Friday, January 28, 2011

Call It Fiction If You Like

Front of yellow Splenda consumer packet.Evenly yoked, that's how my friend and fellow blogger from Australia, Crystal Mary Lindsey, puts it, referring to an ideal romantic relationship. Her image is of two oxen paired in a yoke, pulling together instead of pulling apart. Matching them is the challenge, finding two of similar strength and temperament that permits placing them side by side to achieve a common task. Since Crystal's comment is related to the fictional characters, Dr. Bob Z and Dr. Jessie Livingstone from Pink Hats and a Mack Truck, I've been thinking it might be a good idea to take a look at their relationship and see what makes it exemplary of being "evenly yoked."

The first thing that comes to mind, for me, is the freedom they experienced from the very beginning. Jessie described it as something that allowed her to feel like a woman. She never got the sense Bob needed her to be a girl or mother figure. This is important because we often take on roles in a relationship that we unconsciously perceive the other person needs or wishes us to fulfill. Her faculty adviser explained how Bob was obviously comfortable with Jessie being herself and for Jessie, this meant feeling like a mature equal. It was present in their first contact, when she laid her hand on his arm and suggested he try Splenda instead of sugar in his coffee.

Bob describes their freedom as the permission to be genuine and spontaneous, and it's exemplified by his almost flirtatious, "Hi there, Splenda gal," when they ran into each other the following day in the parking lot. He wasn't flirting, he was simply being ingenuous and very much himself. He didn't know her name as yet, but he was willing to be friendly and open with her and she felt, once again, like a woman. Freedom is contagious -- one has it and another catches it. With Bob and Jessie, however, it seems they felt it at the same time. But she demonstrated it first and he couldn't help but follow her lead.

They also have "chemistry," that vague and difficult-to-describe attraction that makes some relationships go romantic and others remain friendships or merely acquaintances. It's like sodium and chloride. There's a quality to these elements that makes salt whenever they're in close proximity to each other. Put sodium nitrate in a solution with potassium chloride and water (don't try this at home -- inorganic chemistry was never my strong suit and for all I know, the combination may be explosive), and darned if the sodium and chloride don't find each other, making salt once again. They can't help themselves. That's how it's been with Bob and Jessie.

Chemistry is what makes their relationship interesting. We're drawn to them because they're drawn to each other in ways we'd like to think we might be drawn to someone. There is respect, admiration, and playfulness -- they aren't simply in love, they truly like each other, and liking is as important as loving. Liking reflects chemistry and it's hard to imagine stable, dependable, energizing romantic love without a healthy dose of it.

And then there is the matter of the twins. This is a huge issue for Jessie although she doesn't seem to make as much of it as we might imagine. In part, this is because she's already dealt with the issue of Bob's age. The freedom she's experienced enables her to trust her own judgment and view him as a whole person, inclusive of the age differential, and decide whether she's willing to engage or back off. That she chose to pursue him, so to speak, is based on several factors, including her highly positive relationship with her father and her desire to be with a man who possesses a considerable measure of maturity. She knows being with him will likely entail becoming a mother right off and her decision to go ahead draws, not only on her love for the twins, but also upon her knowledge that he is going to be a package deal, period. If she wants him, she has to adjust her expectations to include Hannah and Clara. As Chuck says of her, she really is a remarkable young woman and honestly, I admire her courage and integrity tremendously.

What I've noticed about Bob and Jessie is how their relationship has developed with ease. A friend of mine and regular reader of this blog once told me "easiness" is an irreplaceable quality. While I didn't quite understand her at the time, I have come to appreciate the subtleties of her comment far more in recent years and I believe she was exactly right. Relationships like the one between Bob and Jessie aren't like trying to fit a size 13 foot into a size 12 shoe. Oh, it can be done all right, and maybe the shoe feels okay in the store, but once you walk around a bit, your toes start to rub and it's time to bite the bullet and go back for the right size.

Bob and Jessie have never had to try to fit together, they just do. As a consequence, they work out the details of life with a mutuality and obvious intentionality that places each other first. Notice how, again and again, Bob becomes concerned about one thing or another and Jessie reminds him they'll figure out a solution, as long as their relationship is their first consideration. And so, like Crystal Mary's oxen, they pull together, not apart. They're evenly and equally yoked. Call it fiction if you like, it really isn't. It certainly doesn't have to be, anyway.

(Public Domain of Splenda package via Wikipedia)

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