Wednesday, September 09, 2009

You Can't Have One Without the Other

(If you're new, please read this, and then this. Sure, I can't make you, but you'll have no one to blame but yourself when this makes even less sense than I usually make.)

It's time for breakfast. You two will be going to a local diner which has been there for eighty years. Coincidentally, the waitstaff has also been there eighty years. All you two want is caffeine and it’s being brought to you by a sweet grandmotherly lady who appears to have Parkinsons disease, which means she inches across the room and then sloshes half the pour into your saucer and a bit into your lap. She’s terribly apologetic for that, as she is a few minutes later when, having misheard you two, she brings a roast-beef sandwich instead of toast and a turkey leg instead of eggs. Within five minutes, you’ll each know how much tolerance the other person has for frailty and, believe me, you want to know that.

But hurry, my little guinea pigs, hurry, finish up your roast beef and turkey (and, puzzlingly, ambrosia salad and pickles, which arrived on a plate together), because we need to get down to the city and go to...the mall! Because we are our most like ourselves in the mall, bless our little hearts. First, you find a parking space. Too many of us are Park in the farthest part of the lot so no one scratches the car. Whatever time we lose walking a quarter of a mile we save in not driving around near the elevator, married to I am prepared to sit in the lane for as long as it takes for this moron to finish adjusting his rear-view mirror and flossing. A parking-space next to the elevator is worth more than rubies to me. RUBIES! We can avoid a lifetime’s sniping and silences right now with one short trip to Nordstroms. Again, it doesn’t matter what sort of parker each one of you is, as long as you’re in agreement.

[But you close-parkers are really weird. What is that, some unfinished hunter-gatherer thing?]

[Consort would like you close-parkers to know that you’re completely right; a few minutes spent getting a nearby spot is worth it after shopping, if you’re carrying big bags. He also wants to you know that I have on occasion parked so far from the mall entrance that he thinks I was parked in another mall. In another county.]

Having parked, you are in the mall and this morning will be spent finding him a pair of socks. In 2002, he found a pair of sort of khaki socks which went perfectly with most of the pants he wore for work. He bought six pair and has never seen them since. This doesn’t stop him from checking in every single store for those socks. You must keep him company. If you feel like it, you can also paw through the racks, holding up what you think are khaki socks. Just be prepared to be snickered at, because the khaki socks he had were so much better. Your job is to look supportive and say nothing. If you want, consider this a sign of tenacity. Perhaps if you two got married and you disappeared, he might spend years and years looking for you. That is, of course, if you went with as many things as these socks did.

Mid-day break. You get to go to a movie! Of course, you two have to agree to which movie, and what snacks to get. If you’re Twizzlers and she’s nachos, that’s something you’ll want to know. If he’s five kinds of candy and a Diet Coke and you’re a bottled water and unbuttered popcorn, you’re probably not going to be sharing snacks, at the very least. And oh, the movie. Does it star Sandra Bullock or does it star robots? Does it take place in Edwardian England or does it take place in an England populated by zombies? I’m not assuming who wants to see whom; I’ve known quite a few female action-movie fans and not every man sitting in a movie theater watching an adaptation of Henry James is there by force. Under usual dating circumstance, someone would be polite and say something like “I’ve heard great things about ‘G.I. Joe’,” but we’re not under normal circumstance, are we? You two are exhausted and your hair looks weird and in the case of one of you, haven’t found your socks again. You two are much more likely to see how deeply the other person actually feels about Shia LaBeouf.

You’re welcome.

Having settled on the movie, now you must find a seat in the theater. Some people don’t care in the slightest, so long as they aren’t behind someone who starts for the Pacers. Some people are Consort, grimly determined to sit in the perfect seat. Usually that means inching around the group of nuns in the middle of the row, getting to the seats, determining that the perfect seats are just one seat over, asking the nuns to move down one seat, sitting down in our new seats only for Consort to suspect the perfect seats are one row in front of us. Now, I love him and the nun’s boss knows I have far weirder quirks, but as one has spent more than one set of previews trudging through a movie theater like a desert nomad, I want to make sure no one else unknowingly falls in love with a Seater.

After the movie, you two are refreshed and possibly illuminated as to the other person’s movie habits (I believe talkers, snoring nappers and ostentatious bag-rustlers should carry a warning label). Good, because now it’s time to separate the amateurs from the professionals. She’s going to try on jeans; she’d like your opinion.

Young man, where are you going? Get back here. Oh, stop sniveling, it’s not that hard. You just need to tell her if she looks better in this pair or that pair.

Or this pair?

Or this pair?

Or this pair?

Or this pair?

Does the second pair give her a muffin-top? You don’t remember? Then let’s go back to that store and try them on again. Now, is there a muffin-top? What do you mean, “No more than any other pair”? What is that, a joke? You’re saying she’s got a muffin-top in all of them? You’re saying she’s flabby?

How about this pair?

Or this pair?

Or this pair?

You know what, let’s go back and look at all of them again the darker wash. And the darker wash, in the boot-cut.

Her job is to maintain some semblance of self-esteem as she starts to suspect all jeans were designed to make her favor her grandfather, who is seventy-eight and has no butt. His job is to hold her purse and every third or fourth pair, compliment her on her butt.

