if

October 20, 2010

marriage, poetry

picture of a marraige

If we had the rest of our lives together, where would you take me?  Would you clasp my hand for take off and still give me the heart of things?  An artichoke, the best pour of wine, the middle of the sandwich, the perfect bite. Would you let me complain about the mosquitoes and hills?  Would you still pull me close when I complained of the sweat?  Would you take me to a lake at night and undress me, lead me to the water with you hand, without talking, naked in the water against you.  Lake warmth and us.  Would you hold me as if there were no mourning?  If we had the rest of our lives together, what song would you hear that reminded you of me?  Would you make a list of them and email it to me?  Would you love me more when it was overcast?  How long would it take for you to begin to like the things I like just because I do?  If we had forever, would you hold on that long, or would you turn the station and down a new road looking for brighter leaves and new paths?

Every day I’d learn to love something because you did, and I’d collect your songs; I’d sing them to Linus in bed, when we missed you.  Then I’d cry because I loved you so much, your hands, in our sleep, with the smell of your head, with the rise and fall of your sleeping body.  After a while, would I let go, begin to raise my voice, let work become my priority?  Would the things I thought I liked roll my eyes?  Would I stop being an us, and instead be me, beside you, like siblings?  You’re right, that’s what scares me most.  Once the sex is gone, and backs become land for scratches instead of shifting planes when we move, I’d cry.  Worse, I wouldn’t cry.  I’d be numb and live for my children instead of you.  That scares me, becoming siblings with an equal who used to want.  It scares me more than alone ever will.

–Stephanie Klein, circa 2005

57 Responses to “if”

  1. Erik Says:

    Wonderfully expressed… thease are the very notions that doom many realtionships. But it only takes once.

    Reply

  2. Kim Says:

    That's the thing that scares me too. I hope the passion between me and my boyfriend never really dies. The whole 'I just don't feel anything anymore' thing is the saddest thing that could happen.

    Reply

  3. Another Stephanie Says:

    I've tried to live a bit more with less "me's…" count them in this entry. What are the driving forces behind giving to others? Is it to be "good" – or is it for their genuine good? There is much temptation to fall in love with being in love, which can subsequently crash into hollowed realizations that the "we" so seemingly solid, never existed for its highest purpose to begin with.

    Become fiercely unfocused on what might happen to the "me." Take the leap we all know we must, called faith. A purely reciprocated love stands on its own feet without leaving behind bedraggled questions of "if" or "but" or "perhaps it will" – and there ought nary to be a worry ever, of whether or not it might last…

    The best way to associate this? Observe devoted parenting's sacrosanct and undying love showered upon precious children; despite circumstances of whether a proposed partner actually sticks. There is selflessness there. And, a comfort in recognizing the need to protect loved ones from one's uncensored self. While the worthy endeavor of living life 'to thine own self be true' has merit, acceptance of others for living on their terms is mutually key. Victor Hugo once said that being loved IN SPITE OF oneself was better than being loved for oneself. It seems this works best in a perfect world – one that is full of saints and martyrs and self-actualized individuals. So, balancing insight with sensitivity regarding the indelible impact we leave upon those vulnerable, should never be forgotten while forging brave footprints of our own.

    I want to reflect an essence of pure love to those significant to me, and that means mustering and eeking out an energy designed simply for caring about THEM. When I do it right it's akin to sketching freely with a freshly sharpened #2 pencil, without any need for those little pink erasers on the bottom. And since there are no warranties expressed or implied for the many mistakes I've made in trying to achieve this altruistic goal… blessings and Caveat Emptor upon us all.

    Reply

  4. Jesse Says:

    Stephanie, I've been reading this for about a month now, and I finally decided to make a general comment. You and your writing are the epitome of grace, and as a future New Yorker, you inspire me. Thank you. From Jesse

    Reply

  5. Cristina Says:

    Stephanie, I love this post, I love your yesterday's comments and the fact that you don't censor your writing, even though sometime it's probably hard to manage it with your real life!

    I'm in love with a boy, and I've never loved anyone this much.
    You made me realize that what scares me the most, in case we break up, is not "being me again" instead of "us", but… "not being me anymore". I mean, no more being able to love with the same happiness, spontaneously as I do, with all my enthusiasm. And becoming cinic.
    What scares me the most is losing the best part of me, which was already there before him, but that could leave me together with him…

    But maybe, awareness of what scares you can help in case worst happens!
    Ciao ciao

    Reply

  6. Murph Says:

    I always(always!)gave my X the best bite. Of what ever I had… Sundae, Sandwich,-Whatever!

    Anyhow, we still talk and she asked me, "What's changed in your life since we are no longer together?". My retort, "I now enjoy the 'best bite'".

    I don't know, there's something euphoric about the best bite. Tough to part with. But when in the mode, given willingly.

