The Fourth of July seems a fitting time to reflect upon one’s own independence, or lack thereof. This summer, my wife Kara and I are coming up on our third wedding anniversary, and so far we have avoided our ultimate fear: becoming the couple that sits at the table next to you in the restaurant for an hour, wordlessly staring at the table as if it had the next Harry Potter book written on it.
“Did you notice the couple that just left? They didn’t say a word to each other the whole time they were here,” I said to Kara last weekend.
“There was a couple sitting there?” she asked.
“Yeah. It looked like they ran out of things to talk about in 1982,” I said.
Kara and I are ever on the alert not to let that happen to us. It’s easy to get so comfortable with each other that you forget to jabber on about nothing. Also, after being married for even a short while, you build up so many common experiences that it’s easy to run out of good stories. If you want to talk about something that the other person wasn’t already there for, you’re pretty much left with whatever you did in the bathroom that morning, and Kara doesn’t have the same appreciation for those stories that my college roommates did.
In the time I’ve been married, I’ve become completely dependent on Kara for some things without even realizing it. When she disappears into dressing rooms for periods of time that allow for the evolution of new species of sea turtle, it is impossible for me to do anything productive in the men’s section while she’s gone. I have completely lost the ability to make decisions on how to clothe myself. There must have been a brief period between the times when my mom and my wife picked my clothes out for me, but I apparently learned nothing from it.
Many of my friends have more independence than they’d like. Twenty-nine is the age when life starts to resemble a middle school dodgeball game, and everyone gets just a little bit worried that they’re going to be the last ones picked.
My buddies seem to be grappling with the difficult notion of figuring out how to know when they’ve met The One. I remember a formative discussion I had with my dad on this topic when I was teenager.
“Dad, how do you know who you’re supposed to marry?” I asked him.
“Son, that’s the easiest question you’ve ever asked me. It’s whoever your girlfriend is when you’re twenty-five,” he said.
Of course he didn’t really say that. Besides being terrible advice, back when Dad was growing up, people got married when they were thirteen. They needed to reproduce quickly so they’d have more help pulling the plows and fending off Viking attacks.
Last weekend, my buddy went out on a date with a thirty-six year-old woman, an age that seems perfectly within the ballpark of acceptability for people our age, if perhaps approaching the warning track. A few short years ago, that age would have automatically triggered a barrage of Stifler’s Mom jokes, but as we get older and dates become mate interviews, age differences matter less and less. This happens because all old people look the same.
The bulk of my friends who remain fish in the sea are trying to use the internet for actual constructive purposes. Apparently, when you get bored with stealing music, you can use the internet to meet people. There are plenty of normal people out there, too, not just perverts and Dateline NBC reporters.
Once you do meet the right person, I’ve learned with Kara that the most important thing you can do to maintain domestic tranquility, other than fostering an atmosphere of mutual respect, is to make sure you don’t leave any hair stuck in your bar of soap.
You can wink at Mike Todd online at firstname.lastname@example.org.