For those who only like the roller-coasters: Musings on how to make love stay by Stephanie Baselice

Hi. I’m Ali, and I have amazing and smart friends. Today we have a special guest post by Stephanie Baselice of Mayday Resistance. Nope, it’s not a yoga blog. Nope, it’s not a love blog. It’s a very smart political blog based in Stephanie’s wealth of knowledge of economics. Yeah, bitches. That’s right. I’ve got a smarty-pants economics writer on my blog. I’m so luccckkkyy! Anyway, Stephanie, take it away! (All photos by the bride-to-be, Heather of Wander and Scrawl)

…except for this one, by Heather Gardner. Prints available for $15

 

Last weekend I attended the most epic bridal shower ever. It took place during hurricane Irene, though very little of the storm actually reached town—most of the afternoon it did not even rain.

The theme was Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Everyone wore floaty summer dresses and heels….Savannah style. Mine were butterscotch colored wooden geisha platform wedges—to contrast style with the teal silk chiffon dress I wore to my sister’s wedding. I even trotted out the pearls that my grandparents brought my mother from Japan.

Each lady brought a plain hat. The plan was, instead of a festival of conspicuous household consumption with matching towels etc…, or giggling over an avalanche of sex toys and underwear, we could get creative and make the event something special and unique—a heartfelt celebration of a partnership commitment.

Over tiny cakes, spiked ice tea and lemonade, we dumped out our craft extras onto the coffee table and the floor, and went to town on the hats. Despite the relative lack of weather drama he power was out in that part of town due to the hurricane, which meant not being able to use hot glue guns; a restriction which ultimately forced a high degree of creativity. We flipped ideas and materials across the room, encouraging one another.

Themes evolved—one short brimmed straw hat was covered with giant yarn pom poms in varying shades of cream—rather like a coconut cake. One had a huge sunburst made of pheasant feathers and miniature sunflowers centered around a red balloon…..with a matching corsage no less. One especially large hat combined giant pink tissue paper flowers and feather butterflies with a paper mache skull.

Mine was folded up in the front, a small white bird perched above a big rhinestone studded felt daisy… accented by a pink butterfly floating above on a wire. To cover the stitch which held the brim folded up above my face, I attached a tiny rubber snake. This miniature garden of good and evil was finished off by a jaunty green feather and an asymmetrical cloud of raspberry tulle.

[photo by Erin Kawamata]

We posed for a group photo on the stairs—chorus girl style. Then we ambled as a giggling tipsy parade to The Federal, a local pub. The power was out there too. So we sat on the patio and waved at boys. Being about 15 years older than the rest of the ladies, and approaching my 19th wedding anniversary, I was privileged to be a kind of a big sister to this crowd. The bride is a photographer, so we took lots of great pictures.

Eventually the lights came back on and I went into the bar to get a few more PBR’s for the girls and a cider for myself. There was a pair of guys sitting there—reasonably cute guys. The more outgoing one asked me about our party—the hats and all. I explained that it was a bridal shower and we got into a conversation about marriage. His name was Dan, and I am old enough, just, to have been his mother.

Dan, upon hearing I had been long married asked me a question I get asked a lot. How do you make love stay over the years?

Sit, love, sit….. Stay, love, stay.

It is a good question, and one I have been pondering a great deal these days. You see, I have been in an ongoing conversation about this topic with a friend whose marriage hit a snag recently. I have so many thoughts on this, and they fan out in all directions.

So in keeping with the southern theme of the afternoon, rather than address the question directly right off, I decided to begin by telling him a little story:

I was at the doctors office recently. There was a very old man at the front desk, flirting shamelessly with Barbara, the receptionist. Barbara is about 60, and this gentleman had at least 25 years on her. Sadly flirting is not something one usually sees from a guy in his 80’s. So he was clearly a bit of a rake…..and an experienced one at that.

His wife was in a walker, growing increasingly irritated. I asked her if she was in pain…if it hurt to stand up for a long time.

“Honey, everything hurts, all over, all the time” was her reply. We discussed her arthritis for a while. Then, to change the subject I asked how long they had been married. “Sixty Eight years” she said.

“Sixty Eight? Good gracious! That’s a long time.”

“Yes, it certainly is! And believe you me, we have been through EVERYTHING”.

“Well Ma’am,” I replied. “You wouldn’t want to go to an amusement park and not ride all the rides, would you?”

