When I first met my husband, I thought: Him. He is the one that I want.
We met at an after-school English program in Asia. It was my first day of my new job and I fell in love as soon as the elevator doors opened. He was nothing much to look at--at 23, he was already balding and his stomach was a bit soft--but as George shook my hand and looked directly into my eyes, I just knew. In the beginning of our relationship, it was his confidence that attracted me to him. Also, it didn't hurt one bit that he had a perfect, neatly-clipped British accent.
My wife is correct. I don't always understand her. She is American, and Americans always try too hard. Have you ever seen a group of them enter a restaurant? Everything is a bit too much for me. Everything they do is meant to attract attention to themselves. They talk too loudly, and I can hear every grating word that they say, as they slurp up their food with disgusting table manners. They are rude, obnoxious, and boring. Heaven help me; I cannot believe that I fell in love with one.
It's my birthday today. When I got up this morning, he carefully laid three birthday presents at my feet. This was not an act of worship; he knows that I have neck arthritis and can't do a lot of overhead movement on rainy days. Also, I can't reach out and quickly grab things. The pain radiates up my shoulders, and it's just too much.
Anyway, like I said, George was the most self-assured man I had ever met. He could walk into any room and people were instantly drawn to him. It was like he was a refrigerator and they were magnets.
I don't believe in buying my wife flowers. They wilt. I wish she knew that flowers mean nothing when it comes to real love. Duty is always more important than romantic love, especially in a marriage. My wife and I are opposites in many ways, and I know that Clara thinks that grand gestures mean more than than the things I do for her.
Once, after surgery, I bought myself flowers. When they were delivered to the house, George asked: "Who was at the door?"
"I don't want to tell you," I said. "You wouldn't understand."
"I might," said my husband.
"Alright," I said, and took a breath. "I ordered sunflowers."
"Can I see them?" he said.
"No," I said. "I bought these flowers for myself because you don't like to buy them. You don't get to see them because you'll just say something horrible about them."
George turned back to his video game. "Okay," he said. "I won't look at them."
"Good," I said. I quietly shut the door, and sat down on the bed in the back room. Then I cried.
"Those flowers are shit," I said. I admit that this was a mean, petty thing to say. I am not a kind man, and I freely admit this fact. The truth can never hurt you, as I always tell Clara. She never remembers how I make time in my day to pop by her office, just to ask how her day is going. I do this to show she is important to me, and I love her.
My therapist says that I have to be the one to change in my marriage, as my husband does not attend therapy with me. My therapist is a man in his fifties, and I know that he has most likely been conditioned from birth to believe that women must drop whatever they are doing in order to help men understand emotions.
The truth is that I am sick and tired of helping George. First, I helped him to build up the courage to ask me on our first date. Then, I helped him to have the confidence to succeed in the workplace. Currently, I am helping him in every way that I can. It's never enough for George. It's like he's a giant tapeworm, and I'm a succulent host. Sometimes it feels like there's nothing of myself left anymore. Like I'm all sinew, gristle, and bone.
She steals my drinks, she steals my clothes, she steals my pens, she steals the toilet paper before I can use any. She steals snacks from my desk. I can't remember the last time I had a thing that was mine and mine alone. I have given her literally everything that I own, and it's never enough for her.
Clara will always want more than I can give. Her expectations are too high.
The birthday gifts that he gave me were tasteful and expensive. However, the presents he bought were the kind of thing that he would want if he were a woman: a designer lap top bag, imported chocolate, and a heavy geometrical vase.
The truth is that that I prefer cheap paperbacks from used bookstores, and the kind of animal knick-knacks that my mother would hate. My favorite figurine is a tiny pig sitting on a tiny toilet, which I purchased for three dollars. George took one look at it and said it was a waste of money.
My wife has terrible taste. If left to herself, she would eat highly-processed, nutritionally bankrupt foods like Ho-Hos, Twinkies, and Ding-Dongs. I admit all of these snack cakes are delicious, but they lack the nutrients or deliciousness of a good English roast. What would Clara do without me? She would probably starve to death within a matter of weeks, really. I taught her how to eat three balanced meals a day.
