One of the worst things about being married is that it often sucks. Here’s why.
Yesterday I woke up bright and late at two pm (hey, it was Saturday, okay? Besides, I’d gone to bed ridiculously late and gotten up earlier to write for a few hours, so there) and decided to start the day by paying homage to the great, recently departed drummer and singer of the group The Band, Levon Helm. I hadn’t read his obituary yet (due to having been ostracized by the New York Times–so I was wrong about WMD in Iraq–sorry!), but I saw the headline saying he’d checked out of Hotel Life a few days ago.
So I turned on the computer, went to You Tube, and typed in the search window “the night they drove old dixie down.” A few options came up in the menu on the left, and I clicked on the version from the movie The Last Waltz, which I’d forgotten was directed by Martin Scorsese (good on you, Marty, as they say in Australia). It’s far superior to the studio version, in my ears’ view.
I listened to the first few versions of the song, which was introduced by a few words of nostalgic banter between front man Robbie Robertson and a few other Band members, when who barges into the kitchen but my wife Jina, all ready to declare her disapproval and life-denying opinion based on a delusion fortified by decades of duplicitous indoctrination.
“Turn that off!” she cried.
“Why? This guy died, and I want to pay my respects to him.”
“Why do you pay attention to dead people? He’s in hell now, and by playing his song, you’re just torturing him more. Please–turn it off!”
My eyes had grown to colossal-squid size (they’re the diameter of a basketball, according to the National Geographic’s website).
“You’re crazy!” I said. “How can you believe that shit? If anything he’s in heaven. Why wouldn’t he be? I mean, he brought joy to millions of people.”
“He’s not. I saw a Christian woman on the Internet who said she’s seen what goes on in hell. She saw Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston. They were there because the songs they wrote were not about loving God.”
(The above is slightly paraphrased. Since Jina’s “logic” is often so hard to follow, it’s hard for my memory to accurately digest her words of inherited wisdom. I’m usually too busy just trying to keep a straight face, which demands the lion’s share of my concentration.)
We continued to quibble about the matter awhile longer. She told me at least to use headphones (which I did later that night, when she was in the next room shopping for shoes for me on her own computer), and I finally relented by stopping the song, since poor Levon couldn’t get through anyway. I hope he’s not being treated too badly in hell.
(Speaking of hell, help yourself to hilarity by watching Louis CK describe what it’s like there–based on his surmising, mind you, and not first-hand experience–in the thirty-minute HBO concert performance “One Night Stand,” available on You Tube.)
Jina and I had been getting along well for awhile for a change. I was even beginning to think maybe we even still loved each other enough to be happy together. Then this bullshit happens. Christ Jesus, what’s the point?
Don’t worry–it gets worse. I had plans to get together with an old friend I hadn’t seen in nearly a year, even though it was pissing rain outside. I figured he’d probably be heading over towards our neighborhood, so seeing him wouldn’t entail too much shlepping about. He’d contacted me by email, and I emailed him back asking him to call me so we could nail down the details.
When he finally did, about an hour after Jina and I got up, he persuaded me to take the subway over to his place, which I planned on doing. I also had a book of his I wanted to return, and planned on lending or even giving him a few other books since he was kind enough to offer to pay for my beers (I’m still broke due to under-work).
Jina could see the writing on the wall. She abominates my drinking. Friends have told me I’m no more offensive when I’m buzzed or drunk than I am when sober (admittedly, that’s not saying much–just kidding), but Jina seems to think I’m Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde. It’s possible that I’m more hostile to her than I am to my friends; after all, her fingerprints are on my buttons, and she’s good at pushing them.
So what does she do? Ten minutes before I have to leave, she throws a bunch of pants I never wear on the bed and demands that I try them on. When I protest, she threatens to get rid of them all if I don’t. I sigh and try on a pair. Surprisingly, they fit.
“You must have lost weight,” she says.
That’s news to me, as I still feel and look fat.
She hands me a pair of jeans we bought at a Japanese outlet called Uniqlo, which I’d only worn once. I try them on again. No dice.
“I can’t wear these.”
“They’re too tight. They hurt my balls. That’s why I couldn’t wear them, remember?”
She sighed noisily. “Why didn’t you tell me that before?”
I said that I thought I had. Our conversations are so nebulous–we’re also both soft-spoken mumblers much of the time–that we often don’t get through to each other. Then she accuses me of failing to listen, or say what I distinctly remember having said, regardless of what actually happened.
She foisted on me a pair of dark blue slacks that also fit.
“These feel a little warm,” I said. I checked the elaborate, multilingual label, and finally found what I’d expected to: they were nearly fifty percent polyester, and contained some other kind of obscure plastic I’d never even heard of before–probably something imported from another planet.
“I can’t wear these either.”
I went into the bathroom, and she followed me to the entrance. She doesn’t understand the concept of bathroom privacy. We barked at each other for a minute, then she picked up one of her pink plastic bath slippers and threw it at me. That’s the thanks I get for having cleaned the bathroom an hour before—a task usually performed by her.
Out in the kitchen again, we yelled at each other some more and tussled on the floor. We were fighting because she didn’t want me to go out and see my friend, and I wanted to go (not least to get the hell away from her for a few hours).
“Okay, go and don’t come back!” she screeched.
I replied with a colorful phrase and said I had to come back. Where else was I supposed to go?
“Go live with your friend. All you’re going to do is drink anyway.”
The rain was coming down hard. I felt defeated. She has resorted to emotional blackmail many times in the past. She used to threaten suicide on a fairly regular basis (an invariably histrionic bluff), and once set a piece of paper on fire from a burner on the stove and threatened to burn our apartment down. I had to grab it from her, throw it in the sink, and put it out under the faucet.* She also used to lock me out of our old place, which–luckily–she can’t do anymore.
I didn’t feel like dealing with the consequences of her intractable intolerance and knew that if I followed through on her prediction that I’d drink, even if she did forgive me or lighten up in the meantime, it would be stormy weather all over again as soon as I got back home and walked in the door.
I called my friend and canceled, telling him my Lyme disease symptoms were acting up, which they indeed were, due either to the barometric pressure connected to the damp, rainy weather or an immune system deflated by energy wasted on rage. During the shouting match with Jina, my chest hurt afresh, making me wonder if I was going to have a heart attack. My upper left arm often hurts, maybe because I always sleep on my left side due to lower back pain on my right. This also results in a minor dull pain in the left side of my neck, which makes me think I’m going to have a stroke.
In case you’ve never been married to a strident, bullying control freak and part-time semi-homicidal maniac, you might not know the feeling of yearning for death. It would just be so much more relaxing. Anyway, it’s easy for me to think that way since I don’t believe in any of that hell shit. Life is hell enough without death having to be hell too.
Now I just have to figure out how to end this whole thing without making too much of a mess.
* When we saw the movie The Social Network together, during the scene where Eduardo Saverin’s girlfriend sets fire to his dorm room, she said, “She’s like me.” Self-knowledge, apparently, doesn’t always lead to wisdom.