BRUTAL HONESTY AND THE KINDNESS OF A LOVING LIE

There is a time for honesty and a time for kind, warm-hearted honest lying. For example, here are questions that absolutely require a “yes” as the answer, no matter what think:

“Do these jeans make me look fat?” If you say anything except NO, you’re too stupid to deserve a relationship.

“Were you cheating on me in … (a date more than 5 years previous) …?” Unless you are still in that relationship and intending to break up your marriage, the answer is NO. All you will do by telling the truth is hurt your partner and maybe (but probably not) relieve yourself of guilt. The odds are very good that you will also relieve yourself of your relationship. 

“Do you still find me attractive?” Any answer other than yes can cost your life.

On the other hand, failure to communicate critical information can ruin lives. I always think about Cathy and Heathcliff. He eavesdropped on half of her conversation and stalks off in a rage. He never considers asking her if what he partially heard was what she meant or what the context was. Of course, if he had, it wouldn’t have made a very dramatic story, but that’s a different issue. A ten minute conversation could have salvaged three lives.

In the movie “Fanny,” she never tells him she is pregnant, so he goes off to war (convinced she doesn’t love him) and gets killed. If she had told him, everyone — including the child — might have been happy. Every time I’m forced to watch one of these movies, I just get annoyed.

Brutal honesty is always more brutal than honest. If you are forced to say something you know will hurt, at least be gentle. Brutal honesty is not honesty. It’s a brutal agenda wrapped in fake honesty. Don’t eavesdrop. If it just happens, you are not allowed to use whatever information you think you’ve gained by eavesdropping in an emotional confrontation. No one ever hears anything good while eavesdropping.

Use your judgment. If you care about someone, don’t make them miserable because you feel guilty about something. Your guilt is your problem, not his or hers. Making yourself feel better by traumatizing someone else is not being honest. It’s narcissistic.

DYSFUNCTIONAL PARENTS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I’ve recently read two interesting memoirs about mind bogglingly horrific parents who were both malignant narcissists and bat shit crazy. Despite horrible, abusive behavior, the two children who wrote their memoirs spent a good part of their adult lives trying to win the approval and/or affection of these abusive parents. I’ve always known how important parents are in shaping their children’s psyches and self images. But these books described such extreme cases that I was somehow still surprised that even when the authors ‘saw their parents for who they were’, they were still not able to fully break free.

The books are “Educated”, by Tara Westover and “Motherland”, by Elissa Altman. In “Motherland”, Altman describes her mother as a pathologically vain, shallow, self absorbed and impulsive sociopath who sees her daughter as a reflection or extension of herself, but also as a servant at the same time. She acts like an actual spoiled baby most of the time and regularly creates scenes to get what she wants. She constantly tries to remake her daughter in her own image and withholds love and approval unless her daughter is doing her bidding.

In “Educated”, the psychopathology is off the charts. The father is a totally paranoid prepper who is extremely anti-government and anti-medicine. He won’t let his kids near a school or a doctor and his wife is like a cultist believer in his insane belief systems. The father is brutal and withholding and one of the brothers is physically as well as emotionally abusive to the author. He regularly beats her to keep her from becoming a ‘whore’, which could mean showing your ankles or being seen alone with a boy. The father protects the son and takes his side against the sister.

 

Reading these books made my skin crawl. Both authors managed to make lives outside of their parents’ orbits as adults. Yet they still felt the need to stay involved with their abusers and continue to try to get some form of approval. They also continued to have self esteem issues, even after therapy.

My mother was a narcissist, though not nearly as epic as the protagonists in these books. My first few years in therapy in my late twenties, I refused to even discuss my mother because I firmly believed she was perfect, as was our relationship. It wasn’t until my early fifties, at the end of her life, that I truly grasped the untoward and warped influence she had had in shaping me to her image. It’s taken me a long time to get over my anger at her long-term control of me and her selfishness in how she exercised that control. I’m still very insecure in many ways and though I’ve come a long way towards strength and independence, I know I’ll never be able to completely get there because of my childhood. So I do get, on a visceral level, the unhealthy connection these authors felt with their dysfunctional parents. We can overcome a lot with the psychiatric tools at our disposal today. But I don’t believe we can ever totally overcome the consistent damage that parents can do in our early years.