    'If' reminds me how dewy and sensual falling is. Not wanting to be apart, and when you are, doing things that remind you of…

    Anyway, Thanks for the refresh.

    Reply

  7. Murph Says:

    I always (always!) gave my X my best bite. Of my Sundae, Hero, Whatever! So, we still talk; and she asks me, what’s different now, now that we're no longer together? The first thing that comes to mind is being able to enjoy my 'best bite' again. The 'best bite' means allot. Not taken lightly. Anyhow, when in the mode, I'd still give it away willingly.

    'If' reminds me how dewy and sensual falling in love is. How you never want to be apart, and when you are, you do things to remind yourself of your intended.

    Anyway, thanks for the refreshment.

    Reply

  8. Jen Says:

    I just love this post. It's startling, and so true, that it made me want to cry.

    So happy for all the good things happening in your life. I love reading your blog with my morning coffee.

    Cheers!

    Reply

  9. Brian Says:

    Yeah, but it's a GOOD kind of scared.

    Reply

  10. Jules Says:

    These things crossed my mind lately, too. I think I have PMS though and tomorrow is another day, a new beginning. I shouldn't worry.

    Reply

  11. JoeA Says:

    Comfort with someone is the true test of love in my opinion. It's the "Little Things" that occur between couples that always reinforce the love and cherish aspect of a relationship even after the courting has ended. I my case, it's my wife knowing that I will pick her up in NYC from LI when she's wasted from a work function at 3am in the morning without a fuss just cause I want her home safe or her making a doctor appointment for because she somehow noticed I was having anxiety attacks even though I hide it from her because she knew I won't do it on my own.

    Reply

  12. Dru Says:

    If you are truly in love, the "what ifs" don't matter. Dive in, fearlessly, and love with abandon. Remember – the deepest regrets are usually about what we haven't done!

    Reply

  13. karen Says:

    You are undoubtedly the best writer I have come across in ages. Your expressions and descriptions of daily life itself hits the mark, especially "if".
    Thank you for being candid, brutally honest, and most of all saying what most people cannot espress.

    Reply

  14. au Says:

    woah girl! either you are falling out of love or are seriously starting to go much deeper in love. hmmm…

    Reply

  15. Heather Says:

    Not that I know you or that any of us really know you, but from reading you, you are a strong independent woman who is focused on her work but you want to be in love again, make babies, etc. I doubt you'll let you and whomever you end up with (hopefully Phil of course) get to a point where you are "siblings" etc.
    I'm sure that you'll be able to find that balance between wanting Phil and wanting to do well in regards to your work.

    But then again…what do I know?

    Reply

  16. Tim Says:

    Lately I read the article on you in the NYT and instantly I got so curious, that I took a closer look. I think your are definitely right saying that personal ideas and comments could never be boring. Honest regards from Germany!

    Reply

  17. fil Says:

    'If' is a very moving post reminding us that the devil is in the detail when is comes to relationships. Never forget though, that you only get out what you put in. Your in the drivers seat and need to charter your course.

    Reply

  18. bernie Says:

    i'm sorry, i've no desire to be a wet towel or anything, and i do enjoy your writing and all, but there's just something that weirds me out a little in this post (and it's not the typo "you hand…"). i realize that everyone has their fears and insecurities, myself included, but, for me, the questions you ask might be better served if they were not "…where would you take me?" but "..where would WE go?" or "would we still give each other that perfect bite?", "what songs would remind us of each other?", and "would we love each other more when it was overcast?" in my humble experience, love is definitely more of a "we" than it is a "me"…perhaps it was your intent to personalize all these matters, but, as i said, it just weirded me out a bit, and i felt compelled to respond. that said, good luck in all you do.

    Reply

  19. Marc Says:

    Last night after bringing my daughter back from gymnastics, I shared a glass of wine with my wife. I endured another Sex in the City rerun before we tore into each other having crazy, sweaty sex. I woke three hours later, freezing cold and uncovered with my love after having fallen unconcious. I covered us both and fell back asleep with her in my arms. We have been together 15 years on October 6 and have five children. Every night is not like this, but it doesn't have to end.

    Reply

  20. Stacia Says:

    This is the shit that makes me sad but also makes me want to live and breathe and hurt and laugh. Because it is real. And real is the scariest thing to me. But also the best thing. Like your first breath outside on a snowy crisp winter day. You are, if nothing else, alive.

    Reply

  21. Hugo Says:

    As someone who has lived through this before (three divorces, and I'm 38 years old), I can say "sister, I hear you!"

    That said, as I prepare for my upcoming wedding (fourth time's the charm and all that), I have come at last to appreciate that passion is not merely something that comes and goes inexplicably. If it was never there, it's impossible to create. But if it was there, and then lost, it can be rekindled — if two people are willing to work,and work, and work in ways that they may never have considered.

