My wife and I aren’t doing well. We’ve got daughters—a five year old and an eight month old—a growing-smaller apartment, one car, and a business that she and I built over the years, although it was a lot more her than me in the day-to-day and in the actual value proposition, and beyond that, we have little else in common. We’ve got huge gulfs between us, including age, culture, education, world experience, and basic character dispositions. Of course, without laying blame, it’s her fault. I’m a real Prince Charming: at least until she makes us 30 minutes late to something, or when I find used dental floss on the living room floor, whereupon I turn into a homunculus bearing resemblance to the old man who kept your baseball when it landed innocently enough in his back yard.
I’m not one of these, “Oh, men need to adopt more feminine traits and the world will be a better place” men. No. I can’t give over to their way of thinking (much like I can’t accede to the way a blue whale or silver tailed fox thinks, either), nor am I going to surrender to women’s so-called “wisdom,” because despite many current trends that elevate such practices, I find it a little more than bunko, and am loathe to swallow. Women have no more wisdom than men do, whatever the ancient-traditions, myth-bearing, and pastoral-friendly coteries put forth as “truth.” And, as a man who spent the past couple of years “consulting,” (you know the slang), I did more than my share of the parenting and house-running in this family, and so have slogged on both sides of the tracks long and deeply enough to know what I’m talking about. Indeed, even my wife would say I’m a much better home keeper and parent than she is: it’s within my purview more than it is hers.
On the flipside, she’s highly practical, focused, and driven, and is better attuned to making money (er, not that I can’t: I’m currently employed and doing quite well, thank you, and at the same time, her upward reaches in the income bracket did not occur without significant contributions from yours truly), which is something I’m only interested in from an activity perspective, and not as a goal-driven endeavor. Making money is necessary, and because my wife is a recent immigrant, it’s very important. I’m more abstract and a dreamer in my view of life (not that that’s to be celebrated any more than anyone else’s perspective: I’m the first one to say that art school is the NBA of the middle class, robbing them of a fruitful adulthood with dreams of star-quality), and am only interested in making money as long as it’s interesting from a building and encountering other people perspective. We’re a Platonist and a Confucian with kids. It is damned hard work. And most of our problems are her fault.
But then, a week ago, my daughter said the thing that helped me re-focus. It was dinner cleanup time, and wife and I were having some (inane business) conversation (again) and I was trying to instruct on a matter heretofore unfamiliar to my wife who despite her naivete on the subject was still resentful of my guidance, when my daughter interrupted, and I, to offer a pause to my pedantry, welcomed her to speak. She said, “Dad, you are a lot like Sheldon in that show we look at.” That show being The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon being, as written on Wikipedia as:
Sheldon exhibits a strict adherence to routine, a total lack of social skills, a tenuous understanding of irony, sarcasm, and humor, and a general lack of humility or empathy. He is vocal about his own superior intellect compared to all around him.
I’m sure she was speaking mostly about his adherence to routine, vocal nature about his own superior intellect, and a lack of empathy, as I have the other “qualities” down pat. She thought it was funny: I thought it was prescient and funny, too.
And with that I relented a bit. I let my corners soften and round out. As the family counselor I’ve been surreptitiously consulting says, “Hitler didn’t marry Snow White, you know.” I became instantly aware that I, too, was not a phantom but a full-on 50/50 contributor to the strife in my and our lives. And that I need a little more self-awareness, both in terms of what I want and what I project, to make this marriage work. If I want it to work, which even in this fragile state we’ve devolved to, I probably would say “I do” to, all over again.
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