Which brings me to one of my pet ‘soap boxes’. I believe that everyone should have to learn something about child development and parenting covering at least the first three or four formative years.of life. This course could be part of a Life Skills class in high school that also teaches budgeting and checkbook management, job interviewing, basic cooking among other things.

The childcare portion should cover the basics of how children’s intelligence and personalities develop, what they understand, can do and can’t do at every age and what a child needs from a parent at each developmental stage. I understand that truly sick people won’t be able to absorb or act on much of this. But it could make a difference for the well-meaning majority who want to be decent parents but may just not know how.

 

There’s another book that’s been recommended to me about yet another set of colorful and dysfunctional parents. It sounds interesting but I’m not sure I can handle it now. I think I’ve had enough dystopian parenting for a while!

LIFE AS AN EXTROVERTED INTROVERT – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I learned a new phrase recently, ‘extroverted introvert.’ I’d never heard it before but I instantly recognized that it applied to me and even explained some things about myself that had always puzzled me.

I have extrovert qualities but at heart I always felt like an introvert – so I could never figure out where I fit  on the spectrum. I would often be disappointed in myself when I didn’t feel as outgoing and social as I thought I should. I would beat myself up when I craved down time before and after bursts of socializing.

But that’s apparently natural for extroverted introverts. In fact, extroverted introverts are defined by their periods of sociability coupled with essential periods alone to decompress and recharge. This defines me to a tee.

Some people at our marina can sit on the dock and chat for hours. But after a while, I have to excuse myself and spend some time reading or writing. Extended socializing can be exhausting for me and often when I reach my saturation point, I mentally check out. I used to be upset with myself when this happened and I would worry about whether other people saw me as unfriendly. But now I can just relax and enjoy the amount of chit chat that is comfortable for me.

Another characteristic of extroverted introverts is that we crave deeper connections, with real substance. We don’t do well with much small talk. This means we are happier with a few close, meaningful friendships rather than many superficial ones. We feel rejuvenated and fulfilled when we have rich conversations and feel an emotional bond with other people.

I always felt bad that I had so little tolerance for idle chatter, but now I understand that since it gives me so little gratification, I should forgive myself for wanting to avoid it as much as possible.

We extroverted introverts are therefore better in small groups rather than large crowds and we actually prefer one on one conversations. I’ve always thought of myself as basically shy and insecure, though you would not think that to meet me, and in a crowd, I’m a wallflower. I tend to listen and observe more than talk. I hang out near the food or near the person I came in with and I’m wary about approaching people and starting a conversation. I’m often the one who offers to help the hostess set up or clean up to get away from the group setting.

But once someone is introduced to me, I open up and blossom and can form friendships with people very quickly. Also, if I sense a connection with someone, I have no problem asking a person I’ve just met for their contact information and inviting them to meet for coffee. I’ve come to realize that this is not the norm and that many people are reluctant to ask a stranger to hang out. That surprised me because I’m usually not that confident. But I think that my desire for deeper connections with others supersedes my shyness and anxiety.

The flip side of extroverted introverts’ need to connect is the fact that we are naturally empathetic and make us great listeners, a great shoulder to cry on and someone our true friends come to for comfort and advice. I pride myself in being that ‘sounding board’ to many friends and to both my children. I’m told that I am truly non-judgmental and therefore make people feel comfortable opening up to me. I’m thrilled about this because it’s something I’ve always striven to be.

My grandmother was fiercely judgmental and my mother always stressed to me how important it is NOT to be that way. My Mom turned out to be very judgmental too, though much more subtly. But somehow I achieved my goal of accepting people as they are and acknowledging that other people have different standards and values than me and that neither of us are inherently better than the other.

One of my best friends complimented me by telling me that I am one of the least negative and least judgmental people she knows and how much she appreciates that about me.

I don’t think that anything will change now that I know I’m an extroverted introvert. But it’s comforting to know that while I don’t neatly fit into the larger division of humanity between extroverts and introverts, there is a subset that fits me pretty well.

There are lots of other people who straddle personality modalities like I do. So I realize that I will never be the life of the party, but I am the person my friends will confide in after the party. And that’s fine with me.

