"So, when are you getting married?" asks anyone who knows I got engaged last May. They all seem to take on the New York inflection of my mother, even my black Southern ex-girlfriend from Georgia.
The question drives my fiancee, Carrie, crazy, and I tend to try to brush it off with some kind of bad joke, as in "as soon as Carrie's divorce goes through..." as I cross my fingers in a real hopeful sentiment.
In fact, Carrie's never been married before (at least I don't think so), but the question leaves me with the choice of deflecting or trying to be as truthful as possible. The latter seems so odd when making small talk with an acquaintance outside of a Banana Republic at the Grove.
"Actually, we had planned to marry quickly, but then I moved in, and boy has it been a mess! I mean, who knew that I couldn't deal without my privacy and that Carrie would turn into a pestering, overbearing lunatic? There are times I think about holding a pillow over her face while she's sleeping. But, anyway ... how are you?"
The truth is Carrie's not a lunatic. And, I don't want to suffocate her with my pillow. I would like to suffocate myself. She's just a girl who anticipates everything so much that life doesn't get to just happen. We fight about the house we don't have, the toys our kids won't be able to afford and the toilet seat that gets left up every time I go to the bathroom. OK, that one isn't exactly anticipating. In fact, if she would anticipate that one she'd have a much drier backside.
Carrie didn't always anticipate things. She used to be more -- what's the Yiddish expression? -- laissez faire in her approach to the world. She's very funny, likes that I make her laugh and loves to travel and meet new people. But, something about that engagement ring on her finger acted like a crystal ball, and suddenly she could see her future, and she didn't like what she saw. She saw financial struggle and children who had to beg to eat.
"That's crazy talk," I told her. "Our kids won't have to beg on the streets. I'll teach them a trade, like pick-pocketing."
Carrie works very hard, and although my acting career has ups and downs, I spent my last job on the set of the TV show, "Las Vegas," repeatedly kissing an attractive girl, while Carrie got berated for forgetting some rich curmudgeon's name tag at an event she was running. I hate when she has bad days at work, and I wish I was successful enough so she would never have to worry about money, but it's not so. At least not yet. I know she gets scared, and her fear manifests itself through anxious behavior. I know she loves me but has trouble showing it because she's so stressed and vice versa. Why is living together so hard?
We recently started seeing a couples therapist on Sundays, and I think it's going to be good for us. I even decided to see my own therapist on Mondays. And Carrie will start seeing her own therapist, too -- maybe on Tuesdays. This leaves four therapy-free days, which we will now need to fill with other things to do, such as eating, making love and finding new and more dangerous things to throw at each other.
My most recent therapy sessions have revolved around Carrie and me. But, as I find myself talking about the issues each week, it has this paradoxical effect at home; they no longer seem to hold any weight. As our first year of living together comes to a close, we have stopped trying so hard to prove things to each other. Carrie has worked on not anticipating things, and I have worked on focusing on what's right instead of what's wrong. The wrong list was too short, anyway. I was just repeating myself. But, the right list seems to go on forever.
As much as Carrie and I might argue about silly things -- most of which haven't even happened yet -- I know that she forgives me when I screw up and does her best to make me a better person. I know that she cares enough about me to follow me to hell and back (we've never actually been to hell, but our unairconditioned apartment in the summer felt eerily similar), and that she sees in me the potential to be a greater person than I even know I can be.
She will always look like the most beautiful girl in the world to me, no matter how fat she claims she's getting or how big the zit is on her forehead. I have never, ever looked at her and seen anything other than a gorgeous, caring woman whom I want to be with me for the rest of my life. So, when are we getting married?
Seth Menachem is an actor and writer who lives in Los Angeles.