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My Wife, Angelia Levy, April 2010. Angelia N. Levy

Today is our eleventh wedding anniversary. Tomorrow is a Crush #1 day. The next month covers a series of events that includes my first “date” with my now wife nearly sixteen years ago. Not to mention my last “dates” with the woman who’s the subject of my blog post, “The Power of Another E” (April ’09) from twenty years ago.

And then there’s my Mom, somewhere in the background, distant but still there, reminding me of all that made me, well, me. At least the me that wanted Crush #1, thought too highly of the twenty-two year-old version of “Another E,” and was ready to be involved with my eventual wife. Things have grown so much more complicated since the days when I couldn’t say “Hi” to a woman, much less date or be married to one.

One of my favorite adult contemporary songs about how women can inspire in relationships is Peter Cetera’s “One Good Woman” (1988). It was the first song I’d heard that really summed up the way I’d felt about my first crush back in ’82. And it provided a stark contrast to the way I felt about my second crush/obsession by the time the fall of ’88 rolled around. I bopped to the feelings in that song for much of my sophomore year at Pitt.

But I wasn’t a fool. I knew that there wasn’t anyone in my life at the time, or had been at any time, who could measure up to those lyrics. While Crush #1 definitely “brought out the best in me,” it certainly wasn’t because of her “love and understanding.” The two things I longed for in my life from others I cared for and about was love and understanding. My mother had little of either by the time I was a teenager, even though I know that she did the best she could. It just wasn’t close to good enough. So I put some of my faith in those lyrics, my romantic side in singing those words, eventually with no one in mind.

Even with dating and the ’90s, and even though I played “One Good Woman” less and less, I sought someone in my life who’d fit those lyrics. The problem with a country full of arrogant narcissists — me included — is that most of us present with DSM-IV neuroses (and in some cases, psychoses) long before we reach the stage of love and understanding. For better and certainly for worse, my mother was really the only woman who approximated any sense of the feeling Cetera releases so well in his song. And by approximate, I mean less than one-tenth of the full strength of the music and lyrics of “One Good Woman.”

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Sons shouldn’t really think too often of their mother in a romantic light. It certainly would’ve helped to have known how deeply or how superficially I was loved by my mother, but I had nothing in my dating life really to compare it to.

That was, until I met my eventual son’s mother. Angelia was everything in Cetera’s “One Good Woman” lyrics. She wasn’t a dream of it like Crush #1. Or an obsession like Crush #2. Or someone who could be that for a moment like “Another E” or be a trifling ass the next minute like so many women I dated between ’91 and ’96. She was a real woman, good, bad, warts and all.

So when we married eleven years ago, with the Napster era that was, I downloaded Cetera’s “One Good Woman” and made it a permanent part of the collection that would end up on my iPod in ’06. Except that in recent years, my “One Good Woman” image feels more like John Legend’s “Ordinary People,” proving that even women that inspire you to love, cherish and understand are human beings as well.

When I listen to “One Good Woman” these days, I do think of my wife. But I also think of all of the other women who’ve inspired me over the years. Including my mother. Including even some of my more trifling exs. I love my wife, and I hope things in our marriage continue to work even as we work through whatever issues we have from time to time.

Still, I need to remember that romance comes and goes, but marriage only works when people work hard to communicate when they don’t understand, despite their love for each other. If either of us were to quit, it shouldn’t diminish all of the good that I saw and see in that woman, my wife, and the life we’ve had over the past fifteen plus years.