Thursday, April 23, 2009

Remembrance of things past

I normally find Caitlin Flanagan off-putting, if only because she's obviously very intelligent and insightful and yet manages, through either selective blindness or malevolence, to get nearly everything wrong. (Sometimes just a smidge. A tweak toward wrongness. It's infuriating. But mostly she's lots wrong.) But the juxtaposition of her review of Alec Baldwin's book on divorce and Hugo Schwyzer's reposting of the need for kindness and desire in marriage really struck me. She's got something there. I don't agree with where she takes it, but there's something.

While chemistry may wane and lust may fluctuate, I do believe that in order for a relationship to be successful, there must at the least be an initial period of extraordinary desire. In times of low desire and little sexual activity, memories of "how it used to be" can serve as a reminder that the two people in a given relationship really did once passionately long for each other. What one once had and then lost can be found again. What one never had in the first place is a lot harder to create from scratch.
[T]he spark that had gotten it all started, turning one Flanagan into four and making a certain red-shingle house in North Berkeley an unparalleled trove of talked-out Chatty Cathy dolls and years-long quarrels, Julia Child souffl├ęs and weekend benders—was a consuming passion. The fact that a long time ago, a young man had gone to a cocktail party in Greenwich Village with a Navy buddy, caught sight of a beautiful young woman, and said to the friend, “Introduce me.”

Or words to that effect. I wasn’t there! All I know is that for all of their quarreling and bellyaching, they had begun in romance and they gestured back to that romance a hundred times a year. It was in the gifts they gave one another, the notes they sent when they were apart, the fact that whenever she was combing my father’s fringe of white hair before a party, she would say, “You look so handsome, Tom”—and you realized that she wasn’t exactly seeing something; she was remembering it.
Aren't the happiest couples are the ones that see each other as the people each fell in love with, even years down the line?
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