As of today, Tim and I have been married for ten years. A lot can happen, and can happen to a person, in that time span. I’ve only lived in two other places besides New Orleans: Tucson, Arizona and Los Angeles. I didn’t make a decade in either place. I got close in Tucson (nine years), and only stayed in Los Angeles for seven years. Yet, in each instance, it was more than enough time to go through some truly transformative changes.
I can’t think about my transformation within this relationship without coming back to these two things: time and effort. Let me start with the time piece, and I’ll get to effort in a bit.
Both Tim and I have had a healthy respect for time qualifiers throughout the course of our relationship. When things were very new between us, we struck a bargain for a renewal option: “Let’s see where we are in six months, and figure it out from there.”
By now, we’ve lost track of how many options we’ve exercised. (It’s more than twenty, because we were together a few years before we got married.) To this day, when people ask how long we’ve been together, our rote reply is: “six months.”
A time qualifier is a big part of our “meet cute” story. Upon our second meeting (ever), Tim asked me to marry him. My response was, “Why don’t you ask me again in another year?”
A little background: I lived in Los Angeles when I first met Tim. I was in New Orleans for family matters, and it just happened to be during Mardi Gras. I spent the weekend doing family stuff, but spent the Monday, Lundi Gras, with my friend from childhood, Peggy. My brother Stephen refers to her as “my first friend Peggy.”
We were a small group amongst the crowds in the French Quarter: Peggy, her husband John, myself, and Tim. Tim and I made friends immediately. He is naturally witty and outgoing, and I am not. Not naturally, at least—it takes a great deal of energy on my part to put that face forward.
I appreciated in Tim a fellow soul who is not afraid to run things into the ground. We spent most of that evening going back to Taaka vodka’s ad slogan: “Mixes easy, just add people.” How it hadn’t changed in thirty years, how the same billboard had been in the same spot on I-10 for as long as we could remember, and a bunch of other stuff that I don’t recall, but was funny to me at the time.
Here was my impression when we parted that evening: You sure don’t meet someone like Tim in too many places. Very comfortable in his skin, loyal to his home, family and friends, almost to a fault. A real New Orleanian, who would seem very out of place anywhere else.
The next time I saw Tim was May of that same year. I was in town for Jazz Fest. Peggy and I had gone to the Fairgrounds together, and we had left to meet up with John, who was hanging out at Tim’s apartment (walking distance from the Fairgrounds). It happened to be Cinco de Mayo.
I remember really needing to use the bathroom. And I remember Tim standing outside his apartment, a brief exchange between us, and then Tim asking me to marry him.
I can’t tell you why I answered as I did: “Why don’t you ask me again in another year?” It could be because I was in a “complicated” relationship at the time, and I didn’t know where it was headed. It could be because I thought getting to know Tim a little better wouldn’t be such a bad thing. Or it could be that I just really wanted to pee so I could think straight again.
Fast forward to May fifth of the following year. I was spending a lazy Sunday in my apartment in Los Angeles. Peggy called me—she and John were in the middle of a housewarming / Cinco de Mayo party. I could tell there was much joviality on the other end of the line. She said there was someone who wanted to talk to me, and then there was Tim, saying I had told him to ask about matrimony in another year, and here it was, another year.
That time my answer was, “How about we go on a date, first, next time I’m in New Orleans?” But the impact of that phone call can’t be understated. My response to him a year prior had been a sort of throwaway line. And we hadn’t seen each other at all in the time intervening. Yet he remembered and honored it.
It took about nine months for a long-distance correspondence to begin, and then another few months for that date to happen. And then the decision to leave Los Angeles and return home to New Orleans. (There were many things that factored into that decision, yet Tim was a pretty big part of it.)
So there you go—a healthy respect for time and its effects, on both our parts.
About effort. My parents had a theme, it was something I think my mother said to my father: “The highest honor you can pay a person is to deem them worth the effort it takes to stay married to them.” Not the most romantic of thoughts, yet I think there is a lot of truth in that statement.
But for me, it’s not the whole truth. It seems awfully one-sided. And I don’t like the implication—that marriages (and relationships) that don’t last are somehow “less worthy.” It feels radically un-Christian, and it’s not how I think.
The truth is closer to this: there are relationships in my past that ended because I didn’t like who I was becoming for the effort. If you believe that there is good at the core of most people (which I do), then everyone should be worth the effort. But in choosing someone to spend the rest of your life with, it should be a complimentary good. By choosing to be together, and put in the effort to stay together, you should both come out better for the endeavor.
Speaking for myself, I know, I know with a soul-baring conviction, that is the case with me. I am more comfortable in my skin, more hopeful for the future, more empowered to take on fortune’s slings and arrows, with Tim in my life.
And that is why I can say with the same soul-baring conviction that I’m looking forward to the next six months.