Know that old adage "You learn something new every day"? Well, I don't believe it's literally true; before this weekend, I, myself, had only learned two new things in the past month—that cold water is good for piecrusts, and where Victoria Principal is now (answer: in California promoting her skin care line). Instead, it only seems like you learn something new every day when that something you've learned is so mind-blowing that you wonder why you've never heard it before! For those of you without your Jeanese translators, here's what I mean.
On Sunday, I was brunching with my bud Patti at Ruby Tuesday, and she was all excited because, years after her painful divorce, she finally met a terrific guy! They've been dating about five months, and she told me that everything feels right—"not a cloud in the sky," she said.
If anyone deserves happiness, it's Patti. For years, she was too wary to date anyone. (Apparently her ex-hubby gave her a hard time—a very critical guy, and a cheat to boot!) A couple years ago, she dipped her toe into the dating pool, and after a couple drenchings, she at last found a stable inflatable mattress in Barry, who is also divorced. Now get this: These two gun-shy divorcées are seriously talking marriage! I was delighted! I leaned over the table to give Patti a big hug, but my tummy knocked over my mimosa. "I'm soooo happy for you," I said as I swabbed up the spilled beverage. "Face it, you're not the type who's destined to be alone. I know how miserable you were for so long, so this is great news!"
Patti frowned a bit. She assured me it wasn't desperation or hormones talking. "I was prepared to be single for the rest of my life," she said. "It was something I had grown used to, and there's nothing wrong with not being married. [Yeah, sure, Patti! I'll let that one go, though!] I got enormously lucky with Barry. You can't force these things. This is very natural."
I asked her if she and Barry ever argue. She said they've disagreed on stuff like politics and where to put furniture, but they were minor and they managed to work through them. They're practically two peas in a pod.
Now it was my turn to look quizzical. "But isn't disagreeing a basic part of relationships?" I asked. "I mean, even if you and Barry fought like cats and dogs, I wouldn't necessarily discourage you from seeing him. 'Vive la différence,' as they say!"
Patti stared at me and didn't say anything. She opened her mouth and closed it. Then she finally said that I'd reminded her of something she'd been meaning to ask me for a long time. "You get that relationships are ideally supposed to be, like, harmonious, right, Jean?" she said. "That it's not enough just to be married to someone, you should be happy with them? That you're supposed to be partners, and do things together at least some of the time? And love one another?"
Sure, of course, I said, but you have to take the sour with the sweet. Patti agreed with that in principle, but she thought I was a little too accepting of the sour. Au contraire, mon frère, I replied! I'm no cynic; in fact, I'm such an incurable romantic, I should be quarantined! But as someone who grew up reading the late, great Erma Bombeck and watching the great, not-yet-late Phyllis Diller on TV, I knew early on that marriage could be a pain in the patootie—and that it was okay!
Patti said that reminded her of something else she had been meaning to mention to me for a long time. They were just "being funny," she said. "Erma Bombeck wrote about her experiences as a wife and mother, yes, but she put a sarcastic spin on it." According to Patti, it wasn't like Erma meant people literally had no other alternative than staying in bad relationships or home situations. "You don't have to accept these things as inevitable just because someone joked about it in a newspaper or on some daytime talk show back when you were a vulnerable kid."
I laughed and said of course I knew that, and Patti smiled and said okay. But I have to admit, Jeanketeers, I don't remember much about the rest of our brunch, because I felt like someone had released the ground from under me and I was plummeting to the earth's core atop a Ruby Tuesday's booth seat. Patti did ask how I was because I looked a little ashen, but I waved it off by saying that maybe my chocolate-chip pancakes were battling it out with the mimosa in my tummy. (And on my way home, I may have also driven through a red light or two, but I'm not sure about that, either.)
Jeanketeers, at the time I was a tad irked with you. After all, I don't keep things from you. So just because people make jokes about their marriages being rotten doesn't mean I should have assumed it was the norm? This would have been something nice to know, say, 20 years ago. I mean, I always knew that, to my pea, Hubby Rick was a pickle, and he was not often in the pod with me because he had rolled into a dusty corner somewhere to sleep off his acute brine intoxication! (In fact, Jeanketeers, are you sure this isn't normal? )
Patti's words did get me thinking about some feelings I've had during my marriage to Hubby Rick. Like, sometimes I have this compulsion to drive straight out of my town and keep going for hundreds of miles without stopping. Or sometimes I find myself intensely wishing that Rick could fall off the planet. Before, I simply wrote them off as figments of my cockamamie imagination. After all, you know how zany I can be! Now, I wondered, could they actually be indications of how I really felt inside?
The next day, I was in a bit of a daze. I sat for hours at the flea-market stall I work at and stared off into space. I think I spotted someone filching a couple Avon decanters off my table, but it didn't register. I kept thinking about Rick and me.
When I got home, I saw Rick's pickup in the driveway. He must have just gotten back from his long weekend fishing with his boozing buddies up in the northern part of the state. I took a deep breath and squared my shoulders.
I found Rick in the living room, TV blaring, his fishing tackle plopped on the dining room table. He was eating Arby's. "Fish weren't biting," he said. "There's Bacon Beef'n Cheddars and curly fries in that bag and Bud in the fridge. Better take what you want before I change my mind."
I'm not sure, maybe it was because I was hungry, or fatigued, or maybe it was the prospect of not seeing Rick's hook mustache, or his paunch, or his "Señor Sucio" adjustable mesh cap on a regular basis anymore, but something inside told me not to bring up anything right then. It wasn't the time. I'm not sure why it wasn't the time, it just wasn't. I mean, he bought me dinner. Or rather, he bought a lot of dinner, and said I could have some. That should count for something, Jeanketeers, shouldn't it? I mean, I think it should. Not everything makes sense in life. And hubbies and wifeys do have their reasons, after all!