The Perfect Husband

During an otherwise uneventful drive, I said to my boyfriend about a man we know, “He makes the perfect husband, he is loyal and dependable.” My boyfriend laughed, glancing at me and away from the road for longer than I was comfortable with, and said I was crazy, “And besides, no man would want to be described that way. It’s insulting.”

The Etymology of Husband According to Google
The Etymology of Husband According to Google is basically ‘Master of the House’

I looked up the word ‘husband’ – The definitions seem to all point to the same thing – a person (male implied if not explicitly stated) married to a wife. While I will concede we can’t separate the word husband from the word marriage, it obviously doesn’t imply male anymore. Just look at the etymology of the word – originally it just meant the person in charge of the house, not gender explicit at all. When we use the phrase, ‘who wears the pants in the family,’ aren’t we talking about the husband, the master of the house, regardless of gender?

But back to my description of the ‘perfect’ husband. In my own mind, I’m imagining the person in a relationship who makes sure the bills are paid on time, who remembers that it is garbage day. The breadwinner – which doesn’t have to mean the person who makes the most, just the person with the steady income and the health benefits. The rock of solid loyalty, the calm foundation, the ‘always willing to work on the relationship even when the shark has been dead for years,’ person.

I asked a few friends and family, “How would you describe the perfect Husband?” A 60-something year old uncle who’s been married for about 40 years said the perfect husband is, “A Knight in Shining Armor,” (he is a total romantic, which is probably why I asked him.)

A woman, also in her sixties, and in an enviable relationship with her second husband said, “A best-friend, a lover, a partner.”

A single, thirty-something man said the perfect husband was a balance between the romantic lover and the dependable bread-winner.

My boyfriend answered this question with no hesitation: “Wealthy and Deceased!”

The best description by far came from my 39-year-old cousin.  I’m not sure if he was describing himself or his husband, but then, they are still newlyweds… “Affectionate. Supportive. Generous. Embracing. Tender. Strong. Consoling. Understanding. Sympathetic. Amusing. Available. Attentive. Engaged. Ambitious. Motivated. Industrious. Callipygian*.”

Most of the people I spoke with did agree that my ideal was a little cold. What is it about me that completely dissociates the word romance from the word husband?  Is it wrong to think of marriage as primarily a business relationship?

My ex-husband (in fact the very same man we were speaking of earlier) is entirely loyal and dependable. Romance wasn’t a part of my thinking at all when he and I decided to marry after six years of dating. The lease was up on my apartment and he owned a house, it seemed impractical to continue to waste money on rent for another year, so we eloped.

But that marriage, based on sound financial sense, eventually ended. Perhaps when one is choosing a husband, one should think with their heart rather than their mind.

I’ve discovered that the internet is full of quotes about husbands but none of them are helpful. If you learned everything you knew about a husband from ‘wikiQuote’ you’d quickly believe they are  good for nothing but as the butt of many, many jokes. Not a single quote used the word ‘perfect’ and ‘husband’ together in a serious manner.

I did however, stumble across a number of references to the play by Oscar Wilde, An Ideal Husband. I decided to watch a recent incarnation from 1999, starring Rupert Everett and Minnie Driver. A most enjoyable hour and a half, but not really helpful either. Again, the ideal, the perfection, is not found and is proven an impossibility.

“Why can’t you women love us, faults and all? Why do you place us on monstrous pedestals?”

I don’t believe Loyalty and Dependability are such high ideals. I think they are practical, even average sort of ideals. A loyal and dependable person isn’t being placed on a pedestal. It is more likely they’d be placed next to a Volvo (or whatever is the most practical car theses days.)

Yup – the perfect husband… boxy, but good.  I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. But the lesson I’ve learned is that the practical side is not enough. The word must also imply the softer side, the best-friend, the companion.

In conclusion, dear reader, here is my new and improved definition of the perfect husband:
loyal, dependable, and romantic.

Doesn’t mean I want one another though. I get all that and more from my boyfriend without all the damned paperwork.

*Callipygian – adjective – having well-shaped buttocks.

 

A Conversation over Lunch.


Star Field

Kate sat in the dining hall across the table from Kella and tried not to look as uncomfortable as she felt.

“Is it the windows?” Kella asked, “They aren’t real. It’s just a projection.  A lot of people get claustrophobic after months and months on the ship. The projection of the stars and space seems to help.”

