A rebuttal

So my fiance posted about the end of his bachelor-hood, as I am moving to England in one (1) week and we are both rather stunned by the fact that after a year plus all this long distance bs becomes a thing of the past.  He seems to think many other things are going to become a thing of the past, and you can read the original list here.  But as I read this, I think he needs some reassurance/ reality checks.  So, my response:

My (fiance’s) bachelor bucket list.

  • Wake up when I want to.  —One of the reasons I’m marrying you is that we’re both not morning people.  This in my estimation will give us a whole heap of marital accord.
  • Announce the morning with a bottom bugle call. –Ok, yes, that’s got to go.  At least doing it under the covers does.  I don’t want the poison gas on me!  It’s my fear of nuclear fallout.
  • Have a wash without searching through all the girly soaps and creams.–Maybe some of them would do you good.  Everyone could use some pores unblocked.
  • Be able to use the shower without knocking over a hundred kinds of shampoo and conditioner. –If you let me get a shower organizer, everything would be…wait for it…organized. 😛
  • Spend an hour on the toilet reading.  –Maybe that’s not a bad idea because it gives the smell particles a chance to die.
  • Be able to use the toilet when I want (as there is nobody sat on it reading).  How I Met Your Mother wisely pointed out that if you’re not reading, it’s just lost time.
  • Leave the toilet seat lid up (every time I go in there I have to lift the lid up, how many times do we men have to tell you).  –At least you don’t run the danger of having your butt dunked in the toilet!  That’s why we win.  Also, should I be concerned that quite a few of these are toilet related, or is that just living with boys?  I’ve never lived with a boy before to know…
  • Sit on the sofa and switch the sport on without worrying that we were meant to go out for cushions.  –You already have cushions…we don’t need any more.  Although come on–would you turn down a trip for Ikea meatballs?  I didn’t think so.  This is the plus of being in a couple.  More meatballs.
  • Sit and watch sport without being told “what more sport” as I proceed to watch cricket/rugby/football/F1/tennis/Tour De France/Ryder Cup etc.  –Admittedly I do have a sports limit, but it’s higher than you think…
  • Eat nothing but meats and starch, and only using tomato sauce as part of my five a day. –We can do that on pizza night…  Also curry night.  Once a week.
  • Play computer games while watching sport. –Play away!  But you know, maybe you could acknowledge my presence once or twice over the course of such an evening.  
  • Not be questioned over the revealing outfits female characters wear in most games. If I was looking for a high brow discussion on modern post feminism I would watch Loose Women and not play Mass Effect. –I would treat you to my feminist rant here, but that would just mean spoilers for later on.  You gotta keep some mystery alive sometimes.
  • Watch TV shows without explaining every situation, especially if the question is due to be answered in 30 seconds.  –What?  I never do that!  Not ever.  Never.  Besides which, how do I know the answer is going to come in 30 seconds if I’ve never seen the thing before.  Exactly.  
  • Write a blog post.  –Write away!  If I tried to put any caps on writing in our household, that would put me in serious trouble.
  • Not keep my phone on waiting for a Skype call.  –Word.  And not having to deal with the vagaries of internet video chat, and being able to use non verbal communication for once…  Oooh, and being in the same time zone so that our window to talk isn’t three hours long exactly.
  • Do the clothes washing on the same setting for everything. –You will know and love your delicates cycle.  But you’ll also appreciate the things which need to be washed on the delicates cycle too, so it evens out in the end, really.  Also, someone else will do the washing like, 20% of the time.  That’s 20% more time for you.
  • Iron everything on the same heat.  –See above.
  • Organise everything in the flat how I like. Whether its books, DVDs or remote controls.  –No lie, this is a bit unnerving to me too.  How do people merge their stuff and sense of spatial order?  Is there a manual?  There should be a manual.  But you can be librarian still and always.
  • Own the remote control. –That is the end of an era.  You can watch your sport, but be prepared for some Downton Abbey in the evening.
  • Go to bed when I’m tired.  –This makes me think you think I’ll tie you to a chair and force you to watch an entire season of Downton Abbey in one night.  As long as you don’t make me go to bed with you, I’m fine.  Then I can watch Bridezillas streamed from America until two in the morning.
  • Sleep in the middle of the bed and have all the duvet. –Steal the duvet and I will put my cold toes on you in retaliation.
  • Keep the windows and doors closed to stop the pollen/vampires getting in.  –Not generally a problem, except on hot nights.  Could I postulate a theory that vampires melt in the heat?  Probably not–damn you Bon Temps, for refuting my theory.
  • Snore. –I think you underestimate how heavily I can sleep.
But there are some things I’ll be missing too.  For example:
  • I don’t think my ginormous Prince Caspian poster (complete with Ben Barnes pointing his sword right at me) will ever grace my walls again.
  • I will have to hear complaints about the number of bad reality tv shows I can watch, and the amount of times I can watch a sitcom rerun.
  • Farewell to the incomparable freedom of an open bathroom door.
  • No more dinners of candy bars and fruit (to make it healthy).
  • No more falling asleep on the couch at nine and staggering to bed at two.
  • No more sampling four different kinds of moisturizer at any given time.
  • I will have to put my shoes away.  And also probably my purse.  Even when I like it’s place ‘near the middle of the floor’ so much.
  • I’ll also probably have to explain why I have so many shoes.  It’s less than I used to have is an argument that probably wouldn’t make sense to a guy.

