February 12, 2002
Marital Gumbo


David is standing, half-lathered, in the bathroom doorway ... razor in hand, towel slung over one shoulder, looking all damp and pink and wistful.

"I wish today was a riding day," he says with a sigh. "Don't you?"

The question catches me off guard. As I sit on the bed on this Monday morning, hurriedly dabbing Maybelline onto my face, bike riding is pretty much the last thing I'm thinking about. Mostly I'm thinking about work, and about all the stuff I didn't finish last Friday, and about all the things I need to do when I get into office this morning.  I'm anxious to finish binding that groundwater monitoring report. (Holy shidt! I'm anxious to finish binding a GROUNDWATER MONITORING REPORT.)  But then I see the expression on David's face  --  he looks like a little kid who went to bed the night before, praying for a snow day, only to wake up to cloudless blue skies  --  and I am reminded that even though we may have fixed *my* job situation, his job situation remains broken.

"Maybe we could call in 'lazy,' " I suggest, only partially in jest. We could leave vague disaffected voicemail messages for our bosses -- "Sorry! Can't make it in today!"  --  and then we could pack a picnic lunch, load our bikes into the Subaru and head back to the Alameda Creek Trail. We left a lot of ground uncovered there, last Saturday.

David shakes his head. "I want more than just a riding DAY," he says mournfully. "I want to be riding FULLTIME." 

And he turns around and heads back into the bathroom to finish shaving.

David on the Alameda Creek Trail

I watch him walk away with a mixture of affection, empathy ... and guilt.

The truth is -- and don't tell David I said so, OK? -- I'm not so sure that I want EVERY day to be a riding day.  As we move further into the year  --  as we head deeper into this whole insane "2002 in 2002" riding commitment  --  I already know that I'm going to be the one secretly praying for snow days in July. I already know that I'm going to be the one who will need to be coaxed and cajoled and bribed into climbing onto the Schwinn at 7 a.m. on Saturday mornings.

And I already know that riding will always mean a bazillion times more to David than it will to me.

As much as I enjoy being on a bike -- and I do enjoy it, make no mistake about that: there are moments, as a matter of fact, when the experience is positively transcendent -- David is far and away the more passionate of the two of us when it comes to riding. My enthusiasm/participation level hinges on any number of variables: the weather, the traffic, the time of year, the time of month, how much I slept the night before, whether I'm having a Good Hair Day, whether I'm having a Not-Good Hair Day, how much air is in my front tire, how much money is in my checking account, whether my moon is in Virgo or Pisces or Walla Walla, Washington.

David, on the other hand, could probably ride his bike nude in a snowstorm, at any time of the month, and be perfectly happy.

Young Dumb Inexperienced Secra might have worried about this troubling discrepancy in passion levels, at least when it comes to bike riding. She would have seen it as a warning sign that the relationship was in peril. She probably would have started looking at all the other areas within the marriage where one partner cares more deeply about something than the other does  --  politics, housework, shoe shopping, Internet journaling, the stock market, Entertainment Tonight, Bob Dylan bootlegs  --  and she would wonder where it all went wrong. She would worry this non-issue, like a Shitzu worrying a chew toy, driving everybody crazy in the process, until the non-issue eventually became an issue by default.

Young Dumb Inexperienced Secra was like that.

Older Smarter Been-Around-The-Block Secra, on the other hand, understands that this blend of His Stuff/Her Stuff  --  the things he loves, the things she loves, the things they love together  --  is what makes a marriage interesting. She compares it to a big pot of gumbo: a lot of disparate ingredients that somehow manage to complement each other in the final blend. She understands that just as an all-seafood gumbo (or an all-okra gumbo, or an all-chicken-beak gumbo) would be excruciatingly uninspired, so would her marriage be if she and her husband felt exactly the same way about everything. Plus, she reminds herself, in most of the areas that really count  --  their marriage, their children, their sobriety, their art  --  she and Ю僱êrvØ¡ are just about evenly matched in the passion department.

Older Smarter Been-Around-The-Block Secra is a preachy, pompous know-it-all. But she's right more often than she's wrong, so we're allowing her to live.

I walk into the bathroom, where David is finishing up his morning shave.

"I wish it was a riding day too," I fib, ever-so-tenderly.  And I kiss him on the tip of one Barbasol-scented ear.



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