When I was extremely young and shockingly stupid, I thought you weren't supposed to ever get angry at anybody you cared about (lest you suspect I'm exaggerating the "shockingly stupid" part, I also thought Mount Rushmore was a natural phenomenon). I honestly believed that people who were truly in love would never dream of having a good, old-fashioned, knock-down, drag-out fight. I guess when you're the type of girl who walks around thinking that the wind just sort of sculpted Teddy Roosevelt into the side of a mountain, the concept of a fairy-tale relationship makes total sense. Johannes and I don't have one of those relationships. The life we've designed isn't perfect, but I've never been a big fan of perfection—it's a bitch to achieve and impossible to maintain. Instead, we argue on a semi-regular basis. Sometimes we look back at the tougher moments and laugh—the influenza incident of 2001, the what the f*** do you mean you never want to get married? episode of last Tuesday—and sometimes we get mad all over again. But when Johannes fights, he fights like a grown-up. He isn't mean, he isn't sarcastic, he isn't out to annihilate. He just wants us to order in Thai food, watch MSNBC, and be friends again.
Loving somebody and then having the guts to let them love you back doesn't always come easy. For the first three years of our life together, I kept waiting for him to rip off his Mr. Nice Guy mask and turn into every boy who ever broke my heart. I poked, I prodded, I harangued, I guilted, I entrapped, I tested, I stopped just short of waterboarding. But Johannes refused to take the bait. Instead, he maintained his calm, retained his benevolence, and developed migraines.
He made sure I understood that he was in it for the long haul; I would never again have to sit on a blind date listening to some guy tell me what Pink Floyd was really trying to say on Dark Side of the Moon. The man makes me feel loved—even when he hates me. And that, I've come to realize, is no small thing.
I have a friend, we'll call her Jane because Jane is a lovely, classic name. Jane is married to this guy, let's call him Dick because, well, suffice it to say the name suits him perfectly. I've had fun with Dick and Jane; we've gone to the theater and dinner and a couple of Knicks games together. With Johannes frequently in Europe, I became like a little dinghy tied to the boat of their marriage, just kind of bobbing along behind them in case of an emergency. One Sunday a few years ago, we were brunching in SoHo—because before there were kids and cartoons and Honey Nut Cheerios, there was sleep and sex and brunches in SoHo. Anyway, Jane knocked over her water glass, prompting Dick to spend the rest of the meal excoriating her for every single misstep she'd ever made. He opened his rant with "Christ, it's excruciating to sit next to you at a table," and closed with a reference to her "fat idiot sister." Check please!
We Hear You!