So I’ve officially beaten my old record – as of today, I’ve been married for six years, and I’m celebrating by draping cold cloths on my husband’s feverish brow while he battles the flu. (At least that’s better than our fourth anniversary, which I spent hurling into the sink. Something about this late August weather must be conducive to illness.)
So who is this man I’m married to?
It’s an astonishingly difficult question to answer. Part of my difficulty in selecting husbands is that I focus too much on the quality of the relationship and not enough on the quality of the man. Having made a disastrous first choice based on those criteria, I resolved that difficulty the second time around by relying on the superior judgment of my mother and best friend, both of whom gave now-husband the stamp of approval. A fortunate thing, really, since I was in love and thus was not only incapable of objectivity but possibly also incapable of heeding their warnings if he had deserved a thumbs-down.
The same principle holds true now: I find it nearly impossible to describe who my husband is, but I have little difficulty analyzing the state of our particular union. We have a working partnership: we can depend upon one another to pick up bread and milk at the grocery store, to wipe a runny nose, or to bring Starbucks home to perk up a bad day. (Okay, he’s the only one who does that. But sometimes I bring him a cookie – white chocolate macadamia nut – and I never eat more than half.) I worry that we’re too distant from one another, spending too much time with our noses buried in books. I love the way we laugh together about dozens of ridiculous things; I love the spontaneous games of twenty-questions that can be triggered in dozens of different ways. I miss watching Buffy and Lost and Survivor together, and I miss the inevitable post-show conversations even more. I would say that our relationship has followed the path dictated by my first-year psychology textbook: our commitment is high, our passion is low, and our intimacy is moderate.
But what about him? What’s he like?
This isn’t a question that many bloggers are able (or willing, perhaps) to answer. By and large, I know more about your mothers than I do about your husbands. Based on hints here and there, the occasional loving tribute or angry tirade, I know that some of you have hard, complicated marriages; I know of at least one who has put much of the bad stuff behind her; I know many who feel very lucky to be married to the kind of man who would get up in the night to launder a wet blankie. But I know very little of what these men are like themselves, as people rather than fathers and husbands.
Well, my philosophy as a blogger is: when in doubt, fall back on the old list of five.
Five Facts About My Husband
1) He prefers games to sports. Warhammer, Dungeons & Dragons, Settlers of Catan, Risk, card games, tabletop fantasy games, board games, role-playing games … if it’s a game he likes it. Especially if it has zombies.
2) Since he took over the duty of getting the Pie dressed in the morning, she has been wearing pretty dresses. Every day.
3) He will object to the inaccuracy of the above statement. Precision of language is important to him, and it’s an ideal I constantly violate. (People who exaggerate are more interesting, as my mother always says. Actually, she said it once about twenty years ago, and I’ve been quoting her ever since.)
4) He will refuse to see a movie if it (a) is described by reviewers as "heartwarming"; (b) focuses on an underdog football team that makes up for what they lack in talent with a whole lot of heart; or (c) ends with a romantic embrace while snow falls gently all around. He will make an exception, however, for films that are either (a) British, or (b) starring John Cusack.
5) A few months after we met, while we were officially "just friends" (but flirting outrageously), he sent me the following email in response to my casual, innocent observation that it is simpler for all parties concerned if it’s clearly understood that the man is responsible for making the first move to initiate a romantic relationship. He replied as follows:
Even when all the signs appear to be there, there's still a significant amount of risk, and when you consider the sort of risk it is (the rejection kind), I'm rather amazed at how often guys just go for it. Obviously we must be pretty nutso about the lot of you. Of course that's just my perspective I guess.
Here's a thought:
Let Dxy be the Degree of Attraction X (male) feels towards Y (female)
Let Dyx be the Degree of Attraction Y feels towards X
Let dx be the Datability Threshold of X
Let dy be the Datability Threshold of Y
Let Pxy be the Perceived Probability of Success of X
Let Syx be the Strength of Signals given by Y to X
Let Fx be the Fear of Rejection of X
Let By be the Base Flirtatiousness of Y
If Dyx > dy, then Syx = k * Dyx + By, for some constant k (often proportional to By)
If Dyx <= dy, then Syx = By
(Translation: If a woman likes a man enough to date him, she flirts more than usual; if not, she subsides to her base level of flirtation.)
Pxy = Syx * ou, where ou is the coefficient of over/underestimation
Fx varies positively with Dxy (i.e.. if Dxy < Dxy' then Fx < Fx', although it is not necessarily the case that there exists a 'c' such that Dxy = c * Fx)
(Translation: The more a man likes a woman, the greater his fear of rejection.)
If Dxy * Pxy / Fx >= Ta (Threshold of Action) and Dxy > dx, X will make a 'risk-move' towards Y.
(Translation: If a man likes a woman enough to date her, he will ask her out as soon as his perceived probability of success sufficiently outstrips his fear of rejection.)
As an interesting corollary, as Dxy increases, Pxy becomes increasingly insignificant. Hence in circumstances of intense attraction, actual signals may become insignificant. For a fellow with a fear function of O(n^2), the more attracted he is to a woman, the less likely he is to act, whereas a man with an O(log n) fear function is increasingly driven.
Which is to say not much of anything, but it sure amused the hell out of me.
That may tell you all you need to know about my husband – and if I add that the receipt of this email may in fact have been one of the most exciting and happy moments of my life, that may tell you all you need to know about me.