When the truth is far stranger than fiction

When the truth is far stranger than fiction

This one’s for everyone who’s married.

Those of you who aren’t, feel free to breathe a sigh of relief.

As I’ve written over and over and over for as long as I’ve been doing this for a living, I do not understand human relationships.

Never have, never will.

Nonetheless, as a husband who has — fortunately enough — figured out the how, if not the why, I count myself among the lucky ones.

Allow me to state this at the outset.

Had the woman who asked me out on a date 34 years ago this very month chosen to do something else that Saturday afternoon — go to the library, clean out her summer clothes closet, maybe take in a showing of “Fatal Attraction” — it’s possible I’d be dead.

Well, that’s a bit dramatic because I don’t intend to die, ever, just to hack off those who thought I’d be gone long before now, my weaknesses being what they are and their well-meaning admonitions I’ve not so much ignored as laughed at.

It’s right there in the Good Book. To everything, there is a season.

And now that it’s finally fall, that means my wife and I are heading for the Outer Banks to celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary.

Save your applause until later because what you’re about to read might just change not only your opinion of our marriage, but also the very concept of wedded bliss itself, the notion that when two become one, there might just be a little problem with the math.

So I decided to conduct an experiment.

“Write down the five places — stores, restaurants, attractions — that you absolutely have to experience next week,” I said. “I’ll do the same, and we’ll see what we can find out.”

Now I’ll be the first to admit that on a scale of 1-to-Kitty Hawk, where the Wright Brothers made first-in-flight history, it wasn’t exactly ground-breaking theoretical tinkering/thinking.

What Wilbur and Orville did there in 1903 changed the world.

What I had suggested was less grand in scale, though I was interested in the results. It was a marriage moment, I thought.

When my wife compared our lists a few minutes later, after she had deciphered my spidery writing, it was illuminating.

“We matched on three of five,” she said. “What does it mean?”

“Well,” I said, “we still have some work to do, don’t we?”

I was kidding. No couple could be expected to match every single selection on a random topic like that. It would be too boring.

Relationships need, if not outright conflict, then a healthy dose of me-ism and you-ism. In meteorological terms, a warm front colliding with a cold front can produce some scary weather.

The lucky couples can ride out those storms, making it look easy.

Look at Ralph and Alice Kramden or Archie and Edith Bunker. They clashed all the time, but their homes also were filled with love.

Those were, of course, fictional marriages, as was Rob and Laura Petrie’s, but they remain, to my way of thinking, worthy ideals.

I wasn’t without spousal role models in the real world, either. My parents had their disagreements, usually springing from Mom’s rather intransigent way of looking at life, but aside from the occasional back-and-forth over Dad’s driving, they hid it from us.

Divorce, when I was growing up, was rarer than a lunar eclipse; in fact, of all my friends, only one had parents who’d split, and even they were rumored to be taking a break while the father was away “on business” or the mother was spending time “with her sister.”

That didn’t mean the vast majority of the others were engaged in perfectly stable relationships. That would be naïve, but like the Kramdens, the Bunkers and the Petries, I bought the illusion.

Does anyone remember Leo and Shelly from “Twin Peaks?” Their marriage, like Laura Palmer herself, had secrets. She was a waitress carrying on with the cocky high school quarterback whenever her husband, a long-haul trucker, was on the road.

“Look what you made me do!” Leo shrieked as he bound and gagged his wife, bent on revenge. “I loved you, Shelly!”

Not to give anything away — heck, “Twin Peaks” ended 30 years ago — but Leo miscalculated the least little bit, and it cost him a lot.

As David Bowie so aptly put it, “I don’t believe in modern love.”

So where does that leave us? I don’t know about you, but my wife and I are driving three hours north so we can savor a week on the beach in an oceanfront house that features a hot tub on the deck.

Oh, and for those of you who may want to correct me, I know the Wright Brothers made their flight in Kill Devil Hills, not Kitty Hawk, but like a lot of folks, I tend to fall for the fiction in life.

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