“Okay, class it’s time for a teacher lecture, but I’m going to make it short. Here are two things you need to know…”
I launched into my monologue about studying and handing assignments in on time and everything was fine until I said the word penalize. I enunciated it carefully, drawing the sounds out to make sure I was making an impact. I wanted them to know their study habits have consequences. Well, the word certainly impacted them, but not in the way I was hoping.
I titter bubbled up from one corner of the room and then rippled through the sea of eleven-year-old bodies before me. In a split second the furtive glances turned to guffaws.
“Oh… I see…
Yes, penalize really does sound a lot like penis, doesn’t it? Penalize, Penis. Penis, Penalize.”
I thought I might as well bring the joke out in the open for everyone to enjoy,and deal with quickly.
I’m not sure if that was the best way to handle it, but I realized later that the book I was reading the night before may have had something to do with the way “penis” came so easily to me in front of my sixth grade class.
The book is not entirely about the male appendage, but it is about marriage, sex and covenantal love. I rarely buy books, but I couldn’t order this one from my library so I knew I had to make the purchase. I was happy to do it too, because the author is a friend I had during my university years. And though we haven’t kept in touch, reading his words was like having coffee with him in the dimly lit bistro where we used to hang out after going to one of the MTC Theatre Warehouse plays.
Kurt Armstrong, author of Why Love Will Always be a Poor Investment, doesn’t claim to offer an easy program for the perfect marriage; instead he writes stories about the mystery of a life-giving, I-don’t-need-to-win kind of love.
When he relates how he and his wife, Erika, fight, I see a mirror of Stan and myself.
“And while she is getting ready for bed, I’m here engaged in the argument in my head, scripting perfect arguments for why I’m justified for being angry, and how everything would be fine if she would just acknowledge that. My lines are fantastic. I craft pointed, clever one-liners… I have just the right response for everything she says, and I express myself clearly and with just the right amount of righteous anger. Gradually, she comes to see things from my point of view. Really, she ought to be grateful to be married to a guy like me, so kind and generous, moral rational, right more often than not…”
Of course, when his wife does come to bed, she turns off the light, slips under the covers, and keeps her distance. The perfect argument never happens at all. When I read this part I realized he nailed one of my major frustrations; when my blood starts to boil I feel a desperate, savage need to make Stan see that I am right and he is wrong. I also fight like Erika, who,
“…fights hot, like a pile of small sticks on fire, and she argues like she’s driving a bulldozer, trying to finish a demolition job as the machine is about to run out of fuel… Her words are fast, unscripted, and uncensored, jumping back and forth between defense and offense. She says whatever she needs to until she feels better, and once she has everything off her chest, she feels fine again…” (p81)
And then, a few pages later he touches on the mystery and the hard work of falling back in love again.
“…I’m sorry,” she says,turning her face towards me for the first time in hours.
Love hits me sideways.
…and as the wall between us crumbles we find our way back to one another, back to love that is broad enough for the two of us and our trivial, terrifying, impossible differences.” (p83)
It’s sometimes helpful to get tips from marriage gurus and counselors, but I prefer hearing honest stories about how other ordinary marriages work. Don’t you?
Thanks Jodi, for the book recommendation, and Kurt (if you are out there), for putting a part of yourself on paper.