A week or so ago I went down to the St. Louis area to attend the 40th wedding anniversary party for the BF’s oldest sister. Once more, for the record, the BF has four older sisters, five older brothers, and one of each category that’s younger. If he were a space alien on a syndicated sci fi show, his name might be Ten Of Twelve (or Welke Rocol, if Star Wars; I’m Mofle Lehon, which I almost like better than my real name). I think I have all their names down, though I get stuck sometimes remembering the string of five boys in a row; I’ll start the litany just fine—“Bobbie, Jimmy, John, Steve…”—but right around “Steve” I start to falter and just end up saying “oh your poor mother.”
The 40th anniversary is the “ruby” anniversary, according to both the traditional and modern lists provided by Hallmark. This makes me doubt just how “modern” the modern list is; after all, rubies may be precious but they aren’t exactly high on most people’s list of desirable objects, male or female, unless we’re talking ruby-encrusted home entertainment centers. In fact, a look at the “modern” list reveals that almost everything from 10 through 60 is pretty much jewelry-oriented, with few exceptions (15, watches, being one of my favorites, so long as that includes Garmins). I imagine the BF’s favorite would be traditional 14, which used to be ivory but happily was changed to, get this, “animals.” Guess I’d better start saving up for that ostrich he’ll be wanting.
It is really too easy to make fun of these lists, which is probably why so many people like to follow them. There’s a whimsical randomness about the whole business that makes it much more fun than a more serious and appropriate list would be. For all that people remark on how the first anniversary gift of paper is a blunt reminder of just how little you’ve been through together so far, this is actually one of the more fun and creative parameters since you can do books, tickets to events, framed prints, or lists of things you promise to do. One of the worst, in my view, is modern 7. Desk sets? Seriously? What is modern about desk sets, and why in the living hell would you get your spouse of seven years a desk set at any point in time much less your anniversary? Maybe it’s meant to coincide with the so-called seven-year itch, and the desk set becomes necessary for signing divorce papers? Man, that’s just awful.
I daresay whimsical randomness may very well be one of the things that make a relationship good. There are jokes the BF and I share that I could not possibly explain to anyone else even if I wanted to—and I don’t want to, because that’s private stuff between him and me. (Besides, much of it is likely to make young folks go “ewww” at the thought of such old geezers as us saying such things.) A relationship takes work, but it also takes play, as well as a certain degree of understanding that a lot of what we do in relationships is an act. I don’t mean that it’s fake; there’s a big difference between acting and faking, because in acting we create ourselves, but in faking we obstruct that creation process. There is no “true self,” in my opinion, no absolute core of a person; there are rather different personae that we have at different times in different situations. If you accept this, you can have quite a bit of fun with that partner of yours.
My parents’ 50th anniversary is this September, and while that tends to make people go “aw” with a sentimental head tilt when I mention it, to me it signifies not quite that they stuck it out and made it work so much as they simply decided it was just easier this way—a triumph of complacency. I have never wanted a marriage like my parents’—so far I’ve avoided having any kind of marriage at all, not because I’m anti-marriage but rather, ironically, just the opposite. I do not believe that marriage has to be forever, especially given that there are significant benefits of being alone, but I do think marriage means, more or less, saying “what the hell, let’s give it a try,” in a way that’s both whimsical and completely serious. As I have recently discovered, it is possible to be both.
The reason I began ruminating on anniversaries wasn’t because of the BF’s sister or my parents but because friends of ours are celebrating their ninth tomorrow. Nine seems paltry compared to 40 or 50, but according to the modern list they get leather, probably the gift most readily adaptable to a certain kind of whimsy, or at least the most likely to provoke smirks, winks, and nudges. Even if your whimsy isn’t of the smirky type, there are plenty of ways the flayed, tanned hide of a dead cow can still symbolize your enduring love. Some of those ways may be a bit of a stretch, but leather is both flexible and strong, kind of like marriage … or, something, I don’t know … hey, you can figure it out yourselves—or, even better, make it up randomly as you go along.