Monday, January 17, 2005

Negotiation and Marriage

Last night I went to dinner and a play (Jesus Christ Superstar) with some friends. It's nice to get out and just chat about all sorts of inconsequential personal things instead of household business and work business. R made the mistake (though she insisted it was deliberate) of getting me going on various political rants.

But it's times like these that I feel very much abnormal. For one, R's house is so much nicer and cleaner than mine. It's not just that she is childless and able to keep it clean. It's that she actively keeps it clean, pulling out the spray bottle and wiping down the table after dinner. I just don't think to do those sorts of things.

Another strange thing that other people do that I don't is watch television in the bedroom. My husband outright refuses to have a television in the bedroom because he says it will keep him from sleeping well. I don't think it would give me a problem, and I confess that I hear about other people lying in bed and watching tv and I'm a bit envious. In fact, I kind of like to sleep in hotels because there is by default a tv in the room. It just seems so decadent to me.

But I suppose this is one of the many compromises we make in marriages. For my husband, a television in the bedroom is a dealbreaker, a point on which he will not negotiate. And I suppose it does give us ammunition when the children eventually ask for televisions in their rooms (which I would prefer not to allow).

Had I any readership at this point :), I'd ask other people here to talk about what are the non-negotiables in their marriages.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Parenthood and Children's Needs

My daughter is sick. She's been complaining of a sore throat, so I looked inside with a flashlight and found the surface of Titan: all strange white bumps on top of her inflamed, swollen tonsils.

At times like these I feel less concern than relief. I know how to parent during a crisis. I know who to call and how to research to find answers. I know where to get support and how to make my daughter feel better.

It's those times of wellness that my confidence in parenting is more elusive. She is well. She is developmentally at her milestones. She is fed. She has had a good night's sleep. Now what?

She needs me, she needs me so much. But without crisis, what do I have to give? She needs my imagination, my stories, my attention, my time. Somehow those always seem to be the things that are so hard to give. Need, crisis--these things help to organize our experience. When a child is in need, we know what to do.

The rest of the time, it always feels as if my needs and hers are in conflict. It's easy to subsume my needs when hers are so great. But when our needs are roughly equal, it becomes so much harder.

Favorite first line

"Ships at a distance have every man's wish on board. For some
they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the
horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns
his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time.
This is the life of men.
Now, women forget all those things they don't want to remember,
and remember everything they don't want to forget. The dream is the
truth. Then they act and do things accordingly."
- Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston

Halle Berry will be appearing in a televised version of Hurston's famous novel this year on ABC. Entertainment Weekly has a brief blurb on the production, noting that the televised version was a bit more sexy than the original version. Hello! Hurston's novel was all about sex! The scene under the pear tree is clearly about Janie masturbating and learning about sexual desire. When Janie finally opens her mouth and puts down Jody, it's as much about his failure to please her sexually as it is about her asserting herself. Her relationship with Tea Cake is as much about sexual passion and compatibility as it is about their partnership.

I wonder if the filmmakers understand the novel, however. I worry that it will be transformed into just another example of the 1980s empowered black woman's novel, when it's really more than that.