“No, I’m fine,” Kate answered.  She looked down at her tray of food and wondered why she’d selected the peach pie for dessert.  She’d really wanted the chocolate cake, but there’d only been one slice left and it seemed wrong to take it.

“So, I’ve met your father,” Kella said with a knowing glance, referring to the way he flirted with the ship’s Matron every chance he got, “But I don’t know anything about your mother, I hear she is in the government on Tinwin?”

“Not in the government, not really.  She works for the News actually. She’s the government correspondent.” Kate took a bite of a pressed meat-like patty with its smothering gravy and chewed for longer than necessary.

Kella waited, sipping from a mug of creamy soup that looked and smelled delicious.

“She reports the goings on in the capital on the News every evening.”

“Ah, so I guess she wasn’t home much.”

“Well, sort of.  She was gone in the morning before I woke up for school, but she was home every night for dinner, her segment was recorded, not live.  We’d watch it while we ate.”

Kella nodded, staring at Kate with thoughtful eyes.  Kate felt pitied.

“She was a good mother.  Busy, of course, but we had nannies and housekeepers and all that. We were well cared for.”

Kella nodded again.

Kate looked down at her plate, wondering what was in the green mush.

“It’s mostly kale, but they generally add some other flavors as well,” Kella said.

Kate looked up at her, it wasn’t the first time Kate felt the other woman was reading her mind.

“I never knew my mother.”  Kella said. “I mean, I knew who she was, she came to visit me when I was little.  But children in the Society grow up in the nursery with just a few people to look over them, and then, as soon as they are able, they’re sent into training.”

Kate knew the Wavers called themselves ‘The Society.’  It seemed pretentious.  ‘Wavers’ was more descriptive, since they were the waves of people who’d emigrated from Tinwin many decades ago.

“What did you train as?” Kate asked.

Kella looked at her, confused, “Well, as a Ship Matron, of course.”

“Oh, you didn’t get to choose your job?”

“Choose? No, we’re tested for the first time at about five years old and then again at about seven, it depends on individual maturity levels and such. The test determines what you can do best, what would make you the most satisfied and how you could be the most useful to the Society.”

Kate shivered at Kella’s tone. It seemed so cold to Kate, telling a kid what job they’d have when they were only seven years old, never giving them the freedom to dream or explore.

“Kate, I love my job. I’ve never been unhappy with my work and I am useful and respected. Can you say the same?” Kella looked away after speaking and took a large swallow of soup.

“I’m sorry, that was rude,” she said, looking back again. She smiled apologetically at Kate, but Kate didn’t sense any real regret in her look, only condescension.

“What happens with the kids who don’t test into a job that is needed?” Kate asked.

“What do you mean? Every job is needed.”

“I meant, what if the test says a kid is a writer or an artist.”

“The test doesn’t work that way. If someone has artistic abilities, then they are probably good at designing new software or new ships. We don’t need pretty pictures.”

“That’s what I’m asking. What happens when the test says all this kid is good for is painting beautiful works of art.”

“That would never happen.” Kella said into her mug.

“Never?” Kate asked, holding back the smile.

“Never.” Kella insisted, while looking out the fake window into fake stars.

Part of an ongoing Serial: A Life Investigated 

 

It’s My Opinion

The Argument
The Argument (Photo credit: roeyahram)

Leave me alone with my opinion, please.  Do not question its validity, its very worthiness because it does not correspond with your own.  You are older than I am, and more experienced, it is true, but that does not mean you know what is better for me.

This is not 1952, we are not your parents. A husband can not dictate a wife’s likes and dislikes.

If I can not explain to you how I reached my conclusion, the step by step process by which I determined why I like something, that does not mean I did not try hard enough.

And you know that if my opinion matched yours, you would never look for an explanation at all. If I agreed with you on this, you would think I had done all that deep thinking you believe is required for every-single-stupid-little decision.

Can we, for once, not fight about why I like what I like?  Can we please just agree to disagree? Please, just this once?

Can I please just enjoy my chocolate ice cream before it melts?

*

For the Daily Prompt, 32 Flavors – Vanilla, chocolate, or something else entirely?

