|As I write this, Daisy (duke) isn’t
It was during these hours in the air and the time I spent at his side that I heard him talk more of my mom. He recounted heartfelt stories he never related in front of the family. He complimented her taste, her cooking, her gift for raising children, all done without flair, his matter-of-fact statements coming across as normal, when in the looks on the faces of the men listening let me know my mom was anything but.
When I’d return from a trip, I’d tell mom all about it, expecting her to bask in the glow of his praise, and invariably, she’d get pissed. (She hates that word by the way. At 44, I think she’s given up that I can’t muster a better command of the English language than to use a word so low-brow, but I love it. It says it all don’t you think?).
“Why doesn’t he ever say it to me?” she’d retort, the spittal ejecting from her mouth as she brandished a bread dough covered wooden spoon. (the way she still makes bread to this day by the way).
I’d shrug and wonder ‘what’s the big?’
Now I get it. Oh, what 14 years of marriage will do to educate in the ways of a married man. Rog, to his credit, has come a long way. At the start of our marriage, he wasn’t a compliment kind-of-guy, other than the essentials ‘you look great.’ Now, however, I am the happy beneficiary of the compliments that are given not to me, but through others that get back to me.
During our last Halloween party, two men and a woman (none related) all came up to me and used a variation of a Rog-compliment as a conversation starter.
“Roger tells me you’re working out at 4:30 in the morning?” said one.
“You are running the business unit of a studio?” says another. “Rog says your amazing.”
Of course, Rog doesn’t say either of these things to me. I get up when the alarm goes off, slip out of the house, kill myself for 2 hrs and return before anyone save the dog, is awake. It is what it is, no different than when Rog gets up off the couch, upbending his fingers that have gone rigid from playing Call of Duty, to drive an hour north at 10 pm for a hockey game with an 11 pm start time. Throughout the night, as these little nuggets of marital affection came my way, I was reminded of my parents, how the dad’s pride in mom carried far beyond the four walls of our home. No doubt he subconsciously felt he could take some of the credit (for he, like Indian Jones, had “chosen wisely.”) I hypothesize the same may be true of Rog, or myself, when I am talking to someone about my relationship and give Rog the credit for being faster to apologize (he really is better than me at this), and having more financial discipline (even after 14 yrs, I’m still dead last on this race).
The truth is that the compliments that have the most impact are those that come full circle, given without a gun at the head, an expectation of a ruckus in the bedroom or as an apologetic after thought. They are the ones done out of sight and without intent, for no other reason that to expose a positive characteristic, an achievement or even an observation. Of course I may not mention this to Rog anytime soon; I don’t want the direct, intent-filled compliments to stop coming my way.
Instead, I’m stuck on the stress caused by uncertainty and what this does to my marriage. It didn’t occur to me until my right hand seized up like an engine suddenly choking from a gallon of sugar poured in the gas tank (former sister in law to brother) that I realized the hits uncertainty take on a marriage. Here’s my personal list.
Anticipation of change.
Since we learned that a certain event might happen (I can’t reveal this, one of the few things I’m legally obligated not to share), we have been dealing with a lot of uncertainty. I’m not a shrink, but uncertainty that life will change, a move may happen, along with a change of schools, social structure and church and babysitters and shopping, can cause a bit of stress in a relationship.
At the same time, the same event that can produce change can also provide the opportunity to have fun. Purchasing a recreational vehicle, a new car or other non essential items that to this point have been the stuff of dreams, not reality. Can this uncertainty really cause marital strife? Yes. It has caused more fights between me and Rog than the schools our children will attend.
|Our big “fatty-daddy” as Porsche calls him, will soon
go back in to his underground lair
As I was emotionally vomiting black ink all over the page, it became evident that Rog and I had/have, a lot of pent up excitement over the prospect of helping others on a bigger scale that what we are able to do today. Providing for those in need, be it financial or doing good deeds or service, is great in theory, then one must execute. Rog and I started a row over how we’d find the time (e.g. what we were willing to give up) consider the recipients (what made one person/group more worthy than another, our criteria being completely subjective) etc. Here again, this intention results/resulted in all sorts of stressful conversations. By the end of another circular argument, the goods feelings have all but evaporated in the tactical mechanics of doing said deed. Bummer.
