Opposites attract. Sounds like something one might learn in Science 101, doesn't it? But this terse cliché goes much deeper than, say, beauty, which is, after all, only skin deep, according to another old saying. Indeed, the real reason such maxims survive is because, trite or not, they're so darned true.
The first hint of the truth in this bit of folk wisdom was to be imparted to me by a gaudily dressed gypsy at a carnival. Her ringed hands hovered over a murky crystal ball as she intoned, "You will meet a fascinating person of the opposite sex."
Well, yeah, Ms. Gypsy! It doesn't take a crystal ball to come up with that prediction. I was not impressed. No wonder soothsayers have fallen into disrepute since Roman times.
The thing is, I didn't ... then ... recognize the – no doubt accidental –depths of her perspicacity. I didn't ... then ... understand just how opposite that particular member of the opposite sex would prove to be. But meet we did.
With all the mad impetuosity of youth, we dated for five years before we married. I was a "young thing and could not leave [my] mother," as the song goes. He had just returned from the war, a suave, sophisticated "older man." A gap of six years when you're 18 seems as big as the Grand Canyon.
Having bridged that chasm and being determined to make marriage work – or maybe, lacking the energy to repeat the whole wedding extravaganza thing – we have made countless accommodations over the years to avoid conflict and find the harmony of our yin and yang.
Sometimes these accommodations are just small potatoes – literally. He's a French fries and mashed potatoes man. I'm a potatoes au gratin and redskin-potato-salad gal. So we alternate the menu. Perfect compromise.
Sports might be a serious stumbling block in our relationship, if we allowed it.
I couldn't care less about this thing that generates such enthusiasm in my spouse. But we accommodate. He has unlimited use of the TV to cheer on what I consider a bunch of overgrown, overpaid, overtestosteroned "children" as they pursue an object around a playing field to the manic screams of a crowd of strange humans holding up signs, waving gigantic fingers, and sometimes dressed in very little but painted skin. (Another old saying can explain this: It takes all kinds.)
While he's doing that, I get to roam cyberspace, freewheeling down the information highway with the world at my fingertips – on the computer keyboard. That elective typing course I took in high school turned out to be of more lasting value than all the trigonometry classes I ever suffered through.
Yet such differences are merely tiny pebbles on the road to marital compatibility. The really big speed bump – actually, it's more like one of those spiked things that cops in hot pursuit put down in the path of a speeding stolen car – is the incompatibility of our circadian rhythms. This odd couple is the milkmaid and Dracula. Worse, he's the milkmaid; I'm Dracula.
My nearest and dearest rises before the sun, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (yet another cliché, one that paints a scary picture). He rattles coins on his bureau top – each clink magnified in my trying-to-stay-asleep consciousness into Vulcan's hammer striking his forge.
What Vulcan is forging are evidently iron shoes, which magically replace the nice, soft, quiet bedroom slippers I bought him. In these, he clomps to the kitchen to conduct his morning symphony for stove, kettle, and cup.
Before he does, if he has the slightest suspicion that I'm awake, he recites a litany of his morning thoughts and his plans for the day. The latter tend to dissipate with the morning mist, by about 10 o'clock. At noon, his day is already beginning to wind down.
Just about that time, I am revving up my well-rested motor and, brimming with purpose, am enthusiastically making lists of "things to do."
These lists invariably sound the death knell to the last of Jumping Jim's energy quotient. Just thinking of them makes him so tired that he disappears for his afternoon nap.
So we muddle along in harness together, taking turns at being the motivating force in our relationship and proving that our opposites not only attracted but have managed to keep the magnetism intact for 50 years.
A bit of light verse I've dedicated to him says it best:
My sweetie is a morning guy.
He's chirpy-bright at five,
Humming Top-10 tunes while I
Have not yet come alive.
But when the evening shadows fall
And my energies do flare,
He doesn't seem impressed at all ...
He's snoring in his chair.