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Weird Wedding Laws Still on the Books

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A few of us are off to weddings this weekend. To get in the mood, we decided to re-run Jenn Thompson's piece on weird wedding laws from last year.

We traveled state to state in search of the most curious courtship regulations that are still on the books. As for the question of whether or not these laws of love should actually be enforced—well, we leave that up to you and your better half to decide.


"¢ In South Carolina, if a man over 16 proposes marriage to an unwed woman without actually intending to marry her, he's guilty of a misdemeanor under the Offenses Against Morality and Decency. Don't get too jazzed, though, ladies. You can't bring the sleaze ball up on charges unless you can get someone to corroborate your story that he proposed as a means of seduction. Not to mention, the whole thing is null and void if the accused man can prove that at the time of the alleged seduction the woman in question was behaving "lewd and unchaste." (That's legalese we all can understand.)

"¢ In North Carolina, it's against the law to "pretend" to be married when registering for a hotel room. So next time the unknowing clerk hands you and your bedtime buddy the room keys and says, "Enjoy your stay, Mr. and Mrs. Guest," you may want to swallow the awkwardness and correct him, or risk suffering the consequence of a Class 2 misdemeanor. On the other hand, if the couple checking into the honeymoon suite is legitimately hitched but can't "close the deal" due to one or both parties being sexually impotent, the marriage can be declared null and void. One has to wonder, though: should the advent of Levitra and Viagra make this law null and void?

"¢ In Montana, a couple can marry even if neither of them is present. This miracle marriage is done by way of a "double proxy" ceremony. Particularly popular with soldiers deployed overseas who wish to get married without coming home on leave, this type of marriage is arranged through a lawyer, who then hires two proxies (anyone with a free afternoon and a desire for some extra cash) to come sit before the judge, recite the vows and sign the marriage license on behalf of the absent bride and groom. Also potentially an option for the ultra-lazy couple that can't even be bothered to elope and would prefer to have someone else do the "I do-ing" for them while they relax in front of the TiVo. Actually, that doesn't sound so bad at all.

wedding-laws.jpg"¢ For several embarrassing months in late 2007 and early 2008, Arkansas state law mistakenly allowed persons of any age, even twee toddlers, to marry as long as they had parental consent. The gaff was made when a minimum age requirement was accidentally left out of an amended marriage law aimed at establishing eighteen as the legal age of non-parental consented marriage. The law was finally corrected in April of 2008, meaning Suri Cruise and Shiloh Jolie-Pitt are once again off the market until further notice.


"¢ There is some serious girl power going on down in Alabama, where women are entitled to keep any and all possessions that they acquired prior to the marriage in the event of a divorce, but no such allowance is made for the man. So while angry exes might go 45 rounds arguing over who gets to keep his original vinyl record collection, the five rooms full of Pottery Barn furniture she brought into the marriage will be off the table. He might get to keep the big screen in the end, but she'll dare him to try and enjoy watching the big game without a plush Pearce Sectional Sofa in Oatmeal ultra-suede cushioning his backside. Mwah ha ha ha!

"¢ In New Orleans, Louisiana, it is illegal for anyone claiming to be a palm reader, fortune teller, mystic healer or any other magic-possessing hoodwinker to offer up marriage services (they are also not allowed to proclaim their ability to contact your dead or lost relatives, locate buried treasure or predict the outcome of a lawsuit, just for starters). Too bad though, it really would have been convenient to have a one stop shop for a marriage, a séance, and a chakra cleansing.

Jenn Thompson is a freelance writer for publications including Charlotte Magazine, Weddings Unveiled, and The Atlantan. For the next few days, she'll be sharing her wedding knowledge with us. Superstar researcher Kathleen Pierce helped dig these weird laws up.

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Paw Enforcement: A History of McGruff the Crime Dog
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Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Jack Keil, executive creative director of the Dancer Fitzgerald Sample ad agency, was stuck in a Kansas City airport at three in the morning when he started thinking about Smokey Bear. Smokey was the furred face of forest fire prevention, an amiable creature who cautioned against the hazards of unattended campfires or errant cigarette butts. Everyone, it seemed, knew Smokey and heeded his words.

In 1979, Keil’s agency had been tasked with coming up with a campaign for the recently-instituted National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC), a nonprofit organization looking to educate the public about crime prevention. If Keil could create a Smokey for their mission, he figured he would have a hit. He considered an elephant who could stamp out crime, or a rabbit who was hopping mad about illegal activity.

A dog seemed to fit. Dogs bit things, and the NCPC was looking to take a bite out of crime. Keil sketched a dog reminiscent of Snoopy with a Keystone Cop-style hat.

