Bert and I do a lot of reading, and we often come across ideas or writing too good not to share. So we’ve decided to do that, in a series called Noted With Pleasure.
Here’s the first entry, from a novel my wife is reading. A mom and daughter are talking about marriage.
“I don’t think I’ll find anyone better than Mark. If I’m going to get married, I guess he’s the one. But all of a sudden, it feels so…I don’t know. Arbitrary. Dangerous. I don’t see how anyone can ever feel completely convinced that marrying someone is the right thing to do, I don’t see how anyone can not be consumed by doubt. Did you feel absolutely sure about marrying Pops?”
Dorothy has felt absolutely sure about being pregnant, that’s what she had felt. But Hilly doesn’t know that. So she says, “Course I wasn’t sure. I was full of doubt, too. I think almost everyone is. You have to be. Who can possibly subscribe to the notion that there’s only one person in the world for you? No. But you find someone you care for, that you think you might be able to build a life with, and then you just go for it.”
“And then you get divorced,” Hilly says bitterly.
Dorothy speaks more carefully now. “No, now, Hilly, you know that’s not true. Some people have very happy marriages. I think the biggest problem is people’s expectations are so high. And so wrong. People think marriage is going to be so romantic and fulfilling. They think the other person is going to complete them. But that’s not what happens. In a good marriage you complete yourself while sharing a bathroom. You go through life with company, rather than alone, and humans seem to need company. And… You remember in Carousel, when the doctor tells the high school graduating class not to worry about others liking them, that they should just try to like others?”
“I love Carousel,” Hilly says, sighing. “I still love it. Everybody makes fun of me, but I still love it. We used to watch it and eat caramel corn and dill pickles.”
“I know,” Dorothy says. “But do you remember that part?”
“Well, that’s it. That’s what you need to do in your marriage. You need to give what you want. And don’t expect so much. That only sets you up for disappointment. If you expect anything, expect that marriage will be hard, that it will be work. And expect that the pleasures will be erratic and often small, but they’ll turn out to mean more than you know.”
~ From The Last Time I Saw You
by Elizabeth Berg (Ballantine, 2010).