The Long Valentine's Day
I've been asked to repost this essay from several years back — still true:
Somewhere in the courts of celestial justice, an error was made in my favor and I got to marry Ellen. She was hitchhiking in Berkeley, California when I saw her first. Slender, movie star beautiful, nearly six feet tall. I was walking back from classes to fetch my car and I remember thinking, Look at that gorgeous Amazon! I started running for the garage, hoping to start my ancient Dodge and get to her before someone else picked her up. I had to drive around the corner to reach her, and I went so fast I clipped the sidewalk. The minute she climbed aboard, I had the odd sensation that all the jigsaw pieces of the world had quietly snapped together. I drove her home and we talked for hours.
That was over thirty years ago. What followed has been a marriage so passionate and adoring that I'm the only old married man I know who is envied by young single guys. We’ve had exactly one serious argument, twenty years past, in a moment of crisis and exhaustion. The experts say it's wrong not to argue. But Ellen wakes up smiling every morning and I rush home to see her every night so we somehow manage to live with the disapproval of the experts.
We are frequently asked what our secret is. My wife says, laughing, "Never say no to sex." I say, laughing, "Marry Ellen." More seriously, we did make a conscious decision to ignore the diktats of feminism. I don’t prescribe this necessarily: to each his own. But Ellen made me the king of our household and the captain of our lives, and it worked for us. A female dinner guest was once so appalled by the way Ellen treats me, she burst out, “You cook and clean for him and serve him. What does he do?” Ellen smiled and simply opened her hands to indicate the roof over our heads and the food on our table and the happy, well-mannered children at our sides, and the guest fell silent.
Which is only to say: she made a man of me, and in gratitude, I made her happiness my northern star. I made sure she could stay home to take care of the kids and keep house when it was time for that and that she could go to grad school and to work when that time came. I tried to live up to her clearly overblown impression of my good qualities. I was faithful to her, which was sometimes hard.