    Lonely solitude on the one hand and amiable, brother-sister companionship on the other are not the only two choices. No, you may not grow a third hand, but I've come to see that that chemistry can be restored. It ain't easy.

    Reply

  22. allibrew Says:

    After getting divorced at 28, I spent 3 years trying to answer these questions in my own context. When I met my new husband, I became capable of forever. It is possible (and necessary) to keep your "me" when you join a "we" and the right "we" is so, so worth the struggles.

    Reply

  23. Mike Says:

    The best part about the writting excerises, in my opinion, is we don't know for sure if she's speaking past or present or future. We don't know how abstract her thinking is here. Also, it makes us all think about our own relationships (there's that inherent "me" again), but it doesn't pass any judgements or say that A must be with B or X with Y. A tremendous strength lies underneath these questions. It seems as though, the author has these questions, she asks them without fear. How she faces these questions, is what we all want to read, but she leaves us hanging. Maybe she doesn't know, maybe she knows that the answers are only found when the question is grabbed with both hands. Either way, I'm getting full of myself with this evaluation. I fine excerise, Stephanie. Well written.

    Reply

  24. Mike Says:

    Well written! The questions are well-put. I like these writting exercises, makes me wonder if you're talking past-tense, present-tense, or future-tense.

    Reply

  25. Deb Says:

    I think love comes in different stages. You have your ‘first love’—with all the lust, excitement and that adrenaline to make your heart go pitter-patter. Then you have your ‘love’ where it is intimate, warm, and comfortable. Don’t let contentment give you the idea that it’s bad. If you have a foundation of friendship in the beginning, then you’ll be fine once that love does come to its full maturity, and you are now like siblings. Sometimes couples get into that stage after a certain period of time, where they almost feel like ‘roommates’ or ‘siblings’.

    That excitement does wear off eventually. It matures into something more beautiful, which is unconditional love. Where you would do absolutely anything for that person because, not only is he your history, a huge part of your past, but he is still there with you, to take care and love you for the rest of your life.

    I have been with my girlfriend for eleven years now. In the beginning, yes there was a lot of excitement and lust. It came to a point where it grew into more of a contentment sort of thing. If you want to keep that ‘excitement’—you have to put in effort. Never be afraid of contentment—that is a “good” word. To grow old with someone, to love them till the end—that to me is something to look forward to.

    Think of it this way… What if (God forbid) your significant other got sick and was no longer able to perform sexual activities with you? What if your partner was unable to go out because he was ill? Would you love him less?

    It comes down to “unconditional love”. If you have it, don’t worry about ‘what ifs’.

    Wishing you happiness!

    Reply

  26. 3 teen's mom Says:

    I'm compelled to write – first of all, thank you for this glimpse into your soul. After my divorce, I swore never to love again (except the children, of course). It's an easy out – and it keeps me in a safe place – and has for 6 years – and every other weekend lovah understands that what we have is physical and intellectual. What is starting to scare me are the little things…his remembering and stocking up on my favorite wine though he is a beer drinker by nature. His remembering my favorite flower, and favorite side of the bed. The fact that he just bought a new bed because his old one hurt my back the every other weekend we chose to spend at his place. I want to slam that door on my heart down hard before he gets inside where it is warm and melty and where I'm most vulnerable. Hate that word. Hate that feeling.

    Your post caused all this introspection – work? Who me? Guess I'd better. Thank you again.

    Reply

  27. la Pao Says:

    Loved your 1st paragraph!!!

    Reply

  28. Kaia Says:

    I went out with my ex for over 10 years and we never truly felt like a 'WE'. We never got lost in each other. I'm now dating the man I'm going to marry – for nearly a year – and it's everything that 'it' is supposed to be. He's my middle of the sandwich :)

    Good luck sweetie – you'll find him – and when you do, you'll just know.

    Reply

  29. dancho Says:

    Wouldn't it be worth it even still? Better to have loved and lost, blah blah blah?

    Reply

  30. Stephen R Says:

    Wow! This is very powerful writing! Great stuff. Yesterday's column was also really enjoyable – we so rarely share these kind of heart-stopping events with others.

    Been tracking your site since it got covered in our Sunday Times in South Africa – enjoying!

    Reply

  31. Aminah Says:

    It's strange cause what you wrote is reminicent of a poem I wrote about a couple in the midst of a seperation emotionally, mentally and physically, divorcing their ways out of their misery. Ain't it funny how when we break up with some guy, that when meeting a new man we'll make that xtra effort to be attractive, interesting, sexy, skinny…whatever. How come we never got round to being jumpstarted into transformation with our old partner? So the new guy thinks we are fasinating! The big but is this: all along we are carrying our old garbage/traits (those untamed pmt moments, our messy habits, our impatience etc)and just moving it into a new place with a guy; untarnished material who hasn't as yet discovered the real us! Before long, he too will discover our neurosis…and then what?

