Wednesday, September 27, 2006

You look at me and you see your past, Is that the reason why you're running so fast? - Matthew Wilder, "Break My Stride"

I had the most pleasant dream last night – about a dear old friend in which we did all those things that fill you with delight and desire in the beginning of a new romance – transforming mundane activities like grocery shopping or going to the movies into little scenes of contentment and happiness. Into feelings that at last, AT LAST, you have found someone who fits you and into whose life you fit, like a glove. Nothing graphic – sorry Badger, just lovely and sweet and satisfying.

And then I woke up.

And immediately was filled with sadness – that I don’t believe in something like reincarnation, that I don’t get another go-round, another shuffle on this mortal coil, to be with this person who I know – I KNOW - could be so right for me in so many ways, to do things differently this time and not mess up so much and not misstep so often. I am currently reading Mary Roach’s funny and engrossing Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife, a fitting follow-up to her funny and gross Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, and in it, so far, there is NOT a compelling case made for reincarnation, more’s the pity.

And then? I felt guilty and ungrateful. Ungrateful because I have three lovely and funny and smart and healthy children. Because I have a satisfying job that I love and at which I am very good. Because I have my health, and my dear brothers and my sweet sister-in-law, and some very good friends without whom I would be lost. Because I have a beautiful house, and plenty of delicious food to eat (some might argue too much, and I mourn the loss of fresh spinach, but nonetheless…), and nice neighbors, and a ready supply of chocolate and coffee, and lots of good books to read. Because I just BOUGHT A LAPTOP.

And I feel ungrateful that my marriage does not perhaps suffuse me with delight and desire in the way in which that person in my dream did. That at best it is a comfortable marriage in which we two very different people grow and develop separately and manage to rub along together as best we can and do ok. That we are excellent parents but perhaps not excellent spouses. We try, oh how we try and try, but H is not my best-fitted partner in oh so many ways. He knows it, and I know it, and we do the best we can anyway.

And then I read something like this:

Traditionally…marriage was a business relationship, designed for procreation and economic survival. It asked nothing more of its partners than stability, reliability and a day-to-day ability to get along. Recent generations added romantic love and sexual passion to the mix, followed by demands for equality after the resurgence of the feminist movement in the late 1960s. As our society placed new requirements on the institution of marriage without stripping away much of its historical functions, we responded by expecting our spouse -- one person -- to provide what in the past it had taken an entire village of people to give us.

In an article like this: Let’s Get It On.

And I feel much less ungrateful. I feel better. About myself, and my husband, and my workaday marriage. Because it rings so true. Because perhaps we are not MEANT to be each other’s end-all and be-all; perhaps we are doing the best we can in a situation into which we got ourselves and have decided to make as nice as possible because we have these three wonderful children who deserve two parents if at all possible, and you know, it isn’t bad, oh no, not at all. We are friendly enough, we accommodate the other, we love each other the way that many people married for almost twelve years do not. We are stubborn. We try to resolve our differences and take care of each other. And he is a good guy, and I try to be a good person, and we manage to rub along together as best we can and do ok. Mostly.***

But oh. The dream. The person in that dream. A dear and wonderful friend, with whom I have been friends for a long, long time. A friend the idea of whom is perhaps sweetened by his very unattainability. By the fact that I do not have to live with him, day in and day out, discussing finances and scheduling and work over the voices of shouting or fussing children. By the fact that because he is just a friend - and isn’t that a ridiculous expression – because he is just a friend, my weight or the fact that I can’t stand his mother or that I fed the children ice cream for snack simply does not matter. Much like those facts don’t matter to Gina in our deep and long-lasting and lovely friendship. There are no societal expectations placed upon friendship, as there are upon marriage.

No wonder I have broken up with so many boyfriends, but only one friend in my entire life.

I am going back to bed now - to sleep, perchance to dream.

(Possibly the most inappropriately quoted line of Shakespeare EVER, by the way...just like I did...Thanks a whole bunch, Hamlet. )