BUMPY ROADS

Life is a road which urgently needs repaving. It’s so full of potholes, rocks, broken branches, quicksand and mud, it’s amazing anyone can navigate the whole distance. What makes repaving plans tricky is no two people travel the same road, even if it appears that they have. Sometimes paths cross and even run side-by-side for miles — years — at a time but that doesn’t make it one road.

It’s like a family with three kids. Say you’ve got an older brother and a younger sisters. Your brother becomes a businessman and lives a pretty normal life while your sister discovers her own version of chaos theory. She proceeds to live a life of crisis and yeah, chaos. Not theory, but the real deal. As for you, you’re not entirely sane, but compared to your sister, you’re solidly grounded. That’s worrisome because you know the weird stuff going around in your head. Yet all three of you had the same parents and as far as anyone can see, more or less the same upbringing.

Of course no two children in a family have the same upbringing, not even identical twins. Parents are younger and make mistakes. Parents are older and busy working. Parents are older and haven’t changed their ways since they were kids. Your position in the family changes your life. Girls get extra housework. Boys get the physically harder work. Older siblings wind up babysitting while their friends go out. I wasn’t allowed to watch TV during the school week, but my sister was raised in front of the tube. Childhood is not evenly distributed no matter how hard parents try. Some kids get better teachers or learn easier than their siblings. Same parents. Different upbringing.

So, I guess that road is going to stay uneven. Life will continue to be unfair. It will leave many of us looking skyward, searching for answers and sometimes, for questions. We have great parents, crappy lives. Horrible parents, amazing lives. That’s just life. Infinitely variable, lumpy, bumpy, and ready to twist about that mountain.

LOST LOVE?

Fandango’s Dog Days of August #4

I think I’m married to my lost love. So I guess he isn’t lost. Garry was never lost. He was just too busy. I had to wait until his career was less important than his emotional life. We married in 1990 — and thirty years later, I’m still glad. Is this story too short?  Is it even a story?

Amazing how time changed us in those seventeen years, isn’t it? 

ENJOYING AN IMPERFECT LIFE

Nothing goes exactly as planned. No vacation or visit is perfect. Some part of every meal won’t be ready when the rest of the dishes are served. Guests come too early or late, leave too soon — or not soon enough. Complications, delays, bumps in the road are the companions to pretty much everything.

Then there are the things that almost happen. When I had just come back from Israel, I took a three-day weekend from my new job to visit friends in San Diego. I bought a new weekend carry-on bag. It’s still my favorite travel bag. That bag was the best part of the trip. I bought tickets to San Diego which was not easy because most cross-country flights out of Boston go to Oakland, SF, or LA — none of which are even close to San Diego. And I hadn’t rented a car.

I got to the airport, but my departing flight never arrived. I sat in the waiting lounge for five hours. When my connecting flight in Salt Lake City had already departed, there was obviously nowhere for me to go. I requested my money back. The perky young thing at the ticket counter explained, “These are non-refundable tickets. See? It says so right here. We can get you on a flight to Los Angeles tomorrow afternoon. How’s that?”

I was not feeling perky. “I took a three-day weekend from work. I won’t get those hours back. I’m not interested in Los Angeles or anything that goes anywhere tomorrow. Los Angeles is at least a 3 hour drive to San Diego and I don’t have a car. By the time I get there — if I got there — I’d have to turn around and come right back. I’ve had to spend money on taxis and I’ve lost my holiday time which I’ve spent in an airport waiting room. If you can’t get me to San Diego today, return my money.” I got my money back. After which I took a taxi home. I spent the weekend having an orgy of self-pity. I never got to San Diego. Eventually, I lost touch with those friends and life moved on.

Our fondest illusion is control, that we are in charge of our lives — or ought to be. We spend a staggering amount of effort trying to wrestle life into our own shape. How else can we succeed? You’ve got to be in charge, right? The promise we get as children is one on which we build a world.


No matter what you want, no matter how unlikely it is, or how unqualified you are,
you’re sure that trying harder will solve the problem.


It’s the biggest lie we learn as children. It establishes a belief that if we do all the right stuff, we can get what we want, no matter what. It’s the trying that counts. It’s got to be true because our teachers, parents — pretty much everyone — told us so. Good work will inevitably be rewarded. Kindness will be returned. If we eat right, keep fit, avoid drugs, cigarettes, and booze, we’ll be healthy forever. All the stuff that happens to other people will not happen to us because we are special. Mom said so. Dad said so. My sixth-grade teacher said so.

