Terry Marotta: Staying connected
I never “fought fair” until I fell in love. By this I mean I had never learned to take issue politely with anyone until then. Disagree and still be civil? It’s a skill I never had.
I was raised by a mother and an aunt, two sisters, who were accustomed, as siblings often are, to saying the blunt thing. Certainly I did that with my own big sister, as she did with me. We said harsh things and we did harsh things.
When we were maybe 10 and 12 years old, Nan still got a kick out of knocking me down, sitting on me, then slowly releasing a long thread of saliva over my face, sucking it back up at the very last second. It was like something out of an Edgar Allen Poe story.
We were a little older that time she locked herself in the bathroom with my diary.
But I gave as good as I got and took my revenge a week or so later when she was bleaching her hair on the sly. (Mom never did figure out figure out why she was getting blonder and blonder, in January.) I watched for the moment when she stepped out of the bathroom for the 20 minutes it took for the bleach to work, then zipped in there myself, slammed the door shut and slid the bolt.
I wouldn’t let her in, even as she begged and pounded. It didn’t matter to me how crucial it was that she get back in to apply the neutralizer that would halt the work of all that peroxide. She went to school for a week with hair the color of straw – a kind of gray-green straw, as I remember it.
But that's the way it is with siblings. It's not until you take a vow to stick with someone through thick and thin that you start to be a little more careful about what you say.
I got more careful when I met this boy. Before two months had passed, we both knew we were in it for keeps.
And so, we learned how to fight – “disagree” is a better word - without scorching the earth all around us.
I learned to say “That’s not how I see it,” instead of “You’re crazy!”
He learned to say, “Really?” instead of, “Don’t be ridiculous!”
We both learned not to give the superior smirk when the other one took a position we didn’t agree with.
We learned slowly to change the subject and move to a more neutral topic.
We tried not to nitpick, find fault, do that kind of case-building we all can do when we’re just so sure that the other guy is in the wrong.
And mostly we learned to stay connected.
To brush a hand across the other one’s shoulder after a disagreement.
To say a decent goodbye instead of slamming the car door after one of our tiffs if they took place in the car, which they often did.
We don’t agree about everything. Far from it. He thinks the bottle brush and sponge belong on the kitchen counter next to the sink while I think they belong in the sink. He takes them out. I put them back. Neither of us ever speaks about it.
It’s just too important to us to remember that we are one.
Maybe it’s important for us as citizens to remember that too.
It was a long hard journey to Election Day. Let’s step back a little now and try to recover from all the shouting.
Write Terry at email@example.com or c/o Ravenscroft Press P.O. Box 270, Winchester MA 01890 and check out her blog Exit Only at www.terrymarotta.wordpress.com.