Friday, September 4, 2009

Semantics, Shemantics

Deb: I hate it when we fight.

Sven: That wasn't a fight.

According to Sven, we have never had a fight. We've been together 15 years. How is that possible?

It depends on the definition. While we may discuss, bicker, and even argue, Sven and I never "fight," depending on your definition of "fight."

Screaming at each other, saying intentionally hurtful things to each other, threatening to leave, throwing dishes...if this is fighting, then Sven is right, we've never had one.

Here's what we do have:

1. Bickering: This is meaningless verbal play about things that do not matter to anyone, anywhere, at all. Example: Sven and I had a long-running dialogue about Debussy's place in the canon of Composers That Matter. I took the position that Debussy "Matters" because he not only revolutionized harmony, he set the stage for the major musical developments of the 20th century. (And he wrote music I can play.) Sven replied that Debussy shouldn't "Matter" because he was just a lazy rich boy who wrote what he did because he didn't bother to learn the rules. This went on for years, to the point that my mother would visibly blanch when either of us said "Debussy."

A friend of ours, Danny, attempted to broaden the discussion by randomly shouting "Jodeci," but it wasn't the same. It did, however, cause me to shoot my beverage out of my nose.

(Explanation of above terms: Jodeci was a popular music group in the early- to mid-1990's. Debussy was a composer of the late Romantic or "Impressionist" school. Danny is a stand-up comedian.)

2. Heated Discussion: This is when Sven and I begin discussing something of mutual interest, then devolve into attacking the merit of each other's arguments, often switching sides shamelessly just to win the point.

Sven: I hate our garage. It should be behind the house.

Deb: Well, if they were going to do that, they would have to change the floor plan and enlarge the lots.

Sven: No, all they would have to do is move the garage.

Deb: I don't understand how they could do that without changing the entire layout of the kitchen, or at least enlarging the lot.

Sven: Look, just imagine it. The house is the same, but instead of the garage being in front, it's in the back.

Deb: Well, how would the car get in? It would have to drive around the side, right? How would they do that.

Sven: They would just make the lot a little bit bigger, and flip the floor plan around.

Deb: Oh.

(Imagine the above discussion extended to about 20 pages, and you've got the gist.)

3. Arguing: this is when we disagree about something fairly major. These are rare. I subscribe to the "rather be happy than right" school, so I'm pretty easygoing about most things. We argue sometimes about activities we want to do, projects we want to undertake, or places we want to go.

There have only been four times in our fifteen years together that I thought we had a "fight." Three of those times were completely my fault, usually caused by my mouth saying something my brain hadn't processed yet. It's an awful feeling, hurting someone you love because you just didn't think your statement through. Fortunately, I'm getting better about waiting to speak until I think about it. The fourth time was caused by my misunderstanding, but Sven made it worse by "fixing" my hurt feelings by being angry that my feelings were hurt. (Imagine, him yelling at me that I was being silly didn't instantly make me feel better!)

I think how you fight, and how you make up after a fight, is an important part of every relationship. Sven and I subscribe to the "pretend it never happened" school. It works for us. Here is how it goes when we try otherwise:

Deb: Hey, about that fight we had earlier-

Sven: We never fight. Now how about some sammiches?

Deb: Yes dear.

Okay, not really. But neither of us is really comfortable talking about our feelings in-depth. I don't know how Sven handles it, but when I need to talk to someone about my relationship, I have an imaginary interview with Oprah. Unsurprisingly, Oprah is patient and kind, and believes that I am always 100% right. I can only hope Sven is going to Dr. Phil, who will agree with Oprah that I am right, since she signs his paychecks.

So, to my delight, I've discovered that I am in a relationship completely free of "fighting."

Lucky, lucky me!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

A Fairy Tale

Once upon a time, there was a magical forest populated entirely by large jungle cats.

The lions and the tigers shared the leadership according to the will of the rest of the cats. Sometimes there was a lion in charge, but tigers served in other key positions. Other times, the leadership was mostly lions or tigers. Since the cats were a fickle bunch, lions and tigers changed positions frequently.