*** Yes, dammit, I needed three asterisks. Leave me alone (only DON'T!)
H and I have this sort of relationship: Whereas, say, Gina and I could have had this conversation in fifteen seconds, neither of us finishing our two sentences and yet understanding EXACTLY what the other meant, H and I just spent fifteen MINUTES discussing stupid little chocolate car paraphernalia to use as favors at the gigantic Cars-themed party we are throwing this weekend for The Baby - and after fifteen minutes and myriad translations - uh, iterations - it turns out *he* thought I meant: Go to the fancy-schmancy chocolate specialty shop and pay more than a buck a piece for imported little chocolate-shaped cars; and what *I* actually meant was: Go to the bulk candy place and see if you can get little chocolate foil-wrapped cars, or chocolate wheels, or for Christ's sake, I don't know, chocolate TIRE IRONS for all I care at this point, with, like, thirty-eight pieces to a $4.50 box because after all we are feeding them to children with undiscriminating palates. I mean, if they eat things like Sour Patch Kids and drown everything in ketchup, WHAT would be the point of buying GOOD chocolate for them? I ask you. None. That's what. NO POINT.
FIFTEEN. MINUTES. It took to establish this fact. And don't blame it on it being five-freaking-o'clock in the morning, this sort of exchange happens many times a day on a regular basis. Sometimes? I wonder if indeed I speak English. You all would mention if I'd been speaking Swahili all this time, wouldn't you have?


Bec said...

I know those dreams. I wake up guilty too. Guilty and pissed off if I've been woken up too soon!

I like that description of marriage. Also, I remember a line from an old, old western where the grouchy old dad was asking the young male suitor:"Do you like my daughter?" and the lad stammers: "I-I-I love her, sir" and the old man says "Of course you do, but that's no good. Love don't last forever and when it's gone you're gonna have to like each other or shoot each other and I ain't having my girl shot!"

So here's to the absence of shooting, BB, and to more of those comfort dreams when you need them.

Bec said...

Wait! - you got your new laptop? Woo-hoo!

Joke said...


Isn't $1/piece for chocolate cars, um, I dunno...extravagant?


Badger said...

Dude, I'm telling you, your husband is autistic. VERY VERY high-functioning, but on the spectrum. I'd bet money on it. For reals.

Kathy said...

My husband always misunderstands me. I can be sitting there talking about something I want to do eventually and he'll get all upset and say that we don't have the money to do that now. I want to scream, "I didn't SAY I wanted to do it now, you idiot! Don't you listen to what I say?" He doesn't -- he only ever hears part of it. It would have taken us longer to straighten out the chocolate misunderstanding than it took you guys.

Gina said...

What Badger said.

Peg said...

I'm doing more lurking than commenting these days, but I'm still here, and I'm still solidly in your corner, and I so love the way you don't sugar coat the realities of your life, and I think you've got a pretty darn good one, warts and all.

One of the things I like so much about your writing is that, so often, your candid/heartfelt reflection helps me see my own world in a different way. You give me so much to think about -- and I'm not even talking about the books. (The books...!)

And P.S. You're spot on -- spouses are not meant to be our absolute be-alls and end-alls. No way.

Caro said...

Maybe I'm not romantic. Scratch that - I'm definitely not romantic.

We are all blinded by love in the beginning of a relationship.

In my case, a robot could have walked in front of me yelling, "Danger Will Robinson!" and I wouldn't have seen it.

Maybe after 12 years most people are like roommates with the occasional perk.

Because once you get to know somebody so intimately, the mystery is gone. And those annoying mannerisms that were just a little bit annoying at first, are FREAKING AGGRAVATING!

MsCellania said...

I swear, the death of any great romance is marriage.
Then the kicker:
I define my marriage with my husband as having 'arrived'; we no longer try to change each other.
And I took the advice of an elderly friend when he said "Make it a Rule that the One to Ask for the Divorce gets the Kids. It will scare away any future partners, if nothing else... "
I think loving and respecting one's spouse is enough. You don't have to LIKE them all the time.

Lynne@Oberon said...

The worst thing about marriage is having to live with someone! I share my house only reluctantly with my man. (I understand the kids have to stay so I don't even waste time thinking about how nice it would be to be living on my own!) It kills the romance pretty much stone dead. But I do love that someone out there is thinking about me. Someone wants to go forth into the future with me. And someone makes just as many compromises as I do just so that they can hang around to hear me rant, and nag, and whinge.

I agree with Bec, the abscence of shooting is a major positive! ;)

lazy cow said...

You already *know* what I think about marriage :-) Very well put though.
Mr LC had ONE job to do at the Girl's party: hold the pinata up (it was a pull-string one) and even that he did grudgingly. I cannot conceive of a 15 minute conversation about party favours!

Anonymous said...

What MsCellania said reminds me that whenever we're having a bad day with the children one of us mutters to the other "If we ever split up, YOU'RE getting Son #2".

- Suse

Velma said...

The (historically recent) romantic ideal of requiring one person to fulfill all of your needs - companionship, passion, friendship, financial stability, co-parenting, hobbies, everything - drives me crazy. NO ONE can do that, and so EVERYONE is left feeling like their relationship isn't up to par. Far healthier to step back and admit that your spouse doesn't "complete" you and figure out what you are willing to live without (like passion) or get from others (like shared interests.)