Monday, February 29, 2016

Look Before You Leap

Look Before You Leap

I'm not sure who invented Leap Years, but here we are again, enjoying an extra day in February.

Did you know that February 29 is known as "leap day?"

Did you know that a person born on February 29 may be called a "leapling" or a "leaper?"

Did you know that February 29 has a long tradition in which a lady may ask a gentleman for his hand in marriage?

That tradition started sometime ago in England and Ireland, and in North America, it has become known as Sadie Hawkins Day.

Sadies Hawkins Day actually originated in a Andy Capp's comic strip, L'il Abner, which was published in newspapers from 1934 until 1978.

In Li'l Abner, Sadie Hawkins was the daughter of one of Dogpatch's earliest settlers, Hekzebiah Hawkins. The "homeliest gal in all them hills", she grew frantic waiting for suitors to come a-courtin'. When she reached the age of 35, still a spinster, her father was even more frantic — about Sadie living at home for the rest of her life. In desperation, he called together all the unmarried men of Dogpatch and declared it "Sadie Hawkins Day."

A foot race was decreed, with Sadie in hot pursuit of the town's eligible bachelors. She specifically had her eye on a boy who was already in a courtship with the cute farmers daughter, Theresa. She was the daughter of the area's largest potato farmer, Bill Richmand, and, unlike Sadie, had a lot of courtship offers. Stud-muffin Adam Olis was her target, and because the engagement of Miss Theresa and Adam wasn't official he was included in the race. With matrimony as the consequence of losing the foot race, the men of the town were running for their freedom. Turned out Adam Olis was in 4th place out of 10th leaving John Jonston Sadies' catch of the day.

Click to enlarge.

The town spinsters decided that this was such a good idea, they made Sadie Hawkins Day a mandatory yearly event, much to the chagrin of Dogpatch bachelors. In the satirical spirit that drove the strip, many sequences revolved around the dreaded Sadie Hawkins Day race. If a woman caught a bachelor and dragged him, kicking and screaming, across the finish line before sundown — by law he had to marry her. (Source: Wikipedia)

When I was much younger, we used to have Sadie Hawkins Dances in school. Sure enough, the girls would chase the boys around the gymnasium, and those young men who were "captured" would have to dance with the girl who caught him.

I was never a quick runner. I didn't mind dancing with any of the girls, but I must say that Maggie Boreham, who had more than an ample pubescent rack and a reputation to go with it, was always a welcome partner.

I'm not sure if Sadie Hawkins dances still exist. We do, however, have "reality" TV shows like "The Bachelor," in which 26 or more lovely young ladies chase a arguably handsome bachelor around the world to become his intended bride. The counterpart is "The Bachelorette" — same insanity but with a gang of men chasing one woman.

"The Bachelor" has been a very popular show over 20 seasons. Since very few of the somewhat contrived engagements have actually led to marriage, the show is clearly designed more as entertainment than as a real-life process.

Other "reality" shows, such as "Married At First Sight" or "Married By Mom And Dad," are indicative of just how much today's television audience are fascinated with some kind of unsuspecting and sudden rush into marriage. The guiding principle seems to be that romance is bunk and that those wedding nuptials conquer all.

Arranged marriages are nothing new to many cultures around the world. These cultures insist that an arranged marriage works. What they don't tell you is that, if one of the partners steps out from the marriage, there are dire consequences. Usually, the wife ends up dead, very often shot on her way to her divorce proceedings. So it goes ... without the romance, there is only contempt.

Sadie Hawkins was no romantic. She was more a pragmatic and, dare I say, desperate woman, who saw marriage as a social convention as much as she might have equated getting married with finding an everlasting love. Love and marriage do not necessarily go hand-in-hand.

In the same way, "The Bachelor/Bachelorette," "Married At First Sight" or "Married By Mom And Dad" rely on the same misguided premise. Marriage might be a logical outcome of two people falling in love, but simply marrying someone is no assurance that there ever will be love between the two participants.

Marriage involves a great deal of what I call "dirty work." Living with someone in a legally binding relationship has become more of a contractual business arrangement than a romantic communion of two souls. In marriage, there is always a certain amount of division, and unless each participant is willing and able to make compromises, it's a sure bet the marriage will fail.

Marriages do fail. Good grief, the divorce rate has soared in the last thirty years. Over 50% of marriages now end in divorce.

Perhaps it is time to teach our children what marriage truly involves and sluff off these idealistic notions of love and marriage going together "like a horse and carriage." These days, there are no horses or carriages travelling along life's highways and byways. There are, however, a great many car wrecks.

It's time to put Sadie Hawkins Day to rest. It's time to temper the idea that marriage is somehow the be-all and end-all of life's experiences.

My advice to young people would be to learn how to be a much better runner than I ever was.


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