My husband Saul and I went to Canada a few weekends ago. Saul had his artwork featured in a gallery in Picton, Ontario.
When I go to these types of events, I am the spouse. I am the Melania to Saul’s…no wait that is a terrible analogy. I’m the Bill to his Hill..no that’s not good either. To put in bluntly, I am not the star.
One of the consequences of the whole “gay married” thing and the “Women’s Lib” stuff is that roles used to be a lot more clear: the man was the star and the woman was the woman behind the man. But now roles are muddled.
Oh wait…I’ve got it. I was the James Brolin to Saul’s Barbara Streisand. (Coincidentally, I asked Saul this weekend if he ever imagines Barbra and James having sex, but the question only seemed to upset him. Am I the only one who thinks about these things?)
I usually wander around at these art openings and look at the art or stealthily play Candy Crush in the corner periodically joining Saul as he chats with people to make sure he is doing okay. I’d like to think of myself as arm candy except at my age the work it would take to be arm candy sounds exhausting.
I enjoy these nights.. People are certainly nice to me but I’m not as interesting to them as my husband whose art is on display. I get to be a little invisible and I’m okay with that
I’m terrible at small talk. I know the tip people usually give going into parties is that you should ask people about themselves. I have no problem doing that, but I absolutely hate when people ask me about myself. What’s the point? Do you really care unless you are wanting to be my friend? And who needs new friends after forty?
Plus, I hate explaining what I do to someone I will never see again. It feels like such a waste of time.
Here is how it usually goes:
PERSON: What do you do?
ME: I work for Animal Planet
PERSON: Oh, I love that show!
ME: It’s not a show actually. It’s a cable network.
PERSON: Oh, right. My aunt has Animal Planet. She leaves it on for her blind Dachshund when she goes to dialysis.
ME: (sounding a bit too hostile) “Yes, that’s why I labor over the minute details of every episode I produce. To keep your aunt’s blind Dachshund from feeling lonely.”
PERSON: (beginning to feel uncomfortable) Well, anyway…I love animals.
ME: (not meaning it) Thanks.
Sometimes Saul will try to helpfully interject by telling people I produced the series Finding Bigfoot. This can go in two directions. Either people openly scoff at the series (a lesbian couple actually called it tripe while sitting across from me eating a frittata at a bed and breakfast), or people get really, really excited and tell me about their own bigfoot sightings.
Either way it is awkward.
Or sometimes I let my guard down and tell people I’m writing a book and it goes like this:
PERSON: Oh! what kind of book?
ME: A memoir
PERSON: What’s it about?
ME: It’s about me. That’s the definition of memoir.
PERSON: I read people don’t read memoirs anymore.
ME: (sounding a bit too hostile) Then I guess I wasted the last eighteen years of my life.
PERSON: (beginning to feel uncomfortable) Well, it sounds great.
ME: (not meaning it) Thanks.
I don’t mean to be rude, but if I say something like my book is about my kooky family full of outrageous secrets, it sounds like something anyone could write about. If I say, It’s really good…and funny…I just sound defensive.
My point is that I don’t enjoy being asked about myself.
I worry I might come off as hostile in these situations because that is how I am actually feeling inside. But at a recent 4-day team-building leadership workshop at work (yes, it is as horrific as it sounds), we had to approach three other people at the end of the workshop and thank them for something specific. I was mortified. I wanted to knock people over and bolt for the exit. I hate forced encounters. Before I could make my way out, several people came up to me and thanked me for my “warmth, openness and kindness”.
I know some people suffer from having a Resting Bitch Face. I am starting to think I have a Resting Kind Face.
I am totally misunderstood.
These art nights aren’t an everyday occurrence, and Saul is just a big of a supporter of my book as I am of his art. I just cut 125 pages out of my memoir in the last few months (see my blog post PEARLS: When to Push and When to Protect Your Art about my book being “too many words”), and Saul actually let me read my entire book out loud to him…TWICE. Forget Greta Thunberg…Saul deserves the Nobel Prize for being married to me.
I know he will accompany me to book signings one day when my book is published and he will play the part of the supportive spouse.
The truth is we are both pretty good at stepping back to let the other person shine. I mean we aren’t perfect. I might have threatened to leap out of our car in the hotel parking lot in Canada right before the art opening, but I attribute that to my extreme pre-party anxiety.
Overall, we like to see each other succeed. We were around a lot of worldly European couples on this trip. And being European, I suspect some assumed that Saul and I would be up for a ménage a trois or whatever you call it with four people…a ménage a quadruped? I mean they didn’t come out and say it, but those guys from Europe can make offering a French Fry sound seductive. At first I was shocked by the idea, but I’m pretty sure if someone would have offered to do a show in Europe with Saul if he would jump into bed with them I would have pushed him into it faster than Mama Rose made her daughter Louise strip. And I would have joined if it helped and there was no small talk involved.
Sometimes Saul is Mary and I am Rhoda. And sometimes I am Liza and Saul is Lorna. Sometimes one of us is Beyoncé and the other is one of the other two Destiny’s Child group members
As long as we remember that letting the other shine doesn’t diminish our own light and I’m allowed to occasionally sneak in the corner and play Candy Crush, I’m pretty hopeful we can keep this good thing going.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Keith Hoffman is writing a memoir about his kooky family full of outrageous secrets. It’s really good…and funny.
Oh, and to better understand him ….