But then we both get:

  • Someone to come home to every night
  • Someone to go out with when we’re bored
  • Someone to make fun of stupid movies with
  • Someone to make a cup of tea when we’ve had a bad day/ are too tired to get out of bed/ just don’t want to do it ourselves
  • Someone to do a chore we just couldn’t bring ourselves to do
  • For me, someone to kill bugs
  • For you, someone to sew buttons
  • Someone to frequent Ikea and eat meatballs with
  • Someone to travel with
  • Someone to be loved up with.
  • Someone.

It’s obvious which side the scale tips to.

Go forth into the world…

Today I attended my high school’s graduation as a faculty member.  When I say ‘my high school’ I mean both the high school I teach at and the high school I attended as they are one and the same.

I rather like graduations, even when they’re at their most boring.  There’s something very stirring about all the pomp and  circumstance–both literally and figuratively.  It was cool to stand there in academic robes and my master’s hood and mortar board with all the other faculty.  We were a rather impressive show, marching in before the graduates, and I remember being similarly impressed at my own graduation.  We marched single file down the aisle and I had a moment where I felt like I was practicing walking down aisles for August, and that weird feeling of having everyone stare at me, even when I was one face in a sea of black robes.  I wonder how it will feel when I’m the only face in a white dress?

This graduation felt in a lot of ways like my own graduation–round two.  Of course I graduated for the first time fifteen years ago, and very reluctantly.  My first run through this high school was magical, partly because I made it this incandescent expression of youth, ignoring hardships.  But there was an element of that magic which was very real, a time when I learned to become a different person and when I made some of the best friends I’ve ever had in my life.   I didn’t want to go forward; I wanted to stay there.

I wanted to stay there so much that when I became a teacher, my first goal was to go back and teach at my alma mater.  I achieved this goal far earlier than I thought I would because an opening fell into my lap, but I embraced it with open arms.  I settled in to my life as a teacher, imagined myself as Mr. Keating, and thought myself set for retirement.

Now, however, I find everything is changing.  I’m leaving again for the Great World–in a very real sense.   People think I’m crazy.  I can’t count the number of conversations I’ve had where colleagues act like my resignation is a death sentence.  They can’t conceive of the idea that I might want to leave.  The truth is I don’t really want to, but at the same time, I know this is the right choice.  When I thought the fiance and I would have to spend almost a year apart *after* our marriage, waiting for immigration to process our papers, I was horribly depressed.  Despite certain trepidations about leaving, putting my job behind me is not nearly as hard.  The moment I made the decision to go instead of wait in marital immigration purgatory, a weight lifted.  Nevertheless, colleagues can’t see it.  They fret about pensions and money and the job.

It’s not as though I don’t see their point.  I’m nervous about leaving my comfortable life behind.  I had a cute apartment, a great car, a fantastic job, and I’m giving it all up.  But it’s something I’m compelled to do.  So once again, I attended the graduation with reluctance.

The best graduations let you look for a message in the speeches, and see this goal post for whatever you want it to be.  Today I kept hearing a theme of taking risks.  Take risks.  Live larger.  Carpe diem.  Nothing to be gained by staying comfortable and safe.

That’s what I’m taking with me.  The first time I left my high school I didn’t want to go.  I would have stayed cocooned there forever.  But if I had, I would have missed out on my first boyfriend and my first heartbreak.  I wouldn’t have had a life changing year abroad in France.  I wouldn’t have met my best friend or my future husband.

That’s life.  If I stay where life is comfortable nothing changes.  If I’m not sad to go then there’s something seriously wrong with my life.  But the sadness can’t keep me from going.  I always promised myself when I was younger, in high school, that throughout my life I would carpe diem.  I could live out Dead Poet’s Society by returning to my alma mater, or I could live out Dead Poet’s Society by seizing the day.

