The Good Fight
At 14 and a half, I sat down at the table for lunch. I announced the loss of my virginity and asked that the bread be passed. This was my family dynamic; and the only one I have ever understood.
(Imagine, if you will, the voices as caricature French accents)
"We have no bread." Sighs mum, rolling her eyes in the direction of dad, who has opted for a silk scarf and watch, but decided against a shirt.
"Why not?" I demand.
"Your father forgot it." Mum gestures at the empty bread basket.
"Who cares about bread? It is meaningless." Dad scoffs.
We were anything but conventional, but we were functional. My father veered in and out of socially acceptable norms with the fluidity of an artist who had not yet discovered himself to be an artist. What I mean is that he was an artist in practice but not with an end product he could point to separate from himself. He was his own expression and it resonated throughout his daily life and ours, which to me, put him up there with the masters.
And so, as children, our lives were sprinkled with a dusting of nonsensical magic and curiosity, which he encouraged, and for this, we were enriched. We were taught to challenge convention and be suspicious of the norms. We did not experience la vie en rose, as such, our family had more of a 'la vie en Salvador Dali' approach.
"So, why did you do it?" My father asked. I responded with moderate teenage enthusiasm (lack-lustre), "It felt really nice and I have liked her for five weeks". Had I answered, "Martin lost his a month ago and everyone does it, so I thought I would", that would have seen me promptly launched from the room. But apparently, having made a decision based on my own thoughts and desires, I was welcome to discuss and explore this with them. This was our family model. You could bring up anything as long as you were willing to stand behind your actions and argue your case accordingly. Needless to say, without being aggressive, I am well-trained in the art of familial political discourse. Historically, I would always engage as the devil's advocate and argue steadfastly. In our family, those rising triumphant from these debates would be garnished with the most coveted of accolades; the praise of our parents.
Why is this relevant? Fast-forward to now. I come from a family with a rich history of arguing and debate. Arizona does not. She is anything but argumentative. She is generally relaxed, and has a go-with-the-flow attitude. I soon lost interest in arguing with Arizona, because a win felt like a loss. What was the point? There is much within this that I have been trying to untangle. Why don't we fight regularly? Why did our fights seem to dissipate quickly and lack the drama of my past relationships? We don't lack passion in our fights but we do lack a passion to fight with each other. In a row, she was interested in discussing and understanding why I felt as I did; I was eager to prove a point. My past was infused with great conviction, which could come across as combative. I recognise in former relationships that the women I have dated shared my style of argument and so when we would kick off, it became about winning.
So to what do I owe my parents?
I love my relationship with Arizona because it is dynamic. It is strange and invites discussions and exploration, and in doing so, invites trust. Much of my ability to engage in this is owed to my parents, who helped me to feel safe enough to be honest. However, my relationship with Arizona is distinct from my childhood. Having a partner that is more moderate, open to discussion, and won't throw herself behind her cause because she is genuinely interested in why, has made me less interested in my cause, and more interested in hers and how we will emerge from this, better as a couple.
Perhaps it comes with maturity but now, we both have a sense that we are wasting time. We know that the outcome will be 'I love you,' and 'How do we use this to move forward?' so an unnecessarily bumpy road to getting there seems a frivolous waste. I think we have come to a point in which neither of us sees the need to make this process hurtful. Instead, we aim (sometimes unsuccessfully) for a productive dialogue.
Pass the bread, s'il vous plaît.