Today, I read a piece in the NYT by a dying woman, Amy Krouse, Rosenthal, called You May Want to Marry My Husband, and it’s a personal/love letter for/to her husband. It’s a lovely piece, and I think most people will be stirred by it. Those of you who know me well can probably tell that I’m speaking in a very measured tone, which should alert you to the fact that I’m about to add a ‘but’ to that statement. Really, it should be expected because it’s not much of a post if I’m just going to gush how great this piece is. So, those of you who don’t want a somewhat grumpy post about love and relationships, you probably want to turn away now. Consider yourself forewarned.
As I was reading, I found myself wondering about his flaws. He didn’t seem like a real person to me from the post, and no, I did not want to marry her husband. One, because I’m not the marrying type, but two, because I never believe the advertisement for a product. That sounds incredibly harsh, and I don’t really mean it that way. It’s just that when you read personals, you know that the person is putting their best foot forward. When I tried the personals, I would emphasize my love of literature, my tats, my nontraditional outlook on life. And sex. How much I love sex. Which is a lot. I was witty and funny and my words sparkled.
What I didn’t mention was that I was severely depressed and barely moved from the couch for days on end. I’m alternately clingy and cold, and I can hold a grudge like nobody’s business. While I endeavor to be understanding and empathetic, I can be judgmental as hell on the inside. I don’t like people in general, and I can only take people in very little doses. In addition, I’m a slob with a tendency towards inertia, and sometimes, I have to be dragged, kicking and screaming, from my house. I’m generous, but I keep tabs in my head of the favors I do. I bottle up my emotions until I explode, and then I scorch the earth with my fury. I’m passive-aggressive, and I’m conflict-avoidant to an unhealthy degree, though I’m getting better at being more direct. I’m moody, and overly-sensitive in taking offense, and I sulk way more than is seemly for a woman my age. All of these things are important for someone interested in dating me to know.
Back to the piece. As I was reading it, I couldn’t help but wonder, “What would he do if I refused to talk to him for hours?” “What happens when I want sex for the third day in a row, and he’s just too tired*?” “How will he react if I push him to do a chore he doesn’t want to do?” In other words, tell me about his flaws. Tell me what I’ll see when I peel back the layers and get past the superficial. Tell me what he’s like when he’s sick or cranky or just not feeling tiptop. Does he leave two squares on the toilet roll and not replace it? Is he short with the kids when he’s feeling tense?
I’ve noticed that the older I get, the more unformed anyone under 25 looks. I know it’s a biased opinion on my part, but I have a hard time finding anyone that young sexually appealing. I can appreciate and admire a fine young specimen, but I have no interest in fucking anyone less than half my age. In part, it’s because I like scars. A lot. I have several of my own, and I’m always interested in other people’s. I view someone with smooth and unlined skin as someone with no troubles in life. Again, I know that’s my own prejudice, but it’s been true in my experience.
Some of my scars are self-inflicted because I used to be a self-mutilator. I hid them for several years because I was ashamed of them. It was relatively easy to do unless I was wearing a t-shirt with really short sleeves or a tank top. I didn’t want people staring at them in horror, disgust, or, even worse, pity. I was very conscious of them, especially the ones on my upper left arm. Over the years, though, I slowly grew to accept them as part of me, and I no longer tried to cover them up. I began to see them as a badge of honor, and as my battle scars. They mark the difficult times in my life, and they’re proof that I’ve gotten through them.
In addition, I’m keloid, so I scar twice as badly as other people do. I’m also incredibly clumsy, so I hurt myself (not intentionally) on a regular basis. I’ve burned myself twice on the toaster oven in the last year, and I have scars I don’t even know how I got. When I meet people with no scars, I can’t help thinking they haven’t really lived. It’s the same with people who say they had great childhood and have no deep-seated issues. There may be one person like that in the whole world, but it’s generally bullshit, especially in the Western world. We’re all human, which means we all have our shadow sides (shout-out to Carl Jung, who had a pretty dark shadow side himself).
Me, I live in the shadow side. I’m more interested in the brokenness, the underpinnings, the unspoken, and the darkness. Ever since I was young, I’ve always been drawn to the underdogs and the broken people, and they’ve been drawn to me. I’m not saying this is a good thing, mind you, but it’s the way I was raised, and it’s partly my nature. I’ve always been fascinated by psychology and what makes people tick, and I’m obsessed with the duality of nature that humans embrace.
Back to the NYT piece. As I read it, I felt like I should have been moved more by it than I was. I felt really lousy for Rosenthal, and I was touched by the deep love she had for her husband. However, I didn’t think the piece was as good as it’s been touted, and I feel weird for saying it. The first thing she touts about him is how snappy a dresser he is, and it’s something about which I care not a whit. In addition, it just showed me how individual love and attraction is. Did I want to marry her husband? Not in the least.
I’m not saying this to slag or her or her husband, both of whom I’m sure are perfectly fine people. Again, I acknowledge that my attraction to the darkness isn’t necessarily a healthy thing. Part of the reason for that is that creative types often have mental health issues, so it’s easy to think they go hand in hand. When I was younger, I thought I could save people from themselves. I learned the painful way that it wasn’t true. I couldn’t save anyone else; I could barely save myself. Now, I realize that while I’m still drawn to people who are broken or troubled, I don’t have the patience or the naivety to think I can save them. I’m more than willing to support someone in their troubles, but only if they’re doing the hard work themselves. If not, then I want no part of them. If they are, I will go to the mat for them.
I would love if personals were more honest. I understand the peacock preening and the putting your best foot forward, but that doesn’t interest me. I want to know what you’ll be like when times are tough and you’re not in a good place. In other words, I want to kick the tires and look under the hood before buying the car. It’s one reason I hate dating. You put on a fancy dress, and you recount stories that will dazzle your date. I do know you can’t just unload all your baggage on the first date, otherwise you’ll send the other person running to the hills, but it just seems so artificial and fakey to me. Then again, I haven’t been on a proper first date in several years, and I’m not sure I’d know how to act on one if the opportunity ever presented itself again.
Frankly, I don’t want to date anyone. I’ve never liked it, and I’d prefer not to do it again. I like it better when I just fall into a relationship with someone I already know because then I don’t have to take them out for a test run. Being in a relationship with someone is not the same as being friends, but there are less nasty surprises to discover. You know the person in more than a superficial way, and you know if they put the toilet paper roll on the wrong way. It’s a shortcut to the whole dating thing, which suits me because I’m lazy.
So, back to the NYT piece. To me, the piece isn’t successful as a personal ad placed by a dying woman for her husband, but it is successful as a love letter from a dying woman to her husband. It’s clear that she loves him with all her heart and that a lot of her grief is that she isn’t going to be able to spend more time with him. It’s a triumph of love, and that’s what I’ll remember it for. I truly wish she never had to write it.
*I have always wanted more sex than my (male) partners. It’s another post for another day.