    Stephanie keep writing! You are a great inspiration to many!

    Reply

  32. Kelsi Says:

    "Once the sex is gone, and backs become land for scratches instead of shifting planes when we move, I'd cry. Worse, I wouldn't cry. I'd be numb and live for my children instead of you."

    It sounds to me, like you are still not sure of what you're looking for. There is more to a relationship than just the sex. And if the comfort of a mature relationship scares you, then you're probably not ready for any realtionship at all yet.

    Reply

  33. Dollardan Says:

    A yacht adrift in the ocean with no sail… rocks back and forth without direction or purpose…waiting for a sail… or a wind… or someone to care….

    Reply

  34. Josh Says:

    debbie downer…wa-wa

    Reply

  35. Tom Says:

    Damn girl you can write a nice piece. No advice for you, just thumbs up.

    Reply

  36. Kevin Says:

    Very thought-provoking

    Reply

  37. emma Says:

    i love what comes out of your brain. absolutely beautiful writing.

    Reply

  38. Mike Says:

    Dammit. I double posted again, sorry this PC is F'd. My apologies.

    Reply

  39. GC Says:

    Those are the same things that cross my mind when I feel like I love him more than he loves me.

    Reply

  40. Jeff Funk Says:

    Beautiful post, Stephanie. "Every day I'd learn to love something because you did" — wow, that brought back a memory, one which haunts me. Of course, I'm always haunted by the ghosts of past loves. This was nice reading a message in a bottle to a future man. Lovely.

    Reply

  41. LL Says:

    Well written and provacative. Speaking of poetry, can you send the various poems of mine you still have to my rents? I think you have the address. Thanks girl. Oh, great shots of you and cousin D. It's raining here in Pokhara, Nepal.

    Reply

  42. Howard Beale Says:

    Your prose is beautiful and stunning.

    Reply

  43. J Says:

    Wow. I just threw up in my mouth.

    Reply

  44. The Boss Says:

    Everything dies baby that's a fact
    But maybe everything that dies someday comes back
    Put your makeup on fix your hair up pretty and meet me tonight in Atlantic City

    Reply

  45. cc Says:

    you funny, smart and pretty. i learn english now and it boring. you not boring. i like dictionary for you storys.

    Reply

  46. mark Says:

    do you edit out every post that doesn't kiss your ass?

    Reply

  47. Missy Says:

    Ha ha ha ha J, that was great!

    Reply

  48. piu piu Says:

    insincere and trite

    Reply

  49. merkley??? Says:

    barf

    Reply

  50. Lisa Says:

    …I’m not sure I get it. ? Is this you saying (without saying) your fears have been realized?

    Reply

  51. jeneria Says:

    I really dislike when you throw up a really old post and give no indication up front that it’s a really old post. At least change the entry titles to say “Revisited” or something so we know.

    Reply

  52. Desiree Says:

    Wow, powerful. I am guessing a low point in your marriage. Love it that you are so real about your bad times– we’ve all been there!

    Reply

  53. Emily Hatcher, Atlanta GA Says:

    Stephanie,

    My sister let me borrow “Straight Up and Dirty”. Let me just tell you that as soon as I picked up that book I couldn’t put it down and now I have been sitting here reading for three hours and I am almost through with it. Your words, spirit, and encouragement will probably forever change my life. I have friends whose husbands have cheated on them, but never have I heard such a witty story with such raw truth explained in a way that makes you realize that you are worth more than that.

    When I got to the part where you discovered that Gabe was cheating on you, I began to cry because I can relate to your story. I somehow tend to find men who want to be single for the rest of their lives and I am so trusting that in the past I have believed their lies and made excuses. There are gentlemen who want to be married, who are loving and will never try to hide their real selves. After being with a man from age 21 to 25 (I am 25 now), I discovered that from the first year of our relationship he had lied to me about numerous things so that he could live his double life which included playing an online video game every night which consumed his life so much he failed out of college (and lying about going to class),telling me he wanted to finish college but never did, starting a relationship with an 18 year old girl (he’s 27), amongst other heinous bulls**t that came out of his mouth as he told me with a poker face. I know one day that I will find a man who is thoughtful, emotionally availbale, and one who knows his identity.. your advice reminds me to hold my head high and take the hurricanes with a smile.

    Thanks for your website and writings.

    Emily

    Reply

    • Stephanie Klein Says:

      Aww, Emily, thank you. So much. And lady, yes, be the bull… that is to say, it’s faster to go through the storm than it is to take the long slow road of trying to stay and whether the storm. Much love to you. Just remember, everything phenomenal almost always begins with a breakup!

      Reply

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