Writing from the Heart: Opposites attract

Maybe we aren’t opposites, but just different from each other.


We’ve all heard the expression “opposites attract,” and I have to admit that my husband and I are almost the perfect example of that phrase. And it was never more obvious than what happened the other night.

Every so often I jokingly quote a stanza from a poem by Sir John Suckling (honest to God, that’s his name — I don’t know how the poor guy made it through junior high school). It was a poem I had to learn by heart in English Lit. I utter the lines if my man is looking tired or not responding to something I said in the animated way I need him to. It goes like this:

Why so pale and wan fond lover? 
Prithee why so pale? 
Will, when looking well can’t move her,
Looking ill prevail?

My husband said, What does that mean exactly?

I said the guy’s friend is giving him advice on courting some woman. He’s saying you couldn’t get her when you were healthy, why do you think you can get her looking sickly?

No, my husband said, It’s the guy talking to the girl, accusing her of being out partying all night, which is why she looks so pale.

This is the part when I look at him and think, Who are you?

But then there are the times when he looks up at the sky and in a voice filled with awe says, “Just think, our planet is revolving at 900 miles per hour, and our galaxy is only one of millions and billions of galaxies out there. Doesn’t that blow you away?”

And I say, I just want to see a shooting star.

And he says, They’re not stars, they’re particles.

I say, I’m cold, and he says, How can you be cold? It’s hot in here.

Lately he’s been repeatedly asking me how I feel about being on the edge of extinction. And my answer varies. Sometimes I say I don’t think I’m on the edge of extinction. Sometimes I say I’m not going to spend my time thinking about the end. I’m trying to live in the now.

And then he says, There will be no now if you don’t do something about this climate emergency.

I say, Let’s have the Tragers over for dinner next Saturday night, and he says, We just saw people.

If we are invited somewhere and I can get him to agree to go, he says, What time? I say, Six; he says in shock, Six? Who eats at six? If I say, Seven, he says, Seven? Who eats at seven? If I say 6:30. he says, 6:30? Who eats at 6:30?

If we go out to dinner, on the way home he says, How much would that chicken have cost at Stop & Shop? I say, That’s not the point. The point is we were in a beautiful place. We got served. We ate Brussels sprouts with pomegranates. We would never make Brussels sprouts with pomegranates. He says, I could have bought five chickens for that price, and thank God we would never eat Brussels sprouts with pomegranates.

These are not arguments. They’re just different ways of being in the world.

It turns out most of our differences don’t pull at the fabric of our relationship. We are not opposites. In fact, we’re complements of each other. Ballast for each of our overindulgences.

He’s right. Five chickens do equal the price of the check. And when I show him that pleasure has a comparable monetary value, he understands what I’m talking about. And I get that eating out is a huge luxury.

And once I explained the meaning of the poem he said, Oh, I get it.

I explain that when a person says, I’m cold, no one can challenge how a person feels. Just because they feel differently. Feeling cold is not an opinion about temperature.

As for his awe of the universe and my casual indifference, and my being sort of an extrovert and his being sort of an introvert, we’re just different.

The problem would be if we both dug in our heels as if we were right, which would clearly make the other one wrong.

A long time ago a very wise friend (and I’m sure you’ve heard this before) said, Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?

We agree on this one big thing: We have both chosen to be happy.