“In the midst of friends, home, and kind parents, she was alone.” ~ William Makepeace Thackeray
Abigail Adams served as the noteworthily supportive, possibly nagging partner whom John sorely needed in order to excel as THE quirky, feisty, successful John Adams and to lead America to greatness. She purportedly advised him to fly by the seat of his own pants and not defer to the opinions or research or famed quotations of others. ( I adore quotes for they inspire my thoughts.) Sensing much in common with our flashy founding father, I emphatically insist that one is capable of proceeding — contributing significant doses of valuable input on behalf of society — without support from any other living soul. I guess I am proof of that.
Married most of this life, I have both suffered and survived consistent intimidation, belittling condescension and destructive role-playing. Not entirely the fault of my husband, society’s revolutions, yet uncanny sameness. share much of the blame. Feminist — and former reporter in Playboy Bunny disguise–Gloria Steinem advised that the woman a man most fears is the woman inside himself. Incredibly so. A beautiful dame provided the quintessential key to unlocking the mystery of male stubbornness, an annoyance preventing sheer happiness some 50% of the duration of a legitimate plodding union.
Coupled up now going on half a century, comfort and joy resulted from like intellectual minds immersed in music appreciation, ravenous movie viewing, discussions of books and compelling ideas, adoration for animals, and immense basking in the glory of a son unlike any other ever born. Our lives together as a compatible threesome probably surpass all stories ever written throughout the ages. Due to my free-spirited nature and its inability to be stifled, we rank as non-traditional and basically only require each other around to enjoy momentary complete happiness. The “husband” demonstrated loyalty and insisted upon blind trust. This “wife” catapulted through years and years of individuality challenged by emphatic insistence upon behaving according to matrimonial manuals and the suspicious example of others who had been fucked and fucked up before me.
My parents eloped. Their flowery, stilted, tri-fold marriage license pamphlet advises, in calligraphy, that neither party ever complain publicly about the other. Presently stuffed into a music box which creaks out the melodic, transporting tune CAMELOT upon opening, I laugh when I review those words on that brittle, yellowing parchment.
“Let it never be forgot that once there was a spot for happy every aftering that was known as … Camelot”! Those lyrics composed by an effeminate Alan Jay Lerner, whom I believe co-edited an edition of Harvard’s Yearbook with John Kennedy and married movie star Nancy Olson for a brief time, once informed/delighted giddy Democrats and curdled the churning stomach acids of country-club Republicans. I know that. I over-heard conversations among industrialists trapped within our modest dining room throughout many evenings during the sixties. My folks– classified as giddy Democrats — maintained a balanced, reverential dependence upon Southern, union-busting textile executives for our livelihood.
The first college graduate in our family to marry at age 22 while properly over-dressed in a virginal white gown, I leaped across the broom and through the perfect hoop with hymen intact and two paychecks on the horizon. Honeymooned in a slightly larger town 20 miles up the road for one night and then motored via a rusty old jalopy to the state’s capital where we encountered, on an Indy street corner, a business affiliate of my dad’s. This fellow lived in a gated community, reproduced a son for him– a daughter for her, enjoyed a cabana with an in-ground swimming pool, owned a summer lake home, inherited the family business and fretted through an adulterous union…yet, Grover merged somehow into this awkward three day celebration of our new life together.
My one- of-a-kind, yet dutiful, parents approved of Don, Mother preferring him to her own daughter—me—yet disdaining her new son’s-in-law attempts at exhibiting a “masterful” nature. He has never let up on that either! Daddy worried about our union until his dying day and probably never thought my husband to be “good enough” for me. That sweet paternal assessment sustains me ‘round the clock, striking my mind as totally accurate—pretty damned frequently! Father knows best!
We have survived and maybe thrived. Two bouts of cancer. A firing. Deaths of parents. Our son’s announcement that traditional marriage would not be part of his own remarkable life. “Seven Year Itch” friends who have turn-coated after using us for a season. Incredibly non-supportive treatment from nearly all kin. Remaining true to ourselves in a schizophrenic society that demands conformity to such and such this day and something else the next. Such challenges have sunk many less sturdy than ourselves. Staying power. Learning to accept US for those rugged individuals we truly might be down deep. Enduring the tricky moments and rocky episodes. Disallowing the outside world to divide us through insinuations or preferences for one of us over the other or pulling us apart by tempting us into shallowness. And the beat goes on, for living together day in and day out never ever becomes easier nor effortless nor without strain.
I am relieved that Don now sometimes forgets to forcibly insert THIS “Jeannie” back into my bottle, twisting on the cork and popping it securely shut with a slap of his hand.
My girlish pride and my prejudices remain in place after years and years of sharing life with someone else. I close with Miss Austen’s thoughts, hoping Abigail Adams would not chastise me for so doing! “You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope…I have loved none but you.” (From PERSUASION.) “Friendship is certainly the finest balm for the pangs of disappointed love.” (From NORTHANGER ABBY) “Perhaps it is our imperfections that make us so perfect for one another~!” (From EMMA) Finally, “There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.”