New York, NY

Harold & Dorothy, New York, NY - married 1948

I was referred to Harold & Dorothy by a former classmate I'd run into, after several years' absence, who told me she had recently met a long-married couple at a dinner party and that the husband regularly ran in the New York Marathon.  In the 1999 marathon - at age 80 - he finished 31,236th, with a time of 6:54:41!  As gregarious a New Yorker as you could ever hope to meet, Harold invited me up to their apartment for his specialty – cheese omelettes – before our interview.

The first thing they did after they were married was to buy a subscription to the Metropolitan Opera Guild; at the time of our meeting, they were embarked upon their 52nd consecutive season there.  They have six children.


RF:
What would each of you say you bring to the basic dynamic?

Harold:
Well, Dorothy brings stability. (They laugh.)  And patience.  You know?

Dorothy:
Lots.  Lots of patience.

Harold:
I’m short on patience.  I’m impetuous.  I do things impetuously sometimes.

Dorothy:
Yes.  Yes.

Harold:
And I think a terrific quality Dorothy has, she can get really pissed at me for something – justifiably – and then afterward, the next morning, it’s all forgotten.  You know?

Dorothy:
I don’t keep grudges.

Harold:
I don’t hold grudges…

Dorothy:
No, he don’t –

Harold:
…but my memory doesn’t work that quickly.  (laughs.)

Dorothy:
But he’s a terrific guy.  He really is.  The best thing is, when he gets angry, just… walk away.  I found that to work the best.  Just don’t answer back, just walk away, forget it, and… it blows over.  And we’re best of friends, all the time.  Really.

Harold:
It’s funny, you know.  Over the years, I’ve always felt it wasn’t really “healthy” that we didn’t argue fairly often.  ‘Cause arguing at least means dialogue, and we hadn’t had that many dialogues.

Dorothy:
No.  We really didn’t.

RF:
What have you learned from him over the years?  Is there anything that he’s taught you?

Dorothy:
Oh, lots of things.

RF:
What’s some of that exchange that’s been made?

Dorothy:
Basically, his love for people.  He could talk to anybody that he doesn’t know. New York, NYHe could stop people in the street.  And I admire this.  ‘Cause I could not do it.  I really could not do what he does.  His gift for people is… unbelievable.  The kids even get embarrassed sometimes, when they’re here and we’re going somewhere, to theatre or something, and he just stops and talks to everybody.  He’s made clients that way.  He’s a very unusual man.  He really is.  I admire him.

Harold:
I’ve got my warts.

RF:
Well, what have you absorbed from Dorothy?

Harold:
Stability.  Really.  It’s a big word.

RF:
Has she taught you to be stable?

Harold:
Yeah.  I think as a result of the give and take, I’ve become more tolerant and more aware of the need to not go off half-cocked about something.  And again, this ability I mentioned earlier, about not getting upset and then it’s behind you, and let’s go on, and no more upset.  You know?

Dorothy:
It’s true.

Harold:
And patience.  Although again, just the asking of the question brings things to mind that you rarely stop to take the time to say to someone, “gee whiz, gee whiz.  You know, I’ve learned something; I’m a better person for having been exposed to certain things.”  But in the meantime, you know, this matter of where do we go from here?  You know?  Where do we go from here?

RF:
What is your take on marriage these days?  As a necessity, as an institution?

Harold:
We know it’s a totally different… the thinking about marriage is different.  And back when, when your parents got married, my parents got married, we got married… you went into it with the unspoken assumption that you’re gonna stay married.  Period.  Now, it’s been said, of course, we had aunts and uncles who were married for 50 years, maybe they both would have been better off if they’d divorced early on - who the hell knows, you know - but they stuck it out.  And there’s something to be said for that, again, in terms of stability and family.

But short of that, the attitudes are different these days.  I’m sure people going into marriage – again, not explicitly stated – feel, well, if it doesn’t work, they’ll get divorced.  The stigma that used to attach to divorce is no longer there.  And you hear about people being married three and four times, that’s a thing – you remember Charlie Barnet?  Sax player.  Great band – his big, big song was Cherokee?  He was married, like, twelve times, I understand.  Look, Artie Shaw was married a whole buncha times.  Just affording the alimony must have kept ‘em broke!  Crazy.  But that’s another subject.

RF:
Well, what place do you think marriage has nowadays, anymore.  Is it still necessary?

Harold:
As an institution?  Well…

Dorothy:
Not sure.

Harold:
Given, while there’s no stigma, I suppose – well, the stigma used to attach to being born out of wedlock, for the kid.

Dorothy:
Right.

Harold:
I think that has abated to a large degree.  To a large degree.  Although, not totally.  Not totally.  There’s still – like it or not, and justifiably or not – there’s, I guess, some stigma attached.  I don’t know.  I’m not a sociologist, I haven’t seen the studies.  But the point is, as an institution, I think it’s still a valid institution, and I’m glad to see that people are still getting married.  You know, now, the rationale, if you’re not gonna have kids, why bother getting married?

Dorothy:
Why bother, yeah.  Just live together, and –

Harold:
Which seems a kind of a strange, strange approach to it.  But then, conversely, I meet young people, married - they don’t plan on having children.

Dorothy:
That’s right.

Harold:
Which is a puzzlement.  I don’t know what the sociologists have to say on the subject, but I think the fact of marriage brings with it some element of stability.  It [is as though] two people care about each other, they love each other, but on alternate days of the week; he’s off somewhere, she’s off somewhere, you know, that kind of thing.  Then you hear about these open marriages these days, which are not that new, where there’s an understanding; and I know some married couples who take separate vacations.  That’s another interesting sort of angle.

But… it’s around.  The clergy like it; helps ‘em make a living.  The catering halls like it.  Listen.  There’s always an economic element.  Always.  I don’t care what.

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