It means more when it comes from family. I don’t care if you hate your family; you still, as much as you might hate to admit it, weigh what they say…more. Their last words kind of hang on you, seeming truer, more wise, just because it’s family, old family, and they must know something you don’t.
I had a professor in college, a lady with winged hair. I arrived to her classes early and sat, like the nerd I was, toward the front of the class, near the green chalk board, taking notes. She handed out small strips of paper, folded. Everyone got one. You were certain it was a secret santa of sorts. I was handed a slip of paper that read, "Birds of a feather flock together." He, yes he (because I’m realizing the memory wasn’t of a she but he) asked how many of us agreed with what the slip of paper said. You know, typical show of hands thing. Everyone raised her hand. We all agreed. The thing of it was, exactly half of us were handed the slip of paper I was, and half of us were handed the exact opposite sentiment: "Opposites attract." Yet we all agreed. Long story short, and to my detriment, I’m afraid, we learned that actually, while opposites may attract, they rarely last. It’s birds of a feather that seems to work according to our text books and our professor and his multitude of supporting studies. Likeness, he said, leads to liking. And I agree. Yet, still, I definitely, without pause, married my opposite.
I am a Libra. He is an Aries. And when I even bring this fact up, he rolls his eyes. PERFECT! That’s exactly the way it’s done. I don’t believe, at all, in horoscopes, even the NY POST. I believe in general observations about signs though. I’m diplomatic. I am argumentative but without seeming so. I’m almost apologetic when asking something of someone. I’m balance. I like harmony, not loud voices. I like pretty things and have an affinity for very nice things. I’m at peace when things are tidy and pretty. When the world around me is harmonious, when things smell nice. I’m very much a girl. When I even mention being a Libra in defense of my indecisive nature, Phil rolls his eyes so far back, I worry it might hurt. Exactly. We’re just so so different. He wants answers. He’s impatient. He’s loud and yells and is far too opinionated. He thinks he’s right, and dammit, so do I. It’s a total disaster! Our being "opposites" is about the only thing on which we agree. So I begin to question us, the validity in it. I mean, birds of a feather and all, and we’re nothing alike, so what are our chances? I mean really? Given that I’m sure I’m annoyed and resentful more than anything else.
When questioned about what we miss of NY, our answers couldn’t be more different. He misses having a local bar where everyone knows your name. He misses a Cheers life, where you can order a Jack and Coke, and it comes in a pint glass, where everyone strolls in, and no one cares about much more than the next game. I miss the new. The openings. That there’s always a new restaurant or store opening. There’s always an event, a new must-go place. I miss the turnover, the ability to find somewhere seemingly unknown. We both miss the convenience of things, but mostly, even what we miss, about the exact same city, is so so different. I miss having a French bistro. A place with steak frites and goat cheese onion tarts and tumblers full of Sancerre wine. And he misses goddamn sawdust bars (or close to it). We couldn’t be more different.
A new friend is considering opening a new bar here in Austin. And he wants to attract all of us. A place with really good beers and liquor. He knows the ladies want something sweet. But we need atmosphere too. I tell him all we really want is martinis with floating orchids and a good playlist. Phil wants good beer on tap. And almost by way of apology I say, "Yeah, we’re total opposites." And the strange bit is exactly where I began this. We hold so dear the words of our family. My grandfather, Papoo, a larger-than-life storyteller, an eccentric, when I was very young, told me, very seriously, that I’m a Libra woman and would be best served with an Aries man because he’d challenge me, and I’d never bore of him. And I’ve held onto that, the words of a man who was an Aries himself, and of course thought of himself as the superior breed. And I clung to it, thinking he had to know things like this.
