Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The View From Over Here

I've been couple watching. There is a young-ish couple that lives in my apartment complex -- probably in college or only a year out. They're seriously adorable. He's very tall, plays the guitar (I see him with it from time to time), wears vintage t-shirts authentically. She's petite, wears glasses, smiles a lot. They seem really happy. They hold hands when they go to the mailbox.

There is an older couple -- I think of them as my adopted grandparents -- who also live in my building. They're also adorable in a less obvious way. They're clearly very comfortable with where they're at.

My hope for the young couple? Is that they get to someday BE the old couple. Because when I see them, half of my heart melts with a little "awwwwww" the way it does when I see a puppy. "Awwwwww, they're so CUTE!" Maybe it's more than half. Maybe it's more like three quarters of my heart.

The remaining fourth gives a brittle smirk. "Who holds hands on their way to the MAILBOX?" it says. "What do they know? They're, like, 12. Seriously. Good luck with THAT." And then it wanders off to console itself with a jealousy sundae, made from angst ice cream and topped with warmed over envy.

Ah, relationships. So great when you're first involved, and it's new and exciting. When you're hyperaware of the other person and you get a thrill every time he walks in the room, when you seem to speak on the same frequency, when the tiniest gesture -- when he reaches over and tucks your hair behind your ear -- is very possibly the sexiest moment you've ever experienced. When you do things just because. "I brought you a coffee," she says, wandering into your work, apropos of nothing, or she tucks a note into your jacket pocket or leaves on on the fridge for you to see. Those beginning stages are why anyone gets involved, I think.

And sometimes they're why relationships fail. New wears off. Everyday stuff -- bills and groceries and dirty laundry on the floor and that annoying thing he does when he's eating soup and the way she calls her mother ALL the time and oh my gosh, the way he taps his fingers on the steering wheel when he's driving is making me CRAZY -- those waltz into stage center and instead of remembering the core of who this person is -- the base, the elemental person that you fell for who DOES make a little slurpy noise when eating soup but who also, sometimes, gently tucks your hair behind your ear -- you focus on the slurpy noise and the eleven hundred other things that annoy you and you wonder what the hell you're doing there.

Never mind that he ALWAYS did that. Never mind that you didn't care before, when you were so busy living in fairy tale beginner's love that you completely failed to take in the reality of what every day, mundane love would be like. So maybe you bail and begin again with a new person so that you can, once again, live inside the shiny and bright capital LOVE.

Or maybe you look at your old love with new eyes, ones that focus on all of those things that got you there in the first place. Maybe you also remember this: you're not the pick of the litter yourself. You have issues. You have some traits that are less than endearing. Maybe you can never admit that you're wrong. Maybe you have an ego that won't quit. Maybe you always leave the toilet seat up. Whatever it is, you know for a fact that for every thing that your partner does to completely irritate you? You can match it with a behaviour of your own.

It takes courage to examine your own flaws, to accept them, and then find space in your heart for someone else's flaws. I think that's where love really lives -- it is in the moments when things are going wrong and you're both frazzled and life seems ridiculous and yet you look at the face of the other person and know that you're just going to struggle through because that's what love is -- it's the whole mess, good and bad, sublime and horrific, clean and messy. That's how it works. And if you only want good, sublime, and clean? You're not ready to be in it.

 It's like this: a brand new relationship? Is like the wrapping on a present. Pretty. Glittery. But the good stuff is always inside, after you get past the carefully smoothed out paper and the bows. You throw the paper away -- it doesn't last. It's only good for a little bit. You live with what's inside the box for some time -- that's the real gift. That's what you keep.

But what do I know? I'm just an observer. Just a girl who watches a happy young couple as they walk down the sidewalk, holding hands. Just someone who wishes them well.


  1. We're coming up on 36 years married in July. All I can say is: It's the stuff INSIDE that pretty package that counts in the long run. We find out what we're made of and how durable AND flexible that stuff is. Long after the thrilling glow of lust and infatuation, we're left with what really matters.

  2. Anne -- I could NOT agree with you more!