Illustration: John Ritter
I believe in love. I believe it transforms, transports, and transcends. I believe it fine-tunes goodness, solidifies strength, ripens resolve, eradicates rage, alleviates stress, and elevates empathy. I believe in love (or something damn near like it) at first sight, I believe it's perfectly okay to love the one you're with, provided the one you're with either happens to have excellent news from an extremely up-to-date HIV test or answers to the name of Hugh Laurie, and I firmly believe that marriage ceremonies would go much faster if Kahlil Gibran hadn't written that big love passage into The Prophet. But more than anything else, I believe in love because when you don't have it, you tend to spend your every waking moment chasing after it...at least I always did. Bruce Springsteen was right—everybody has a hungry heart.
It's 10 p.m. and Johannes (the love of my life) wants me to hang up the phone and help him fill out yet another private school application, in the sincere hope that our daughter, Julia, will be accepted by a good one and we can end our lives completely broke but secure in the knowledge that our kid didn't have to endure a 35-to-1 student-teacher ratio. He enters the room just in time to catch a snippet from my end of the conversation: "So does my friend absolutely have to love camping? I mean, what if she's perfect for you in every other respect—is the camping thing a deal breaker?" He rolls his eyes because he knows I'm on yet another in a long series of matchmaking missions. Technically, the camping thing is new on the checklist. Sometimes he gets to hear this: "And she has to be Jewish?" Sometimes it's something along the lines of: "His mother lives in Wisconsin, she won't be an issue." Or: "Look, I'll be honest, she could stand to drop ten pounds, but so could you." And then there's the ever popular: "I promise he's gorgeous...Of course, you might want to wear flats." Johannes listens for a minute, then performs a rather elaborate mime of making a noose and hanging himself as I lob a pillow at the side of his head and continue my phone call. "I know your last girlfriend forced you to sit through Dialogues of the Carmelites," I say patiently to the potential date on the other end of the line, "but this woman doesn't even like opera—I swear to you, she's completely uncouth." Johannes arranges his finger and thumb into a pretend gun, puts it to his left temple, and pulls the trigger. "Sorry, can you just hold on for one quick second?" I clamp my hand over the receiver and pose the question that crosses every woman's mind from time to time: "Why do you have to be such an idiot?" "Why do you have to set up everyone you meet?" he shoots back. "Because," I hiss through clenched teeth, "I want my friends to be as blissful as we are—goddamn it."
And the truth is, I do. There's no getting around it, couples fight. We all have that moment when it hits us that we've entered into a relationship knowing roughly as much about our soul mate as Mia Farrow did in Rosemary's Baby. Or, for that matter, as much as Mia Farrow did in her actual life. But I do like knowing that when I go to a black-tie affair clutching the satin evening bag that holds exactly one key and a pen, Johannes is the keeper of my Kleenex, lipstick, and comb. I like knowing that once or twice a year he'll call me in the middle of the day to ask, "What don't I like again?" And I'll remind him that he can't stand cilantro, injustice, and the commercial where that talking fungus hides under the guy's toenail. I like knowing that if something happens to me, he'll be the one to decide if it's time to pull the plug. Sure, it's a little troubling that while shaving my legs the other day, I nicked my knee, only to look up and find him frantically searching for my living will—but Johannes has never been one to let things go until the last minute.
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