Friendship, Marriage and Falsehoods

April 28, 2014

Me and Angelia at my PhD graduation, Carnegie Mellon University, May 18, 1997. (Edward Lomax).

Me and Angelia at my PhD graduation, Carnegie Mellon University, May 18, 1997. (Edward Lomax).

Today marks fourteen years of marriage. Statistically, we’re either a year away from divorce, or on board for a longer roller-coaster-ride of life and love, struggle and stress, revelation and renewal. Either way, it’s already been a great two decades of learning about myself and my wife, about the meaning of love (conditional and unconditional) and the limits of romance, about the real meaning of family and marriage.

Some of you may not believe this, but a marriage of any realness is hard work. We get tired of ourselves, our baggage, our bullshit. Now add another human being to the mix, the person you share most everything with. It can be a emotional meltdown of epic proportions if you’re not mature enough to have a well-honed sense of empathy, not to mention a sense of humor and a sense of when to back off.

I can say from experience that it helps to have been friends long before love, romance, marriage and parenting became part of the bargain. And not just friends, but the best of friends. Without having that, everything else is work without purpose, drudgery and painful struggles with personal and spiritual growth.

One of the many things I’ve learned in the past decade and nearly a half is that marriage itself has been loaded with context, deriving from Western ideas that have their roots in European royalty and the 19th century warping of such ideas for us ordinary folk. Including Whiteness and chivalry, of weird evangelical notions of masculinity and femininity, of patriarchy and high-born expectations. Only to realize that these ideas come out of an era of arraigned marriages, essential contracts to secure bloodlines and power for another generation of the elite classes. Romance, love, the eternal enduring bond between two soul-mates – that was never part of this bargain. But leave it to capitalism to distort a loveless process of procreation into an intense, always-falling-in-love – but without standing in love in the midst of struggle – idea of marriage.

Because of this knowledge, I know, too, that every marriage is different. And because of the unique nature of every relationship, I also know that my relationship with my wife is constantly evolving. Meaning that any ideas of marriage that I had fourteen years ago have been dead for a while. Trust me, this is a good thing. There is no singular road map to a happy and always-in-love marriage – that fairy tale is for the Anna Hathaway/Princess Bride set who remains at the mental age of eight or twelve.

No, a good marriage is about two people working toward similar goals, to a friendship that keeps changing, even if the contours of that friendship become ever more complicated. After all, it’s from that ground of friendship that our love shot up in the first place. Yay, us!

Marriage, 13 Years In

April 28, 2013

Marriage Day picture, National Cathedral, Washington, DC, April 28, 2000.

Marriage Day picture (cropped), National Cathedral, Washington, DC, April 28, 2000.

Friday, April 28, 2000. Angelia and I exchanged vows and became husband and wife. Or, to be honest, partners on a journey with lots of ups and down, twists and turns, and I don’t knows. That’s really what any serious relationship is. It is journey where the outcome is not always certain, the footing isn’t always sure, and what you thought you knew about yourself and your partner turns out to only be a tip of an iceberg.

We married in ’00, but we didn’t have a wedding. At least one defined by family and friends. We eloped. I couldn’t go through another event in which my family — my mother especially — could ruin the occasion. And with our families not being of any means, scattered between Pittsburgh, New York, Georgia and Florida, the most expensive piece of the wedding would’ve been flights and hotels. I’m talking immediate families, not extended. Between that and my experience at my doctoral graduation in ’97 (see my “Post-Doctoral Life” post from May ’08), I couldn’t spend thousands of dollars of our own money on a ceremony much more for them than for us.

So when I suggested that we should secretly elope, Angelia was more than happy to say yes. Thank God we were on the same page! We turned that day into a wedding, minus family and friends of course. We became tourists in our own town, and spent most of the afternoon at the National Cathedral, taking pictures and getting others to take our picture (like the one above).

We’re thirteen years in, and even on the worst of days and with the worst of arguments, I think it’s been well worth it. Do I know what’s in store for this journey in the future? Of course not! I’m not sure about the next six months, much less what life will look like for us as our son slowly approaches preteen status. But all in all, it’s been fun, weird and full of love, of good and great moments. All I can do is hope that these outweigh any storms coming our way.

The Women In My Brain

April 28, 2012

Angelia & me on honeymoon, Seattle's Space Needle, May 20, 2001. (Donald Earl Collins)

Today’s my twelfth wedding anniversary. It means that I already have one woman in my brain almost all of the time, mostly around the mundane tasks of running a place of residence, other domestic duties, and watching over/nurturing the midsized human that is our eight-year-old.

Gaius Baltar & Caprica Six, Battlestar Galactica image (2004), June 25, 2009. ( Qualifies as fair use under US Copyright laws due to low resolution of picture.

But the reality is, there have always been women in my brain, with images that inspire, voices that encourage, and actions that embolden. This post isn’t about undressing a woman in my mind’s eye every six seconds. Nor is it about putting women on some pedestal so that I can mentally kneel and worship in an empty space. Trust me, I’ve done both and more over the years. No, this is about who gets into my head and how they stay there.

Of course, no one has had more air time on my mind’s screen over the past forty-two years and change than my mother. She did give birth to me, after all, and for better and worse, helped me make it to my preteen years before things in our lives fell apart at 616. For years, I’ve lived with the lessons learned at my mother’s hip, lessons about race, trust, religion and relationships. Many of which I’ve had to revise in order to make better choices in my own life. Still, I can hear my mother’s voice, bad jokes and all, in the things I do with my son, in the mistakes I hope to avoid as a writer and as an educator, in the bills that constantly have to be paid.

I hear my wife’s voice every time I go the grocery store. Or when I’m dealing with my son. Or when I think about our travels over the years. Literal and figurative. I think about all of things we’ve made happen, and all of the things that are still works-in-progress for us, as individuals and as a family. I hear her doubt, her most critical of voices, her scalpel sense of editing in what I write, in how I speak and in the diplomacy I show the folks in my life who otherwise don’t deserve it. Though our marriage is as complicated as astrophysics shows the universe to be when accounting for dark matter, my wife’s voice bounces around my 100 trillion nerve ending almost as much as my own.

Then there’s Crush #1. She’s more insidious than my mother or my wife. The tenacious ballerina of a

Inception (2010), Paris dream construct screen shot, April 27, 2012. ( Qualifies as fair use under US Copyright laws because of poor resolution of shot, not intended for distribution.

tomboy who one represented my personification of Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman often will show up when I least expect. Often enough in my dreams, and usually when I’m writing in my head. I hear her giggles and see her smiles under the strangest of circumstances. A pirouette here, a punch to the jaw there, an encouraging word and a thoughtful look will surprise me in my dreams as much as it would’ve in real life thirty years ago.

Are these women anything like the folks I’ve known and learned to know again over the past three decades? Yes and no. They likely represent the many sides of me as much as they each represent themselves. Loving or not, caring or not, forever elusive, and yet always there for me to grasp, love and even despise. They all represent the best and worst in me, the best and worst I’ve seen, endured and overcome in this life. Hard, tough, blood-from-a-turnip love. Unrequited, one-sided love. And deep, conditional, familiar love. They’re all there. They seem to always be there.

Jennifer Lopez in dream sequence in The Cell (2000), April 27, 2012. ( Qualifies as fair use under US Copyright laws because of screen shot's low resolution.

God, my own thoughts — however deep or shallow —  the billions of images of sports and men and women in my head from every walk of life and every song made in the past four centuries also remain constant in my brain. But mother, wife and first love can’t be shut off or out either. I could use some endorphins for the headache I have now.


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