Spring is springing here in Seattle. Leaves are budding on the bare branches of Husbandio’s blueberry plants. Tulip bulbs are pushing their way out of the dark dirt with their stolid determination. On Saturday, I turned off the heat for a few hours and welcomed the fresh air through open windows.
Spring is springing in other ways too. Just this week, Buddy got teased relentlessly for having a crush on his lovely female reading partner. Sweetie blushed crimson when she saw a second grade boy (code name J-Guy) at the park. She also asked me, totally out of the blue, a few birds-and-bees related questions, the first of which: Mama, who does it hurt more, the mom or the baby, when the baby comes out?
So is Love in the air? Does romance bloom more easily alongside the tulips?
In this March 2011 article, writer Brendan Purves explains:
Bronson also says there are both direct and indirect photoperiodic cues that increase the amorous air this time of year.
Grossly simplified, the change in season brings more sunlight, better moods, and a better climate for romance in mammals, including humans.
Indirectly, the change in season means plants and insects will begin to flourish again, which has a positive effect up the food chain and creates a healthy environment suitable for procreation.
Just in the nick of time, really, because all around me I notice the crumbling and quaking of friends’ and acquaintances’ marriages. Maybe not to the point of divorce, but I have friends who heave sighs of resignation when they talk about their marriage, friends who have given up, accepting that they married someone who simply doesn’t do it for them anymore.
Maybe if we lived in Florida or Hawaii, sun rays would be enough to rev up the romance that’s missing in ho-hum marriages. But we live in Seattle. And as I look outside this morning, the sky is the color of concrete and sidewalks are wet with rain. Springtime may not come quickly enough, nor will it burn hot enough for the more wobbly relationships.
Recently however, my high school friend, Christine Carter, a sociologist at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, shared a blog post where she mentioned a book with a fabulous title: Everybody Marries the Wrong Person by Christine Meinecke.
Then, just yesterday, I was at the grocery store and noticed the cover story on the current issue of Psychology Today: “Are You With the Right Mate?: What to do when you think it’s all a mistake (and you will!).
Both texts illustrate what I now see is the reality of marriage: that in spite of what we want to believe, there is no “one right person.” In fact, according to these two texts (which are both excellent), every potential mate is the one wrong person.
Huh! I wish I had known that.
And yet, I’m glad I didn’t.
First of all, I wouldn’t have believed it. Second, it would have made me sad. It also would have confused me. If no one is the right person for me, what should I expect from my potential mate?
If I am able to choose among the many wrong fish in the sea, is it less wrong to choose this guy (who probably isn’t much fun at dinner parties):
Or this guy (who would steal my lip gloss and then deny it):
(This, by the way, is a Rosy-Lipped Batfish)
I entered marriage believing Husbandio was right for me, a belief based on knowing five things: Husbandio was the kindest person I had ever met; we laughed a lot in each other’s presence; I felt more peaceful around him than I had ever felt in a relationship; he thought I was cute; he told me he was passionate about literature.
Yet after fifteen years of marriage, one could argue that we are the wrong people for one another: He is reserved and emotionally tidy. I am a “flooder” (thank you, John Gottman) and emotionally cluttered.
I need to talk and vent in order to process; he needs to stew in silence.
He loves sailing; I am learning to overcome my fear of deep water.
My crazy brain and thoughts and feelings move at the speed of cheetah, often to my detriment; he moves at sloth slowness, often to his benefit.
And get this: it turns out he doesn’t love literature! He only likes literature. Apparently that was part of that mating ritual where the male flashes whatever he thinks will be the most colorful part of himself right in the drab-colored female’s face. A man who loved literature? Hubba hubba! Sign me up!
In Everybody Marries the Wrong Person, Meinecke starts with this:
Everybody marries the wrong person. Yes, everybody. Not just reckless, unsuspecting people. Not just clueless teenage people. You married the wrong person and your spouse did, too.
I love that. It makes me consider what I want to show and teach Buddy and Sweetie about the reality of marriage. Because yes, while Husbandio and I are the wrong people for each other, we are also right in a lot of crucial ways.
Case in point: Last weekend, three girlfriends and I took the train from Seattle to Portland for a weekend getaway. I happened to spot a millinery (a hat maker) beside a cute boutique.
“I’ll be next door,” I told my girlfriends. “In that cute hat place.”
Well. I have never been in a millinery. Thus, I had no idea just how spendy a custom hat could be. I really didn’t. And that’s the problem when you fall in love with a hat (or a man), especially when the scent of springtime is in the air: you sometimes throw caution to the wind.
You know that song, “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes?” It’s based on a Russian proverb: when the heart is on fire, smoke gets in your eyes.
And let me tell you, friends, those hats were smokin’! Fedoras and cloches and cute little caps. Toques and berets. The richest wool felts and softest straws. I loved them all. But this hat would be an investment, one I would own for the rest of my life and pass on to small-headed, deserving, female progeny. How to choose the hat I would love until the day I died?
My dear and patient girlfriends (much like bridesmaids without the ugly dresses) sat as I tried on my choices, pointing out their favorites, trying a few on themselves. But the moment Dayna, the milliner, arranged one particular hat on my head, I knew.
“Yes,” I said. “This is the one.”
Dayna, a lovely woman with a gorgeous feathered hat herself, explained, while taking measurements, that she would craft the hat in my color of choice, with the right amount of brim and poof and style. She would take a 50% deposit that day, then charge the remaining 50% when she shipped my hat two weeks later.
“Oh good,” I said. “No sales tax here in Oregon AND the charge will show up on the Visa in pieces. Installments. So maybe my husband won’t notice.”
I won’t mention how much I spent on this beauty, but it was more than double what I’d ever spent on a pair of shoes. Ack!
So I emailed Husbandio the evening of the purchase: I think the train gets in around 9:30 tomorrow. We’ll take a cab to Amys and then I’ll drive home. I bought myself a beautiful, custom made “I got an agent” hat. Love you.
That night I dreamed about the hat. Never had I worn a hat that made me feel so me. So peaceful. So happy. After meeting this hat, all the other hats I owned (four wool, one furry angora, four ribbon, two fabric and two straw hats to place atop my promiscuous noggin) suddenly seemed like very bad decisions. This new hat? It was the one. And that knowledge gave me a peace that passed understanding.
Except Husbandio didn’t reply to my email regarding the custom hat. And that made me a little nervous.
When I got home late Sunday night, I walked in and gave Husbandio a hug.
“Where’s the hat?” he asked, still in my hug.
I hugged him a little tighter and whispered, “I told you. It’s custom. She has to make it, and then she’ll send it.” I paused, and hugging him tighter, I made my whisper even more whispery. “It was really expensive.”
“I know,” he whispered back. “I saw the charge on the Visa.”
“Oh. Well, yes,” I said, still whispering in his ear. “But that was only 50%. That was just the deposit.”
And without missing a beat, Husbandio started laughing, his deep rolling laugh that means he thinks something is genuinely funny.
Later that night, while I was falling asleep, hoping to dream about my hat again, I heard Husbandio whisper, “What are you going to name her?”
“Lucy,” I said. And I smiled in the dark because I have a husband who knows I like to name my hats.
OK, so maybe I married the wrong person. And maybe Husbandio married the wrong person. But if that’s wrong, I don’t wanna be right.
Either way, I happened to splurge on a custom hat when blossoms are budding, when we remember there is a sun and warmth just on the other side of those clouds, when we’re all feverish with springtime, when we remember the reasons we first fell, deeply and rightly, for our mates.