"Marriage is a great institution," Mae West has been quoted as saying, "but I'm not ready for an institution."
Despite the opinion of the late, great Ms. West, and others, that the decision to marry might be less than wholly sane, these four Chattanooga couples are still crazy about each other.
Sallye and Martin Gordon, married 53 years
* How they met: As students at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
* Early on: He was dating her roommate, but that romance eventually soured. "I started kibitzing with her at her sorority house and finally ventured enough nerve to ask her out," he said. They married just before he left for training at Dugway Proving Ground in Utah. "We enjoyed one another," she said.
* Favorite things: "She puts up with me," he said. "She's very easygoing. I sometimes have a little temper, and she ignores it, and that cools me down."
"He looks after me," she said.
* Challenges: "Just getting used to each other," Mr. Gordon said. "She spent all of her life in the South, and I was a Yankee." One of their sons had lymphoma. Their other son donated bone marrow. "That sucker just worked well," he said.
* On marriage: He said: "Have patience with each other and lots of love." She said: "All you have to know is that the woman rules. I'm the boss around here. He pretends he's the boss, but I am."
Marilyn and Herbert Rosenberg, married 65 years
* How they met: As children in Brookline, Mass. They lived across the street from each other.
* Early on: Evenings were spent talking on the stoop or going with friends to movies and for ice cream. "I wanted her, let's put it that way," he said. "I actually didn't have an impression. He had a sister, and she and I were friendly," she said.
* Favorite things: "He is not a fighter," Mrs. Rosenberg said of her husband. "He will not fight with you."
"She stuck with me through thick and thin," said Mr. Rosenberg. "There were times that were rough. She pitched in and did her thing."
* Challenges: "Not having graduated college and (having no family business to go into)," he said, "there were some rough times. I never made it big, so I sort of detoured (in my career)."
"We were married during the war," she said. "That was the hardest thing, to say goodbye."
* On marriage: He said: "Try not to rock the boat." She said: "You can't argue with anyone who won't argue back."
Dr. Jay and Marcia Menuskin, married 51 years
* How they met: At a fraternity party at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. At another party a few months later: "His date and my date went off together, so we were left with each other," Mrs. Menuskin said.
* Early on: After she came to terms with the idea of a younger man (she is a year older), the two began a courtship and later married. He was still in college. She had already graduated.
* Favorite things: "He's a lot of fun," she said. "People always tell him how much fun and how funny he is. He keeps you amused.
"She's always been very agreeable with our paths in life," he said. "She's always been very supportive."
* Challenges: Despite financial difficulties, arguments over child-rearing and recent health problems, Dr. Menuskin said marriage has been "a pretty even-keel type thing."
"Considering the length of time, the number of children, the ups and downs, the tragedies, the happy times," he said, "it's been a good trip."
* On marriage: He said: "The most important thing is the ability and willingness to compromise." She said: "The best key is to be friends with your spouse."
Dr. Bruce and Merle Backer, married 53 years
* How they met: In Memphis, probably at the Jewish Community Center, she said. "She was just a kid then," Dr. Backer said.
* Early on: "I thought he was nice looking, and he is still," Mrs. Backer said. He dated some of her friends and fixed her up with his roommate before they got together. "I don't remember any exact epiphany," she said. Before they dated, he said, "I never thought about getting serious with her. She just looked good at the time."
* Favorite things: "He's got a good dry sense of humor," she said. "And he's so congenial. He makes friends wherever he goes."
* Challenges: "It's hard getting started in a dental practice," Mrs. Backer said. "You get along on a lot less than you figured you could." It's hard not to fight sometimes, he said. "You sit around with each other all day long, and sometimes this one irritates that one and vice versa."
* On marriage: He said: "Just be calm, listen, try to get along with each other best you can. Take the good with the bad. Don't get overexcited." She said: "It's patience and give and take; you have to try to understand the other person's point of view."