The choice is simple.

Falling sparrows

“There’s a special
providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now,
’tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be
now; if it be not now, yet it will come.”  –Hamlet, 5.5

Fates, we will know your pleasures:
That we shall die, we know; ’tis but the time
And drawing days out, that men stand upon.” –Julius Caesar, 3.1

I found out via facebook that a high school friend lost her husband.  Because we are only facebook acquaintances, I can only say I think he was a cop killed in the line of duty.  However, my lack of contact with her does not prevent this news from shocking me to the very core.

I talk a lot about Shakespeare in my line of work, and one thing I notice is that he has a lot to say about death and accepting it.  Both of the quotes above are spoken by characters grappling with the inevitability of death, speaking on its certainty.  Death and taxes, right?  But both Hamlet and Brutus say that what we cannot know is the time, the moment that seals our fates and ends our stories.  What strikes me about these quotations today is that we do not know our fates.  The most powerful weapon Death has is the element of surprise, and even knowing this, it still perplexes me.  Reading this news, I coild only ask: how?  How can this be?

I haven’t ever met my classmate’s husband, but I remember her telling me about her wedding at our ten year high school reunion.  This was five years ago now, but I can still remember the conversation with startling clarity–the reception was at a catering hall on Northern Boulevard, a more industrial looking strip of north Queens.  Not her first choice, she said, but she needed somewhere wheelchair accessible for her aging grandmother.  I can still see her face, how happy she was.  She smiled the bride’s shy smile, bashful of really radiating her beatific happiness because it was just too perfect.  All of it.

Then we were facebook friends.  She tagged her husband in posts.  The night of our 15th high school reunion, a scant couple of weeks ago, she posted a picture of the two of them at the Devils’ playoff game, grinning in jerseys.  Such pictures are eerie in retrospect because of the blissful ignorance of the subjects.  The dramatic irony is far more painful than amusing.  They smile into the camera, happy, imagining that this will be the most exciting event for the next couple of weeks perhaps, hoping the Devils will win, and glad they got tickets to be there.  They could be thinking of family obligations in the future or not be thinking of the future at all, at least not beyond the next beer and power play.  Certainly no one is thinking that the remaining photos of one of them can be counted, that this may be one of the last.

That is meant to be the stuff of novels, not life.  In a tv show or movie the wife gets the news in a scene staged in a hospital waiting room or on her doorstep.  Her reaction is a revelation of character, whether she breaks into sobs or meets the sergeant’s eye and nods, stoically. (In the words of Portia: I have made strong proof of my constancy).  In life, the policeman husband goes to work and gripes like everyone.  He earns a semi-decent age but an excellent pension, retires younger than most and grows restive rattling around the house.  He might perhaps annoy his wife in the manner of an old school sitcom.  But he is not supposed to vanish.  That is not the plot.

When people get married, they stand at the altar and promise each other “till death do us part.”  But most brides and grooms stand there with a youthful confidence in immortality.  Death is an imaginary concept, or something powerless to the bride and groom, who recite that phrase and see their partner as an old man or woman.  I know I will cast into the future when I have my turn and imagine my fiance as the old curmudgeon I know he will be.  To be robbed of that seems like a cheap second act twist.  These Fates are hacks going for thrills.

I drafted this sitting in the high school we both attended, this girl and I.  I call her a girl because we were kids together–how can she be a woman?  To imagine her as a widow is something beyond the scope of my comprehension.  I was proctoring a regents exam.  She and I must have sat together once, bent over our tests in concentration like the students I was observing, our only thought of a future the moment of freedom when we finished the test.  We revolved in concentric social circles, got caught in the same useless high school drama.  The future was a bright, shining thing, a toy to be played with and no more serious than play.  We each dreamed of our futures and husbands and children. Certainly when we were swooning over the same Galician boy we saw marriage as the last chapter.  They got married and lived happily ever after.

But we are so fragile under all our pretensions of invincibility.  We disappear so quickly.  Three days ago he probably posted to his facebook wall.  His toothbrush probably sits in the bathroom still, his dirty clothes in the hamper, all of this evidence of a life that was meant to continue.  How can it be that it has not?  The scene was set.  That means the actor comes back onstage.

Marriage, it turns out, is not the last chapter.  It is not the ultimate answer, a place where characters live in eternal bliss.  It is, simply, the end of part one.  In part two, the characters still have conflicts and arcs, they still face dragons.  And puzzling though it may be, they can die nevertheless, and Death is a cheat because he leaves us with every question unanswered.