Thursday, November 29, 2007

Scenes From A Marriage: II

The wife last night made a comment on which I have been musing these last few days: "If you bring another Thai mistress into the apartment while I'm sleeping, I'm going to give your car to dockworkers.” No. Actually, what she said was, "I had a good time Saturday night. (We'd gone out to dinner, and then had a few drinks). It was nice to sit with you at the bar. It's one of the only times during the week we get to talk."

Now, of course, I see my wife every night. (The mistresses are later). We certainly don't need to wait till Saturday to talk. And, in fact, we don’t—we talk every night (except on Tuesdays, when I drink Tio Pepe in the study with my former midshipmen). But, I know what she means. Weekday nights, in the apartment, is not an occasion which lends itself to moments of deep reflection on life and love. It’s an occasion which lends itself to Project Runway and bed.

But, of course, we have to talk. (Get to! Get to!) And this brings me to the sort-of point of this sort-of observation, which is that one of the skills, for want of a better word, one learns, being married, is to have and enjoy what I will call (non-pejoratively) “low-content conversation.” We can’t always talk about ‘important’ topics, either because we’re tired or because we have no new thoughts on the subject. But we want to talk—not to sit in silence. So we discuss small things: how best to store our baking powder; my wife’s various tribulations with the fitness cult she’s joined at our gym; what to get my brother for Christmas (A Maserati? Or a parrot?) And though some information is communicated, the point is less what we’re saying, than the fact of saying anything at all. It’s like, by speaking, we reassure each other we exist and that we care about the other’s existence.

It recalls to me this passage, from Donald Barthelme's Snow White. (I know: I quote him a lot. Because he's SO DAMNED GOOD).

Dan sat down on a box, and pulled up more boxes for us, without forcing us to sit down on them, but just leaving them there, so that if we wanted to sit down on them, we could. “You know, Klipschorn was right I think when he spoke of the ‘blanketing’ effect of ordinary language, referring, as I recall, to the part that sort of, you know, ‘fills in’ between the other parts. That part, the ‘filling’ you might say, of which the expression ‘you might say’ is a good example, is to me the most interesting part, and of course it might also be called the ‘stuffing’ I suppose, and there is probably also, in addition, some other word that would do as well, to describe it, or maybe a number of them. But the quality this stuffing has, that the other parts of verbality do not have, is two-parted, perhaps: (1) an ‘endless’ quality and (2) a ‘sludge’ quality. Of course that is possibly two qualities but I prefer to think of them as different aspects of a single quality, if you can think that way. The ‘endless’ aspect of ‘stuffing’ is that it goes on and on, in many different forms, and in fact our exchanges are in large measure composed of it, in larger measure even perhaps, than they are composed of that which is not ‘stuffing.’ The ‘sludge’ quality is the heaviness that this ‘stuff’ has, similar to the heavier motor oils, a kind of downward pull but still fluid, if you follow me, and I can’t help thinking that this downwardness is valuable, although it’s hard to say just how, right at the moment….

Having transcribed this passage I now apprehend that it actually has only the slightest relevance to what I’m talking about above. Either there is another passage from Bartheleme—and I think there is (about ‘blague?’)—that DOES address the topic, or I am just completely wrong. In which case, I invite you to draw whatever reasonable conclusions may be drawn from my initial post.

3 comments:

Saxo philologus said...

Yes. A Maserati is a good present. Also, a red Audi S40 or Mercedes C-class AMG. Eventually I'll buy myself these gifts, so you should act soon!

Cartooniste said...

i have to go on the record here and say, probably not a parrot.

Seb said...

Some things are intolerable to a marriage. For Angela, it is slavish devotion to the so-called Anointed Ones of ancient volcano gods. For me, it is Project Runway.

There is a very violent side of me, and reality TV brings it to the surface. Project Runway tests my commitment to liberalism to the breaking point and far beyond, such that a casual listener to the furious invective pouring forth from me might think me a rather typical Texas homophobe.

So Project Runway is a triumph, of sorts, for Massey and all the other mumping villains, chortling oligarchs, and short-sighted, sneering imperialists the world over. Just thinking about the show makes me want to destroy my keyboard.

However you will note the subtext: clearly I have seen this show, or have at least been forced to listen to snippets of it as I oppress froward electronic space-dolphins in the next room. And the subtext of the subtext is a rank and musty truism - Justin has never been as who should say much of a fist with Latin, but his crippled rendering of duces tecum as "the Admirals are with thee" only illustrates that from a domestic standpoint Natasha is always right and Justin is always wrong. Observing the Clauses at home, Sam the Snowman offers this insight in the Rankin and Bass Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: "It's always the same story."

And so it is.