It had not always been thus. When the jungle was first discovered, lynxes and ocelots were the two ruling cat classes. Leopards and cheetahs had also made brief appearances. Still, it became obvious to most that the lions and the tigers would be running the show for a long time.

The lions had been in power a particularly long time, and many of the cats were tired of it. "The lions have ruined everything," they grumbled. "It's time for a change."

"You can't say that," the lions said. "That's disrespectful of us, your leaders. After all, if you hadn't wanted us to lead, you wouldn't have chosen us to lead you."

"Wait until next time," the cats said. "We'll have a tiger in there and show you all."

"Play nice," the lions said. "We can all get along. After all, we're all cats."

When the time came to elect the next leader, a marvellous and strange thing happened. A rare white tiger appeared in the jungle, and his beauty captivated everyone. In a stunning landslide, the white tiger became the leader of the jungle.

"Hooray!" cheered the tigers. "A leader we can all believe in!"

"Boo," said the lions. "He's not my leader."

"What do you mean?" asked the tigers. "When the lion was in charge, you told us we had to respect his office and play nice. The last time there was a tiger in charge, you all played nicely with us. What has changed?"

"Nothing, nothing," said the lions in unison. "It's fine."

There came a day when the white tiger wanted to gather all of the young cubs to him and talk to them about how important it was to learn how to be a good cat.

"Boo," said the lions. "I don't want him talking to OUR cubs. He's not our leader. Boo."

"What?" asked the rest of the cats. "He's our leader. Why can't he talk to the cubs?"

"We don't support this leader, so he can't talk to the cubs," said the lions.

"Is this because he's a white tiger?" asked the tigers.

"No, no," the lions hastily said. "Of course not."

So the leader of the jungle never got to talk to the cubs. And the cubs learned that a leader is only your leader if you voted for him.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Confessions: How I Blog

"Deb, how do you do it?" they ask me.

"Do what?" I reply.

"You work full-time, have a husband, two children, and a church do you do all of that and still find time to blog?"

My response varies, but it doesn't matter what I say. It's all a lie.

The truth: I stockpile blog entries. I might get inspired one night and write four or five of them, then set them to auto-publish so that it looks as though I'm writing an entry every couple of days. Earlier this summer, while on vacation in Branson, MO, I got so inspired that I wrote nine or ten entries over the course of two nights. That got me through most of the summer.

It's over now. I've run out of my stockpile. As of today, I'm blogging by the seat of my pants. It's day-to-day, all-Deb, live action, baby.

Hold on for the ride.

I'm sure it will start soon.

Monday, August 31, 2009

A Wicked Backhand

It is considered bad manners to offer an uninvited observation on someone's appearance.

Even to give a compliment. If someone has not directly asked you, "How do I look?" it is rude to offer your opinion on their appearance.

Today, the wisdom of that was reaffirmed to me.

"Deb, what are you doing different?" my colleague asked me in the hall at lunch. "You look pretty."

Was there ever a compliment more badly phrased? I'm sure there was. But this one was a doozy. I have failed to capture the semi-awed tone implying that I was unfit for viewing in daylight before in print, but it was there.

Fortunately for us all, I know this lady is a sweet, kind, amazing individual who teaches kindergarten. A saint, in other words. I know she meant to pay me a sincere compliment, and her chagrin when she realized what she said was genuine and a little painful.

Also fortunately, I am a survivor of foot-in-mouth disease, which has plagued me for years. I'm constantly reviewing what I say or write in fear of saying the wrong thing. Every time I relax my vigilance, something slips through that causes me to spend the next six months writhing in mortification every time I remember it, which is every second of every day.

So, to my wonderful colleague, thank you for the lovely compliment. I accepted it, and continue to accept it, in the spirit in which I know you intended it.

And I'm pretty sure it was the haircut. I am pretty cute, if I do say so myself...

Happy Monday!!