She laughed. “Well, I suppose you are right….. after all”.

I related this story to my friend, who first wondered if her “everything” resembled what either of us would call everything, then asked what it meant if one only liked the rollercoasters……

The thing is, everyone likes the rollercoasters. They are why you go to the amusement park in the first place. But there are only a few, they cost extra tickets and the lines are long. And it is expensive just to get in to the park…so what to do the rest of the day?

When my husband and I were young, we used to go to the amusement park each year at his birthday. He was brought up as a Jehovah’s witness, which means no birthdays. So he had a lot of catching up to do, and I wanted to make sure the birthdays were fun. Anyway, the year we were married we decided the wedding process reminded us of this ride called The Edge.

The Edge is essentially a freestanding elevator for four people, which takes you up 6 floors and then drops you. You have to wait in line, like, 2 1/2 hours with no shade. The line is hellish. Then they strap two couples (standing) in to the elevator, and drop you 6 floors. You wind up on your back. The ride lasts about 30 seconds. That’s it.

Some versions of this ride are called the zipper.

So you ride the zipper. You have this experience that everyone else is having too. It is tedious for most of the time. There is a very brief thrill. Then it is over. But afterward you are still at the park for like, another 4 or 5 hours. Do you wait in line again, and go for a repeat? Or do you just eat lots of popcorn and cotton candy and ride the teacups and try to win the big ugly stuffed animal in the rigged target game?

Go home, even though you have spent like, $60 to get in?

I told Dan I really think the main thing isyou have to love what you are doing with your life and be happy with yourself to be happy with your partner;

that is priority one.

So you have got to help each other push past whatever gets in the way of that. Build each other up to get to the point where you are each brave enough to go for what you really want out of life. Once you help each other figure out what that is. Self knowledge and honesty are key to happiness in the long term.

Because the marriage roles we have been segregated into are deep in our programming. But they don’t give anyone much chance at happiness. I gave up a career to be the mother I thought I was supposed to be. And my husband has maintained a career that holds little interest for him in the service of providing for our family. We both have creative passions which have been largely sublimated to the marriage until fairly recently. But in our middle age, we are working hard on being individuals, being our truest selves, and on helping each other realize some long lost dreams and ambitions. In a long term relationship, you have to trust yourselves and each other enough to find out and speak aloud what your dreams truly are, then help each other to pursue them….to get there. Don’t get trapped in predetermined roles of what marriage is supposed to look like and what you and your partner are supposed to want out of each other, and out of life.

The other thing is, the idea of “the one” really gets in our way. We spend all this time focused on finding our “other half”. Then, once we think we have, we make ourselves and each other miserable trying to make that fit. But it does not.

We are not halves of a whole. We are wholes within ourselves.

The world is full of possible partners, each of whom would bring a unique beauty to our lives. Expecting another person to complete you is crazy. . There are many people we could love. And no one person can be the alpha and omega for another. A partnership commitment is not really about creating internal wholeness, it is about sharing it.

People also need to be allowed to grow and change. In fact, I feel a good marriage entails each making a commitment to facilitate the evolution of the other. How many people make an entire career of one job in the field that matches their major in college? Not many. So in a similar vein, expecting yourself or someone else to stay the same or to grow in a predetermined direction…over the long haul this is terribly unrealistic.

You need to have a life of your very own, beyond the roles, beyond the marriage, and commit to sharing that with your partner. Accept change in your self and your beloved. And be open to changes within the relationship as they occur, working diligently and with an open heart to make sure everyone gets what they need. If someone screws up, you need to forgive them. And then work together to address whatever needs were underlying that.

Also, treat adversity as an opportunity, rather than as a failure. You will get the chance. Make the most of it. Explore. Be creative.

Tend carefully the life that flourishes in your own little garden of good and evil.

And then, perhaps, you might make it 68 years. Ride all the rides. Even the teacups.

Or, accept the fact that you only like rollercoasters, fuck the roles altogether and if you are lucky, maybe you will find the right companionship for that sort of trip to the park.

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5 thoughts on “For those who only like the roller-coasters: Musings on how to make love stay by Stephanie Baselice

  1. Well said.
    But after 36 years of marital (ahem) bliss, I HATE the nauseating teacups.
    Maybe a little time on the bumper cars instead?

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