Three Little Words

This weekend I am in Bowling Green, Kentucky for a friend’s wedding. Although I am happy to be here for him, I’m conflicted since I am in Bowling Green but in the Bluegrass State. So far, I haven’t seen any blue grass, but then it’s November and freezing, which is not what I expected. I thought I was in the South, mint juleps and all. Apparently, that doesn’t apply here. Then again, I haven’t seen any bowling, either.

Weddings are funny things, at least as you get older. Unless you’re a parent of the bride or groom, they’re not really designed for older people. This is true of Baby Boomers, who are often on their second or third marriage or divorce. Millennials and younger tend to avoid those dangers, opting instead to live with each other until something tears them part. I speak from my experience at numerous weddings where the parents and their contemporaries were divorced. In this wedding, both the mom and dad of the groom were remarried and in the wedding ceremony.

At the rehearsal dinner for this wedding, I met an aunt of the groom. She was a charming woman from Colorado adorned in turquoise who reminded me of my college girlfriend and what I imagine her to look like in ten years. I felt instantly drawn to her. She had a sense of humor much like that of Bobby Bronco, whose name kept coming up. Some of the groom’s older relatives are BB fans and asked me about him. I told them I would pass on their regards. Of course, this after the third round of drinks. We managed to keep up the facade for the duration (see Bobby Bronco).

Somewhere between the second and third rounds of Kentucky bourbon and analyzing the various groups in attendance, which we identified by marital status and age, we decided that two phrases exemplified the early and later stages of relationships. Both consist of three words and, in case you’re wondering, neither is “I love you.”

The first is “We have time.” Given the stressful nature of work and the chaos of child rearing, there is little to no time for making whoopee. There isn’t much to do about work except to limit the time spent on emails and zoom meetings. Personally, I’d like to hire someone to handle just emails. I have more than 45,000 of them in just over three years at my current job. I am also becoming the George Jones of zoom. The country singer was notorious for not showing up at his own concerts. As for child-rearing, I learned long ago that you need two things: space and money. And you need plenty of both. Then kids aren’t a problem. I don’t mean that to sound harsh. In fact, my ninth grandchild is scheduled for making his or her debut on Thanksgiving. It’s just a material reality. I’d say both are essential, but if I had to choose, I’d pick space as in a lot of it.

The other three-word phrase to describe relationships is “Leave me alone.” This one is tricky, since it applies not so much to the couple, although you often hear that the secret to marriage is separate vacations, but to people on the outside. That means the rest of the world.

“Leave me alone” reflects an attitude that values quiet, authenticity, solitude, reflection, a dislike of intrusions into personal space (space again), and an overall distrust of marketing. Again, that may sound harsh, since I work in a business school and some of the most talented professors are in the Marketing Department, but I take the long view. To wit, the oldest profession in the world isn’t prostitution but marketing; the first marketer being Satan. First marketed product: the apple and everything that unfortunately went with it.

In between the wedding at the church and the reception at an immense Greek restaurant that used to be an Orthodox church (the choir loft had dining tables), I stopped at a Starbuck’s to get a caffè latte, my first of the day. I wore my black tuxedo with studs, cufflinks, rose boutinere, bowtie, and overcoat. Did I mention that it’s freezing here in the Sans Bluegrass State?

They called my name and stared at me when I retrieved my drink, which read “Robbit” for Robert (not that I have an accent or anything). I sat down in a corner to relax. At the table next to me was an elderly couple. He read a book while she scrolled through her mobile phone. Neither one looked up at the other or anyone else until it was time to leave. They couldn’t have been more content.

That’s the power of three little words.

Image credits: feature by Andreas Fickl; wedding by Jonathan Borba. Like fiction? Check out the Mercury “trilogy” (The Gringo, Laura Fedorahere. Also, go to Robert Brancatelli.


  1. With the rush of make-up weddings, the ones cancelled by the edicts of our inept health officials, 2022 has been the Year of the Nuptials. As an unrepentant public dancer, this has been a banner year for Yours truly. Sadly, the weddings are NOT about me. Neither are weddings the point of your fab article.

    To your main point.

    Longevity and “Leave Me Alone!”

    Yes, there is a certain wisdom to the phrase. Lee and I have trundled along very nicely for 35 plus years. Early in the marriage, she declared, “Separate bathrooms, and separate computers.” The computer comment was LONG before the advent of the person with multiple devices, but her prescience is noted.

    And the separate bathrooms? Come on. Like our President Door Stop, it’s a no-brainer.

    Long time ago, I stopped counting the number of divorces of close friends and work colleagues. It was too depressing. As someone who comes from a family where there has NEVER been a divorce, the abundance of them caused me to ask my sainted mother why no one in the known five generations of Young, Leonard, Hillner, Kurtz, Rambeau, or Cattell families had ever been divorced.

    “We’re all too cheap and stubborn,” she said one Thanksgiving.

    Words to live . . . and avoid lawyers by.

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