I woke up feeling happy. I woke up with empathy and love in my heart. And yes, the sun shining in my window helped, tremendously.
I woke up and remembered that my friend’s daughter is about to get proposed to, any second now, somewhere in Hawaii. Everyone knows because her boyfriend took her dad to lunch and asked for her hand. Actually he said, “I’m goin to ask your daughter to marry me.” and her dad said “You mean, you are asking for permission to marry my daughter?” and the kid said, “Right, but I’m going to ask her anyway, because I really love her.”
She doesn’t know, and is about to be surprised, old fashioned-style.
It’s a bit of a fairytale.
My friends, the parents, they have the best marriage I’ve probably ever seen. It’s had bumps, but they’ve been flirty and committed and rocking their lives together for over thirty years. I was there before they met, and instrumental in bringing them together.
If I ever had a marriage, I’d want theirs. Along with RBG and Joan Dideon (who both lost husbands so wonderful it makes you just ache) – theirs is a marriage I would covet. I would covet their marriage, only it is uniquely theirs.
So I’m happy just to be their friend.
What makes a marriage enviable is when you see two people who know each other, flaws and all, but they never stop rooting for their mate. They are generous and forgiving and in it with energy and joy and fabulous humour.
My thirty-years-married friend’s husband is a total slob and a terrible pack rat. He buys cool stuff, and tinkers with some of it. Other purchases clutter the house and basement, or would, except my friend likes a clean house. She has struggled with this her entire marriage. But the conversations about it are never angry. I mean yeah, she loses it from time to time….but they work it out together, even if his promises to try harder never quite hit the mark.
To explain how cute they are – he fixes up cars down in their garage which is a bit of a distance from the house. They installed an intercom because she was tired of running from the house to the garage to deliver a message. They could totally text one another but I think they just like the intercom idea. Because they are adorable.
So I was over and we were going to lunch and Martha got on the intercom and said, “City mouse to Country Mouse. Come in Country Mouse.” and he said “Country Mouse, Roger. Come in City Mouse”
That’s the way they are. Adorable.
One time we were sitting around and I saw him turn to her and mouth “cute.” He was just telling her she was cute. It was so…cute!
Years ago they went to a marriage therapist and when they got out he turned to her and said, “Martha, do you want to stay married to me?” and she said “Yes!” and he said “Good, then we’re never doing that again.”
They’ve stayed together and kept on liking and loving each other….anyone who’s been in a relationship knows that the liking is the most important part.
I spent Christmas Eve with them some years back and somehow I ended up with the kids and putting us all to bed Julien grabbed his head lamp and read to us – Chapter One of the Wind in the Willows. Family tradition he’d been doing for years. So nice.
This past December I was at their house and Martha said “You won’t believe what’s in here.” – pointing to their spare bedroom. I opened the door and there were bags of English sweets all over the floor. She said he ordered so much candy for Christmas that the little store in England thought he was ordering for a sweet shop, and they included little imprinted bags to sell the candy in. I was invited to grab a bag and fill ‘er up. I think they were broke at the time and Martha just said, “Can you believe this?” It was some pretty magical candy. Some of it fizzed and some was sour and it was such a Julien thing.
When we were younger and he’d pull over to get gas, he’d come back from paying for his fuel with handfuls of mentos and lemonheads and those weird wafer candies where one would be black and licorice flavoured and you had to think about whether you liked it or not. Neccos! He presented us with candy, every time.
I woke up feeling a little patient with myself for struggling so hard. I woke up realizing that as many wonderful things as I’ve been handed in life – and they are truly too numerous to count – I have not won at marriage and family.
I’ve experienced love, and I have kids whom I adore, but the experience of having a good long marriage is something that I have not experienced.
Sometimes I think that I should not have divorced my husband. I understand why I did it; there were reasons and most people say now that they could never see us together. Well, it turns out, we were more compatible in some ways than I’ve ever been with anyone else. We were young and we lived well together, mostly. We shared a bank account and I’m pretty sure that is something I will never do with any other man.
