KEEP IT SMALL, KEEP IT SIMPLE. BETTER YET, ELOPE – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Abstain from Ceremonies

If you survive the wedding, marriage is a piece of cake.

When Garry proposed, I was shaken. He was 48 and I was 43. I’d been married twice and my first husband (still alive) was Garry’s best friend. Don’t ask for details. As they say in modern RomComs, “It’s complicated.”

I had finally managed to get unmarried to number two which was complicated by requiring a board of Rabbis in Jerusalem to agree and you’d be surprised how complicated that can become. They are not modern guys.

Photo: Debbie Stone

Garry proposed. Once I got over the shock, I realized there would be a wedding, about which I wasn’t enthusiastic. I’d never been enthusiastic about weddings.

But Garry wanted the whole thing with flowers,  music, and his pastor from childhood (retired, but drug out of retirement for the occasion) … and of course, me. It had to be in New York, not Boston.

Having told me what he wanted for a wedding, Garry retired from the fray and let me get on with it. At some point, he figured out I would do everything and he could show up in a tuxedo. Voila! Done and done.

Somewhere in Ireland

It’s a blur. I don’t remember the details though I have it on a CD and that helps. When you are a bride, you get moved around, told where to stand. You wear shoes so painful you need the jaws of life to remove your feet. Also, the gown had no shoulders, so I had to wear some kind of corset thing. It was a warm September and beneath the corset, it was sweaty. Then there were stockings and a veil, flowers, hair, and makeup. Sheesh.

As for the date, it was simple. It would be when Garry’s baby brother, the honorable Dr. Anton Armstrong, conductor of the St. Olaf’s Choir wasn’t going to be on the road with the choir. We wanted him to sing — and HE wanted to sing — but he’s a busy guy. Then there was a bagpiper (my former first husband insisted). My Maid of Honor wanted to sing (lovely voice) … and another friend was going to sing too. NO way we were getting away with simple music and anyway, Garry has a streak of Hollywood director in his soul, so we made almost no plans for the party, but staged a big show as the ceremony.

On September 15th. Today. In 1990.

When people asked if they could bring their kids, we said NO and they brought them anyway. Garry’s mother invited all her best friends because she was Garry’s Mom.

Happy anniversary!

I wanted to go to city hall and have the Mayor marry us. He was a pretty good friend then — still IS a friend, though he’s long out of office. We could have had a nice little ceremony on the steps of city hall, grabbed a plane at Logan and headed for Ireland. But we had to have this wedding. I think we were the ONLY people to invite 86 people and end up with 110 people. No one refused.

Everyone came.

“You mean — GARRY is getting MARRIED? I’ve gotta BE there!” He was Boston’s longest known bachelor, so this was an occasion for all and sundry.

It was a great wedding which I know because we had it taped. A couple of years ago, we transferred to DVD. It turned out mylar tape corrodes over time. Who knew?

With a few exceptions (mostly due to death), we know all the same people today we knew then. Funny how that works.

Photo: Debbie Stone

I suppose we stayed married because we were determined to make it work. We really cared about each other. Love is important in a marriage, but I have to say it is the friendship that keeps it going. When the flush of romance has been crushed under the pressure of two full-time jobs and Mr. Romance just wants to sit around the apartment watching baseball, being good friends matters.

Ireland

Love is a grand thing, but a deep and abiding friendship is forever.

Personally? Call an abstention on the wedding and spend the money on a fabulous honeymoon.

THURSDAY’S SPECIAL WITH TRACES OF MY PAST – Marilyn Armstrong

THURSDAY’S SPECIAL: TRACES OF THE PAST Y4-07

From Paula: 

After a month’s break, I decided to challenge you again with things from the past. What Traces of the Past have you found near you or on some of your travels?

Are these remains of things built and now in disrepair, the remains of natural occurrences, or items from your personal past?

Whether they provoke admiration or make you nostalgic or even horrified, here’s an opportunity to showcase them for this photo challenge.


There’s a story that goes with these two chairs.

Adirondack Chairs

I ordered them from LL Bean when we first moved into this house, 18 years ago. I had images of long summer afternoons spent lounging in the yard, relaxing in those chairs. I also bought a big wooden table, big enough for us and anyone who came to visit. A table for the deck and matching chairs and even a side table and a lounge chair.

We built a teepee — and I wrote a book about the teepee and spend some lovely time there, too.

But life didn’t go quite the way I expected. I got sick and stayed sick for years, one thing after another. And Garry lost his job. The economy crashed and by the time it came back, we’d been out of work so long, it didn’t matter. I physically couldn’t … and Garry was burned out. Finished.

