The curious case of the husband who had not heard of Valentine’s day

Not that I blame him. I had not heard about it much myself. You see, I am of the generation when courting (what a fancy term for just walking the streets of Calcutta) meant putting our posteriors on wooden stools in ‘chai’ shops dotted along the streets of Calcutta, having one cup of tea at a time, alternating – he has one, we talk , and then I order mine, talk, and the cycle goes on, both of us doing it together would end up with the young tea-shop boy forcing us to make a slightly undignified exit. And then in England for the first time, I first realized this day is actually celebrated. I also now see it is celebrated much more in India than anywhere else. Hallmark sure did proper market survey before they brought their card market here.

I feel like wringing the necks of young adults who come up with statements like ‘today is the 6 month anniversary of when he proposed’. Not only is it wrong English, but must you find excuses to spend your money? Go on, have money, will spend, fine – but spare us, dear hearts (pun intended) the saccharine sweetness and the details. And there is this wicked part of me which gets great pleasure in imagining all the romance going whoosh out of the windows along with the pigs that also flew, once real life happens. When you are married, suddenly your partners habit of having lamb chops without properly closing his mouth while he does, will irk you so much you could (potentially) throw the crockery at him. The finest Wedgewood too.

Theoretically, marriage or any partnership is all about two people becoming like one. But in real world – and let’s be very clear about this – you ain’t one. You are two, and there is only so much that two people can blend. Unless you are Bappi Lahiri – his entire family looks the same. For instance, think about sleeping. I have an ongoing battle with my husband (and as marriages go, we have a fairly good one – so they tell me anyway) about the temperature of the AC in the room. I want it at 18, he wants it at 25. There is no middle ground. He might as well not have the AC on, it would probably be 24 outside. So we have this silent, rather eerie activity all through the night. Once he sleeps, – and I sleep way after him- I change the temperature to 20; the cold makes him wake up and he changes it back to 25 – and so it carries on. If there is a god, he must be having a wonderful (?) time watching these apparitions walking up and down to the AC and back, all through the summer nights. And then I have to ensure I wake up before him and put the temperature back at 25. I don’t know why we carry this charade, but we never talk about it during the day. It’s that 2 ton elephant in the room. But our imagined conversation would run along the lines of ” How can you be cold, I am sweating rain forests here, it’s like a furnace!” to ‘Come on, be like me, be hot”. The contention being that if he is uncomfortable, then I should also be uncomfortable in the same thermal direction as him. I refuse, and thus our marriage goes on. 

But honestly, the real work of two people blending – when you are talking about behaviour, – that is the really interesting part. Because most of us get married in our twenties, which means you have led some part of your life even without parents, in apartments, earning one’s own money and spending how one wishes, you know, the whole enchilada. Because however much you try, whatever you do, after so many years of being on your own, when no one comes invading your personal space, no matter how much of that ‘us’ paint you throw on your relationship, the ‘you’ or ‘me’ somehow manages to show through. And they tell me that’s not really a good thing. I tend not to agree, but whattodoiamlikethatonly.

See, when you are by yourself, you are making your own independent choices. If you open the door and get in and feel like flinging your shoes about and just going to bed in those very clothes, there is no one to stop you. (Wait, this should have been my husband’s line, why did I think of it? – we’ve been married for too long, I am even thinking his thoughts now!). It doesn’t bother you that you want to stand in the middle of the room, swirl like a dervish if you are happy and no one thinks you are crazy. If you have a partner though, that might get difficult. Your self may not care, but others might. I might want to read a book lying in bed, but my husband will want me to read it while he watches TV in the sitting room. And it makes me immeasurably vile in everyone’s eyes if I came out with this, so I have to shut up.

And if you’re with another person all the time, every repugnant component of your life must, by definition, happen in front of the other person. There is nowhere to hide. So you learn to accept each other. Your best behavior is now always reserved for others outside the house and once you are inside, you are free to be the repellent, smug, irritating person you really are. You become a little team. Everyone calls you ‘the two of you’. Sometimes, it even feels nice. And you look out for each other. It’s way different to how it felt when you were dating – and was opening doors (or in our permanent state of dating-penury, when he would push you onto a running bus and jump up after me, guarding me). When I notice his socks are torn, and he needs more shirts, I go and buy them and feel no need to tell him I bought them. And if he notices, he never mentions it.  We are in that comfort zone. He is one of the very few people I can go to and ask :”Can you see anything in my nose?”, and if he does, he takes out his hanky and cleans it. We do it without thinking. We protect our ugly truths from everyone else, from everyone but the two of us. Here is someone, after my parents, whose love for me is so great it can withstand looking up my nose. And then he goes right back as though nothing happened. 

But he never ever gives me a Valentine’s day card. Almost as though it is a matter of principle. Well, no, it is.

And, AND ladies and gentleman, many moons back, when we sure were more romantic towards each other, if less used to, he was taking money out of an ATM. ‘What’s the pin’? he asked. “Our anniversary”, I growled. “Yes, what is that?”, he asked me. And I am still happily married to him. Without a valentine’s day card received ever. Must say something about him. It probably also says much about my tolerant, sweet nature. Ho hum.

 

I am not trying to drive your dreams away, all you young folks while I go on my curmudgeonly way. But just letting you know, er, ahem, the reality which will hit. Have a wonderful Valentine’s Day

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