George has terrible taste in movies. He likes action films where testosterone-fueled men make stupid decisions that cause needless problems. These conflicts can only be resolved through loud car races, and even louder explosions.
Last week, he moaned about watching Anthony Hopkins in a well-written, excellently directed project. Seriously? Who complains about watching Anthony Hopkins act? What would my husband do without me? Most likely, his brain would turn to Jello pudding within three days. I guarantee it.
My wife once called me out for mansplaining. Well, she continues to call me out for this. I remember I told her I like to explain things to her, and to no one else. She is the only one in my life--Clara has always been the one--who actually listens to what I say. The people I work with always want me to listen to them, and this is one of many skills I possess. I have no need to hide this fact.
However, when Clara listens to me, I feel like the best version of myself. A man of substance and character, if you will. In reality, I know that I am vain and arrogant. I can talk with anyone, knowledgeably, about any subject, but I never talk about anything meaningful or important. I don't want Clara to know this, but I think I would become a hollow shell of a man without her. I tell her, often, that she is my favorite person.
Our time is almost finished, and I don't mean to be rude, but my wife and I need to get going now. It's our 23rd anniversary party, and we don't want to be late. You know how it is. What? No, we don't want a divorce. We came in to talk about setting up a private investment fund for retirement. You're the one who insisted on meeting with both of us, separately. I thought you wanted an account of our personal relationship to give us better advice about the kinds of companies we should invest in.
No, we don't want a divorce. Why would we want a divorce? Did he say he wanted a divorce? Oh, that's a relief. I was worried, but I'm often worried that I'm not enough for him, and that he'll leave me for a 20 year-old woman who is also a nurse. She'll hang on his every word, and will never disagree with anything that he says.
Yes, I know I have a wonderful imagination. Okay, I can see that you are laughing. Was what I said funny? Yes, we are running late for our 23rd anniversary party, and I really need to go. George hates to be late, and he acts like a grumpy cat, who's just tasted spoiled milk, if he's not on time.
Fine, I will answer one last question...no, I didn't think the questions you were asking were odd. If I were advising married clients on corporations they should invest in, I would want to know the history of their relationship. Okay, fine. If you won't stop laughing, I've got a joke for you...what do you call 50 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?
Him: What a strange lawyer.
Her: I know, right? I told him my best lawyer joke and he didn't laugh.
Him: That joke isn't funny.
Her: You don't know what joke I'm talking about.
Him: I know exactly what joke you are talking about. It's the one that goes: "What do you call 50 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?" The answer is: "Room for more."
Her: The way you just said it isn't funny.
Him: No, that joke is never funny. I wish you would stop telling it.
Her: Fine. Let's just get to the party. You know what you're like when you're late.
Him: What am I like when I'm late?
Her: You're an asshole when you're late, if you must know.
Him: You know I love you, right?
Her: Why do you say that?
Him: No reason.
Her: Really? I wish you would tell me why you love me.
Him: I love you because you are smart, funny, and beautiful.
Her: Thank you. I love you because of your butt. I hope you don't mind being objectified in this way.
Him: I don't mind.
Her: Did the lawyer ask you if you were there to get a divorce?
Him: Yes, why?
Her: He asked me the same thing.
Him: What an odd man.
Her: I agree.
Him: Happy Anniversary, lovely wife.
Her: I hate it when you call me wife. It makes me feel like you think I am something that belongs to you.
Him: Feelings aren't facts.
Her: What does that mean?
Him: It means exactly what I said.
Her: I am tired of arguing, but you are the only person I enjoy arguing with.
Him: I feel the same way.
Her: Happy Anniversary, George.
Him: Happy Anniversary, Clara.
Her: Would you ever leave me for a younger woman?
Him: Why would you say that?
Her: No reason.
Him: Absolutely not. Who else would be able to tolerate me? Would you ever leave me for someone else? Someone with a full head of hair, for example.
Her: No, but I may poison you in your sleep one day. From true crime dramas, I've learned that most women kill other people in this way.
Him: A couple of nights ago, I had a dream that you stabbed me with an incredibly sharp knife.
Her: Really? Just so you know, I would definitely poison you.
Him: I know.
Her: I love that you get me.
Him: I love that you get me.