Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Relationships are Compromise

As romantic as it is to believe two people could be so made for each-other that they’ll have no adjustments to make in coming together, it just ain’t so. Whether as superficial as he-doesn’t-find-That 70’s Show-funny and she-finds-Seinfeld-characters-annoying, as silly as she-doesn’t-put-the-cap-back-on-the-toothpaste and he-leaves-his-towels-on-the-bathroom-floor, or as serious as what brand of peanut butter should be stocked and whether mushrooms are delicious or evil, you are going to have to give a little to get a little.

This is why people stay single. People happy with their lives often develop a vague notion that they want to share their happy lives, but that’s all they want to do: share their lives. As in, here, see how great my life is? Let’s both live my life together!

Sorry, you can’t expect a partner to be nothing but a reflection.

I’m not saying this is difficult or the process is contentious, I’m just stating a fact. You will change each-others lives, and some of those changes will challenge you.

Take, for instance… the first birthday in a new relationship. Let’s say your girlfriend wants to go see the Instruments of Torture Through the Ages exhibit at the Miami Freedom Tower. Let’s say you have had perhaps a dozen dreams over the years about torture, the images of which have not left you, the vividness of them making you wonder about past lives. Let’s say your new girlfriend, who while cute as a bug’s ear apparently harbors a heretofore unsuspected fascination with real live actual torture devices discovered in European antique stores and private collections, let’s say she really, really wants to go.

Do you tell yourself, confronting torture devices will exorcise these demons and I won’t have to worry about Medieval dungeons when I close my eyes again? Or do you say, have fun, Becky?

My decision to attend the torture exhibit is not without precedent. I took Andi to see Bodies: The Exhibition on her 34th birthday when I had no personal interest, and more than a little worry that I’d be creeped out. My imagination made it much more graphic than it turned out to be, and I found it fascinating. I hoped to have a similar experience with torture.

We found our first grammatical error – good ol’ your vs. you’re – on a poster before we even entered the exhibit. This same series of poster boards claimed that the desire to inflict pain, even humiliation, suffering, and torment on our fellows, is a part of being human. I don’t agree. I think better of us. I think certain cultures and circumstances might lend themselves to it, but I don’t think we’re born with torturous instincts.

Anyway, how was the exhibit? Rife with grammatical and spelling errors. They should be ashamed.

As far as seeing the devices goes, try NOT thinking about a blue-eyed polar bear for the next sixty seconds. You’ve heard that one, right? Well, once you’ve seen them, try not thinking about… the Saw. The Wheel. The Impaler. The Goat’s Tongue. The Breast Ripper, Thumb Screws, Pinchers, Scissors, the Pear, Flaying, The Judas Cradle. The posters out front promised the exhibit would provoke revulsion, and it did. But the exhibit failed in its promise to make me think about torture as it’s still used today. It’s grotesque. A walk through the valley of but-for-the-grace-of-God-go-I.

Still, it caused a melancholy that’s been difficult to shake. I haven’t been thinking of water boarding, psychotropic drugs, or whatever I was supposed to think about, but the ills we allow to happen in the name of civilization. There are a lot. What they have in common is that I feel helpless to do anything about them.

How can I? I couldn’t even get Becky to go see Kick Ass instead of the guillotine.

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