Perhaps the biggest collateral damage of uncertainty is that Rog goes in to his world, and even when he’s with me, I can be talking and he’s looking right through me. Don’t get me wrong; the man has the mind of an elephant, and can tell me word for word what I’ve just said. But he’s completely devoid of emotion and the connection is gone. With every passing week, the seeping cancer rooted in uncertainty has infected him and our relationship.
By the time I couldn’t write, my palm locked up like a vice-grip, I knew the madness had to end. Put the lid on uncertainty. I’m going to pretend said event is not going to happen. We are going to live life. Forget the potential purchases, the possible move. Enjoy the space of my house, the surroundings, the frogs in the pond today, because in the coming weeks, they will go into hibernation and next year, we may not be around to see them. I was reminded of Rev. Leroy Allison’s quote: “We spend too much time living in the “what if” and need to learn to live in the “what is.”
When Rog came home from his early morning meeting today, I gave him a hug, and suggested we just enjoy being. He was caught off guard (I suspect by both hug and comment) but got it. We have it pretty good. Time to enjoy it. And that’s one thing that is for certain.
It’s an interesting thing, the word no. As a toddler, we learn the impact of shouting no. It arouses fear, anger, laughter. This must make an permanent ingram in our psyche, because the rush of power is positively exhilarating. I’d like to pretend my uses of the word No is somehow noble, like jumping in front of a speeding train or standing up to an unjust boss. But…no. It’s not. Worse, I’ve perfected the use of the non-verbal no, thanks to my slight knowledge of avoidance mixed with a scosh of passive-aggressive behavior. My dear husband might disagree. He says “there is nothing passive” about me. I “tend to come right out and say no.” (This shows him how I snookered him).
It’s easy to come across sites that suggest ways to say no at work (thanks Forbes), or specifically, saying no to your boss (thx cnbc). Having issues with cold-callers? Here are some tips to say no to pushy sales people.
Beyond the work world, saying no in social circles is less black and white. Grey in fact. It made me think of “fifty ways to say no” (I suppose a play on the 50 shades of grey, which I have not read, thank you very much). I seriously enjoyed, and learned a lot, from the suggestions about saying no bluntly, saying no subtely, and just about everything in between. My favorites include, in no particular order:
- I have a conflict (one doesn’t need to identify if it’s a moral, ethical or other non-rational, emotional reason, if one lacks morals or ethics)
- I’m not planning on it
- You go ahead, let me know how it goes
- “passing the buck no”
- “no that leaves room for a yes”
- “considerate and gentle no”
- and my favorite the “fatal attraction/restraining order no”.
“I’ll do it,” I announced, my mouth speaking well before my brain thought to add some helpful context.
Rog’s eyes bulged. He swallowed, a crooked, half-smile appearing on his face.
|This isn’t me. But it could be. Soon.|
It took me a moment before I giggled.
“No–no! I mean, I’ll do it. I’ll go on a fishing trip with you.”
At that, Rog really did start to choke on his food. I kicked him under the table. Before he projectile-vomited across the table, I explained.
“I got to thinking that I need to woman-up on this and just get in the water. You’ve asked me to go, and I keep saying no, for no reason other than I think it’s going to be boring and cold. But we can go when it’s sunny, right?”
Rog, by this time, has taken a drink of water, and is vigorously nodding his head. “Yes, of course!”
In order to understand why this is so gravitous in our relationship, you need to liken it to a pacifist suddenly offering to go shooting an AK-47 at the river like some redneck. It’s like Nancy Pelosi and Bill O’Rielly. Me and river/fly fishing just don’t go together.
Yet, over the years, I’ve got to thinking. These guys (3 to be exact) fly down in one of the guys jets (he has 3), hit a stream or ocean, sometimes in the freezing hail or snow, or crashing waves, but also in the sunny, warm and gorgeous climates. Neither men (who, by the way, I adore, even if they are married, one as thick as a walking potato, the other as lean as a straight line), ever, ever offer (or want) to take their wives. My husband has constantly asked to take me, (and they say “he** yes!), yet I keep say no.
