Yesterday morning, as I hefted my many stocking stuffer gifts over to my chair, I actually said out loud: "Boy, if I'd known I'd get twice the presents, I'd have lined up the husband and boyfriend thing years ago." Stobex (the husband) smiled. He's gotten what he wanted -- two friends of the close variety. And I'm happy to have him as a friend; after all, I've been happy in precisely that way for the almost eight years of our marriage. It wasn't time to get rid of him, just time to unmarry him.
Still, I am bemused and a bit befuddled to find myself in this situation. When Stobex and I were engaged, we attended my sister's annual New Year's Day party. She's 10 years older than me, and has been married for 35 years now, happily or otherwise. Stobex and I were both 42 when we married, and it was a first marriage for us both. Ann (my sister) had asked me during our engagement if I "had given up hope" that I would ever get married. Remember, this was not too long after the media made a fuss about how unlikely it was for a fortysomething woman to marry . . . I think 9/11 got our priorities sorted out, but in the heady days of the late 90s, marital status and the difficulties of dating seemed really important. So, at this party, Ann brought several of her unmarried friends over to meet me, introducing me as the one who's about to get married for the first time. I think I was meant to be Exhibit A in the "See, if she can do it, you can too" argument.
When she'd asked me if I had given up hope, I'd truthfully said no, that I'd always assumed I would marry. What had surprised me, I went on, was how happy I was. I hadn't thought I would be so blissed out. And I remember that feeling, and I still feel it around Stobex. It's a warmth of familiarity and companionship. It's a mug of tea, a warm fire, and a piece of something yummy. All good things. In hindsight, it's not everything one could want in a relationship, and I came to want more, but I never tired of what was on offer. I truly love Stobex precisely the same today as I did the day we married.
So what happened? To explain, I have to use some shorthand for stuff I know I'll explain more fully in future posts. Both Stobex and I are damaged souls, youngest children in dysfunctional families where the siblings reenacted bits of the Lord of the Flies and fought over the scraps of affection, comfort, and support. Damage was done. No one is the evil villain in either his story or mine, but as youngests, we didn't get the chance -- thankfully! -- to do to even smaller children what was done to us. Advance the story a few decades, and we came together for unlimited amounts of affection, comfort, and support that companionship can offer. We healed each other, not all the way but enough to manage the next stages in our respective lives. His next stage is to live on his own for the first time ever (his story is a hoot, but I'll save that for later, too) and mine is the boyfriend.
If Stobex is a cuppa & warm feet, the boyfriend (I know, I know -- he needs a pseudonym, but this isn't easy in his case. I'm working on it, I promise) is this divine recipe I made recently: beef tenderloin steaks with a port-cranberry sauce and topped with Gorgonzola cheese. Ohmigod -- really good, not hard to prepare, but not cheap. (It's an Epicurious.com recipe, btw: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/recipe_views/views/102864.) He's also a cuppa & warm feet, your favorite music on the iPod, and silk boxers, and well -- I don't want this to be too racy a post, but you get the idea. And he's great conversation, which he sometimes even initiates. He's not a better person than Stobex, he just ticks more of the boxes on my hypothetical "What I'd Like In A Guy" list.
[Sidebar: I met a woman once who, like me, wasn't anyone's notion of the Woman Most Likely to End Up With Her Dream Dude. I asked Marty how she'd ended up with her husband, who was a good bit older than she was. She'd told me she had a relatively short WILIAG list, with only four items. Her dream dude had to have blue eyes, be a good driver and a good dancer, and not be racist. The husband ticked only one of those boxes: he had blue eyes. She kinda minded that he didn't like to dance, and she'd learned that it paid to do all the driving herself. But the racism? I asked. Well, she told me, it was mostly ignorance. This was in Maine in the early 80s, when there were about 250 blacks living in the state. This guy was in his sixties then, so he'd grown up when the state was virtually all white. He believed blacks smelled different from whites; it's a factually incorrect, demeaning, and objectionable opinion, but according to Marty, he literally didn't know any better. She set him straight, but didn't rule him out because of that. So, there's the truth about WILIAG lists -- everything's negotiable except the stuff we don't even list because they aren't negotiable: cruelty, lack of generosity, etc.]
The answer, then, to how I scored two great brainy Brit guys, could be that when my WILIAG list was pretty basic (bright, kind, complicated, and companionable) I found a guy whose WILIAF list was similarly basic (good cook, enough-but-not-too-much-like-my-mother, and companionable) and we hit it off. When I had a longer list (all of the above, plus sensitive, introspective, loves music & movies, and can initiate conversations), I found someone whose WILIAF list had lots of boxes I could tick (affectionate, sensitive, self-aware, loving, and a good cook). But I know that's not what actually happened. What happened is that Stobex and I had similar childhoods, but the boyfriend (I've charged him with picking his own pseudonym) and I have very specific psychological lacunae as a result of our respective yucky childhoods. Our damage fits together like a lock & key. I'd love to spout some pop psychology about making up your WILIAG/F list and sticking to it, but I know better. The answer is singularly unhelpful, and won't get me a book contract for the self-help aisle any time soon:
I was lucky, and I earned that luck.
Narrow-end karma is a very smart lady!