It made me think back to the TV watching of my youth and how the character Edith Bunker touched me as a child. That didn’t come out right. I don’t mean she touched me in a “very special episode of Diff’rent Strokes” sort of way. I mean that her character, which I know was supposed to be a comedic one, really touched me.
When I was watching All in the Family I was too young to understand its irony or humor. I remember seeing Edith as a sad, sympathetic character. She was a well-meaning bumbler whose husband was always complaining. I would have called her stoic, if I had had the vocabulary for it at the time. Seeing her on the screen always made my heart ache. She deserved better than her sad little life.
Thinking about it now, even with the benefit of 40 years or so to understand that the cast of All in the Family was a bunch of actors who were just kidding after all, I still get a little teary-eyed.
I wonder, was Edith happy or not? Was she in love? Did she and Archie really belong together?
As an adult, I have a different take on Archie and Edith’s relationship. In re-watching the series now, all I have to do is listen to the opening credits with Edith and Archie singing their own theme song, to know that Edith was happy, in love, and her relationship with Archie was a fulfilling partnership. They are singing “Those were the days!” a lament about how good things used to be. But the way they are singing it–slightly off key and with shared gusto–makes it clear that “these are the days,” too when they can sit at a piano bench in their living room and complain together with mutual understanding.
The theme song provided something that non-television couples usually don’t have, a vehicle to educate everyone else as to why this man and this woman were “made” for each other. They could argue. They could bicker. Archie could take Edith for granted. Nevertheless, every week viewers saw them perform their theme song and got proof that regardless of how they might have seemed to the outside observer, the two of them pulled off a pretty badass duet.
In the real world we don’t have theme songs. This is unfortunate because it would be nice to have a “go to” number to sing when you or anyone else was questioning your relationship. Then again, the “tie that binds” is usually made from something that is hard to capture in words, and from something that is apparent only to the two of you. So, even if they existed, authentic theme songs would come out sounding a little inaccessible. (Still I am confident that you, Orange, would be able to decipher a lot)
As far as I can tell, the most important part of being a couple is not how good you look to the outside, or how many “amazing” trips or meals or children you can post about on facebook but that there is actually something between the two of you that is not apparent to the outside world. If Archie and Edith were actually performing their duet like certain people renew their vows, in a look at us! we are so great! sort of way, then the performance would be less persuasive. Part of what made Archie and Edith’s theme song so compelling was that they were singing in their living room when, supposedly, no one else was watching.
It is what couples do behind the scenes, the kind of activities shouldn’t be posted on facebook, that really unite them. (And I am not talking about X-rated material. Please. My parents read this) I am talking about the stuff that doesn’t make sense to anyone else. The stuff that no one else needs to know and if they did, they would look at you with a “why did you just tell me that?” sort of face.
So it is with some trepidation that I continue here because no one needs to know this. But I have no shame, so I will try to give a little insight to those of you on the outside as why my relationship works.
First, I come with neuroses and emotional baggage that are just “part of the package” when you are in a relationship with me. Better than anyone else, my husband just deals with it. Or maybe he just doesn’t notice it? Whatever. But the key is that he knows the “real” me and is still hanging around (often making chewing noises and occasionally sitting bare-assed on our very light beige sofa–but he is not going anywhere).
How do I illustrate this? I don’t want to drag you through the whole dregs of it, but one of the skeletons in my closet… which I probably shouldn’t admit to because I think it might change the way you see me…And, well it is actually kind of disturbing…ah but what the hell we’re all friends here…so one of the things about me that people close to me know but may not be apparent from just meeting me. Is. Well…
I make really big poops.
Ok. there. I said it. I wish there were a better word for it. But language is so limited.
But I mean, they are huge. It is disgusting. I wish I never had to think about it. I wish no one did. And maybe if I lived before the invention of indoor plumbing no one would. But living as late into the Common Era as I do, I am forced to deal with this crap because I am quite often literally, and unpoetically, clogging toilets.
All the time. If someone invented a purse sized plunger I would buy it. If I had given birth through a different orifice I wouldn’t have needed an epidural.
You get the picture.
Eww. I know. Try being me. It’s bad.
So. This happened most recently in the guest bathroom of my friends’ posh country house. I say posh so you will understand this is not the kind of place that would have an outhouse (which I would have used had it been available), nor did it have a plunger by the guest toilet (which I would have used had it been available), and, most importantly, it was the kind of place that attracted a “Number 1” kind of crowd. You know, the folks who win big races and command large salaries and people who, despite consuming ample amounts of dietary fiber, never really do “Number 2” at all, much less clog their toilets with it.
I have no idea what I was doing there.
Given my history, I should have known better. I should have figured out a way to jog over to a nearby field, do my business and blame it on the cows, or the dinosaurs or something. But by the time I had realized what I had done it was too late. I won’t get into the details too much, because I don’t want anyone vomiting on their touch screens, but let me put it this way, I was stuck in the bathroom because something else was stuck in the toilet. There was no escape.
This was not like the time this happened to me in the Burger King in Puerto Vallarta, when there was enough of a crowd that I was able to slip away and leave the problem for some poor, unsuspecting janitor to address. This was not like the time it happened at the pro-shop at a tennis club in California where my father (who has even less shame than I do) was on hand to take the heat for causing the clog. No. I was alone. Among friends who were under the impression that I was classy. Dignified even. Well maybe not, but they certainly had no idea that I should not be allowed near their bathroom.
I was trapped. I paced from wall to wall, thinking Maybe I could just stay in here until everyone leaves. It’s not so bad in here. Prisoners of war survive for years in far worse conditions that this. But I couldn’t. How would my husband ever manage with the kids without me? And soon, someone who was capable of using the toilet without clogging it would be knocking on that door.
What to do? what do do?! If only I had something to break up the log jam. But there was nothing but an empty wastepaper basket, a dainty hand towel, and a dispenser of fine French milled soap. MacGyver would have trouble with this one. I didn’t even have my purse whose contents would most definitely include something to help.
Being a woman of the 21st century, I had brought my cell phone with me. I could send a text message to my husband, who no doubt was “checking work email” at this very instant.
I texted: “I am in the bathroom. I need you to bring me a stick.”
Almost immediately he responded: “Ok.”
No questions. No follow up. In a minute or so he came to the bathroom door. With an appropriately sized stick. We’ve never discussed my condition directly (this is a man who still can’t admit that he ever, you know, needs to use toilet paper), but he knew what I needed without further discussion.
Opening the door just wide enough, I snatched the stick with a quick nod of gratitude. He nodded, too, and left me to my work.
And I will be careful. And I will forget.
That’s why I am married to my husband. Because no matter how careful I am or how mindful I am or how capable I am of handling my issues on my own, there will come a time when I will need someone to help me again. And more than anyone, he is best able to deal with my sh*t.