When you meet someone at nineteen and manage to keep them until you’re thirty-six, people look at you a certain way. You must know some trick of love or life that they’re missing. You’re happy in a way they’ll never be . . . if you’re speaking of your love in a certain way, of course.
Something I missed in this post which is important to clarify because people who didn’t know us as a couple are starting to read this blog, Andi and I were that couple. We genuinely enjoyed each-other’s company, made our decisions as a team, always had each-other’s backs, and spoke in glowing terms about our partner and our relationship. People admired what we had and, I flatter myself to think, wanted it in their own relationships.
I remember a few years back, three of us men were in the stockroom at Books & Books. Guy talk, you know? My friend (who we’re calling) Graham is about twelve years older than me, married for twenty years. My other friend JC is a bit younger, and had married only recently.
Even though he’s a house-husband, Graham belongs in a sitcom from the fifties. He was bitching about his wife using the most clichéd clichés. Because I’d been with Andi for thirteen years at that point, Graham tried using me as an example to back up a point he was making with JC.
Graham wanted to know I felt about my wife.
“I love her more with each passing day.”
JC and Graham braced themselves, waiting for the punchline. I looked back and forth between them.
“That’s it,” I said.
Graham shrugged off this minor hiccup and continued to say how he’d rather masturbate than have sex with his wife, or whatever the story was at the moment. Then he paused, returning to me.
“Wait, do you have kids?”
“No,” I said.
“That explains it,” he said. Like, have kids and then talk to me about married life.
If you believe Graham (and Bill Cosby), married people without children can’t talk about married life, the same way people with one child can’t talk about parenting to people with multiple children.
Maybe that’s true, but the Smug Relationship Pyramid topped by wrinkled oldsters celebrating fifty years together, surrounded by gaggles of children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, that pyramid was built by sad sack singletons who think anything beyond a few years is worth memorializing in a power ballad.
It’s important to distinguish Power Singles from Sad Sack Singletons. Most Power Singles I know are women in their forties and fifties. Some of them have been married, but not all. The thing which unifies them is they’ve had their men and it didn’t impress them all that much. They’d rather have their own space than share it with someone sub-par.
To Sad Sack Singletons, there is no greater glory than marriage. To anyone.
When I became a member of the recently-separated, people handled me like an egg. Little did I know, that was only a stop on my way to becoming another statistic, another story, another failed marriage. Yeah, you’re marriage busted up. Score one for you, now get over it.
I refuse to categorize my marriage as a failure because it ended. Everything living dies, which is the tragic beauty of life. I’d rather drop dead of a massive stroke when I’m biking at eighty-five than linger until a hundred and five and be unable to remember my own name.
Scratch that; I’d rather have a massive stroke in my sleep at a mentally vibrant hundred and five than linger to a doddering hundred and ten.
Since I won’t be part of a wrinkled couple celebrating fifty years, I’ll never know whether our marriage would have been a tree forever sprouting new growth, felled only by one of our deaths, or if it would have looked healthy to an outsider, yet have been riddled with years of rot inside. Either way, I’ve got to let it go.
What’s bothering me lately is how my world view has been rocked. The loss of Andi as a person is incidental to the loss of my marriage as the defining thing in my life, and to realizing that love doesn’t conquer all.
I've heard I could ruin the present worrying about the future. Too true. Ditto, mooning over the past.