For no good reason. Well, unless being warm counts as a good reason.
Finally, after nearly 14 years of marriage, I realized I was being an idiot. Here’s a great chance to due my husband right, both by getting out of my comfort zone, but becoming a bigger part of his life. As I’ve aged, and watched couples split apart, the notion of ‘we don’t spend time together,’ plays a factor. My easy excuse of sleeping in (they get up at the ungodly hour of 4 am), getting in the water or on a boat when the bats are still flying, truly doesn’t sound fun. Yet, I’ll get the time there and back (it’s not always on a jet), at dinner or at lunch, and of course, let us not forget, I’ll get what Roger calls, “kick-a** cute clothing).
I explained my general reasoning, but he’d already moved on, talking about the upcoming trips we could go on, what I’d need by way of outfitting, rod and line (am I getting that right?) and babysitters. Not one month later, we were driving to Montana, and hit upon one of the “top 2 fly-fishing spots in the world.” That will be another blog of course, as I took pictures (let its suffice to say it’s home to Ernest Hemingway’s ranch).
As we near the start of our 15th year of marriage, I almost felt proud of myself. I’m not cutting bait on our relationship (and trust me, there have been times…). I’m doing the opposite. I’m going to go fish.
Once again, She had the answer.
“I don’t say anything at all about The Little Black Rain cloud.” The moment She said the phrase, I thought of Winnie the Pooh, where he’s pretending to be a little black rain cloud, hovering above the honey tree, as he attempts to fool the bees as he scams a handful of honey.
“That’s what she is,” my sage-of-wisdom friend confirmed. “Whenever she comes on the scene, it’s like a black rain cloud has cut off the sun.”
It got me thinking. Instead of using all sorts of names to describe someone who temporarily takes the sunshine out of my life, I call them a little black rain cloud. The four words remove any animosity or ill will I could possibly have, for who can but smile at a little stuffed Pooh?
“I follow him around, about three car lengths, just to make sure he doesn’t have a girlfriend,” said a woman at a nail station across an aisle from my luxe barco-o-lounger salon chair. My eyes popped open, even as I tried to ignore the salacious comment. I couldn’t help myself. The woman’s voice was high-pitched and wobbly. Her shoulder length, chestnut-colored hair ended where her white, cotton long-sleeve shirt began. As I looked down at the rest of her body, she had knee-length kahkis and tan, woven wedges. “And those ankle bracelets, I got him one of those, just so I can track him down,” she finished, then laughed, a cackle that bounced off the soft, white walls.
|Oh, I don’t know honey. The brown matches your coloring
so much better…..
It was the last statement that got me. She wasn’t forty, or fifty. The woman had to be in her mid-to-late seventies. The aesthetician lifted the woman’s bony wrist, dark freckles dotting the wrinkled hand and wrist, excepting for the part covered by a trendy gold and brown man’s watch.
As I sat there in my luxo-lounger, my back feeling like it has the hands of Goliath moving up and down my spine, I figured that women of all ages worry about men scatting around, not just the forty-year-old desperate somethings.
I closed my eyes, already descending back in to my bliss when it occurred to me she was only half kidding. The woman went on to talk about the women at the golf club, and how they’d be after her husband in a hot New York second if she weren’t around.
TMI. My eyes popped open again, I started removing the lovely, lavendar-filled gloves that covered my parafin-slathered hands. She was killing my pre-mother’s day groove. “But I’m here now,” she continued, unabated. “But next year, when I turn eighty, they might not wait any longer. At least my finger nails will look good for our Mother’s Day celebration.” She turned to her left then, revealing a face as withered as an autumn leaf.
As I prepared to leave the previously quiet inner sanctum that was the salon, I wanted to tell the woman that if your pre-mother’s prepping involves talk of fitting your husband with an ankle bracelet, not only must he be one hot geriatric, but to listen to her female intuition. Something is definitely afoot at the Circle K.
I extended my hand, feeling the soft thud of a ring in my palm. At first I thought it was a fake gold ring from a bubble gum machine, but it was a bit heavier than normal. I lifted it, examining the two, thin bands of gold melded together. In the center was a small diamond stone with a ring of little diamonds dotting the solitaire. It was impossible to think anything other than it had been a gift to our daughter during her recent trip with my husband, wherein they visited several sets of relatives.
