Friday, March 20, 2009

"Symbolic Gesture"

Though we’d been going together for two years, Dr. M (who was just M at the time) and I were comfortably content with our separate living arrangements. She and her daughter, Rachel, lived in a small house in Venice; I lived in a condominium in nearby Ocean Park.

We sanctified this set-up by having holes drilled in two twenty-five cent pieces, each wearing one on a chain around our necks, as tangible signifiers of the domestic situation we enjoyed:

Separate Quarters.

Corny and silly. The cornerstones of our relationship. Or at least two of the stronger pillars.

As we grew closer, however, there were these spontaneous, mutual stirrings towards “a next step.” The quarters were eventually put in a drawer (we still have them), and M and Rachel moved in. A little scary, but it felt like it was time.

Our “next step” was a resounding success. We were, literally – we actually said these words, tempting the Fates, but we said them anyway – “The Couple That Never Fought.”

It is not in my nature to be able to say, “This is really good” directly. But I wanted M to know it was. What I needed was a signal, to tell her I was happy. Corny but clear. Silly yet precise. But unspoken. Without me even in the room.

I’m sitting in the bedroom, pondering gestures. And then it comes to me. I had once heard something about toilet seats. (I know that sounds like a leap but it isn’t.)

Regular readers are most likely aware that I’m not now, nor was I ever, a worldly type of person. What I knew about women, especially living with women – Does Mom count? No? – There was not much to draw on.

When you live alone, as I had for the majority of my adult life – I’ll be honest – you don’t think a lot about toilet seats. But I had this vague memory that… …leaving them up, or leaving them down, one of them was the right thing to do. I remembered that.

But I couldn’t remember which one it was.

I gave no thought whatsoever to toilet seat practicalities – what the whole “Up” and “Down” thing was really about. I was focusing on the gesture. But exactly which gesture it was I hoped would convey the message I was too shy to communicate in words

I just didn’t know.

I was firm on the toilet seat gesture itself . The only thing left was to decide on the direction:

“Up”? Or “Down”?

It wasn’t that tough. Whichever decision I landed on, I had a fifty-fifty chance of being right. Finally

I decided on “Up”. (I know. But I didn’t back then.)

Why did I choose “Up”? It seemed like a salute.


“Down” was just down. I mean, hey, the seat was already down. How would she know that I’d done something?

I walk into the bathroom. I lift up the seat. I walk out.

I return to the bedroom, exceedingly pleased with myself.

She’s going to be so happy.

I wait.

Finally, M comes into the bedroom. I’m reclining on the bed, thinking a big hug can not be far away. Accompanied by those three words we all want to hear.

M utters a different three words. Not “I love you”, but

“I’m moving out!”

“Why?” I cry in shock, anguish and surprise, none of the feelings I was hoping to enjoy.

“Things were going so well,” she explains, her anger flecked with hurt. “But now you’re taking me for granted.”

“What do you mean?” I honesty have no idea what she’s talking about.

“You’ve started leaving the toilet seat up! It’s over!”

Thankfully, it wasn’t over. We got past it. And tomorrow, we celebrate our 27th anniversary.

I was thinking of some way to honor this milestone. Something I could do to express …you know...

I only know this. Symbolic gestures are not an option.
A special “shout out” to a newly-minted twenty-six year old who happens to look like me. You know who you are. And you know how I feel about you. Happy March two-oh Birthday. The day before our anniversary, one of them being the first day of spring, which to a guy who grew up in a cold place, was always the best day of the year, now for more reasons than one.


growingupartists said...

I'm probably corny in saying I'd be perfectly content hearing bits and pieces of your Dr. M life and love story for the rest of your blogging lifetime. I'd suggest a black and white video of you guys reenacting your favorite elements in television, but wives don't need MORE work, on top of everything.

Happy anniversary you two goof balls, one of which I'm SURE rivals Lucille Ball. To her Desi.

Anonymous said...

You've told us about meeting Dr. M (or M at the time) and now about moving in together. Now I have a request. Would you tell us about proposing to her? I hope I'm not presumptuous, but it's a question I've often asked people who have long marriages and I love the stories. You are quite free to ignore this. But I think your stories are so poignant and hopeful. It's what I miss when I watch TV these days. Other than The Big Bang Theory, I find most comedy to be too crass or too shallow Two and a Half Men and According to Jim come to mind. Both can be amusing, but not really funny and I never want to watch an episode more than once. I've watched the BB Theory episode where Penny gives Sheldon a napkin signed by Leonard Nimoy three or four times. And I'm chuckling right now thinking about it. Makes me truly wish I had any pull with the studios. Oh well....

growingupartists said...

Geez, Louise, Earl! Have you offended this many people in your lifetime that they're avoiding your comments? Well, don't worry, old people are my specialty.

Hear ye, hear ye, attention all fans of washed up tv producers (yes executives, I'm talking directly to you). I'm leaving the final say up to Earl, but I'm going to make an unobtrustive suggestion, because I can.

We young folks have a little method to our blogging madness called, "pick a day of the week, and a title that begins with the same letter, and work it."

For example, because I know you'll need many:

Frequent-posting Friday

and to start over the week, because off-time is precious (and spendy)...

Multiple-posting Monday

Never can have Too Many Posts Tuesday (especially from old people)

Wacky What Will He Post Today Wednesday (and how many times?!!)

Thoroughly satisfying Thursdays (no graphic photos, please...and a shopping trip for your wife).

Just some ideas to toss around in your down time. Which I hear is crippling SOMEBODY's self-respect meter.

You can only hire so many greeters at Walmart. And don't be fooled, those bonuses went to managers, not to real people.

growingupartists said...

Diane, what presumes your presumption (besides excellent timing) that Dr. M didn't propose to Earl herself? If only she had a blog (to a familiar tune)...

growingupartists said...

Oops, loks like I minced the words up a bit, like spicy garlic. Do I intentionally avoid black and white? If I only had some therapeutic guidance.

From somebody famous for her incredibly successful daughter.

growingupartists said...

what is WITH my missing o's? Is there a Freudian in the house? Or am I Tyra Banks working her ass off to be the next Oprah. With youthful style (no offense, Montel's sciatica).

growingupartists said...

Somebody put a spell on me, and it is NOT my evil stalking sister. She loves me never.

I forgot to capitalize, and I'm typing real slowly so this comment won't have any mistakes.

What do I mean by capitalize? And why is it okay to call people "retarded", my friend Angie asked me just today.

I don't know, I told her. But Jesus is coming to correct all this nonsense. Period.

Aw shit, now I know exactly which complex I have. Thanks for nuthin'.

Too much slang in my diet!

A. Buck Short said...

Are you ever in luck, the 27th anniversary is porcelain...and boy did I ever just think of a novelty vase for a really enormous anniversary floral arrangement.

growingupartists said...

Buck Short, either you're a writer, or you're broke. I can't tell the difference. Meant in a celebratory way, of course!

Willy B. Good said...

Cheers Earl and M and hope there are many more years of happiness to come!

A. Buck Short said...

And for a swell night on the town, I think I know of a pay one that takes quarters with holes. It's in the church rectory. Holy Quarters. Yeh, right, yours was so much more inspired or at least far less facile. Really shouldn't have skipped that "stop when you're ahead" class at the Learning Annex.

growingupartists said...

Buck Short, someone misled you along the way. Never stop when you're ahead. Instead, do two ballerina twirls, and you'll be just fine.