Monday, September 27, 2010

Severed Heads and Punctured Egos

My husband has been having a couple of rough weeks, in the way that only a paramedic or cop or other civil servant tasked to deal with catastrophic trauma can. Since his birthday, and 1 year as a paramedic anniversary was last weekend, I decided to kidnap him and run away to a B&B on Carolina Beach, in hopes of getting his stress levels back to normal or lower.

It worked marvelously. We played with a boogie board I bought, soaked in the jacuzzi, and drank red wine from a Styrofoam cup under the full moon on a deserted beach, picking out planets and stars and various thoughts from our heads.

And my husband reminded me why I really married him. As we were sitting there on the beach, I told him about the two critiques I'd received about writing, (namely that when I tended to write in first person narrative, the other characters weren't fully developed as personalities. Both people said they wanted more of a sense of who the other people were.) And instead of petting my nose and telling me not to listen to those mean people, my husband dropped a bomb on me.

"That's because you aren't a good conversationalist."


"You are a great story-teller, but what you do when people talk is you wait impatiently for a point at which to contribute your own experiences, rather than building off of what they said, and asking questions to expand their statement. They may start talking about watermelons, and the conversation segues into bicycles, and when you get a chance, you immediately interject a story about watermelons, even though the conversation has moved on."

Ow. More so because I immediately recognized the truth of what he said, and also realized that I had been completely unaware that this was in opposition to what a good conversation REALLY is.

"Oh lord. I'm a bore?" I asked, still reeling from the epiphany.

"Sometimes. But I love you."

I always admired the bit in Dorothy Sayers' Gaudy Night, when Lord Peter tells the woman he loves that she hasn't yet written the book she could write if she let go. She admits that it might hurt too much. And he looks at her and says brutally, "What does that matter, if it's honest?"

The fact Lord Peter was willing to savage Harriet's ego because it was the honest thing to do always seemed one of the essences of a true marriage of minds. Your partner has to be willing to tell you the unpleasant and painful truth, because sometimes they are the only ones who can or will do so.

If there were no other reasons for me to marry Max (he makes me laugh, he's a great kisser, and he's a genuinely good person), the fact that I can trust him to tell me the truth I don't want to hear is enough.

The hard part is giving the full measure of credit for insight to a man who squee'd like a girl when he found a severed rubber head (with windpipe and esophagus) of Jason, the serial killer from Friday the 13th, in a Walgreen's and promptly bought it so he could hang it in his ambulance for Halloween.

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