Just because I don’t always agree with him doesn’t mean I can’t adore Obama’s adorable family.
As long as I’m in a romantic mood, here is a link to the article on marriage I read at such a tender age that it shaped my entire concept of love, partnership, and what it means to share a life.
The article came out in 2004, so just over 5 years ago, when I was an avid Vanity Fair reader. It rambles a bit, but it’s a sensitive, lovely eulogy to a life whose center is a passion manifest in a marriage. I remember one portion by heart, as it were:
Joan Didion and John Dunne, or the Didion-Dunnes, as their friends referred to them, had a superb marriage that lasted 40 years. They were ideally matched. Once, years ago, they thought briefly about getting a divorce. They actually wrote about it in a weekly column they were then contributing to the Saturday Evening Post. But they didn’t get a divorce. Instead they went to Hawaii, a favorite getaway place of theirs, and began a life of total togetherness that was nearly unparalleled in modern marriage. They were almost never out of each other’s sight. They finished each other’s sentences. They started each day with a walk in Central Park. They had breakfast at the Three Guys Restaurant on weekdays and at the Carlyle hotel on Sundays. Their offices were in adjoining rooms of their sprawling apartment. John always answered the telephone. When it was someone like me calling with an interesting bit of news, he could always be heard to say, “Joan, pick up,” so that she could hear the same bit of news at the same time. They were one of those couples who did everything together, and they were always in accord on their opinions, whatever subject was under discussion.
Tonight when I was searching for the article I remembered the line: Joan, pick up. It doesn’t hurt that Joan Didion is one of the most beautiful, evocative, clear female writers I have read. Hers is the kind of writing that women cite in verse to one another to discover whether the other is anointed with this higher knowledge, this Having Read Joan.
More than that, there is something about these long marriages. My parents are happily married. I have some sense of the kind of supreme commitment to something higher than oneself required to get through the trials and tribulations of a life. As I get older I’m developing a sense of how different it is to search for a husband–someone who will stand by and make easier those bouts with unemployment, pregnancy, cancer–rather than a boyfriend.
Interestingly–and feel free to call me out if I’m just buzzing on my Aquinas pinot and my Aquinas paper–but I think the key is to share a commitment to something more. A marriage has to be more than two people who enjoy long walks on the beach. The two marriages that make me coo (before the Obamas’ eruption) are the Didion/Dunne pair and Bono and his wife. U2 is the most spectacular band I know, and I love, love, love the fact that Bono met his wife the same month he met The Edge and formed the band. I think there has to be that spark, that sense that both partners were truly at the precipice of being their ultimate selves. Manifest destiny, no?
The thing I admire the most is this mutual bolstering. This commitment to one another and to one’s self. Last semester my favorite professor invited my seminar class to his home and lectured us: “The key is to find someone, to commit, and then to make each other better.” It takes an enormous amount of effort to engage enough in somebody else’s valuation of themselves so as to love them for the right reasons. And I think it’s worthwhile to keep intact for that. I suppose my closing toast will have to be: May we all look back, and have it all seem obvious and predestined in hindsight.