From all the little stuff that goes wrong — flights cancelled, vacations rained out — to failed marriages and jobs lost, life and time strips us of the illusions with which we grew up. Injustice shows itself in an infinite variety of shapes and sizes, from tiny indignities to incomprehensible cruelties and calamities. No one is immune. We learn we are passengers on the bus we call life. We aren’t driving and don’t even know what road we’re on. Nor have we any idea of our destination or the stops along the way.

Finally, I get it. The bus is going where it’s going. Outside, it’s beautiful. We don’t have to drive. We don’t need to control the bus. Where we are going is irrelevant.


It isn’t about getting what we want. It’s the journey that matters.


 

EASY ANSWER TO A COMPLICATED QUESTION

I asked. He answered. He asked, I answered. We’ve been together ever since. Here’s how it happened. It began on the ferry ride back from Martha’s Vineyard. We’d spent a magical week. It was obvious that Something Was Happening.

72-question-answer-bouquet_-8

From there, we moved on to living together. Sort of. We each had our own place, but were almost always together in one or the other. With a lot of driving in between. As both of us were working full-time, we didn’t get a lot of time to relax together. Things were bound to change, but there was in no rush. I had no plans for moving on.

I’d gone to California on business for a couple of weeks. I came back  a few days early because I got the flu. Which was just as well, because an earthquake — the one that stopped the World Series on October 17, 1989 — occurred the following day. If I’d stayed, I’d have been crushed under a collapsed highway.

A few weeks later, Garry had a few questions for me. He suggested we go out to dinner. Nice place on the dock in Boston. Garry was uncharacteristically nervous. I could tell because he drove around Leverett Circle half a dozen times on the way to the wharf . He kept missing the turn. As he drove, he explained he’d had a conversation with a pal about real estate. Prices were down. Maybe we should buy something. Live together. Like maybe … forever? Was forever okay with me? Having listened awhile, I said: “Let me see if I’ve got this right. You want to buy a house? Move in and live together? Forever? As in married?”

“All of that,” he said, and drove around the loop one more time.

This time, I said “Yes.”

The following morning, I asked Garry if I could tell my friends. He said “Tell them what?”

“That we’re getting married,” I said.

“We are?”

“You said we should buy a house and live together forever.”

“Is that a proposal?”

“It is where I come from,” I assured him. I had to remind him about buying a ring, but eventually he realized all he had to do was give me a ring, set a date, tell me what he wanted in the way of a wedding (everything, really everything). After which he could show up in a tux and be married. We got married 6 months later having known each other only 26 years.

I asked, he said “yes.” He asked, I said “yes.” Not so complicated after all.

NOT GETTING A NOSE JOB – Marilyn Armstrong

I don’t remember how many times my mother told me this story, or how many times I have told it to you. It bears retelling especially since racism and bigotry are the words of the month and maybe, the  year.


My mother, like many young women of her generation, had wanted to attend high school. And college. But the family was poor, and there were many mouths to feed. In the end, she had to quit school after seventh grade to take a job. She worked as a bookkeeper. At 14, my mother was respectable. Also naïve and innocent.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

The first place she worked was in a music publishing house on the Lower East Side where she had grown up. She was there for seven or eight years and finally decided to get a better job.

Immigrant children had trouble breaking into the workforce. Of course, my mother had the additional burden of being female at a time when women were not considered equal. There was no “political correctness” to protect them. My mother was blond and green-eyed. At 5 foot 7 inches, she was tall for her generation. Her English was better than most of the family since she had been born “on this side” of the Atlantic and had all her schooling in New York.

She was ushered into a room to be interviewed for the job she wanted. A few questions were asked. A form was handed to her and she filled it out. When she came to the box that asked her religion, she wrote Jewish. The interviewer looked at the application, said: “Jewish, eh?”

He tore the application to pieces and threw it in the trash in front of my mother. She said that from that day forward, she wrote Protestant so no one would ever do that to her again.Finally, I made a leap of understanding. I connected this anecdote to an aspect of my mother I never “got.” My mother wanted me to get a nose job. When I turned 16, she wanted me to have plastic surgery to “fix” my nose.

