Oddly enough, we actually met in a Bar. She was sitting with some people I knew, people I actually liked talking to. I had been at a wedding that day, drinking and carousing, while still looking like an adult and not something that had crawled out from under a rock. I had been a regular at the place in question for several years now, the wedding in question was for one of the bartenders, which is how I knew most of the people at the table.
It was her best friend’s birthday party.
I approached the table, not because I wanted to get to know her, nor even because I had seen her there (actually, I hadn’t noticed her yet.) I was in a partying mood, looking for companions to keep the night’s festivities going. I said hello to Brian and Cicely, the two I knew, and introduced myself to those whom I didn’t. She all but ignored me at first and the longer I sat with the group, the more obvious it became that she was an outsider even among her friends, quiet and not really joining in with the activities. So, I started talking to her, about music, then books. She loved both. After confessing that she was a huge Bowie fan, I blurted out “not really into him, although I always loved the Tin Machine stuff.”
And that was when she actually smiled at me.
From there we finished out he evening nicely and in the end, when I when I asked for her number, with a strong smile, she gave it to me. And by the time I got home I had lost the slip of paper it was on.
It seemed one of those random encounters you have when single. You meet someone, talk, get a number and either call or not. I chalked it up to “well, she seemed nice and it sucks that I lost her number. Oh well.” And went on with my life.
I ran into her a few months later, at a party thrown by the Brian mentioned above. She was in the kitchen, pouring tequila shots and when she saw me walk in, both eyebrows shot up in an “oh, really” expression. I waited until the room was mostly clear (knowing that this could possibly get ugly) walked up to her and said “I am so sorry, I actually lost your number, but if I could I would love to get it from you again.” And again, she smiled. We ended up making plans for the next night, where we saw Lost in Translation, ate Vietnamese food (she was testing me on that) and that was that. We were married two years later.
To say it has been easy would be a lie. We joked at the time that she came into the marriage with a condo and I came into it with a 10 year old. The condo went quick, sold at the top of the market. The boy was only with us every other weekend and every Tuesday night until high school, when he moved in with us half time. She often struggled being a step parent, not sure of her place in the family pecking order. The boy has grown, graduated as they do and is now a junior in college. While I wouldn’t say that they are close, I would say there is deep love between them.
We drifted along, no real tight bonds of shared interests or children together. And slowly drifted into trouble as a couple. I drank too much, she smoked too much pot. That was no big deal until she quit drinking. Then it became a huge deal. Tie this in with the recession of 2009, when I was laid off with zero prospects, feeling like a ship becalmed. At this point I asked for and she agree to marriage counseling.
Counseling was the single best thing that happened to us. I cannot stress how much it showed us our inability to communicate, build new bonds between us and actually listen to each other, as opposed to listening to ourselves about the other. All this and we both disliked the counsellor!
Too say that our marriage has gotten better is too easy, too quick. But it is true. We learned to work at it, put in the time needed to strengthen things as opposed to tear things down. For two people with extremely strong personalities, this can be shockingly hard to do. We were both accustomed to going through life pushing everything out of our way, believing that we were the ones who were always right. But as we learned, those were just the ways we dealt with our insecurities.
Oh, don’t get me wrong, we still have our moments. My nickname for her is The Wedge Queen, for if anything is sitting out she will force it into a drawer or cupboard, no matter the damage that is inflicted. She calls me The Mumbler, as I constantly mutter under my breath, retelling old jokes to myself that only need 10 minutes of storytelling to get to the point.
So, today is our 10 year anniversary. 10 incredibly difficult and wonderful years.
This is for Carolyn.