Saturday, June 2, 2012

June First

   I was 19 when I got married. To a guy I had only known for 9 months.  I don't recommend doing that and forbid my daughters from following my example. Fortunately for me, I am a decent judge of character. Unfortunately for me, by the time I realized that he makes the most disgusting tuna sandwiches ever (equal parts of tuna, mayo, relish, and bbq sauce) it was too late to back out.
   A year later I sat in a church meeting. The topic: a happy marriage. The keynote speakers were a very attractive couple about 15 years older than us, they spoke side by side from the pulpit and took turns saying things they loved about each other. "She always keeps the car clean because she knows that's important to me." "He goes to the temple once a week at 6AM and reminds me that he does it for our family." "When I get home from work, she'll stop me mid sentence and say, 'it's 7:50, do you want to turn on the news real quick so you can watch the sports?'" 
   I left the syrupy meeting feeling beside myself. This is what a marriage was supposed to be like? All positives, no negatives? I had only been married a year and we had never done any of those things for each other. In fact, the two biggest things I remember about the first year of marriage was a huge fight over watching the playoffs on our anniversary, and a devastating miscarriage. While there were happy times, I was confused because I thought that as a young married, it was supposed to be ALL happy times. I don't know where I got this idea, but it was toxic and the reality of marriage was a hard pill to swallow. 
    Then, on a long plane ride home I watched The Story of Us. It was a huge turning point for me. The movie stars Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer who play a married couple who go through hard times during their fifteen years of marriage. I just looked up the movie and Rotten Tomatoes gave it a disappointing 28%. I'm afraid to re-watch it because it Rotten Tomatoes is a pretty good gauge for me and I'm sure it's not really as good or moving as I had originally thought, but it came at the right time for me. And I think anything directed by Rob Reiner is worth watching. I cried through the last scene of the movie, when Michelle Pfeiffer gives her final monologue.
                  We're an us. There's a history here and histories don't happen overnight. In Mesopotamia or 
              Ancient Troy there are cities built on top of other cities, but I don't want another city, I like this city. 
              I know what kind of mood you're in when you wake up by which eyebrow is higher, and you know 
              I'm a little quiet in the morning and compensate accordingly, that's a dance you perfect over time. 
              And it's hard, it's much harder than I thought it would be, but there's more good than bad and you 
              don't just give up!  . . . And you're a good friend, and good friends are hard to find. Charlotte said 
             that in Charlotte's Web and I love how you read that to Erin and you take on the voice of Wilbur the Pig 
             with such dedication even when you're bone tired. That speaks volumes about character! And ultimately,
              isn't that what it comes down to? What a person is made of? . . .

   The central theme of the movie? Marriage is hard. Relationships are hard, but they're supposed to be hard because they're valuable. Did I love Pete? Yes. Did he love me? Absolutely. Were either of us perfect? No way, but there was more good than bad and we were pretty good together. It was worth working on.
    High Fidelity, A much better movie, had a similar effect on Peter. In the film, Rob, a record store owner struggles to reconcile his adolescent behavior with his adult responsibilities through a series of top five lists. (Side note: this was Jack Black's break out and him at his absolute best but don't click on the link if the F word bothers you.) First off, the movie stars John Cusack who in a way, invented the hipster. The good kind. And Pete loves Cusack. Because let's face it, when he's cool, he's really cool and you want to be him. The film is packed with great lines about music and life, for example, Cusack muses, "What came first? The music of the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns, or watching violent videos, that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?"
   High Fidelity carries the same message as The Story of Us. When Rob, analyzes his relationship with is girlfriend, "She didn't make me feel miserable, or anxious, or ill at ease. You know it sounds boring, but it wasn't. It wasn't spectacular either. It was just good. But really good." he nails it. Relationships are hard. They aren't all stars and fireworks, and they aren't supposed to be. They're earned and won over time. And that's what my marriage is. It's better than stars and fireworks. It's pretty fun, but it's also gritty and rough. It's picking up dirty socks, and sometimes doing it because you love the person who left them there, but mostly doing it because you're the only one who will. It's telling your wife who just had a baby that she looks beautiful when she's 20 pounds heavier and mean as hell and you both know that it's not true, but it's something she needs to hear. It's publicly throwing your husband under the bus at a church meeting and embarrassing him in front of 70 people. It's telling your wife that dinner tastes like dog food, and then paying for it on the inside when she runs from the table crying and shuts herself in the bathroom for an hour. It's leaving a candy bar for your man in his car after you borrow it.  It's the mutual mistake of ordering shrimp pizza. It's sending your wife to New York, or California, or St George with her friends for the weekend and hoping she'll come home refreshed and happy but not saying anything when she comes home happy, but more tired than she was before she left. It's being amused when she has an abnormal emotional reaction to some strange event. It's letting him know that he's speaking in hyperboles too often. It's sending your husband on a bike ride and really hoping that he has a nice time, because he deserves it. It's the family trip you don't want to go on. It's promising yourself that you'll speak more gently next time. It's a reassuring hand on the back after a disappointment. It's knowing by their breathing patterns that they are tired, so your news will have to wait. It's being patient when they aren't themselves that day, or that week, or that year. It's holding each other when things are bad. It's sharing the joy when things are good. And it's having someone there when the future is unsure. It's a lot of bad, but mostly good. And it's something that I've worked for, so I'm fiercely protective and very proud of it, and it's mine. 

Happy Anniversary Peter. 


Sarah d' said...

Angela, I don't think anything I could say could equal this post or do it justice, but it made me cry. I mean, like, real end-of-a-John-Hughes-movie tears. How did I get so lucky to have you turn out to be a friend? Thank you for not only sharing this but for working to create such a beautifully balanced, sharply articulated philosophy with both your words and your days. I just love you!

sara said...

You guys are so awesome. Happy anniversary!

The Watkins said...

I always feel so lucky when I read your blog.

The Watkins said...

And I don't mean lucky it's your life, not mine. I mean lucky to know you.

Nathan & Michelle Watabe said...

Amen, sista! Love it. I agree 100%

mandorama said...

This is one of the most honest and genuine descriptions of marriage I've ever read. Congratulations on all you two have together - good and bad!

The Powell Family said...

Beautifully said!

The McArthur Family said...

Beautifully expressed, Angela. Congratulations to you both. No small accomplishment.