Erin J. Bernard
A Lesson on the Road

An excerpt…

Puerto Vallarta is one of those glad and gamboling Mexican beach towns where everybody’s always stopping you to ask whether you’re married or not.

Considering the substantial number of newly wedded Norteamericanos who come to sunburn themselves along Vallarta’s fabled shores, it’s a bit of a softball question – a way to crack the intercultural code and to start a conversation about what really matters: love, and social standing, and of course, commerce.

It is, in fact, the first question Emiliano and I are asked when we exit the temperate confines of Gustavo Díaz Ordaz Airport.

“Esposos?” a porter inquires as he tosses our packs into a taxi hatch. Husband and wife?

“No,” we say in unison, a little embarrassed, because we aren’t even technically dating. Yet.

“Tienen suerte,” the man declares saucily. You are lucky.

He tells us he’s been married for 23 years, and I ask him what the secret to a happy marriage is.

He straightens his starched collar and thinks on it a bit.

“Never go home any earlier than you have to,” he says. “Give her all the money. And agree with whatever she says. That is the secret.”

This nonfiction piece appears in our Fall 2013 issue (Vol. 60.1).

Erin J. Bernard is a freelance writer, editor and photographer born and bred in Portland, Oregon. She holds a bachelor’s degree in creative writing from Linfield College and a master’s degree in international journalism from the University of Missouri, but considers herself, above all, a student of the open road. She has studied, written, taught, and traveled in thirty-three countries. A fortune cookie once advised Erin to “Know the right moment.” She thinks that’s darned good advice.