Anyway, I found my tastes in poetry at odds with most of my classmates’. They were mostly of the school that produced, in Dorothy Sayers’ words, “epithets staggered about the page.” (Looking back on their work, I like it better now than then; looking back on my own, I can only say that I like mine less.) The differences in our outlooks produced some odd readings. This poem they insisted on reading as a political allegory (to my surprise) – but then, it was 1974, and you know Boomers and their conspiracy theories.
In order to form a more perfect house,
We must put gloves on every mouse,
And for our staid, conservative cat
A sporty, new Tyrolean hat.
The dog must wear a brass-rimmed monocle
In order to read the Morning Chronicle,
And our parakeet, though never so vain
Shall whistle us “Heigh-diddle-diddle” again.
And for our little baby sweet,
A chocolate musk ox for him to eat –
It grieves me to make the neighbors so sad;
You don’t think, my dear, we’re really mad?
There was a girl in class whose work I thought rather good. Some of the things she wrote about hinted at her search for love and her own vulnerabilities. She was good-looking, too. It suddenly struck me, newly-married as I was, that I had stopped looking around at a very early stage in my life. Another female friend in the class that I had never seen as a dating possibility began talking about her search for companionship about this time, too.
(And here I thought I had been the only person looking for love. I tell ya, married guys must release some pheremone or something that says SAFESAFESAFESAFE: I never met so many available girls in college as right after I became unavailable.)
Now, neither of these girls was making goo-goo eyes at me, nor did I ever make any sort of a pass at them. But at age 20, trussed-up-and-nailed-to-the-wall-marrie
When you’re young, you can imagine being President of the US, a fireman, an astronaut, and a successful cartoonist – and see no contradiction in doing them ALL. You can imagine being in love – and consummating that love – with any number of other people. But with every choice we make, we narrow down the path ahead. Everything we finally go FOR, rules out any number of other possibilities. Oh, we may get to some of them later, but some are simply GONE. Whether we make those choices at age 20, or 30, or 40, that’s it.
And there, in those first few weeks after my marriage, I realized that I had made my choice. If I tried to have it back again, I would only ruin the choice I had made, and the next choice wouldn’t rule out the possibility of wanting what I shouldn’t have all over again. So, I asked myself very seriously, did I REGRET the choice I had made? And I thought, “No, I love Deanne. I’m glad to have chosen her, and she me.” What I was regretting was not being able to have the choice to make over – and so I decided, firmly and for ever, that there was no profit in revisiting that decision. I had made my choice, and I would stick with it, and try to make my marriage what I always wanted it to be.
I think that point comes to everybody, and successful marriages are built out of people simply refusing to argue with their shadow-selves any more. “I will not be drawn,” they say. It’s not that your spouse is THE ONE AND ONLY PERSON IMAGINABLE – any number of people in this world would make acceptable bedmates, and more than a few would make good spouses – but THIS IS THE ONE YOU’VE CHOSEN. Love is not just a feeling that happens to me, but a choice I make.
Thirty-one years later, my mind is still made up. Looking back, I thank God for letting me wrestle with it all in my head, instead of out in the real world where it would have gotten messy and hurtful. And it may be that the best poem to come out of that class wasn’t any of those that I wrote, but the one Deanne and I have made together.
Ah, still a hopeless romantic after all these years.