The teepee was up for 6 years then finally had to come down, worn out by those winters and summers in the valley. I found those chairs were lovely to look at, but shockingly difficult to get out of. I needed a skyhook and a winch to stand after sitting there. So while they are still out there, they are rarely used. It turns out, almost no one can get out of them without help. Something about the angle …

Our third vow renewal.

We don’t spend nearly as much time outside around here as we expected. Partly, it’s the weather and the rest are the bugs. Steamy hot in summer, bitterly cold and waist-deep in snow during winter, autumn is about the only really comfortable time. Even that depends on the proliferation of black flies and mosquitoes, and not counting two-years of gypsy moth infestation.

And yet, I have the happiest memories of the backyard. It’s where we were married (the third time, to each other) and where we had barbeques and where I slept in the teepee.

I may not spend many hours outside, but it has inspired me in many ways. It’s full of inspiration, even if the chairs don’t really fit and the teepee has moved on.

jupiter najnajnoviji

LOVE AND LOSS – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Love

Before I left for Israel at the end of 1978, my best friend for a long time was gay. It started out casually and eventually got to be an intense friendship. He’d never had a straight female friend and I’d never gotten close to a gay man. We both learned a lot about each others’ worlds … and eventually, each other.

He would call me every night. He could tell by the sound of my voice if I needed company or felt bad about something. Even when if I said everything was fine, he knew. We were best friends and spent pretty much all our spare time together.

When I finally decided I needed a divorce, R. asked me to marry him. It took me a while to realize he wasn’t kidding. Married?

I told him I didn’t think it could work. Not only was he gay — and had always been gay — but he was a serious Roman Catholic who wanted to be a priest. If we could leap the sex hurdle (highly unlikely), I was pretty sure we’d never get past religion.

He said he could change.

We can all change … but how much? I asked him if he’d ever had sex with a woman. He admitted he hadn’t. I asked him if he had ever wanted to have sex with a woman and he said “no,” although he thought I might change that.

Then there was his fascination with Catholicism versus my skeptical Jewishness. It wasn’t only that he was “born a Catholic.” He went to Mass several times a week. He was serious about it. Religious differences between friends is not an issue, but between a married couple?

I said I didn’t think he could change that much. I didn’t think anyone could. Religion isn’t like that … and sex isn’t a choice. We are what we are; we need what we need. Despite what some misguided people believe, you don’t get to “pick” the sex you prefer.

He said we could do our own “things” and we’d still live a fantastic life. That was true, but it was not what I wanted from marriage. I wanted a marriage that could be the center of my life and I wanted it to include physical closeness.

I thought about it long and hard for several weeks. I tried to figure out how it could work. Was I ready for a marriage that was, in fact, a close friendship with vows?

For him to ask me to marry him was a giant leap. I was touched, flattered, and a bit haunted by it. It was not a casual suggestion.

In the end, no matter how many ways I looked at it, I was sure it would not be successful. For either of us. It wouldn’t matter how hard we tried. It would not work. So, I said no.

That he had asked had already changed our relationship.

He seemed to take rejection well, but he was hurt and angry. I don’t know if he was angrier with himself for asking or at me for saying no. Probably both. For him to ask me to marry him was remarkable, generous,  and heartfelt. To be refused was more than he could handle.

It’s not like the rest of my life was going to be perfect. I did a lot of things wrong before I finally got it right.

The problem was simpler for me. Everything I understood about gay men told me being gay was not a choice. Not optional. There was no way he could decide to not be gay. Moreover, there was only so much Catholicism I could stomach.

I was already in a failing marriage.  I didn’t know I had another one waiting in the wings, too. Even if I’d known what was awaiting me, I could not see the point of starting another impossible relationship. I’m convinced I was right, but he was the closest friend I ever had. I have missed him for all of these years. We loved being together and no one ever took his place.

Sex and religion can really get in the way of life, you know?

SEX, LIFE, MARRIAGE, AND LOSS – Marilyn Armstrong

Before I left for Israel at the end of 1978, my best friend for a long time was gay. It started out casually and eventually got to be an intense friendship. He’d never had a straight female friend and I’d never gotten close to a gay man. We both learned a lot about each others’ worlds … and eventually, each other.

He would call me every night. He could tell by the sound of my voice if I needed company or felt bad about something. Even when if I said everything was fine, he knew. We were best friends and spent pretty much all our spare time together.

When I finally decided I needed a divorce, R. asked me to marry him. It took me a while to realize he wasn’t kidding. Married?

I told him I didn’t think it could work. Not only was he gay — and had always been gay — but he was a serious Roman Catholic who wanted to be a priest. If we could leap the sex hurdle (highly unlikely), I was pretty sure we’d never get past religion.

He said he could change.

We can all change … but how much? I asked him if he’d ever had sex with a woman. He admitted he hadn’t. I asked him if he had ever wanted to have sex with a woman and he said “no,” although he thought I might change that.