“It’s not broken,” I pointed out.

“But don’t you want it to look ‘normal’?” she asked.

“It looks fine to me,” I said. I was puzzled. My sister took her up on the offer. I continued to say “no thanks” and my nose is the original model with which I was born.

Since the last time I told this story, I realized my mother wasn’t hinting I wasn’t pretty enough. She was asking me if I wanted to not look Jewish. Remarkably, this thought had never crossed my mind. Until a few weeks ago.

I know many children of Holocaust victims refused to circumcise their sons because that’s how the Nazis identified little Jewish boys. I know non-white mothers frequently sent their light-skinned children north hoping they could “pass” for white. But never, until recently, did it occur to me my mother was trying to help me “pass” for non-Jewish.

I never considered the possibility I was turned down for a job because I was, in the immortal words of Mel Brooks, “too Jewish.” I always assumed it was me. I failed to measure up. I was too brash. My skills were insufficient.

I told Garry about my revelation. It was quite an epiphany, especially at my advanced age. I needed to share. It left me wondering how much I’d missed.

I told him I’d finally realized my mother’s persistent suggestion to “get my nose fixed” was an attempt to help me fit in, to not look so obviously Jewish. I had never considered anyone might not like me for other than personal reasons. I said I thought perhaps I’d been a little slow on the uptake on this one.

Garry said, “And when did you finally realize this?”

“Yesterday,” I said.

“Yesterday?” he repeated. Garry looked dumbfounded.

“Yesterday,” I assured him.He was quiet and thoughtful. “Well,” he said. “You’re 73? That is a bit slow. You really didn’t know?” I shook my head. I really didn’t know. Apparently, everyone else got it. Except me.

BAD BEHAVIOR TRUMPS RACE, CREED AND GENDER – GARRY ARMSTRONG

What our Coronavirus and riot-plagued world does not need is even more pointless intolerance. There’s no excuse for not using a modicum of civility when dealing with others, especially in the workplace. It doesn’t matter how bad a day you’ve had. Do you know how bad the day of the person you are working with has had? Did you ask? Did you even think about him or her as a person?

We have all been living through the tensest, most frustrating, angst-riddled period since the Civil War. With the way things are going, we could be rerunning the Civil War soon.

In my 40+ years on the TV news trail, I’ve been verbally assaulted by every kind of minority. I understood it was part of my job. Many people seemed to figure it was okay to shoot the messenger.  Early on in my career, I was warned to have thick skin if I wanted to succeed.

That thick skin was tested many times. I was taunted by Black people who called me Uncle Tom or house boy. Labeled by religious fanatics who called me a Christian stooge. Feminists who tagged me as chauvinist. I sucked it up and plowed on to report the facts.

The gasoline bays.

Facts usually silenced my assailants who then wrote hate letters in red crayon.

My good stories were balanced by controversial reports that fanned the flames of ill-tempered people. I probably made it worse by writing the haters “thank you” notes. It further angered the wankers. Civilians who have never worked as journalists are surprised by how often people behave badly toward people who are merely trying their best to do their jobs.

Uhaul for the haulers

So it was that my stepson came home with a story that sounded painfully familiar. Owen manages a local garage which does repairs, inspections and has a mini-mart. He’s known for his work skills. pleasant manner, and humor. He manages to be cordial in the worst of scenarios.


Yesterday, Owen was in the middle completing one job when he was besieged by a man who jumped out of his Mercedes demanding instant access to a Uhaul truck.

Owen tried repeatedly to pacify the agitated fellow, explaining he would not be able to get his Uhaul for a few more minutes until he finished the inspection on which he was working. The customer not only refused to accept any waiting but left his car so it blocked all the gas pumps. When asked to please move his vehicle, he launched into a profane tirade topped by the ever-popular race card.

Owen is white. The angry one was a man of color.

Given several volatile national stories, this local incident had the makings of getting serious. The indignant Mercedes driver was sure the “race card” would pay off.  It almost always works. Owen has heard numerous stories about racism from his step-father (me) who specialized in covering race riots and protest marches dating back to MLK and the Freedom Rights movement. Thanks to his parents and stepdad, Owen is more than typically sensitive to anything that smells of racism.  We joke about it at home — but that’s a different story.

