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Hummel column: Here's how to tell if a couple is married

Detroit Lakes Newspapers columnist Lynn Hummel recently published his fourth book, "The Last Word," a collection of some of his favorite columns from the past 40 years.

Looking across the room in this ice cream store, we saw two senior citizens, both probably about 75, having an animated conversation.

The woman was smiling broadly, obviously fascinated by what the guy was saying. I pointed them out to Eartha. ("Don't point" she warned).

"Look at that couple," I said, "they're not married."

"Why do you say that?" she inquired.

"Because that lady is too cheerful to be talking to her husband."

A minute later, another man came to their table. He was about the same age as the original guy. Could have been his twin — obviously they were brothers. In the conversation with the new guy, the lady calmed down and had the appearance of somebody talking about the grocery list rather than a dining date with the original guy.

Eartha watched the new conversation with the second guy at the table and agreed he was probably the husband and the first guy wasn't. Night and day.

Have you ever noticed you can tell whether a couple is married just by watching their expressions while they're talking?

A week earlier, we were strangers in a place we'll call Duffy's. We were having a burger. The time was about 7:30 p.m. and the place was busy and noisy. From where we sat we could see about three couples at the bar. The first couple was holding hands.

"He's holding hands with his wife," I observed.

"Yeah, somebody's wife," Eartha commented.

The other two couples were talking quietly, head to head, and smiling. Each had a beer.

I had an idea. I should go to each couple and offer to buy their drinks if they were husband and wife.

"I'll bet not one couple is married to one another," I said.

Eartha agreed, but we decided that if I carried out my idea, I'd probably be stepping on toes and raising a sensitive issue. Like invasion of privacy. The whole scheme could get me punched in the nose. So I decided to keep my mouth shut. But I am certain that none of the couples were married — to one another. Night and day.

I'm sure you've made the same observation. You see one couple talking and, from their expressions, you can imagine they're talking about the last oil change on the family car. You know it's safe to assume they're married. You don't have to ask — you just know.

Then there's another couple, and from their expressions, you get the idea that they're discussing a month together on a beach in Mexico. Trust me, they're not married. Night and day.

You don't have to be a detective and you don't have to eavesdrop on the conversation. All you have to do is observe — pay attention. Now here's a question — why can't we married couples smile more and laugh it up when we're talking to one another? Some smart aleck watching us may think he knows we're single and offer to buy us a drink because we're happily married.