Below By SUSAN DIESENHOUSE Published: August 23, 2001
From the New York Times:CAMBRIDGE, Mass.— ROBERT B. PARKER and his wife, Joan, have been together for almost half a century, have raised two children, and since 1987 have worked together turning his famous detective novels into TV movies. He dedicates his books to her, and she appears in them, thinly veiled, as a major character named Susan.
But real life has thrown them some curves. In 1982, they separated and discussed divorce. Instead, they each underwent intensive psychotherapy and confronted a vexing truth. Despite incompatible lifestyles -- she is tirelessly social, he's a loner -- they couldn't or wouldn't sever their bonds.
''In 1984, we reunited in a loving, monogamous relationship,'' said Mr. Parker, 69. With the slight smile that is a cue for some classic Parker-fiction banter, he glanced at Ms. Parker and said, ''Her yearning for me was palpable.''
Mr. Parker, creator of the tough but erudite private investigator Spenser, got a response befitting Susan, Spenser's feisty girlfriend.
''That is humor based on fantasy,'' she said.
Those of you who dubiously pondered my adoration of Robert B. Parker must surely see, through this small snippet, why I would love his work.
I never thought of myself as anything, but a writer. The normal labels people take on from birth- as we begin someone's daughter or son- were subverted in my family by the incredibly vast and debilitating space between each family member. At times, my sister and I clung to each other. My mother and my sister had long periods of ease. There was never a period where I felt strongly ' I am part of a family ' : I am a daughter, a sister. I felt like me. What this meant to me was a conundrum of personality quirks that I did not understand and most commonly did not like or want, a constant need to write from age 5, a fierce love of nature and of facing the truth. At 19 I had Dakota and I was, life-savingly, someone's mother.
Now here I am, someone's wife. What this means to me, what I believe a wife acts like, looks like, thinks like, most importantly (to me) what a wife feels like, I am only beginning to observe. The first year of our marriage was like a long adrenaline rush. Lola was a baby and the boys were in school, I was home and Mr. Curry worked and came home and we ate, had scrambled hurried amazing sex almost nightly, watched Sex in the City, Sopranos or Six Feet Under, and then slept, Lola in between us. Being a wife meant nurse the baby. It meant have sex. It meant clean the kitchen. It meant ask how his day was. It meant when people looked at me and then looked at my finger they saw I was married. It seemed that simple.
One day Mr. Curry came home in a bad mood. A really, really, really bad mood. I felt a rising fury, a betrayal, that I would be exhausted, Lola cried and nursed all day, my nipples were sore, the boys had been fighting, the dog shit on the floor, the shower was not producing hot water, and all I wanted in the world was for Mr. Curry to produce hot water, and here he comes, home from work in this foul and rude mood.
A husband should always put his family before his feelings. A husband should clean what his wife could not, and he should do so that day, so the house looks less like a hurricane and more like a home. A husband should fix anything that is broken, and if he cannot, he should learn how quickly, and he should do so nicely, without complaining. Why should he do that? Because he is a husband.
So quickly we realize ourselves, when there is no hot water. It took me five minutes to have all those emotions, from the time Mr. Curry stepped in the door, scowled, went to the bathroom and began muttering and complaining about fixing the shower, attempted for 10 minutes to fix the shower before giving up and then getting even more angry when I asked him to go get the necessary parts now, and not tomorrow. I did not care that he never complained- ever- about the state of our house, not even in a jokey manner. I did not care that he constantly told me how sexy and beautiful I was, even with milk dripping down my chest and my hair in a knot and my skin greasy and last night's sweats still on. I did not care that even though the kids were late to school because I couldn't get them and Lola out the door on time, he didn't judge me. I cared about the damn hot water, and his grumpy attitude.
I did not know that I had a laundry list of requirements for a husband, or that this was only the beginning of wondering what a wife is, too, and truly and realizing in the middle of living it- when most things are realized- that I had no idea what I was doing. Life rolled on so very quickly and fiercely- including a major issue I don't address here on the blog and also the loss of Mr. Curry's business (which he worked very hard to obtain and build and for which I will be eternally proud of him) owed tax dollars, moving when our landlord raised the rent, losing Mr. Curry's expensive truck, Dakota's transition from private to public school (brutal), my chronic pain worsening and then three surgeries, the serious and prolonged illness and death of both my Grandparents who I was helping care for, my mother almost dying in the hospital due to organ failure- I could go on, but I'd be afraid you would swallow Vodka and arsenic and give up your religion. It was a road raising children and adapting to life, and the dynamics of a marriage don't have much time to be felt up, so to speak. This is what makes getting married with family already in tow hard(er).
0Over the last year I have been thinking seriously about my role in my own life. I am a wife. I am a mother. I had Dakota so young, and took the role of mother so deeply, so to the core, that I literally swung immediately from being a self absorbed fucked up teenager to a sober and hard working, school attending, nursing and bringing baby to work momma. Dakota was 7 when I became pregnant with Lola, and I was on the cusp of a more- much more- self-created life, kicking ass in school and beginning to travel to LA on weekends to audition for things like the N'Sync video I danced in. Marriage, baby, life. I absolutely am not blaming anyone and I absolutely do not feel this was a bad thing. If I hadn't had Dakota I do not honestly know what would have happened to me. I was so deeply, bone breakingly lonely and sad. Dakota breathed love into my heart, it's that true. I am stating the facts, because they matter, and they matter as to why, at 35 and working feverishly on my novel, I spend a great amount of time feeling terrifically guilty for working feverishly on my novel, and for the time I spend here- even though, I have become very disciplined with my time here, and only moon over the screen for endless hours when it is the weekend and the kids are busy or playing. They matter as to why at 35 and in a deeply loving but very strained marriage, I am increasingly unsure of how I am supposed to contribute to this marriage, or to what degree, or what boxes are marked X and which are left empty, and where who I am is allowed to be staked in the ground next to who Mr. Curry is, instead of the one-ness that marriage is.
What I'd really like is if a room full of people in very similar circumstances to us lined up, and I could compare myself to them. That's how my mind works. I want to know, where do I stand next to XYO. How well am I doing here? Am I a good person, or just the thinly veiled character of one on my blog?
I am not thinking of anything revolutionary, or new, just the same thing most of you wives and mothers each or both have thought about yourself over the years. I am asking myself a lot of questions at night, when I watch movies, or read. I want to know what being a wife means to me. I want to know how my internalized, unspoken definition of being a Wife or Husband is shaping my marriage. I want to know how my idea about a wife stacks up to 'most people'. I want to know, like I do when I get interested in something, every fucking thing there ever was to know about being married.
And then the teacher will like me best, and I'll get an A, and no homework.