A marriage is threatened by photos of Mike Tyson, episodes of Gossip Girl.
In 2008 I ran the Disney World Marathon. The route wove through the park, beginning and ending at Epcot, with Cinderella’s Castle around mile 10 and Animal Kingdom at about 16.
What kept my legs from crumbling was the mantra repeating in my head: “Trust your training.” My manager at work, a triathlete, had given me that advice before I left for Florida.
I now find myself reaching for that mantra in all sorts of situations: setting up a conference call, slicing a bagel. I even go to it when my husband, Ryan, and I are fighting.
Since we’ve been together for more than a decade, there’s a lot of “training” in which I can trust. I’m not referring to training him to be a good husband. Ugh, no, that kind of advice makes me nuts. What I’m talking about is the practice we’ve had at getting along.
Sometimes that requires selfishness. Other times it requires intolerance. Take the case of Mike Tyson versus Gossip Girl.
We moved to New York about two years ago. The way our apartment is configured, our kitchen is teeny tiny, more like a hallway, and our living room is huge. Since Ryan works from home, it made sense to divide the space with one of those EXPEDIT shelving units from IKEA, portioning off a section for his office.
The unit reaches only halfway across the room, which means a substantial part of his office wall space is visible from the couch. Therein lies the tension.
Ryan’s work requires he delve into the dark, twisted minds of psychopaths. He’s a writer, and those types of characters are his subjects. When decorating his new office, he discovered Richard Prince, an artist best known for his “rephotographs”—photos of photos—of the Marlboro Man. Inspired by Prince and connecting that back to his own work, Ryan rephotographed Mike Tyson’s mug shot, found on the internet, and put that up in his office.
It was a creative idea. I respected that. But I could see Tyson’s deranged expression from the living room. It hung in the space not blocked by the shelves. And soon it had a whole posse of rephotgraphed friends—all pathological, all totally creeping me out.
The girl who runs marathons through Disney World had to say something.
I told Ryan his photos made me feel bad, and he needed to move them. He told me it was his space, and he could decorate it however he wanted. I understood that, I said, but if that part of the wall was visible from the living room, was it really his space or our space?
His photos also made me feel bad. I didn’t like them. They ruined our apartment. I was putting my foot down. They had to go. I would not tolerate it!
Two can play at this game, though, and Ryan was my match.
He said Gossip Girl made him feel bad. He could hear Chuck Bass’s slimy, completely unrealistic banter from his office, and that made him not like the apartment. It had to go. He was putting his foot down. He would not tolerate it!
At this point, we had two options: Learn to live with each other’s shit or quit that shit out.
Our years of marriage practice showed that secretly stewing is not our play style. Nor are we skilled at silently suffering. When something drives us crazy, we say so (with a flair for drama) and won’t be happy till it stops. The only way to win is if we both lose. We had to quit that shit out.
Ryan’s rephotographs moved to a wall that’s hidden by the shelves. I now watch Gossip Girl on my laptop wearing headphones. And together we wallow in our losses, liking our apartment—and each other—again.
A version of this piece previously appeared on the-gaggle.com.
Photo by Sam Howzit