I could never live with someone that didn’t share my political views. It is such a vital part of who I am, what my values are, what is important to me, that I can’t imagine not sharing that with a partner. Steve, my husband, agrees. We know many people who have strong relationships while disagreeing politically. Good for them. It wouldn’t work for me. During election years, we cheer for our candidates and are horrified by the others.
“Mom, I thought you and Dad were going to stop yelling at the TV after President Obama was elected,” our younger son, Connor laughs.
“It’s not him we’re yelling at.”
And it’s great to cheer and yell together.
It’s the smaller, little things on which Steve and I have vastly different views. The biggie is heat and air conditioning. He believes very firmly that one should be a bit chilly in the winter and warm in the summer. Over the course of about 35 years of cohabitation we have been known to follow each other around to adjust the thermostat, with him turning it down in winter and me turning it up, neither one of us acknowledging that this was happening. I think I’m the reasonable one; when the weather is nice, I completely agree that it is delightful to have the windows open so fresh air can waft through the house. I don’t rush the air conditioning, but I do approve of it.
We used to have neighbors, whom we are still very good friends with, that rarely opened their windows at all, and set the air conditioning low very early in the season. It wasn’t cool in their house in July, it was cold. When they would have us over in the summer months, I would warn Steve. “We’re having dinner next door in the meat locker.”
And there are those stifling days of July and August when it is my fervent belief that air conditioning is a luxurious necessity. There is no doubt in my mind that Steve wouldn’t turn it on for one minute if I wasn’t around.
When we were renovating our house, which consisted of tearing it down to the studs and replacing everything from plumbing to electrical to heating systems, the most intense disagreement we had was over air conditioning.
“We don’t need it,” he insisted.
“Oh, yes we do.”
On a sweltering August day last summer, with the air conditioning humming away, I called up to Steve’s third floor office, the one that used to be an airless attic.
“What do you think of the air conditioning now?”
“I can’t hear you,” he called back.
Food is another subject that we view differently. Citing general health concerns related to cholesterol, and later on, ethical and environmental questions, Steve stopped eating meat about fifteen years ago. That was not happening for me. I’ll take a braised short rib any day of the week. I love embarrassing my kids in restaurants that list “humanely raised veal” on their menus.
“Do you have any inhumanely raised veal,” I ask the waiter. “I hear it tastes better.”
To his credit, this amuses Steve rather than horrifies him, and he joins the kids in merely rolling his eyes as he orders some broiled salmon over quinoa and swiss chard. Restaurant ordering is also often a source of amusement when a server assumes the martini and steak are for him and the white wine and scallops are for me.
Whenever I get a pedicure, he shakes his head in bewilderment. “How can you let someone even touch your feet,” he asks. I remind him that sitting in that massaging chair, having Tina file the calluses and dead skin off my feet is one of my greatest joys and pleasures.
Steve obeys traffic signs strictly, with no room for interpretation. He resists crossing the street if it is against the light, never mind that there are no cars in sight. I, meanwhile, lope along in the crosswalk without him, ignoring the Do Not Cross sign, and wave from the other side. While driving, I speed up, just a little bit, to make the yellow light, while he cautiously and carefully steps on the brake, coming to a full stop.
He doesn’t get the concept of binge-watching, which is one of my favorite pastimes. Currently, I am rewatching season three of House of Cards for the third time, while he watches it alongside me for the first. He lasts, at most, two episodes.
“C’mon,” I plead. “How can you stop now?”
“That’s enough for me,” he says, leaving the room as I pout at his common sense approach to TV viewing and turn to season five of The West Wing.
But, as with politics, we agree on the big stuff.
We laugh at the same things. Although, sometimes, he get this look on his face, which lasts about two seconds, and I know he’s deciding whether what I just said was funny or horrifying and grossly politically incorrect.
We make big decisions quickly and firmly. Buy this house? Yes. Get a new puppy? No.
home school Connor? Yes. Vacation there? No.
Most importantly, we equally and agreeably raised three children to adulthood. We didn’t really believe in punishing, and both thought that natural consequences did the trick. One of the kids didn’t want to wear mittens in the winter? Go outside and have cold hands, then we’ll talk. You don’t want to have this for dinner? You’re probably going to be a bit hungry later on. We thought grounding an adolescent was generally a silly punishment, but the one time we did it, it was for something big and we both agreed it was necessary. Be kind, we both told them. Read a lot. Try hard. Be yourself.
I acknowledge that raising children is a mine field and much can be attributed to luck, but we have turned out three smart, funny, compassionate adults who always vote for the Democrat.
And we did it together.