Then there was his fascination with Catholicism versus my skeptical Jewishness. It wasn’t only that he was “born a Catholic.” He went to Mass several times a week. He was serious about it. Religious differences between friends is not an issue, but between a married couple?

I said I didn’t think he could change that much. I didn’t think anyone could. Religion isn’t like that … and sex isn’t a choice. We are what we are; we need what we need. Despite what some misguided people believe, you don’t get to “pick” the sex you prefer.

He said we could do our own “things” and we’d still live a fantastic life. That was true, but it was not what I wanted from marriage. I wanted a marriage that could be the center of my life and I wanted it to include physical closeness.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Faded dreams, Douglas

I thought about it long and hard for several weeks. I tried to figure out how it could work. Was I ready for a marriage that was, in fact, a close friendship with vows?

For him to ask me to marry him was a giant leap. I was touched, flattered, and a bit haunted by it. It was not a casual suggestion.

In the end, no matter how many ways I looked at it, I was sure it would not be successful. For either of us. It wouldn’t matter how hard we tried. It would not work. So, I said no.

That he had asked had already changed our relationship.

He seemed to take rejection well, but he was hurt and angry. I don’t know if he was angrier with himself for asking or at me for saying no. Probably both. For him to ask me to marry him was remarkable, generous,  and heartfelt. To be refused was more than he could handle.

It’s not like the rest of my life was going to be perfect. I did a lot of things wrong before I finally got it right.

The problem was simpler for me. Everything I understood about gay men told me being gay was not a choice. Not optional. There was no way he could decide to not be gay. Moreover, there was only so much Catholicism I could stomach.

I was already in a failing marriage.  I didn’t know I had another one waiting in the wings, too. Even if I’d known what was awaiting me, I could not see the point of starting another impossible relationship. I’m convinced I was right, but he was the closest friend I ever had. I have missed him for all of these years. We loved being together and no one ever took his place.

Sex and religion can really get in the way of life, you know?

ACCENTUATE THE POSITIVE IN RELATIONSHIPS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

There was an interesting article in the Washington Post on June 3, 2018, written by John Gottman and Christopher Dollard. It’s called “Five Myths About Marriage.” It confirms something I’ve always believed – that it’s not really common interests that keep couples together. It’s common decency and courtesy in relating to each other.

“Our research has shown that criticism … is one of the four destructive behaviors that indicate a couple will eventually divorce. A stronger predictor of compatibility than shared interests is the ratio of positive to negative interactions, which should be about 20-1 in everyday situations.”

The only thing that surprised me was the ratio they promulgated. 20-1 is a huge differential. That means that relationships can only survive one negative comment out of 20 positive ones.

I’ve always known that negative interactions have a far greater impact and carry far more weight than positive ones. Put another way, one negative comment can erase 20 positive ones! This was definitely true for me and my kids. Their father, my ex-husband, was bipolar. When he was in a manic phase, he said some pretty hurtful and destructive things. But when he was not manic, he said many positive things as well.

My kids and I always seemed to take the negative comments to heart way more than the positive ones. My ex could be very loving and affectionate. But when he was bad, he was very, very bad. And that left a mark on all of us. I used to say that one criticism or slight would wipe out a dozen compliments. I was close, according to the Post article.

I think this is true because most people have many insecurities. No matter how much we try to build up our kids’ egos, there are always big holes we can’t seem to plug. Therefore, it’s easier for us, on an unconscious level, to believe bad things about ourselves than good. So we need a lot of positive reinforcement to feel good about ourselves. On the other hand, it only takes one diss to deflate us completely. This is especially true when the negative comments come from parents or spouses.

It turns out that the old cliché is true. Mutual respect is the most important thing in a relationship. Treating each other with consideration is the true secret to most successful relationships.

A corollary to this is letting go of the small stuff. Procrastinating about taking out the garbage is annoying. But it’s not critical. And above all, it’s NOT ABOUT ME! My husband is not purposely ignoring me when I ask him to take the garbage out and he doesn’t. He’s also not slighting me. He’s just lazy and he hates garbage! If I make it about him not caring about my feelings, we’re both screwed.

Some people hang onto negative feelings about the small stuff and let them blow up into a big deal. That is counterproductive. You’re definitely not going to get garbage taken out faster if you’re harboring anger and resentment about the garbage. You’re also going to sour the rest of your relationship.

So, the take away from this article/study is to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, just like the old song says!

YOU ONLY CHANGE WHEN YOU’RE READY – BY ELLIN CURLEY

A good friend finalized her divorce after 30 years of marriage. She has started a new life and is happier than ever.

