What is Love? What Will It Be Tomorrow?
“I wondered about the experience of being in relationship to a new body in a new country—like an American lesbian married to a man in Berlin.”
Most of our writing about love tries to do it in primary colors, in bold strokes. We write about and perform the operatic beginnings of love and the elegiac ends. We write about the first dates, and first kids and that first time walking the neighborhood without your partner of 50 years.
We don’t spend a lot of time talking about the grind, the hard work of learning how to be a person while taking every step alongside another person figuring out thing at the exact same time. We shorthand this sort of thing as “marriage is hard”. But it’s really the bulk of what marriage is.
Jeanette Winterson talks about relationships this way some in her writing. It always ends of feeling more like poetry than narrative because how else do you describe two rivers flowing into one another while carving their place in the world at breakneck speed before coming to the end of their world and emptying out into a great void containing all the water that has ever made that same trip?
Lynette D’Amico writes in the same way. Her essay “Men I Hate: The Stasi Men” never looks the terror of changed love in the eye, but never can escape it. Or rather, not changed love, but a changed relationship to love. D’Amico’s husband transitioned gender a few years ago leaving the relationship utterly changed and nothing but questions for D’Amico.
“How does it feel to be straight?” he’d joke to me. “We’re like a hetero couple now.”
Nothing is funny to me. For twenty years, I never had to think about my identity in relation to my marriage. Everybody saw me as queer. I saw myself as queer. What did I look like next to a man? Not myself, not queer.
It is beautiful writing. It is a beautiful essay. Personal without being tawdry. A quiet reflection on what has changed around that core link of love that has always bound them. It is a mature, complicated love, and I could read about it all day.
The changes for my wife and I weren’t as root level as they were for D’Amico and her husband. But my wife was diagnosed with autism a couple of years ago. And we walk the slow path of redefining how we communicate and how we interact and reviewing everything we’ve gotten wrong about each other over the last 25 years because some of our underlying assumptions about life, the universe, and each other were completely unfounded.
So while I don’t know the foundational reconsideration of relationship that D’Amico does.. I can see it from here. The desire to experience operatic things and cry at emotions that aren’t mine is pretty familiar. And it was really lovely to spend a little quiet time today with so many lovely thoughts and feelings – even if they’re challenging.