Saturday, March 31, 2007

How my husband made me (and how I made him)

I've been thinking about this one for awhile in the discussions I've been having about where my life went wrong and the college I could have gone to--the paths not taken.

I had the chance to go to a college in southern CA about 35 miles from LA. I went instead to Amherst College, Amherst, MA. If I had had the chance to visit Amherst I wouldn't have come, but I was dazzled at a distance by its history and its status. I had worked hard in high school to get into the best college and Amherst was considered the best. If one believes in alternate universes, then somewhere there is a Novel who went to Scripps (unless she died in the earthquake or the riots or of the smog that rolled in every afternoon). Now the most instantaneous and obvious difference in my life if I had gone to a different college would have been the fact that I would not have met my husband. The romantic answer is that I was fated to go to Amherst TO meet him and that it's wonderful, but I actually think it's more complicated than that. I have a type in men, as evidenced by my only two relationships. I like pretty nerds. Comic book/sci-fi geeks. Now, I have lots of friends who fit that criteria. I would have met many more no matter what college I went to. Would another one have done just as well? I knew I wasn't going to marry my high school sweetheart, no matter how fond of him I was then. I fell in love with my husband at first sight without knowing he was another comic book/sci-fi geek (well, except for the fact that he was working in a book store). At some point though, beyond the hearts and flowers and initial chemical glow, love is a decision you make. Many people don't know this, but every happy couple who's been together for a long time that I've ever met does. Six years ago my marriage almost fell apart and I made the decision that it wasn't going to end and dragged him with me until he agreed. I've had crushes on lots of people (most famous and out of reach) during our marriage as had he. Could I have gone off with any of these people (saying for the sake of argument that they felt the same way)? Probably, but only if we made the decision. When marriages were arranged, some people were happy probably because they made a decision (together--it only works if you both decide) to be happy together. It's more romantic to think that there is ONE person in all the world who could make us happy, but the world is awfully large and unless we really believe in fate you could miss that person easily by taking different trains (see Sliding Doors below). It's happier in my mind to believe that there are a group of people who could be for you. A combination of love at first sight and surrounding oneself with people of similar interests.

None of my married friends are getting divorced although all have had rough patches. At this point in my life I can't understand how to get divorced. How do you separate not just the stuff, but all of the associations that one has. This is what I was getting at by my title. I was 18 when I met my husband. He was 23. Many of the cooler things I know I know because he introduced me to it. Much of the music. Many of the authors. Certainly more comic artists. I'd like to think that I've introduced him to some things as well. The joy of silk shirts for one. I've probably brought him more movies. So if I had gone off to Scripps and met someone close to but not exactly like my husband would I still have the same tastes and associations. Many things I'd have found on my own. I'd probably still own a Zen over an I-Pod because I have an aversion to having the "hot" item of the moment esp. when there are better alternatives. I might not know that there are better alternatives to Internet Explorer. I found David Mitchell (author) and brought him to my husband. Would I have also found Ian Banks and Geoff Ryman? I found The Killers first and came home and said, "You have to listen to this--you are going to love it!" He introduced me to many obscure bands of the 80's that I'd have probably never found. I already liked Sylvian--he liked him more. I already read Neil Gaiman.

We do not agree on everything by any means. I cannot make him like L'Arc despite every effort--he thinks they're good instrumentally if only Hyde wouldn't sing. He has a strange, small obsession with some pop girls--Kylie Minogue, Sophie Ellis Bexter, Juliet, Pink, No Doubt--that I do not understand (well, beyond the OBVIOUS, but he's seldom obvious.) And we like many of the same things for totally different reasons. We both like Duran Duran and Kate Bush, but when making a mix a long time ago we realized our favorite songs by both were radically different. We share depression and I often wonder how different life would be for both of us if we had married someone who pulled us up--would they have understood us though?

Beyond the stuff, there are 17 years (JESUS! In one year I will have been with him longer than I was without him) of associations--in jokes and shared moments. We joke that when we are old we will speak entirely in cultural references which mean something to us but are unintelligible to others like the Darmok episode of Star Trek:TNG. We almost do now.

Not everyone shares your love for velour, sir.
Don't Bogart our Lord
Deep down I'm Baloney?
This made Charles a moody dog.
Fedora, the Wub/Guinness, the Bean

(Futurama, The Simpsons, Invader Zim, Charles of the Wild, our dogs).

How does anyone take these things apart? Is it possible to love those things again after a divorce or a death? I don't want to find out.

The Third Thing

Once again, I am struck,
By the comfortableness of home,
Of knowing where the sugar bowl will always be.
This comfortableness,
Which exists nowhere else,
Of you reading the Sunday paper
Dishes in the sink
And the ironing undone.

I am used to you, my dear.
I love you in glasses and white shirts
And in winter with a scarf around your slender throat.
Nerd love.
I forget, that though I will never find you
Watching football, beer in hand,
You are still a man,
And sometimes silent.

Our books are slightly blended.
All my music is your music.
And all the films and TV shows,
And places and times that pepper our anecdotes,
Are things which belong to no one else.
How could we dream of separating these things,
And starting again?
How does that happen--that invisible meshing?

Did I always like these colors? Did you?
Did we always make spaghetti this way
And not another?
When did we create this third thing?
Our relationship?

I know you didn't like dogs,
Until I showed you terriers,
With their spirit and their loyalty.
I have still not learned to eat tomatoes,
Or eggplants, or Indian food,
Though I have tried.

You know Armani
And I know Gil Kane.
We have seen each other's
Best and worst underwear.
We have ignored each other's
Best and worst underwear.
Even the rings on the coffee table,
The dents on the car
Are a story between us.

This third thing that is like the dog and the cat.
Separate and yet essential.
There is no end and no beginning,
Born of itself and made of each thing.
It is not a Gordian knot to be unraveled
And to cut even a piece away is to die.

This cannot just be making do, can it?
2002 (middle draft)


the other Joan said...

Whew, nice.
Every once in a while you do/write/think something exceptional.

Novel said...

Only once in a while? ^_^