly, not pawed and slobbered all over her. A lady or gentleman lacking manners and propriety were doomed. All was not fair in love or war, and anything goes went nowhere. If you get tired and bored with hooking up on the Internet, read Jane Austen on Kindle.


— Contact Terry Cummins at