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First Person Personal

My personal views on a variety of matters ranging from popular culture to quantum physics to religion to politics to history to bushido to ... well, whatever I feel like, really. Warning: we all have agendas. Trust no one totally, myself most specifically included. Email me at wbrerwolf at gmail.com

Thursday, May 26, 2005

For All The GirlsI've Loved Before - Marital Blitz

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”

Our wedding was one of the most fun events imaginable. S the overachiever had determined that we could save thousands of dollars if she catered her own wedding. So she drafted various associates and friends, mostly female, and put out a fantastic spread. A few things, like the wedding cake (Appalachian Stack Cake as I recall) had to be farmed out, but mostly everything was done by her and our friends at cost.

We had the wedding at a friend’s house with the friend’s three dogs in attendance. The dress ranged from historical re-creationist garb to drag queens in full array through blue jeans up to rich Republicans in three-piece suits. One of S’s old friends is a priest, so we had him perform the ceremony. As S is half-Greek, she selected a version of a Byzantine marriage rite and the priest and his assistants were wearing Byzantine ceremonial robes. She had carefully edited the ritual to avoid some of the more restrictive oaths.

I will never forget the look of absolute horror on the priest’s face as he suddenly realized two things: that he had by reflex gone to the original rite and that S was between him and the only door.

Unlike many grooms are reputed to be, I was very happy to be there and completely relaxed, even by little glitches such as the use of the old ritual or small faux pas such as S’s mother swiping one of the spare wedding cakes for later or by the men in the wedding party coming up short one set of studs for the vests (everyone donated one stud and left the bottom hole empty).

We went to Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s home, for our honeymoon. S has admired President Jefferson since she was quite young and I came to share her respect for him. I took the chance to introduce S to my family in Virginia. My sister and S hit it off very well. There was and is a certain ambiguity between my mother and S – I honestly think that if I had snagged Princess Di on the rebound, Mom would have thought I could have done better.

I was aware of similarities in my father and S’s personalities, and anticipated a very strong reaction. I just didn’t know whether it would be positive or negative.

To my great relief, they took to each other instantly. On his deathbed some years later, Dad referred to S and my brother in law R as his other two children. S, on her part, has always referred to my father with great respect and affection.

After the honeymoon, we had some major problems.

The first year is a getting to know each other process. In our case, we discovered each other’s character flaws.

First off, although one of the most intelligent women I have ever known, S has absolutely no sense of fiscal responsibility. If she feels that she needs something, she buys it, even if there is no money in the account. S does not balance the checkbook and usually ignores me if I ask her not to write checks. Thus, our financial situation is usually right on the edge of disaster. As a math freak, this drives me absolutely crazy.

In addition, S does not know how to win an argument. Once she has won an argument, she continues to argue, apparently carried on by some sort of emotional momentum. If she runs out of material on the current problem, she recaps the problem before that and the problem before that and – well, you get the idea. When I was a child, my idea of Eternal Damnation involved lakes of fire and demons. Now it involves being stuck in a car with S in a bad mood going over my flaws, shortcomings and weaknesses forever.

S further insists on blaming me for not pursing my education. I could not and can not see any way of going back to school AND paying our bills; S says not to worry, she can get the money, a statement that I can only view with the deepest mistrust. I am also uncertain as to the utility of an advanced degree in the current job market. While a Doctorate or a Masters was a ticket to easy street thirty years ago, Microsoft Certifications (which tend to require constant ongoing study AND become obsolete every three or four years) seem to be far superior these days. None of the local schools teach any of the classes that I would like to take and which could provide me with the jobs I desire. Further, I am competing with people young enough to be my children, possibly even my grandchildren. The younger people simply do not need as much money and are far more desirable in today’s job market than an old computer programmer whose last steady gig was as a COBOL programmer for the Y2K mess. This is on a par with trying to get a job with the military making flint arrowheads.

In my time with S, I have come to realize that I have been coasting along for most of my life, working really hard only when I had to or if something, usually something not work related, really drew my interest. The same is true of my life in general: most things I viewed as being too much trouble to really bother with: housekeeping, pets, job hunting, moving, etc. I have been trying to put my back into my work more and I think that recently it has been showing some results. However, currently I am working temp gigs at $9 to $10 an hour, which is OK for someone in their twenties, not so OK for someone in their fifties with a wife and two dogs. I’m working on it, and hope that S will put up with the situation for awhile longer.

S also blames a lot of my current work situation on my grievous lack of social and work skills. I do not network well, am often a few minutes late for any assignment and until recently did not dress properly for work. S brought home the fact that t-shirts and jeans do not cut it in the modern workplace, especially on a 52-year-old guy. Further, my table manners are often substandard although rarely disgusting. As much of the job she had before we met involved training people to work in a three-star restaurant, S found my shortcomings to be very annoying. Further, S has convinced me that the only way to progress in a job is to hang with the bosses at some event that usually involves eating. If you make a bad impression there, they tend to want to file and forget you come promotion time. I try to do better, but often fail. I tend to be able to only concentrate on one thing at a time. If I am involved in the conversation, my table manners go to Hell. If I concentrate on my table manners, I do not present a good social presence. It seems as though my best option is to just push the food around on my plate while being charming.

As far as tardiness issue goes, in ten years I have gone from being usually late to being usually on time. Being early is still past me – I seem to get so focused on doing THIS job right that I neglect to provide enough time to get to the NEXT job. Still, when she is not in a bad mood, my wife will admit that I have made progress. Both of us will admit that there is still a lot of room for improvement.

Part of the progress is due to my being diagnosed through S’s efforts as having Adult Attention Deficit Disorder as well as sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome. This was made worse by the fact that I was overweight earlier in our marriage. Now that I am in much better physical shape and sleep at nights with a breathing mask, I am less tired and more able to control my AADD. I still have an unfortunate fondness for stacking things up and forgetting them and concentrating on the trees while forgetting the forest, but I am far more functional than I used to be. I help with the housework and do a lot of the yard work and most of the care for both dogs.

S has also made considerable progress in fiscal responsibility, aided in large part by modern banking methods and debit cards. If she does not carry around a checkbook, she must use the card and, thanks to the Internet, she cannot spend more money than we actually have. She has also learned to control her temper better, but when she gets angry with me, I would still rather be in a biker bar being beaten up by six or seven ex-cons.

I guess a lot of marriage is about learning to work around your partner’s flaws and then learning how to deal with the flaws you never knew you had.

Still, no matter how frustrating life with S can be, it is still life, a life I thought I would never have after E. And for S, life with me is also life itself. While she can get very angry with me and I with her, I very seriously doubt that we will ever divorce.

In the Epic of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh eventually finds the Fruit of Life, which is described as a melon covered with incredibly sharp thorns. It was impossible to pick up the Fruit of Life without pain, without bleeding.

I find this to be quite reminiscent of life in general and marriage in particular.

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