Okay, so let’s talk straight and honest here, for a moment, can we? Here’s the deal: despite my nominally friendly public persona (online and in the real world), I’m actually a fairly difficult person to deal with much of the time. Maybe even most of the time. Seriously. You don’t want to know.
I can be very demanding, for example, expecting things to happen the way I want them to, when I want them to, and being hugely annoyed (and annoying) when they don’t. I’m digital in my interpersonal relationships, generally compartmentalizing people into “for me” or “against me” columns, thereby likely alienating people who actually didn’t really care about me much one way or the other, until I put them in the wrong hopper. I’m obsessive to an extreme, so if I get interested in doing something, I generally get interested in doing way too much of it, whatever it might be. And I can be as self-absorbed as all get out, quick to chatter on and on and on about geeky or arcane subjects that other folks likely find to be skull-crushingly inane or irrelevant.
I could go on, but suffice to say that spending a lot of time with me can be something of a chore. Which is why not a lot of people have been able to do it over the years. I graduated from high school a year early, and left for the Naval Academy a couple of weeks after my 17th birthday, so my parents only had to put up with me on a full-time basis for 17 years. Well, my Mom did that, anyway, since my Dad was away for probably four or five of those years with the Marine Corps. My sister is four years younger than me, so she only got 13 years up close and personal with me. My daughter went to boarding school after her freshman year in high school, so it was only 15 years for her. And that’s it, really, for my family, by blood.
What about friends and colleagues? The longest a non-romantic roommate could put up with me was two-and-a-half years. The longest a romantic partner (prior to my marriage) maintained interest was less than five years, but that was a long distance relationship, so it probably would have imploded much sooner, had I been around her more often. My peripatetic upbringing as a military brat meant that I never lived in one neighborhood or went to one school for more than three years, either, and my average job tenure as an adult is about three years, so I have had regular opportunities to rustle up new batches of friends once I wear out my welcome with the prior ones.
Like I said . . . I’m difficult.
But then there’s Marcia, who somehow — amazingly and thankfully — not only tolerates prickly, cranky, moody me, but actually seems to like (!) being around me, for long periods of time, even, since we mark our 25th wedding anniversary today! Lawks! Plus, I should note for the record, before Marcia signed on the dotted line of matrimony, for better or worse, in sickness and health, she and I were housemates for almost a year-and-a-half, so she’s done some serious bonus time in the trenches of life with Erac, who is not a nice person. (That’s how my Naval Academy roommates described me when we memorialized ourselves on a wall during a company wardroom renovation, so it’s not a new phenomenon).
At some point in the past six months, I had a milestone day, after which I have spent more of my life being married to Marcia than I have spent not being married to Marcia. That’s pretty cool, especially since I still consider her to be my favorite person, and adore her even more today than I did on our wedding day. I am still happy to see her when she gets home from work every day, and I am always happy to go on trips with her, and am happy for her successes, and just generally happy when she’s around, and really, really, really happy when she is happy.
Come to think about it, the fact that she makes me so happy may be what makes me tolerable to her in ways that no one else can tolerate me. She brings out the best in me, and sees facets of me that no one else does (or can), so I’m deeply thankful and grateful for that. I am also grateful for how often she makes me smile, and how often we laugh together, and how often we get to give each other Parenting Gold Stars as we watch our greatest collaboration (Katelin) striking out on her own as a lovely and smart adult, with just enough weirdness about her to keep people guessing. Perfect.
One of my favorite conversations with Marcia went like this, after I had no doubt been waxing loud and opinionated about some arcane factoid of marginal relevance and importance . . .
Marcia: You are a crank.
Me: What? Me? Why am I a crank?
Marcia: Because you have too many strong feelings about too many things.
Which, uh . . . well, yeah, that’s true. I can’t argue that. But I will note that some of my strongest, deepest feelings are for Marcia, and they’re the ones that are the most important, and most meaningful, and most enduring. There aren’t very many people who could live in close proximity to me for 25 years . . . and there aren’t any others who could make me feel so good while doing it.
Here’s looking forward to the next quarter century, as we celebrate the last one!