Trader Joe’s Honeynut O’s make this strange crackling sound in the milk. It’s distracting. It also freaks me out a little. Why are they popping? Is that what all-natural cereals that are supposed to be made out of pure sugar do?
The other thing that’s distracting is this tiny orange cat on my lap. Her name is Minette. Or possibly Minnow, or Minute, or all three of those and more. My cousin found her outside, being bullied by other, much larger cats. We have taken her in for as long as it takes for her to get all of the shots and tests and apartment-training she needs before she can be officially adopted. Except that she has a bump on her nose, and I sort of love her.
And Bear and I are having the most stereotypical moment in our new marriage, because, while he likes her, he doesn’t see any reason why she absolutely has to stay, and he is making a lot of points about the smell of the litter and how this is a new apartment and how there’s this awful parasite cats carry that can destroy your brain. It’s even worse if you’re pregnant. It will destroy your brain and the brain of your unborn child, who will appear perfectly normal for several years and then suddenly…I point out that I am definitely not pregnant. Still, he says, he doesn’t want anything to happen to HIS brain.
I ask him if he’s ever known anyone who this has happened to. Out of all the people he knows who have cats. He avoids the question.
Here’s the thing I did that was really stereotypical: I didn’t ask him first. I just said yes, to the cat staying here. And then, in my head, I said yes to her staying forever.
Here’s the thing he did that really surprised me: He was annoyed.
What? I thought, hurt, Why are we such dramatically different people all of a sudden? How can we want such strikingly different things? I thought we were so similar! I thought we wanted the same things…
Yes. My mind got that obnoxiously melodramatic.
You know why? Because of all those things that people are always saying about marriage. People always have so much to say, and most of it isn’t great.
“We can’t meet in public, my wife and I,” says the successful French writer who is tempting the protagonist in the movie Crossing Delancey. “We would take bloody, bite-sized pieces out of each other. Have you ever been like that– Married?”
And that prominent neurobiologist or whatever she is, at Rutgers, I think her first name is Helen, who does those studies about love, and it’s always like, “After the first two years of a relationship, the chemistry of the brain changes subtly, and the partners will find themselves no longer experiencing the emotions that we identify as ‘passionate love’.”
Shit. It’s been two years since we started dating. A little over.
Most of the time, I have that cocky attitude that newlywed people are supposed to have. I’m like, “Whatevs! That’s just cuz you guys aren’t in love like us! We’re the most in love! We win!”
But then, sometimes, it occurs to me that that’s exactly the way everyone is supposed to feel before they stop experiencing the thing that we identify as “passionate love.” Right before they move on to the stage called “constant irritation” or “platonic disapproval” or “fighting over the cat” or whatever is next.
Oh god, I think. Oh god. There’s nothing I can do.
No, I’m joking. The thing to do is be loving. I’ve figured it out.
“I hear you,” I said last night, trying to be a good wife. “You don’t want the cat to stay. We can give her up.”
And as I said it, I imagined her with someone else. Some careless, faceless stranger who might not appreciate the shape of her nose as much. And I missed her in advance. And then I felt angry at Bear. Why wasn’t he missing her in advance, too?
There’s that thing again. The thing where I want him to be the same as me. It’s so immature. I’m so immature.
“Kate,” says Bear, “We are really similar.”
Which, outwardly, is a funny thing for a high-powered businessman who remembers every fact he’s ever read to say to a waiting-for-a-break writer who always almost almost forgets her own social security number. But really, we are, and we always count on our similarities.
“I just want you to know how I feel,” he says, of the cat situation. Which is totally fair.
But now that I know, what do I do? For now, I’m hoping that this will keep happening:
I think Helen what’s-her-name would agree: pretty irresistible. And anyway, our love is really strong. The people in all those studies have nothing on us!
* * *
Unroast: Today I love the way I look when my belt matches my boots.
46 Responses to “a third party enters my marriage and threatens to ruin everything”