I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t want you two to stay married.

Finally, several hours later, a cashier is ringing up one pair of jeans. You two are exhausted, sick of the sight of one another and toying with the idea of faking your own death in order to get away. We Marriage Marathon producers sweep in and grab each of you, taking you to separate hotel rooms. In each room is a nice outfit, a working hairdryer and your beauty products of choice. Maybe you take a catnap. An hour or so later, we swing back to pick you up and we bring you to a nice restaurant. Out in the patio, under the twinkling lights, is your weekend companion, cleaned-up and beaming.

Now you may have a date.

If over a decade in the marital trenches has taught me anything, it’s that the date shouldn’t be placed at the beginning but at the end of the courtship. If you can look across the table at someone and think “You chew your ice and the sock thing is a little weird, but you make me laugh and you pulled all the dark-wash straight-cut jeans in my size without a word of protest,” you’re nearly home. Personally, I think a good marriage isn’t defined by the trips to Hawaii; it’s saying “I’m going to get the car battery replaced, want to come along?” Because anyone looks good on the beaches of Oahu, but your spouse looks good keeping you company at Sears.

Thanks for letting this story take three weeks. Now, I’m going to leave Consort a voice-mail, telling him how lucky I am and see if he wants to go on a date tonight.


Blogger The Bug said...

Thanks for the great marathon! But I want to see a movie where Sandra Bullock is playing a robot sent back to Edwardian England to fight the zombies!

I think one of the reasons that my hubby & I get along so well is that we didn't date before we fell in love - we were ping pong buddies & enjoyed each other's company - & then that gradually changed to something different. It was terrifying & exhilarating.

12:37 PM  
Blogger Debbie St.Amand said...

Am I a bad person? Sometimes, when someone's "stalking" me in a parking lot, hoping to pounce on my space, I'll purposely walk down the wrong aisle, then dart across, get into my car and drive away, while they curse my name.

12:59 PM  
Blogger Runs Like A Gay said...

Brilliant. Loved every one of those tests.

When can I sign up?

2:40 PM  
Anonymous Noel said...

I may be overly emotional this week- but your ending made me a tiny bit weepy. My favorite part: "but your spouse looks good keeping you company at Sears." Happy anniversary?

3:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't quite remember life before discovering your great blog and your twitter. I ordered your book last week and it should be arriving any day...(she typed, with bated breath).

Thanks so much,
Elle Quinn (I know, I know).

P.S. I'm ReelQuinn on Twitter, if you see me.

3:43 PM  
Anonymous Judy said...

My only complaint? You don't post more often than you do!!!

Your mind travels on such quirky and hysterical paths - thank goodness your fingers trod the same ones!!!

6:08 PM  
Blogger marta said...

"(Debbie is a bad person)" I say in a Jim Gaffigan whisper.

7:22 PM  
Blogger Judy said...

"Nun's boss" - Brilliant.

I've never put gas in my car or mowed a lawn in my life. In exchange, I change poopy diapers and clean up after pets.

Seems fair.

This marriage works.

8:24 PM  
Blogger Dawn Maria said...

Never Twizzlers- ALWAYS Red Vines.

Had to get that off my chest.

6:51 AM  
Blogger Delightfully Healthy said...

Brilliant. Just...brilliant.

7:51 AM  
Blogger jean said...

This has been a wonderful marathon. Where were you when I was thinking a date was just a date? Thanks.

8:47 AM  
Blogger Quirky said...

I love it! It reminds me of the time when hubby and I were newly married and he decided that it would be fun to drive from TN to Chicago to see his parents for Christmas. Only right above the KY border, we hit the WORST. SNOWSTORM. EVER! And I (being the lifelong southern girl who rarely sees snow) kept saying, "This blizzard looks pretty bad. Maybe we should stop for the night" only to have Mr. Chicago-native going, "Nah, this is nothing" and keep driving.

(Until, of course, we ended up getting stuck in the middle of po-dunk-ville, in the crappiest little hotel you've ever seen, and eating a dinner consisting of semi-frozen Twix bars out of the vending machine.)

At the time, I was like, "And I married this guy?" but now we look back on it and laugh. It's one of my favorite Christmas stories.

5:03 PM  
Blogger EMS said...

I've always said that true love is finding the person who's version of crazy you can live with.

7:21 PM  
Blogger Kathryn said...

The socks! Oh, the socks! Himself and I have been married 37 years, and (swear to the nun's Boss) for 37 years the man has not been able to find the same style of dress socks that he loved 40 years ago. We have to look. The Dillard's ladies get that glazed look when they spot him, because they know the poor man is going to be disappointed yet again. The fact that the original socks came from somewhere in England makes it a good bet we aren't going to find them in Illinois, but we live in hope. Can't find them in England either, because England has moved on with the sock thing.

6:30 AM  
Anonymous FurBabyMom said...

This "marathon" has been LOL FUNNY...with wisdom/truth built in to every one of those compatibility tests! Such fun to read! :)


9:17 AM  
Anonymous Paula said...

Thanks so much for this. If you do nothing else in your life, you have performed one of the greatests services ever known to mankind.

And made me cry about it.

4:06 AM  

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