Recently a HinesSight reader, who would remain nameless except for my writing “Karen Lord,” asked a question that goes right to the heart of my marital relationship, and deserves answering in some detail. Before we get into this, I should add that Karen is our CPA. And a very good CPA at that. Further, she is probably the only liberal/progressive CPA in the entire United States, a real mark of distinction. So, if you call up Karen, tell her Brian sent you. Recently we referred a new client to her, which means, I hope, that we get a free tax return once we hit a total of ten referrals.
At any rate, Karen said that she has been enjoying this weblog, including my frequent appeals to God to prove Her divine omnipotence and omnibenevolence by placing a new Mini-Cooper S in my driveway. Apparently Karen is as skeptical as I am becoming that God is going to come through on this deal, notwithstanding how eminently reasonable it sounds to me, because she asked, “Why won’t Laurel let you have a Mini-Cooper?” Now, the more interesting theological question is, “Why won’t God let me have a Mini-Cooper?” But this query is shrouded in mystery, while Karen’s question is easier to answer.
It isn’t just that Laurel won’t let me have a Mini-Cooper. Actually, Laurel has left me with nothing at all, a Mini-Cooper being included in this nothing, along with everything else that I don’t have which I either used to have, or would like to have. This is, I believe, entirely normal after thirteen years of marriage, so I’m not complaining. And please, don’t tell Laurel that I sound like I’m complaining (she reads this weblog rather infrequently, thank heavens), or she may take away even more of my few remaining privileges and possessions, for being a malcontented boy.
It always has seemed to me that the Buddha would have achieved enlightenment much more rapidly if he had remained a householder, because detachment from one’s worldly possessions is part and parcel of a man’s married life. When Laurel and I got married in 1990, I remember that I moved in quite a few pieces of favorite furniture, including a beloved couch that was the most comfortable couch I had ever had. All gone. I also hung quite a few pieces of artwork on our walls that I had accumulated over the years. All gone. Bit by bit, piece by piece, everything in the house that was mine got replaced, until I could no longer remember who I was once, because I was now…All Hers.
So, Karen, I wish the question were so straightforward as, “Why won’t Laurel let you have a Mini-Cooper?” We have to start on a more basic level, “Why won’t Laurel let you have anything at all?” The simplest answer, of course, is that she is the Ruler, and I am the ruled. A serf has no possessions of his own. Everything belongs to the Manor Lord. He feels grateful to have what few belongings remain to him, though I am having difficulty identifying these, as our married years grow in number.
Until recently, a small painting given to me by a neighbor in the town where I grew up (Three Rivers) hung over a spare washer and dryer in the relatively unused side of our house. My god, it was over a washer and dryer, next to the hose hookups. I had optimistically thought that this little memory of my youth would be left to me by my Lord and Master, because it was in such an inconspicuous location.
But then, the all-too-frequent conversation happened once again. Laurel said, “How attached are you to that painting over the washer and dryer?” “Very much so, my Queen, my Liege,” I replied. “I beg permission to be allowed to keep this small piece of artwork, for it was given to me by an old friend, and it means a lot to me.” “If that is so,” said She, “then, pray tell, describe to me the painting that you admire so greatly.” “Ah, well” I stammered, “it is a wonderful image of, um, a mountain. Or, perhaps, trees by a river. Flowers?” “You have no idea what hangs over the washer and dryer, do you, Serf?” “No, Mistress,” I had to admit. “Then my edict is that it shall be banished to the attic, along with all the other paintings you had before we got married, and it shall be replaced by the print I just got at the Art Fair, and have had framed.”
And so it goes. I no longer know who I am, or what I like. I have become an image of She, my Wife, my Chooser-of-Art, Arbiter-of-Clothes, Home-Decorator-Supreme. For a while, I foolishly thought that the garden would escape Her attention. But this was fantasy, for She sees all, and knows all. What is not approved by Her does not last. This is the way of Marriage, and I know that I must accept my destiny. A few years ago I had the temerity to buy some lilies and plant them by our front walk. I enjoyed them as they bloomed once a year, and became deer food soon thereafter. And now…they are gone. Unrooted. Replaced by a Laurel Plant.
As it should be. As it has been. As it will be, forever and forever. When we married, what was mine in the home, closet, and garden became Hers. And what was Hers became Hers. So now, all is Hers. And I am gloriously free of the burden of earthly possessions. Including a Mini-Cooper. It is said, “No man can serve two masters.” But all married men do. The Lord above, and the Lord next to him in bed. I accept my place. I love to obey. I shall be content with what I receive.
Unless… [to be continued]