“Can I keep it?” she repeated.
“Let me hold on to it for a minute so we can show dad,” I suggested, just in case it had “accidentally” found its way in to her bag. I slipped the ring on my forefinger, as it was so small in circumference, it wouldn’t go past the first knuckle.
We went upstairs, I finished the buttermilk buscuits, we sat down at the dinner table and were nearly finished with the meal when my daughter brought up the ring.
“Mommy, did you ask dad?” I hadn’t, so I slipped off the ring and showed it to him. “Did Aunt Jane give this to Porsche?” He looked down without taking it from me.
“No,” he said, without elaborating. “I’ll tell you later.” What was to tell? She hadn’t stolen it, that was good. Rog knew where it had come from, so what was the hold up?
“Was it Grammy’s?” I asked, referring to his grandmother who had passed away the year prior, slipping it back on my finger for safe keeping. Rog shook his head.
“If you think about it, you’ll know.” I gave him a blank stare. I had no idea what he was talking about. Then he said a word he’s uttered less than a dozen times in fifteen years. “Dionne.”
Dionne is the name of his highschool sweetheart, whom he married at eighteen when he went off to the university. They were married for seven years and undone by Rog’s intense ways. (I’l never forget the comment he made when we were dating– “I did my undergrand and grad in three years, worked a full-time job and played golf. I wasn’t around much, and when I was, I guess she figured I wasn’t going to change.”) News flash. He hasn’t. But those are other blogs.
All this flashed before me as I kept chewing on my corn muffin, looking down at my left forefinger. “How did it get in the backpack?”
Rog shook his head. “I have no idea. It had been in the house or in his things all these years, only to find its way in to an obscure (and relatively new) backpack, that traipsed along a 3,500 mile journey to find its way back to our home. As I considered this oddity, my daughter was waiting expectantly to hear my verdict if she could keep it or not. She piped in to remind me she hadn’t forgotten.
“Sure you can,” I told her. It was one digit away from my ring finger, where my own wedding ring loomed large by comparison, but in some respects, lacked the finesse of this smaller, more delicate piece of jewelry. “But it’s really special,” I said. “You can’t trade it to one of your friends or take it to school.”
She nodded her head in understanding. “Can we put it upstairs with your things?” That was going a bit far.
“How about in your special box on the second shelf?” She enthusiastically agreed.
“Can I see it first?” Rog requested. He bounced the ring in his hand a couple of times. “You know, with the price of gold, this might be worth a few hundred bucks.” My eyes lit up.
“Some pin money,” I announced. Rog shook his head, handing it back to me. “You promised.”
There I sat, sitting at the dining room table with my two daughters and husband, wearing his ex-wife’s wedding ring. That ring, and all that went with it, were a part of my husband, and helped make him what he is today.
I looked at it in silence. It was a sweet setting. An innocent setting, absent of ornamental embellishments. It was cute and sad and comical all at the same time.
“You know, pretty soon, tomorrow, maybe even tonight, we are going to think this is really funny,” I told him. It didn’t take that long. I slipped it off my finger and gave it to my daughter. She pranced away, the sounds of her feet on the steps, the door to my wardrobe opening and shutting. The ring, like Rog’s history, would be a part of our lives forever.
In the case of my friend, (and I know his wife), her disinterest wasn’t caused by any major, or minor event. The two have a great time, share many commonalities, like cooking and the outdoors, she just wasn’t interested. He had no desire to leave his family, abandon his children or leave his best friend. So he did what he says many men do. “I just get it elsewhere.”
I learned all this about six years ago, four years after I’d met the couple. Love me or hate me, I said nothing to the woman. Having been divorced myself, and finding out only later that my husband had not just strayed, but he had taken my Rolex, some of my purses and who-knows-what-else and given them away to various women-folk. I always ask myself, ‘what would I have done had someone told me?’ Like many women I read about, probably nothing. Denial, avoidance, getting angry at the person revealing the information–I figure I’m as human as they come, and probably would have done all three. Looking back on my journey through a horrid relationship, I had to come to learn, deal with, and get over, my own situation.