I am with a man who couldn’t be more different. A man who likes simple, who doesn’t like planning parties or being social. Who says insensitive things, things like, "no one but you gives a shit!" A man who likes having control, who argues for a living. Who, yes, is as stubborn as I am, but who’s far more forceful, and it scares me sometimes. "Lower your voice," I say, and it enrages him. He is certain my saying this is only deflecting things. "You spend so much time telling me to be quiet just to change the course of the conversation. You’re deflecting the real issue," he says. He thinks my expressed discomfort in his tone is a manipulation. It’s my way of changing the subject, he thinks. And all I can think is, "how did I come to marry someone who screams? Why does he have to get so frustrated? And when he’s frustrated, why can’t he be quiet and gentle until he’s figured things out?" Genuinely, I’m not deflecting; I feel off-balance and cannot concentrate on anything other than his tone. I feel attacked and defensive and want to run away from him. His tone frightens me. I cry. I’m not used to yelling. Can’t we just discuss things? But he’s LOUD and doesn’t know he’s loud and then shouts, "I’m not yelling!" I urge him to use "a restaurant voice," the kind you’d use publicly, where no one would turn to look. But Phil argues for a living, so I rarely get my way, even about his volume. And he’d argue the opposite, that I always do. And neither of us ever feels like we’re getting our way. We both feel like we’re always, ALWAYS, compromising. And compromising, to me, will always feel like work. And in these moments, I wish I’d chosen someone closer to who I am, someone who agreed. Someone easier. But my family assures me that someone would bore the shit out of me. It’s never easy.
Phil would be happy in this life, just us. The two of us, or four of us. He doesn’t need to be around other people. He doesn’t care so much about interacting, about hearing other people’s stories. He kind of has to be dragged out. Don’t get me wrong, once he has friends, he wants their company, but if I happen to meet a new mom and suggest we go out on a double date, he kind of grunts. "Do we have to?" I thrive, I’ve learned, in the new. I absolutely LOVE being around other people. Commiserating, sharing embarrassing stories. I feel most alive around other people, with their own histories, with a chance for me to escape, yet still completely appreciate, my own life. That’s what I love so much about socializing. I love hearing her stories, nodding, knowing exactly how it is. Agreeing, then looking across the way, seeing Phil telling his own story, reminding me that I’m with her and her stories about poop and sleep and crying and proving me wrong, exactly, but I’m with her and still with him. I LOVE THAT. Those moments of comparison, where I love my life yet understand hers. And she knows mine. And it reassures me. Tells me it’s okay that I picked a man so different from who I am.
I am, by far, the laid back one in the relationship. When it comes to our children, we are a balance. I am, without a doubt, the zen mother. I don’t over-think. I don’t worry. I don’t panic. I’m exactly as my mother was with me. They’re beautiful children and will be fine. I don’t google conditions using quotation marks. I don’t scour message boards. I trust my instincts and know they’ll be fine. He has me call the doctor with questions. He talks to experts. All my mommy friends admit they’re exactly like Phil. And I laugh, feeling almost, just slightly superior, in that I can trust so much, that I can inherently know so much without doubting myself. Still, Phil and I balance each other. Opposites. But sometimes, it doesn’t feel like balance. It feels like different. Not complimentary colors different. Wrong, different. It feels like, "you can’t possibly understand because you’re nothing like me." And when it feels like that, it’s hard not to wish I’d married another Libra. That I’d chosen someone just like I am. But when I had that chance, I complained that he was too much like me, that he over-reacted when he just should have written me off as slightly insane. Haven’t we all been there? Dating someone we just wished understood and accepted us for our crazed ways ?
I once dated another Libra. Or maybe I like to remember him that way. Maybe he’s not a Libra. A Sagittarius, actually. Who cares. We were, are, the same. Exactly. We get each other. Know exactly how it is, where we are, where our thoughts make sense even when they really don’t. But when we were together, we didn’t get far. Because we were too much of the same. I’d freak out, overreact, and he’d react to that. It was a cycle. And I remember at that time, drunk, writing on this blog how I just needed someone who didn’t read too much into every spoken line. I needed someone who didn’t take me so seriously, who could say, "Yuh, Stephanie’s overreacting again," and laugh, and discount it, not analyze it. I needed someone who didn’t take my dramas too seriously, and now that I’ve found that someone I just complain that he doesn’t take my dramas, my feelings, my words, any of it, seriously enough. And I rely on the ancient years of my once-alive grandfather to steer me. And I don’t know what’s right, only what’s now. What we make work, what we choose for ourselves and commit to. The promises we keep. I know that. And I can always believe in my choices, even when I question them, because I chose them for a reason.