Just a Trim

leaf on hardwood floor
(Photo credit: Steve A Johnson)

Jen marches into the seemingly empty kitchen and eyes the house plant. It hangs neglected, yellowed, wilted, from a hook in the ceiling. Jen crosses the room, snatches the shears from the knife block then turns to attack the plant.
“A house full of people, and no one takes care of the plants.” She says to herself.
She starts cutting, removing dead leaves and stiff vines.
“Ten people in this house,” she says, her voice rising with every snip of the shears. “Six adults and four children, and not a single person remembers to water the damn plants.”
Brown and yellow leaves flutter to the floor.
“OK, you can’t expect the shit-storm to handle watering duties, but there is no excuse for anyone else.”
“Shit-storm” she says again, enjoying the sound of her new nickname for her sister’s baby.
“Shit-storm,” snip.
“Shit-storm,” snip.
“Shit-storm!” She yells.
The denuded houseplant hangs quietly. The cuttings form a pile at her feet.
She steps back, away from her work, slapping the shears onto the kitchen table.
She hears a gasp.
Bending down, she sees her nephew, her brother’s middle child, crouching under the table, a toy car clutched in his little hand. He looks up at her through wide eyes under a tangle of too-long hair.
“You need a hair cut, kid.” She tells him.
He scoots away from her, eyes growing even wider.
She laughs, “No, no, not now, not by me. Don’t worry, kiddo.”
Smiling, she puts the shears away, gathers up the cuttings and takes them out the back door.

More on Friendship

Part one: comments and critiques may break my bones, but silence will break my heart.

RuleOfStupid wrote an awesome post about feedback and friendship and other stuff… 🙂  Something he said struck me, and hopefully he wont mind if I quote:

“People who really know you can’t be mean to you, because they know your story and the battles you have fought to be who you are. So anyone who is mean to you does not know you. So it cannot be personal. In which case they’re not being mean to you, they’re just being mean.”

With all respect, I must disagree with him.

There are several people connected with me who have been mean to me and it is because they know me very well that they are able to do so.

Usually this is just one of my siblings, angry at me for something I did or said to hurt them. I may be nice, but I am not good. Sometimes the evilness just pours out of my mouth and before I can stop it, my verbal poison has struck deep. They retaliate by saying something equally mean. Knowingly mean. Pulling some deep insecurity out from the depths of my soul and rubbing it in my face. It can get real ugly. And only someone who really knows you can be that mean. Luckily, unconditional love is stronger than verbal poison, and it all works out well in the end.

But here is a case where it does not work out well: Lets say, for the sake of argument, that a wife leaves a husband, and the husband’s family decides to never speak to the wife, EVER AGAIN. Even though they knew her and loved her for almost twenty years before the split.  These people are not just being mean, they are purposely being mean to the wife because they know her and know how much this silence will break her heart. Did she deserve to be treated this way?  Perhaps… Probably… Yes, but it still proves my point: People who really know you CAN be mean to you. Meaner than strangers could ever be.

Part two: TMI.

Oops, did I say to much? What if, while building a friendship, even a blog-friendship, you learn things about a person that you don’t like? Doesn’t that kill the friendship? Friendship, like every relationship, needs boundaries.  It is better to only show the nice side of your personality, to tell only the stories of the honorable battles fought, to keep the mean or judgmental thoughts and the cruel past acts hidden, in order for people to like you.

I want friends, but if honesty is part of friendship, then I will fail every time. I cannot be honest about everything I think and feel with a person who does not already have a built in unconditional love for me. Because to know me, is to not love me, to paraphrase the old saying. I am not putting myself down, I just haven’t lived the most, well… exemplary life. Deep inside there is a part of me that is selfish, who wants to lie and steal and cheat, and who can be very, very mean.

This is why I try so hard to just be nice, to everyone, all the time. I want people to like me, not for who I really am, but for the person I strive to be: generous, honest, and faithful.

But here I am breaking my own rule again, spreading TMI all over my blog, and scaring away potential friends.

Will I ever learn?

On Friendship, continued.

Once upon a time… OK, actually, two weeks ago, I was at work and a client said something unbelievably nasty to me. It was so nasty, it made me cry. I do not normally cry at work. In fact, I don’t think I have ever cried at work. My instant and perhaps childish reaction to this was to use every single curse word I know while describing the incident to my co-workers. (This did not take long – I am not a creative curser.)

Here are the reactions I received from them:
1) shut up, someone will hear you.
2) too bad, but he is the client after all.
3) get over it.

If this exact same thing had happened to one of them, I would have reacted the way a friend would: I would have given them a shoulder to cry on and agreed with every word they said, just to help them get it all out. Then I probably would have said the equivalent of, “shut up, someone will hear you” and “too bad, but he is the client,” because they are both valid points. (I never would say to anyone, ever, about anything, “get over it.” I think those are the most insensitive words you can say to a person who is hurting.)

