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|Does choosing time apart mean you’re growing apart?|
|Written by Topher Payne|
|Friday, 15 April 2011 00:00|
Preppy had been out of town for about eight hours before I completely reverted to bachelorhood. I stayed up until three in the morning watching horror movies. I used every dish in the house and washed none of them. I sat on the porch smoking like a freight train and didn’t dump the ashtray until it actually caught on fire. I stopped shaving. I drank a lot. He was gone for a week. If he had been gone for two, I would have transformed into late-career Ernest Hemingway.
Preppy takes trips with his friends. They go to the beach, to the mountains, and various concerts performed by jam bands whose songs are each a half-hour long. I don’t begrudge these trips, because he works incredibly hard at a job that exists in normal society, where there are hours, and one is aware of when the work day is complete. I am a writer. I do not have hours, I have deadlines. I have no idea how long it will take to complete an assignment. That’s like asking someone how long their emotional breakdown is going to take. It’s just done when it’s done, man.
There are two problems when Preppy is on vacation. Thing one: I am insanely jealous. I would love to take a vacation. I’m not all that interested in the jam bands, but would flat-out love a trip to the ocean. I suffer from a severe deficit of fruity frozen drinks in my life. Haven’t I earned a little freakin’ time in a cabana chair? So hearing about the fabulous time he’s having with super-fun people makes me hate fun in general. If there ain’t enough fun in the world for me to get some, then by God we just need to shut the whole system down.
Thing two: My absence from these delightful getaways does not make the experience miserable for my husband, and I really think it should. I don’t need it to ruin his whole vacation; I’d just like a little pining. Some keening, like Irish people do at funerals. A wistful sigh where he says, “This would be so much better if Topher were here.” We talk every day when he’s out of town. Never once has he expressed, “I wish you were here,” because, well, he doesn’t. He has friends and various String Cheese Incidents to keep him entertained.
Every summer for the last quarter-century, my mother has gone on vacation with her sisters. No husbands or children allowed. I don’t recall my father ever pouting about it, wondering why they had so much fun without him. He knew exactly why: they all got to act like madwomen and not hear anyone say “Mama Mama Mama” for a few days.
Daddy took his trips as well, going skiing and such. My parents say the reason we never took family vacations is because they discovered we all got along better if we had some time to miss each other a bit. But this scenario is completely different. Because I’m totally fun. Why the hell doesn’t he wanna go to the beach for a week with ME? He’s gonna skip the opening of my play to go to something called Hangout Fest? Seriously? I am not okay with that.
Is it really the end of the world that he can’t be at my show because of prior commitments to the Honey Island Swamp Band and Railroad Earth? I concede it is not. The actual problem isn’t my husband’s recreational activities away from me — it’s my lack of any away from him.
The key word here is recreation. I have plenty that keeps me busy away from him, but that’s different. I don’t stop. And when one goes a long time without stopping, one begins to resent the people who do. I am aware the situation is of my own creation, but I shouldn’t be held accountable. I can’t be trusted to sleep or shave when left to my own devices, you think I’m capable of successfully planning a holiday?
After years of asking “Why don’t you want me there? Won’t you miss me?” what I want to say is, “If you don’t get me out of here, I don’t think I’ll ever stop.” It is an incredibly humbling moment in building a life with another person — discovering a truth about yourself that you need their help to change.
Topher Payne is an Atlanta-based playwright, and the author of the book “Necessary Luxuries: Notes on a Semi-Fabulous Life.” Find out more at topherpayne.com.
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