With my friend, I took the same approach. First off, I wasn’t going to judge him. By the time I was in my late thirties, I’d learned that only God can judge. I’d not lived in his shoes, dealing with his life or his choices. Whatever he did, he needed to go through it, without my intervention.
Fast forward all these years. We have lunch today, the first time in months. Naturally, the conversation turns to children, family and spouses. He has a son going off to college, I have one in college. “What are you going to do when the last one is out of the house?” I ask, always curious about the ‘next phase’ of parents who are empty-nesters. “And what do you think X (wife) is going to do?”
“I’m not sure,” he replied honestly, then told me he’d recently had an epiphany. A female friend who knows his personal situation had offered to set him up with a divorced mother of two, in her early forties. She was cute, tall and “ready for fun,” not necessarily caring who she hooked up with, married or not. My friend then ‘friended’ her on Facebook, she responded, and he was ‘ready to pull the trigger.’ Then a funny thing happened.
“I didn’t do it,” he said, still sort of amazed.
“You realized it was a dead-end?” I offered, when he faltered. He nodded.
“There was no future. No good could come of it. Starting anything would only lead to hurt for everyone involved. I’m not going to leave my wife or abandon my family. I don’t want to.” He pointed to the fact that he and his wife had saved for two decades and were now proudly shipping their son to a top-5 Ivy league school, all paid for, thanks to their smart savings (they drive modest cars, live in a modest home and he has a modest job, yet they have saved enough to pay $62,500/year for the college-whoa. If that’s not teamwork and discipline, I don’t know what is).
I couldn’t help myself. “So you’re finally growing up?” I asked, as only a friend can do. He nodded again. Then he told me how he’d been learning to deal with celibacy. His experience had happened months before, and he was on the straight and narrow. Rog, who knows about my friend, doesn’t believe his situation is tenable.
“No man can hold out forever,” he contended, although he was suitably respectful of my friend’s change in approach.
I shrugged. My mind was on other things. Over the years, I’d invariably wondered whether or not I’d done the right thing by not saying a word. Today, I was sure I did. This man, who is so brilliant in the business world, had to learn a few things. He kept his promise to take care of her and his family, and truly believes she is his best friend. I wonder if his sex drive will wane over time, like hers, or if their friendship will out way the loss of the physical side of their lives. In the past, she hadn’t asked about his personal life, thus avoiding the need for him to reveal his extracurricular activities. If she asked now, there would be nothing to tell.
As men consider their options (and desires) for this day, the one that child-weary and exhausted mothers around the world look forward to with varying degrees of anticipation, I offer up one suggestion:
Consider the bra size. Please.
This little tidbit comes to you courtesy of She, the illustrious woman who is always on the scout for an obscure piece of knowledge that will help our lives proceed a little-bit smoother.
“Did you know bra sizes have doubled?” she asks me last week. Um, no. As I’ve gone through the child-bearing years, my bra size has shrunk, not increased. It’s also dropped in gravity a few notches, not lifted up like a chest-lift. “Well, it has,” she continues, and proceeds to read me snippets of an article.
I wait a week, until I’m safely in my own home, so I can ponder the expansion of chests around the world. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Girths around the world are expanding, so why not chests? Sadly, it’s not the frontal chest only. It’s the back fat and the under-the-arm fat that increases as well. (Isn’t that a nice thought?)
A man will be standing in Victoria Secrets, looking at a mannequin, thinking about how big “the breast,” completely forgetting the rest of the woman. If you are a man reading this blog (or a woman who needs to drop a hint to your significant other) be sure to check out the universal bra sizing chart. If not, do what my husband did last year. He was confused, as any man is, about his wife’s (my) “blessings” (another euphamism used in the movie world, typically invoked when a woman is busting out at the seams).
“You asked for help?” I suggested, thinking of his aversion to requesting directions when lost.
“I did the only logical thing I could,” he replied. “I put both of my hands on the mannequin.” As I about swallowed my tongue, Rog continued. “And then I faced her, and said–they are about this size.”
Men, let my momentary mortification inspire you to look for other ways to purchase a piece of lingerie for your lovely woman. It may bring you the benefits you so desire on that day of days.