10 years sounds like a long time, but it's not. I blink my eyes three times and a week goes by. I live in a total perspective vortex where time goes on both endlessly and compresses into a black hole of experience.
In July of 1996 I met my wife. It wasn't love at first sight -- we met on a vacation. But there was no beach-side romance, just an exchange of e-mail addresses. Our courtship began and accelerated and the time compressed and we were married.
She looks up at me, over the wet-driveway-soaked edges of the Wall St. Journal. "So, ten years sweetheart. Should we do something?"
This is not a trick question. Our marriage has stayed avian-free of trick questions. It's a good question, because Anniversaries and Birthdays suck in our house. Not out of some holiday-inspired masochism, but by Mercurial happenstance. I usually end up traveling on our anniversary. Her birthday tends to coincide with natural disasters or intestinal disease.
"I hadn't thought much about it. Let's get someone to take the kids and actually go somewhere." Before I close my mouth on the last word, I know that this is a surefire hit. It's been several years since we've been away from the kids for more than an evening. But they're old enough now that it seems an approachable goal. "Maybe we could just go to New York for the weekend or something."
She perks up. "YES. Let's go see Spamalot. And eat. And go to a really, really big bookstore."
And I fall in love with her all over again.
My wife is not a stereotypical geek-girl. She doesn't cuddle up next to me on the couch with a game controller and blow stuff up. We don't play in a D&D campaign together.
My wife and I cross over the geek-boundaries between us just enough to be supportive, interested, excited, and involved, but not so much that we lose our sense of personal ownership. We'll watch SciFi and MythBusters together, but she'll take a pass on classic horror and I can't stand CSI. She'll leap up to play board games if a half dozen people show up, but she'd rather put knitting needles through her pancreas than play Squad Leader for 9 hours. She will occasionally get hooked on a video game, or play Wii with me, but listens to my screams of denial during a heated Gears match with humor and detachment. She digs "The 300" and "Marvel 1608" but can't be bothered to dig through the whole "Sandman" library.
It goes both ways. She's a geek in her own special ways. She knits socks. Knitting socks turns out to involve more math than programing launch codes into a nuclear missile. She plays harp. She (Lord help us) is a scrapbooker (and a Photoshop maven and computer nerd because of it). These are all endeavors which I can appreciate, participate in at the edges, but which will never consume me like they do her.
There is much in the middle for which we share passion.
And this idea of Spamalot, Bookstores and Food crosses all the borders and makes all the connections in a shorthand only a decade can decipher.
Thursday morning. We wake up too early, trained by kids. We take a train to the village. Nothing's open yet -- not Cafe Reggio, not Bleeker Bob's. It's cold. "Let's hop on a train back to mid-town and get some breakfast." I'm grumpy. I haven't had coffee yet. "Let's walk," she suggests. Light by light, we stumble our way north. 80 blocks later, looking down into Central Park, she says "See, that was nice?" and I fall in love with her all over again.
Thursday afternoon. We drag shopping bags, sagging and cutting our fingers form their loads of of books, back up to our hotel. Our feet are tired from hours standing in the world's largest bookstore. She lies down on the bed and starts reading. I've now had too many espressos. I fidget. She yawns. "Hey, why don't you run down to the Compleat Strategist and just hang out for an hour. It's just right down the block. Theres's gotta be some game you're lusting over." I grin, pan-like, and fall in love with her all over again.
Thursday night. She gets dressed in our excruciatingly small hotel room. I sit at the computer, finishing an article that's been killing me for two weeks. I turn around, and she is beautiful. More beautiful than she was 10 years ago, 2 kids ago, or last month. More beautiful because I've had more time to get to know her, to be inside her head, and to hold her hand and embarrass our kids by dancing in the kitchen.
We grab our tickets to Spamalot and head for the restaurant. We order an outrageous amount of food and wine, far beyond our ability to rationally afford. She takes one bite of her entree, melting visibly.
"Many Bothans died to bring me this lamb."
And I fall in love with her all over again.
The reason I fall in love with her over and over again is that we're not the same person. Back in the dawn of time -- those antique years of closeted fumbling -- I had a relationship or two where it seemed everything was shared. Every hobby, every taste, every desire. While affording a level of interdependence in avocation, they were always off. They lacked the joy of discovery and excitement that comes in those moments when stars align. And I lost a sense of self, of identity, of the things that made me a unique and diversifying presence in the partnership.
And I've been too far counterpoised as well. When nothing is shared -- nothing but perhaps a lust born of youth and a common interest in applied botany -- I've always drifted away. I know couples for whom this is both the natural and preferred state. But as an observer, their marriages seem to be shared housing arrangements. They may love each other tremendously. They may be happy, well adjusted, and die in each other arms with ecstatic rictus on their 80th anniversary. But I sense that their orbits rarely intersect, and it strikes me as a lonely way to go through life.
The secret of our marriage -- not anyone else's, not Marriage, just ours -- has been this: every day I wake up wondering what cool stuff I'm going to be able to do today, and then, just a beat later, wondering what cool stuff I can make happen for her. And she does the same thing.
And about half the time -- not 90 percent, but not 10 percent either -- they overlap.