Today’s potentially race-toxic incident was defused by Owen who stood his ground and convinced the angry gent to leave the shop and take his business elsewhere. Eventually, the ante was upped in include a full volume and very firm suggestion that he leave and never return. No Uhaul for him.

Owen in the shop

The race card didn’t end in a riot or even police intervention. Owen is of the opinion that the fancier car he or she is driving, the more arrogant and mean-spirited is the driver. Especially those who drive Mercedes’s and BMWs.

Owen is my step and godson. I’m proud of him. He’s made of stern stuff. This country could use more of him. Way to go, O!

MUSINGS ON TIME – BY ELLIN CURLEY

Recently I’ve been more aware of the passage of time in several different ways. Since quarantine began, every morning when I look in the mirror and start brushing my teeth, I think, “I remember yesterday morning when I did the exact same thing. Here we go again, another day.”

I also think of the classic scenes in the movie “All That Jazz when the actor playing Bob Fosse looks in the mirror every morning, does “Jazz Hands” and says, “It’s showtime!” as he takes his morning dose of heavy drugs to get through the day.

These aren’t deep, philosophical moments for me, they are more like a passing recognition of the passage of time.

Oddly enough, my diet has also made me more aware of time. I just lost over ten pounds on the Jenny Craig Diet (which I highly recommend) and one of the features I like about the program is that you’re supposed to eat something roughly every three hours. That way you’re never starving and your metabolic rate stays at a steady level throughout the day. Because of this, I look at my watch frequently to mark off three-hour intervals with a snack or a meal.

When I’m busy and occupied, the time flies by and I often miss my three-hour mark. But when I’m restless or bored, the time crawls by and I end up counting down the minutes. I’ve always known that “time flies when you’re having fun”, but I never documented it so graphically and consistently.

Something else happened recently that made me think about the passage of time. I reconnected on Facebook with a former au pair from Germany, Heike, who lived with my family for two years between 1987 and 1989. She was 24-26, I was 38-40, my son was 7-9 and my daughter was 2-4 years old. Heike and I stayed in touch till around 1994 before losing touch completely.

Once we found each other again on Facebook, we immediately talked on the phone for an hour and a half, catching up on whole lifetimes. She’s now 56 and has grown kids. But we have so much in common and we still have such a strong connection, that it felt like almost no time had passed since we had been embedded in each other’s lives.

Some connections are deeper than others and can survive both time and distance. Heike and I are going to stay in touch through phone, text, and Zoom and we’ll meet up in person once people can travel again (she lives near Seattle, Washington). We’re both excited to be back in each other’s lives again, this time as co-equal friends, not employer and employee – although there was always an underlying friendship between us.

Our lives were at very different stages in the 1980s but now we both have adult children and long-term marriages. And several of my best friends today are her age, 14 years or more my junior. My parents were 26 years apart in age so age differences don’t mean much to me.

I’ve increased my awareness of hours, days, and decades in interesting ways. I think being in quarantine has warped many people’s perceptions of time. It’s a running joke that no one knows the date or the day of the week anymore; the days just blur together into an amorphous blob. Maybe that’s why I’m more sensitive to time – it’s just another side effect of the Coronavirus pandemic.

A SOUTH AMERICAN PROPOSAL

The Deal, by Rich Paschall 

After meeting the younger Jon on a language learning website, and seeing him for just four days in person in South America, George was surprised that Jon acted as if they were boyfriends.  In fact, Jon asked George several times if he had a boyfriend in America.

“No,” George always said and Jon would smile.

“You should have no other boyfriend,” Jon would say.  “We are boyfriends.”

This was astounding to George.  Jon lived in South America and George, now in his 50’s, lived in a Midwestern USA city.  George was all of 30 years older and felt they could not have much in common.  But Jon kept reminding  George of his visit the previous December and what great fun they had.  This should prove their love!

A South American city

Feeling rather awkward about the whole thing, George thought that perhaps he should break off the daily chat.  He could not imagine where this relationship would go and the boyfriend talk just seemed wrong somehow.  Jon started to add that he loved George and they should be together. Then one day Jon pushed the matter a bit further.

“We should get married, George,” Jon declared.

“What?” a stunned George said.

