So, we went to our friends Dan and Toni’s 25th wedding anniversary soiree — and after the dinner was over and the celebratory drinking well under way, the talks and toasts began. After about 30 minutes, most of us were weeping and incoherent because Dan and Toni are so wonderful and their daughters so lovely and their sense of family is so perfect.
However — and here I like to think I speak for every other married person in the room — I began to feel a little defensive and inferior after a while. Dan and Toni are, let’s face it, perfect together. They stared at each other adoringly. Both of them felt they were the lucky partner in the marriage. Over the past few years, they had each nursed the other through serious, potentially life-threatening illnesses. If Dan and Toni ever had knockdown fights, nobody mentioned them. Oh, and after watching them with their daughters, I’m pretty sure they were perfect parents, too.
After all of this, Dan put the cherry on the sundae by saying that Toni was the anti-eyeroll spouse. Never once, no matter what he had said or done, had she ever rolled her eyes at him.
I jerked my head back at this compliment and looked around. I stared at my husband, who was sitting across the table. I tried — and failed — to get his face into focus. What was he thinking, I wondered, this man who was married to the Eyerolling Queen? Had I ever once, in all our years together, managed to pass a day when I didn’t roll my eyes at him at least once? Had he ever (my own inner-narrator went on) passed through a 24-hour period when he didn’t deserve to have my eyes rolling at him? How would he had known I was still paying attention — or, at the very least, not dead — if I didn’t roll my eyes at him?
“You know that part about anti-eyerolling?” I asked Dan after the toasts were over. “I roll my eyes at my husband all the time.”
Dan nodded wisely. “I thought about you when I said that,” he said.
But then, my husband and I ended up talking with another, younger couple, and she and I bonded by admitting to our status as veteran, tireless eye-rollers, convincing each other it was our duty to let our husbands know when they were out of line in the subtlest, most tactful way possible. Our duty! Our husbands listened to us patiently, grinning slyly; these were not two men who ever stopped doing anything, I felt sure, just because their wives’ eyes got a little exercise in an upward direction.
Oh, well. We were back into Tolstoy territory, back into the whole every-happy-family-is-alike premise — which I’ve always felt was dead wrong and reductive. Or maybe we were just at the end of a joyous celebration, happy to have such good friends, happy that they were happy.
“What were you thinking during the whole anti-eyeroll remark?” I asked my husband, as we walked back to the hotel. “I couldn’t tell from your face.”
“I was just thinking about how much I love you,” he said.
We kept walking. My eyes, I couldn’t help noticing, were staring straight in front of me, rolling not at all.
(Copyright 2009 by Ruth Pennebaker)
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