If I am going to write about marriage, you know what I’m going to say before I say it. Marriage is compromise!
So, for example, let’s say he falls madly in love with a dining room table of a distinctly modern design. This table — flashy and avant-garde — isn’t something she would have picked out. She isn’t, shall we say, the fashion forward type. No, she is more the fashion-pokey.
But still! He wants the flashy Italian table that will miraculously and easily expand from small to large, from an intimate seating of two or four to a full-sized dinner party gathering. Yes! Why not? (Although, she is inclined to think, for the cost of the table, it should also cook dinner and gather a fascinating dinner-party crowd on its own. But whatever! However they say “whatever” in Italian! Ciao!)
Since they are married and they compromise, they order the table he loves. They order it in March. It will come in May, they are assured. They eat on a card table, thinking about their soon-to-be-delivered Italian table. April comes, then May. The table does not.
They check with the store where they ordered the table. Oh, yes, the store remembers them and their table. But you know how it is. The store is dealing with Italian craftsmen, people who are so artistic and temperamental, no wonder they live in Italy. The store employees smile and shrug and say it will be fine.
The weeks pass. The store employees still say it will all be fine. You know Italians! As long as it’s not August, when every Italian in the universe is required to take a vacation, they will have their table soon. Ciao!
The table arrives that summer, before every Italian in the universe has gone on vacation. It is very swanky and streamlined. The husband loves it. The wife loves the husband, so she begins to think the table is okay, too. After all, it makes him happy!
At dinner parties, the husband shows off the table. It expands just like this! he says, snapping his fingers. And look at the design! Only four legs, no matter how much it expands. Isn’t it, well, incredible? Everyone agrees that it is.
The wife, who loves dinner parties, even if she doesn’t like to cook, nods in the background. She knows a few things the dinner guests do not. She knows the husband spends ages trying to remember how to expand the table. She has to stand there and hold on to the end, while the husband looks obsessively under the table, trying to recall how, precisely, it works. He pulls, he yanks, he swears, he screams. The table rotates, the rug billows up like a fan.
This is a snap of the fingers? And remember, too, that the fingers later have to get unsnapped, when the table is returned to its smaller size. This leads to more swearing and screaming and rug billowing, and the table never quite reverts to its original place (being Italian, it likes to move around).
But this isn’t about a table of any nationality. This is about marriage, remember? It is about compromise. It is the exact opposite of my enemy’s enemy is my friend. It is, my loved one’s object of affection is really kind of cute, even if I would have never picked it out myself.
Or, if he says it’s a snap of the fingers, she will never correct him in public. Although, she might blog about it. Which is different. Obviously.
In the meantime, she has seen a chandelier she likes that could hang above the avant-garde red table. It’s a little more traditional, a little more old-fashioned. A little more like her than him.
Marriage is about compromise, remember? This time, she can hardly wait.
(Copyright 2011 by Ruth Pennebaker)
For other stories and scenes from a marriage, please read The Ballad of the Sick Husband