Wednesday, June 15, 2011

for goodness' sake

I sat next to a charming man named Richard tonight at dinner, at a symposium on greening historic communities. He’s in his mid seventies or thereabouts, has been married for around forty years, and has four sons, all of whom are successful, in completely diverse careers, and love each other, and their parents, whom as adults, they treat as friends. I asked him somewhat awkwardly what has made his marriage work after all these years. I really had to know. Being in a young marriage, and for the second time, I have concerns. I worry, will it work this time? It’s hard, everyone knows that in theory, but you don’t get much from canned psychology and friends, who won’t admit to anything because you’re too close.

Getting advice on love from strangers always seems best. So I asked him this question after the conversation had revealed that we’re both of a liberal persuasion, have similar world views and both think that Michele Bachmann is a disingenuous, frightening megalomaniac with designs on being Vice President to Mitt Romney. He got my jokes, and patted me on the shoulder. He said a few very useful things, but started with, “you know what happened? when we first met, we lived together. After about five years, my wife said she wanted to get married. I wasn’t ready. She said she wanted the commitment. So when I wouldn’t commit, she left. I was terribly disappointed. Knowing she could just leave at any time made me really pay attention to her, what she was saying, and really listen. It made me an attentive husband.”

The subtlety that is so hard to portray after the fact is that he wasn’t cowed in some way or threatened, he wasn’t attentive out of insecurity, but out of the pleasure of doing it. He realized this woman knew what she wanted and meant business. If he was a part of her life, he’d be able to be a party to her greatness. “She left and went and bought a house.” By herself. In 1972. She is an attorney, and after some years of marriage, went back to graduate school to become a clinical psychologist, and she’s a novelist. He couldn’t let her go. A woman that strong was worth committing to. He was intrigued by her , and maintains that that foundation of individuality is what made it work. He went on; I could see tears forming. I had to steel myself; it was touching how much this man loves his wife.

You don’t hear much about that these days. You hear about jackasses, mostly, politicians and celebrities, (polebrities?) who really don’t deserve to be married. I would have more hope if I knew that Richard was more common. That he’s a type, and that I will over time see that I married that type. I think I will. I think I already do, but he’s also got forty years of retrospective, it’s happened over time, the goodness, the will power. The deliberateness of loving someone for a very, very long time.

Other things that make marriage work in the long term according to Richard’s experience are a common aesthetic and a sense of adventure about it, and communication without fear. “not the brutal brutal truth, but the un-doctored truth, with some gesture toward each other’s feelings.” Tell me the whole truth, but do it in a nice, gentle, respectful way that fosters trust. That’s not easy. That’s what makes marriage hard. It also, I’d like to believe, makes it worthwhile.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Beyond The Pale

I confess, it was the "hot body" contest she entered at a sleazy bar, nary a hip shake after her daughter was murdered in cold blood and dumped in a Florida marsh, that damned her in my mind.

I try to put myself there, an attempt to imagine the woodsman she would have us believe was sent forth to cut out the heart of snow white - how cruel, and at best indifferent, to the mother in her, the mother in me that howls at the idea of anyone laying a finger on my one and only. I cannot deeply go there. It's too much.

Caylee was, by definition, defenseless. The difference of course (if you will leap into the fairy tale analogy for a moment) is that the queen had no daughter, and she had her realm to protect - and snow white had come of age. It was a war between age and beauty. Control and freedom. It's a huge motive for escape, absolution, murder even. War.

Knowing that that battle wages in each of us, however deeply buried or fully resolved is useful knowledge. Self awareness. Something can be done. Thete are outlets. We all learn to cope, and often thanks to the little ones, enjoy reliving youth vicariously with the benefit of experience. We can chuckle at it all. Some even go at it alone, and they are twice the heroines.

And then there are the other mothers.

At war with aging, with the shackles of responsibility, with "lost years," with themselves-
Perhaps wanting once again to be queen of the realm with no little trouble maker in tow, no consequences, and no cover at the door, free drinks for the ladies-

When I think of dancing with abandon, I don't think of spring break debauchery. I think of three year old girls. They love to take off their clothes and run around, tease everyone and giggle at the dog staring at them with a mildly worried expression from across the room. They love life, trying on dresses, making mischief and dancing with abandon.

What exactly was this woman missing?

Having just read The Psychopath Test I do wonder. Fairy tales are full of psychopaths. Reminders to not lie, to enjoy youth and springtime and beware the stranger offering sweets. But there are no useful parables here. Just a woman that refuses herself to grow up, and the little girl that now never will.

No more bedtime stories for Caylee.

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Location:Somewhere other than The sunshine state