But I did it and I’ve moved into and through relationships that have had amazing highs and some pretty ridiculous lows. I’ve jumped in and out so many times since divorcing my husband, that I’ve lost the fairytale.
Excuse me while I grab a Kleenex.
Recently Martha was telling the story of how she and Julien ended up together. His sister and I introduced them (Martha was my friend and his sister was my best friend) at the Pelican Inn, on purpose, because we thought they would be great together. He had a girlfriend at the time which I’m afraid we called Boobs. Cuz she was stacked. But other than her rack, they weren’t right for each other. We knew that.
Martha and Julien stayed in touch after they met but Julien didn’t end his other relationship. Until one day. One day he showed up at Martha’s place with flowers and he said, “Martha, I’m in love with you.”
And that was it.
I think one reason their marriage works is that he’s always had the energy and romantic vision to keep things in the fairy tale zone, just a little. And she’s pretty great herself.
A man who’s in love with a woman, the right way – not out of need or some other pseudo love-destroyer – but completely and fully – it’s a wonderful thing to witness.
All this modern dating has muddied that a bit for me. Actually, quite a lot.
People do meet on dating sites who end up calling each other City Mouse and Country Mouse, but you gotta duck so many dick pics and endure so many false starts and so much humiliation, that for someone like me who’s had their kids and been around a bit, it ends up not being as worth it as, say, reading a book.
I tried to change my idea of love and romance when all this started . I morphed into fun times and non-monogamous truthy bonding. I tried to fit into what I thought was available to me. You can tell, when I started this blog, I just threw myself into the dating scene and went with it.
And I really believed I didn’t necessarily want or need one other person, as long as I had action.
Now, it’s sunny, and I’m full of happy thoughts for Martha’s daughter and her soon to be fiancé.
And I’ve realized that something broke when I divorced my husband, something I can never put back together. I’ve realized that I still love the love stories, and they do exist, just not for me, right now.
I can’t make a fairytale for myself right now, but I can admit that they are worth admiring. I can stop disrespecting love and long term commitment, just because it hasn’t worked for me.
I want to say that it hasn’t worked yet, but I’m not that certain that adding a yet would even make sense at this point. It’s much easier to fall in love in your twenties. It just is.
Still, I can appreciate it. I can realize that very few people really experience long-lasting love at it’s best. But it’s a really cool thing.
(If you have it, here’s where you squeeze your honey and say PHEW and really fathom that you got the golden ticket)
If you didn’t get the golden ticket, you can be sure that life gave you other gifts.
And you can decide to search and play the game until you win love’s lottery. Or you can leave it to the young-uns and just get on with your life. Because odds are odds.
I have flip-flopped between the two. Having a mother whom, when she decided to remarry, just put in her order and had the best guy ever show up, there have been times when I’ve been lured into taking a grab-the-bull-by-the-horns approach.
Note to Cynthia and all the life coaches with their vision boards – I’ve never said I wanted to get married again. Not once, not ever. So not being sure of just what bull I was grabbing could be considered a giant mistake, right outa the gate. I get it; I’m woke. 😉
Maybe I’m coming to a place where I want to get married. I want the full monty with bon bons and peanut butter on ritz crackers. Maybe it does look really, really good.
It doesn’t mean it’s gonna happen.
But maybe I can say it without feeling like I’m delusional or weak or drowning in cultural norms.
I’m saying maybe because I can’t really say it right now. But I would like to be able to say it. And maybe starting to admit that I actually value it more than oxygen (ok no, but it sounded appropriately romantic) is a first step to being able to say it.
What I can say is that when it works, an all-in love affair and partnership for life – it can be pretty darn spectacular.
Some people play the lottery and and some people never play the lottery but still dream of winning. And some people win. I’m sure you think that what I’m going to say next is that you gotta play to win.
That’s not what I’m going to say.
What I’m going to say is that there are a lot of different lotteries in life. And we all win some of them. I appreciate my jackpots every day.
I want to keep playing my winning numbers, and I want to be grateful for every payout life deems willing to hand me.
What I don’t want to do anymore, is disrespect love.
It’s far too precious a thing.