I’ve rarely seen such a dramatic transformation in a person in such a short time. We’ve known her for 14 years and we’ve never seen this relaxed and happy version of her. She has changed physically too. She lost 25 pounds, changed her hair and looks like a different person. She has an inner glow about her. Her inner happiness and self-confidence shows. She’s not depressed, angry, or feeling bad about herself. The marriage was weighing her down.

I tried to get her to see the toxic nature of the marriage three years ago. She admitted that there was little left in her relationship except anger and resentment. They led separate lives with little positive communication and no love. He refused to acknowledge his contribution to the problems. He also refused counseling and showed no interest in changing in any way.

The one thing she had left in the marriage was hope. She still, somehow, believed it could work. She was not ready to pull the plug. Now she looks back and wonders why she couldn’t see the writing on the wall, those giant, black letters screaming “It’s over! Get out!”

She wasn’t ready to see it.

I had the same experience with my son. Tom and I saw that it was time to end his severely dysfunctional and destructive marriage years before he was ready to accept the inevitable. He too had a major transformation when he left the negative relationship. He became more relaxed. He seemed lighter, more positive. He laughed more and looked like he had shed a giant weight off his back and heart.

But he could not end his seven-year marriage – until he was ready.

Something happens inside of us when we are suddenly receptive to change. A light goes on or a switch is turned somewhere in our psyches. Suddenly, things gel. We see things differently. The blinders are gone and so is the hope. People cling to the familiar. We, as a species, hate and fear major changes in our lives. And divorce is one of the biggest and most difficult.

Sometimes with divorce, people can’t see past the pain and hassle of the separation and divorce process. They can’t focus on the light at the end of the tunnel. Many people can’t even see the light. They don’t believe they’ll have a better life on their own. All they see is how they are feeling at that moment — lonely and heartbroken.

It takes people time to prepare for change. It can’t be rushed. I never pushed my son or my friend. I supported them through endless decisions to just give it “a little more time.” I led them to the water to see if they were ready to drink. When they weren’t, I backed off. That’s why I could be part of the divorce celebrations when they finally came.

I have to admit, my life is better now that both my son and my friend are divorced and happy. We wanted these divorces to happen, for personal, selfish reasons as well as for altruistic ones. So even if you desperately see that someone needs to end a relationship – shut up.

They will let you know when they are ready.

A MIXED MARRIAGE – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I love my husband but we have a mixed marriage. I’m a total Rom-Com/ Sit-Com/ Doctor/Lawyer Show kind of girl. Tom is a Super Hero / Sci-Fi / Tolkien kind of guy.

When we were first together, I’d religiously watch all his shows and movies with him. And he’d watch all of mine. After 19 years together and 15 years married, that isn’t going to happen anymore. Our relationship has reached a new level, where it can survive intact, even if we go off separately to watch our favorite guilty pleasures.

Tom won’t watch endless cooking competitions or HGTV house makeover shows anymore. I still love him. I won’t watch every superhero movie or TV show (there are a lot). He still loves me.

There are some areas of crossover. I genuinely like some of the early superhero movies, like the original Superman and Spiderman. I loved Wonderwoman and Black Panther. I’m a real fan of time travel shows too.

Tom truly loves “When Harry Met Sally”, my favorite movie, and others of its genre. So he gets a couple of free passes for that. He also likes some of my favorite TV shows, like “Grey’s Anatomy”, “The Good Wife”, “NCIS”, “This is Us”, etc.

We both were addicted to the on-demand series like “Grace and Frankie”, “Outlander,” and “The Crown”.

So there is common ground. But there’s one other thing we’re not going to be doing together any time soon.

Video games. I cannot share any of Tom’s enthusiasm for video games. Even though I don’t participate, I’m still subjected to the incessant noise of gun battles blaring through the house at all hours. Some of these games go for realism in the form of adding the sounds of dying and wounded humans, animals, and mythical creatures. I find it very disconcerting.

I’ve reached my saturation point with the new virtual reality play station games, complete with magic goggles and wands. I appreciate the amazingly advanced technology. But the glasses make me dizzy and disoriented. I like to be able to see my own hands and feet. I like to be sure where I am in my house, not stumbling around in some weird fantasy-scape.

I just can’t cross that Rubicon with Tom into the virtual reality hologram world of tomorrow.

I’m not the only one freaked out by the new technology. As soon as Tom put on the headset with the glowing lights, one of our dogs went berserk. She would not stop barking at him as long as he had his gear on. I had to take her out of the room.

If howling did anything for me, I’d be right there with her.

At least this newest toy comes with headphones so I don’t have to listen along at top volume. Meanwhile, Tom looks hilarious in his sci-fi get up! That’s worth a few laughs.

Maybe watching him play games in an imaginary universe and listening to the dog go nuts could be a new form of entertainment for me too!