It was precisely this event that has led me to think so deeply about friendship.

I have, in the past, described my co-workers as friends. Some of them have known me for almost ten years. We’ve been through many stressful moments together, we’ve bonded over terrible clients and long hours and miserable working conditions many times over the years. I’ve eaten many meals, and consumed vast quantities of alcohol with these people. They know the details of my personal life and I know theirs. I have always thought that I was so lucky to work with people who know me and care about me.  (Side note – my job involves a lot of travel, which is why we spend so much non-work time together.)

I was wrong. They care more about their job security than about my feelings. Which is perfectly normal for co-workers. Somehow I deluded myself into thinking a friendship existed where it did not. How did I came to that erroneous conclusion?

Here is Google’s definition of friend:
A person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of sexual or family relations.

I had (and still do have) a great deal of affection for my co-workers. What I ignored was the ‘mutual’ part. The fact is, as long as we’ve all known each other – I’ve never hung out on a random Saturday with any of them. I’ve never invited them to a party or celebration of any sort and they’ve never invited me to theirs. I was never ‘that kind of friend’ with any of them. But as I am beginning to understand, to them this means that we are only acquaintances.

So how is it that I can still feel affection and concern for people who don’t feel the same for me?

Am I simply too empathetic?

And why is the word empathetic so similar to the word pathetic?

It is possible that I am thinking about this a little too much.

Regardless, I am not done with this topic yet. Tomorrow I’m going to talk about why I think it is a really good thing that I am so pathetically empathetic and how it looks like the blogosphere will save me from the depths of despair. =)

On Friendship

“Ah, this is why I have no friends!” is something I say often.  When, for instance, I blurt out my true opinion about my boyfriend’s clothing choices, or after I spend five days in a row in my pajamas watching Lord of The Rings, the extended version with all the behind-the-scenes footage, for the tenth time.

But the reason for my lack of friends goes deeper than my brutal honesty or my occasional obsessive compulsive behavior.

(I don’t want to sound completely pathetic here, I do have a few friends. But I can count them on one hand. Maybe even on a hand with a finger or two missing. And weeks or months or years will often pass between visits.)

I don’t count my boyfriend as a friend. I have a wonderful, truly romantic relationship with him, we enjoy each others company and have a lot in common. But there are certain things you can not and should not talk about with your lover. Don’t talk about wrinkles and unwanted hair and sagging skin when you want to maintain your sexual attractiveness with another human. Don’t complain about unfinished chores or bad habits if you want that other person to occasionally surprise you with flowers.

I also don’t count my family as friends. All of my siblings (there are four of them) really do enjoy my company as much as I enjoy theirs. We have a better sibling-relationship than most children from large families have. I also have my parents and my step-parents and a huge collection of aunts and uncles and cousins to rely on when I need the help or companionship of other people. But they didn’t choose to have me as a relative. It is nice that they like me, but more importantly, they love me unconditionally. It requires little or no effort on my part to maintain the relationship.

So laziness and a comfortable romantic relationship is one part of the problem. The other part is this confusing, uneven, self-confidence problem.

A part of me thinks very highly of myself and can rattle off a list of strengths and accomplishments instantly. I started writing that list – but deleted it, because I am also humble. =) But seriously – I have a good brain and a good body and I am proud of the things I have accomplished thus far in my life. I try to be kind and generous. I really care about other people and how they feel. When I ask you how you are, I really do want to know. I can ignore my own wants, needs and opinions to just listen and respond to another person’s thoughts.

But here is the confusing part: I have a really hard time calling a person I’ve known for years and asking them to go somewhere or do something with me. It makes me very uncomfortable. Fear of rejection maybe? Or of putting the other person in an uncomfortable position? Of being an unwanted burden? I’m not sure. If they call me to invite me to join them, I want to make up excuses and stay hidden in my house. But if they press the matter, I will say yes. When I go, I invariably have a good time.

In essence, I want the other person to do all the work of the friendship. While I will always answer the phone when they call and I will always be an attentive listener, I won’t pick up the phone to call them. I want someone else to make all the arrangements and just tell me when and where to show up.

When I use the word friend, this is the sort of relationship I am looking for.

Which means I don’t have a lot of friends.

My siblings live far away and I don’t want my entire social life to revolve around my boyfriend.
I need to figure out this friend thing. The sooner the better.