All for One
Speaking of weddings, as I was last week, it is well known that husbands and wives generally arrive at a working understanding of who's the boss shortly after exchanging vows. They know that wedding vows are one thing, and everyday life is another. Life requires more than promises. Actions speak louder than words. The honeymoon is over. Put it any way you like.
You may have heard that modern marriages are partnerships of equals. He works, she works. He cooks, she does the dishes, and vice versa. She nurses the infant, he changes it. They unite in a bilateral effort to take the little critter to the playground on Saturday morning.
Actually, most marriages are more like multilateral Middle East negotiations. Or, better yet, the tides. The ebbs and flows of authority, advantage, power, and disadvantage, are as ceaseless as the ocean's rise and fall. And, as the moon is to the tides, love is the overseer and moderator of the marriage. The prospect that the tides will quit this daily up and down, delicious to contemplate perhaps, is dim.
It turns out that in our house, I am responsible for disposing of the trash. The definitive negotiation which led to this grant of authority must have gone right over my head, or it happened so quickly that I missed the part where I assented, but nevertheless it's my job.
I got some advice — at a very steep price, I might add — from Henry Kissinger, who suggested that I should hold the line at disposal. If the trash were placed in the appropriate containment vehicle in the garage, I would transport it to wherever it should go. Trash that was elsewhere in the world except my garage would be beyond my jurisdiction.
Now, it happened that Moll — who had apparently had some advice from someone else — was uninterested in détente and could not care less about the former Secretary of State. She asked me to expand my efforts to include bagging the trash in the kitchen, carrying it to the garage, and then replenishing the wastebasket with a new bag.
I demurred, citing historical practice, the injustices experienced by my ancestors, the rights which had accrued to me as the one responsible for garage maintenance, and the need for parity in all negotiations of this sort. I also reminded her that I had recently agreed not to hurl dirty laundry up over the balcony into the laundry room, because the dirty stuff I hurled had a habit of interfering with the clean stuff just removed from the dryer. You'll just have to carry it up the stairs, she said. Absolutely, I said.
On the trash issue, I suggested mediation before the World Court in the Hague. I telephoned Dr. Phil for an on-air intervention, but he didn't return my calls. I put on the table a letter that appeared to have been written in my defense by Gloria Steinem, but it was unceremoniously tossed aside. My position in the talks was a loser.
I am proud to report that with time, I have come to see the wisdom of vertical integration as it applies to the tasks associated with trash removal and disposal, and I regret my previous truculence.
On the plus side, Moll and I recycle together (when we can't jam another can into the recycling tubs), and I don't have to do laundry.
Anyway, that's how it goes, really, in modern marriages. And it's not a bad thing. A little give and take never hurts. In fact, as a mechanism for growing good, long marriages, it may be the only proven technique. Without question, an imbalance of forces will destroy any union.
By the way, that's why boating is so tough on marriages. Anyone knows that if you want to test the fiber of your union, you go to sea with your spouse. Think of the questions that must be answered right away. Who's the captain? Who's the cook? Whose turn is it to steer? Who has to get up in the rain? Who will set the anchor, and who will direct the anchoring? The forces are always out of balance.
Wise couples have mostly decided not to go sailing together. Offered the chance to cruise family style, these shrewd helpmates instantly see the opportunity for the ruin it promises, and they run shrieking and blubbering to the golf course or the step class for recreation.
Notwithstanding the wisdom of all that, we do it together, and it's a challenge. For instance, on one sail, we hit a rock. On another we came in dead last in a race. The crucial decisions were mine. I elected irascibility and whining as main techniques for managing the crew's disappointment. And, of course, considerable negotiations have been required to rebalance the forces since then. I think an extended period of shuttle diplomacy will be necessary before good order has been returned to our ship of state. And, who knows? I may end up doing the laundry.