Friday, May 06, 2005

But back to Jane

Dear Jane --

Before I put a moratorium on your husband whining about his relationship with you (his experience, not mine -- and yes, you and I have met, but more on that later), he used to go on and on about how "lame" you are. ("Lame" being one of his favorite words) Of course, I only got his side of the story, and my inherent desire for balance (many of my friends call it "fence-sitting") made me recognize that you probably have your side of it as well. And the truth lies somewhere in between, I'm sure.

And since right now we're talking about his side (or what he told me), I won't even pretend to empathize with you outside of the idea that if I married a guy and found out he was steppin' out on me, I would cut off his balls.

But I digress.

So he went on and on about how terrible your marriage is, how you don't communicate, how you won't even (*gasp*) say "goodnight" to him before you go to sleep. Before I dammed up the River Whine, I did ask him this one very pointed question:

"Then why did you marry her?"

He thought for a second, then looked me right in the eye.

"I thought she would make a good mother."

Me: "Is she?"

Him: "Yes."

Me: "Then don't ever complain to me again about how she treats you. You didn't hire her to be a good wife. You hired her to be a good mother. If she meets the requirements of the job for which you hired her, then you can't complain."

It shut him up for awhile, at least.

But I do have one thing I'm curious about, and that is -- if your family comes from money (lots of it, I understand), and you don't have to work, why do you? It makes me think that your job description wasn't made clear to you before you walked into that Justice of the Peace's office. Or wherever it was. I know from the picture on his desk that you didn't have a wedding -- you, apparently had already had one of those. Your current husband, apparently, is husband number 2.

Ah, in so many ways, I feel sorry for your husband. To paraphrase one of my favorite writers, Anne Lamott, we all get a toolbox when we're born. Some of us have lots of tools at our disposal to get through life. Many of us, and I count myself among them, got a toolbox full of bent, rusty tools, and we get through our lives as best we can. When I see a nail that needs pounding in my life, if I can't find my hammer, I use the heel of my well-worn Frye motorcycle boot to pound it back where it belongs. Sometimes I need to use a butter knife as a screwdriver. What I'm saying is that most of us manage to work it out with what we have at our disposal.

But your husband, poor guy, it seems like although he got the same understocked toolbox that many of us did, instead of using his shoe to pound nails, he'd rather complain loudly that someone stole his hammer. Or he'll complain that his neighbor has a shinier hammer than his. Ya see what I'm saying, Jane?

I think he is frequently befuddled by me and by his assistant. She is sunny by nature, and although he can appreciate it, there's a part of him that just doesn't understand it. My own nature, well, occasionally the black clouds will come along, but they're more like summer storms than pervasive bad weather. They blow through with thunder and lightning and more likely than not are gone in a short time with no hint they were ever there. To put it simply: we bounce. And he has a worldview that is so different from ours that he listens with fascination when we talk about our experience in the world.

I mean, neither of us makes a ton of money or lives a life of luxury, but we have both found lives that are fulfilled by having loving friends around us. That is what we find valuable. He has all the trappings of what would in the parlance make a happy life -- the nice house in a pretty exclusive NJ suburb (Short Hills is horse country, if I recall correctly), the country club, the lavish vacations 6 or 7 times a year, the expensive sports car, all that shit. And yet he is miserable.

To put it another way, I think in a way, we shame him.


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