READER Karuna Menon showed me a questionnaire from a chain of bookstores. It asked: Which of the following best describes your marital status?
The first and second options are logical enough, but the next two are baffling.
People are either married or single, so what would qualify as "Other?"
And why do they want to know whether we'd been "Refused" or not? Bit cheeky, no?
As an experiment, your humble narrator printed out copies of the question and distributed it at the bar that night.
"I'm doing a survey," I said. "Answer this question."
Five minutes later, it had been answered by everyone except one elderly gentleman in the corner, who just stared at it.
I gathered in the results. Two people were single, and three were married. One person was confused, explaining that he was a polygamist. We decided he was not just married, but double or triple married.
The one divorced person present had ticked "Single" and added a huge smiley face. One doleful young man had ticked "Refused." I didn't ask why in case he burst into tears.
After a few minutes, the old fella in the corner finally handed in his paper. He had ticked "Other."
I asked him: "But what do you mean by that? Are you married or not?"
He replied: "I had to tick 'Other' because my answer to that question is 'Can't Remember.'"
The survey got us chatting about marriage proposals, which tend to be not very romantic these days.
Here are three real-life examples.
1. A guy called James went to buy an engagement ring as a surprise to his girlfriend. The credit card company, noting that he was making a larger than usual transaction, halted the sale, froze the account and notified the joint card-holder, James' girlfriend. The pair ended up with no ring, no surprise, no money and dead credit cards. Yes, the happiest day of their lives.
2. Then there was Mike who had a furious row with his girlfriend. She was screaming that he didn't really love her. He screamed back: "I do love you, enough to marry you even." She shrieked: "Okay, then do it." He yelled: "Okay I will." And they stormed off to sign up. Looking back on it as a now-married man, Mike admits the whole thing lacked romance.
3. A guy called Sammy wrote to the letters page at groomgroove.com about how he secretly created a wedding invitation in the names of his girlfriend and himself. At dinner with her family, he handed her the card, inviting her to her own wedding. "Then I went down to one knee and pulled the ring out and asked [her to marry me]. She looked at her parents and looked down at me with a 'Yes!'" Sammy wrote. That story is romantic. Until you read the last line of his letter: "Since then she's run off with my brother."
Meanwhile, the doleful young man in the bar was curious about why a bookstore survey wanted to know that he had been refused.
"Maybe they reckon guys like you are such total losers that they don't even want you on their spam list," I said. Life is hard.
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