Sometimes I say some really stupid shit.
In the vein of “you always hurt the one you love,” the closer the person I’m talking about or to is to me, the stupider the shit.
Recently, I was reminded of a really stupid thing I’d said about my husband Steve, and I relayed the conversation I’d had about him to him, and he didn’t take it well.
I had said that we didn’t really have that much in common, he and I.
To whit: I told the man I’ve spent the last 23 years in daily contact with, raised children with, made and spent thousands of dollars with, traveled thousands of miles with, nursed and buried parents with, fought-fed-fled-reproducted with, attended family dinners and weddings and funerals with — I said I didn’t really have that much in common with him.
It’s hard to say what I meant, especially when confronted with the evidence above. Have I spent over two decades sleepwalking through life with a cipher? No. Do we quarrel over everything little and big? No.
“My husband burns the hair out of his nose with a lighted match. And he thinks I’m crazy because I voted for Goldwater.” — letter to Dear Abby
I have a couple of ideas. One of them is that I discovered about ten years in that I had a new passion for performing. “There’s no amount you could pay me to get up onstage and do what you do in front of people,” he’s said. So there’s a big difference (since like most actors, I do a lot for very little material compensation).
Not only does he have no interest in doing the new thing I decided I couldn’t live without, he doesn’t seek new passions. That is to say, when I say, “We should go on a date. What kind of thing would you like to do?” we always seem to do the same things: take a walk, go to dinner, sometimes see a play or movie, once every couple years see a band play live.
So maybe it’s a matter of tempo. Maybe I miss the old days when we’d spend time and money in equal proportions tearing up the city on dates.
Maybe I just want to go on a date.
One thing I know for sure we don’t have in common is how we were raised. His parents, he likes to say, skipped the sixties. There were no protests, no revolutions, no long hair for them. They bought a house and lived in it the whole time he was growing up; his father had one job his entire working life and his mother was a homemaker. They went to the same two vacation spots every year, ate the same meals on the same holidays, took the same photos (I should say “photo,” since his mother didn’t believe in wasting film) to commemorate the same birthday / Christmas / Swiss picnic, made the same jokes and told the same stories about how weird Steve was as a child.
My parents divorced after having 3 kids. My mother always worked outside the home and loved it; at 74, she still works and plans to keep working. My father hated work but saw it as necessary, though he had a volunteer ombudsman job for ten years after he retired that he identified with more than any paid job. My brother and sister and I were latchkey kids, children of divorce, independent and interdependent and free. Without structures or strictures, we often created our own. We went to alternative schools. We were renters. We rode the bus.
So where am I going with this? What am I saying or trying to say? Should I even publish this? Why would this be unpublishable where other things I’ve written are fine?
And so, in conclusion, to wrap things up and force closure, I have two things to say:
First, I know there is some image in my head of what “having a lot in common looks like,” and the marriage Steve and I created doesn’t match that image. There’s a lot of that shit in my brain and I fight what false comparisons or fantasies I’m conscious of and can identify. I have tremendous freedom, support, and love in my real life, nearly as much in my imaginary life.
And second, I wrote this poem the year we were married, and this is one of the myths in my head that I can live with.
Let us play.
Let us both be as potent as whiskey.
Let us visit and revisit the stone steps powdered with pollen
Where our nerves grew together like the roots under the hills
Where our eyes adjusted to the light in each other’s eyes
Where the roar of the street below and the street above
Fought for an audience over the dim shuffle of dogwood leaves
Fought to race the pulse of the city off the sphygmomanometer of the back streets
Where we crooned in the arch of each other’s crooked arms
Where we inhaled the moisture drying off each other’s skin
Where we stood in the shadow of the bus stop sign
Watching one bus after another chortle past
With the wisdom of one we would be like
If we could keep in mind the last scheduled departures
Every day from now until the paving crumbles.
Composition note: Yesterday I came up with a great outline for a blog post, and it seemed so obvious and so well-constructed that I was certain I’d remember it in detail when it came time to write it down. THIS WAS A LIE, A SNARE AND SELF-DELUSION. When your inner voice tells you such a thing, ignore her. Or give her something better to do. With a blank this morning where my idea had been, I went into my regular Thursday morning conversation with my friend Liz, and after a wander through the topics of self-judgment and cultural movements, came up with The Pernicious Influence of the Sixties (a phrase of Steve’s).
Personal writing, writing that is both creative and revealing, takes a fair amount of energy and risk. To do more personal writing while being supported and encouraged and held, get on the list for my next Creative Writing Test Kitchen.