“You should come here to marry me and we can live together in America.”

After George collected himself, he thought about what he should say.  The response was not immediately in his brain.

“You are just saying this because you want to come to America.  You do not want to marry me,” George told Jon.

“No that is not true,” Jon protested.  “I will be with you as long as God wills.”

So, the conversation continued in a similar manner for a few weeks.  Jon would ask for marriage, and George would say “no.”

As time went on Jon seemed to be winning George over to his side, so he demanded an answer one more time.  “You must tell me if we are boyfriends or no.  If you will not marry me, I must find another boyfriend.”

On the one hand, George could not imagine this was a great idea; on the other, he suddenly felt he did not want to lose Jon.  They did indeed have a good time together and maybe they would make good roommates.  Perhaps Jon really would stay “as long as God wills.”  So they reached an agreement and the deal was made.

The South American destination

To be married in the South American country, George had to send documents with certified Spanish translations to Jon, so he could go to the notary public, more like a Justice of the Peace there, and request permission to marry the foreigner.  George waited anxiously for months to hear if their application would be accepted.

“You will come immediately when we have permission and make the marriage?” Jon asked.

“No, Jon, I must ask for time off work.  I will come as soon as possible,” George assured Jon.

From April until late summer, George and Jon waited and chatted like nervous kids.  Finally in August Jon sent a message that they would get married on the 15th.

“No,” the startled George replied.  “I can not get there so quickly.”  They decided on September 2 and the arrangements were made.  George would fly to South America again.

On the first day of the trip, George took Jon shopping for clothes and rings for the wedding.  On the next day, they got married and on the third day, they explored the neighborhood around their hotel.  George headed home on the fourth day.

Road to the airport

Upon his return, George and Jon started the long process to get a spouse visa.  They were surprised to learn that after the long and expensive process, there were no guarantees Jon would actually get the visa.

Many documents for Immigration and then for the State Department were required.  After that, documents had to be presented to the embassy in South America.  Speed was not the government’s way.

After the marriage was done and the process for immigration was well underway, George finally decided to tell someone about it. So he called on his friend Arthur to meet him at the local bar and grill.

As George detailed the story, Arthur sat quietly with the most incredulous look on his face.  When George was finally done with his story, Arthur shook his head and said, “Are you crazy?”

“Well, maybe” George replied rather sheepishly.

“Why didn’t you tell me about this before you ran down there and got married, especially since you were waiting for months to get permission?” Arthur asked.

“Because you would have told me then I was crazy and I shouldn’t do it.”

“You’re right, that’s exactly what I would have said.” Arthur blurted out with a tone somewhere between firmness and annoyance.  He kept shaking his head and looking at George as if he had done the dumbest thing in his fifty-something years.

“We discussed the matter at length.  He will help me and be a good roommate.  We have a deal.”

“A deal?” Arthur asked.

“Yeah, isn’t marriage really a deal between two people about friendship and living together?” George asked as if he wasn’t too sure.

Arthur had a doubting look that George understood.  Then he asked George, “Don’t you think this young man is going to leave you once he gets to America and meets other people?”

George’s eyes narrowed as he gave the matter serious thought.  He placed his right hand over his mouth and rubbed the left side of his face with his fingertips.  After almost a minute, he removed the hand from his face, smiled a little, and said, “No.  Of course not.”

Then Arthur laughed, but only a little.

Next week, Jon’s view of the story: THE PROMISE OF LOVE, The Reality
Previously, in order: I LOVE YOU (No, You Don’t)
A SOUTH AMERICAN LOVE, A Romantic Player

YOU CAN STOP HOLDING YOUR STOMACH IN! – Marilyn Armstrong

In every relationship, there comes a moment when you stop holding your stomach in.  You realize you don’t need makeup unless you’re going out. A tee-shirt and sweat pants are fine. You can let go and just be YOU.

Remember how that felt? What a relief!

live-and-let-live

The day you give up trying to remodel family and friends is like that. One day, you have this huge revelation. Other people aren’t projects! You can’t fix them. Moreover, they don’t want to be fixed. They don’t think they are broken.

Talk about relief. Phew.

The world keeps spinning. Turns out, we never had any control over anyone but ourselves — and not much control over ourselves, either.

Welcome to live and let live.