Back at the agency, people loved the idea but hated the dog. In a week’s time, the cartoon animal would morph into McGruff, the world-weary detective who has raised awareness about everything from kidnapping to drug abuse. While he no longer looked like Snoopy, he was about to become just as famous.

In 1979, the public service advertising nonprofit the Ad Council held a meeting to discuss American paranoia. Crime was a hot button issue, with sensational reports about drugs, home invasions, and murders taking up the covers of major media outlets like Newsweek and TIME. Surveys reported that citizens were concerned about crime rates and neighborhood safety. Respondents felt helpless to do anything, since more law enforcement meant increased taxes.

To combat public perception, the Ad Council wanted to commit to an advertising campaign that would act as a preventive measure. Crime could not be stopped, but the feeling was that it could be dented with more informed communities. Maybe a clean park would be less inviting to criminals; people might need to be reminded to lock their doors.

What people did not need was a lecture. So the council enlisted Dancer Fitzgerald Sample to organize a campaign that promoted awareness in the most gentle way possible. Keil's colleagues weighed in on his dog idea; someone suggested that the canine be modeled after J. Edgar Hoover, another saw a Superman-esque dog that would fly in to interrupt crime. Sherry Nemmers and Ray Krivascy offered an alternative take: a dog wearing a trench coat and smoking a cigar, modeled in part after Peter Falk’s performance as the rumpled TV detective Columbo.

Keil had designs on getting Falk to voice the animated character, but the actor’s methodical delivery wasn’t suited to 30-second commercials, so Keil did it himself. His scratchy voice lent an authoritarian tone, but wasn't over-the-top.

The agency ran a contest on the back of cereal boxes to name the dog. “Sherlock Bones” was the most common submission, but "McGruff"—which was suggested by a New Orleans police officer—won out.

Armed with a look, a voice, and a name, Nemmers arranged for a series of ads to run in the fall of 1980. In the spots, McGruff was superimposed over scenes of a burglary and children wary of being kidnapped by men in weather-beaten cars. He advised people to call the police if they spotted something suspicious—like strangers taking off with the neighbor’s television or sofa—and to keep their doors locked. He sat at a piano and sang “users are losers” in reference to drug-abusing adolescents. (The cigar had been scrapped.)

Most importantly, the NCPC—which had taken over responsibility for McGruff's message—wanted the ads to have what the industry dubbed “fulfillment.” At the end, McGruff would advise viewers to write to a post office box for a booklet on how to prevent crime in their neck of the woods.

A lot of people did just that. More than 30,000 booklets went out during the first few months the ads aired. McGruff’s laconic presence was beginning to take off.

By 1988, an estimated 99 percent of children ages six to 12 recognized McGruff, putting him in Ronald McDonald territory. He appeared on the ABC series Webster, in parades, and in thousands of personal appearances around the country, typically with a local police officer under the suit. (The appearances were not without danger: Some dogs apparently didn't like McGruff and could get aggressive at the sight of him.)

As McGruff aged into the 1990s, his appearances grew more sporadic. The NCPC began targeting guns and drugs and wasn’t sure the cartoon dog was a good fit, so his appearances were limited to the end of some ad spots. By the 2000s, law enforcement cutbacks meant fewer cops in costume, and a reduced awareness of the crime-fighting canine. When Keil retired, an Iowa cop named Steve Parker took over McGruff's voice duties.

McGruff is still in action today, aiding in the NCPC’s efforts to raise awareness of elder abuse, internet crimes, and identity theft. The organization estimates that more than 4000 McGruffs are in circulation, though at least one of them failed to live up to the mantle. In 2014, a McGruff performer named John Morales pled guilty to possession of more than 1000 marijuana plants and a grenade launcher. He’s serving 16 years in prison.

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Animals
Watch a Panda Caretaker Cuddle With Baby Pandas While Dressed Up Like a Panda
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iStock

Some people wear suits to work—but at one Chinese nature reserve, a handful of lucky employees get to wear panda suits.

As Travel + Leisure reports, the People's Daily released a video in July of animal caretakers cuddling with baby pandas at the Wolong National Nature Reserve in China's Sichuan Province. The keepers dress in fuzzy black-and-white costumes—a sartorial choice that's equal parts adorable and imperative to the pandas' future success in the wild.

Researchers raise the pandas in captivity with the goal of eventually releasing them into their natural habitat. But according to The Atlantic, human attachment can hamper the pandas' survival chances, plus it can be stressful for the bears to interact with people. To keep the animals calm while acclimating them to forest life, the caretakers disguise their humanness with costumes, and even mask their smell by smearing the suits with panda urine and feces. Meanwhile, other keepers sometimes conceal themselves by dressing up as trees.

Below, you can watch the camouflaged panda caretakers as they cuddle baby pandas:

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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