Bad Marriage Advice.

Last Sunday was Bastille Day in New York City.

The Alliance Francais closed 60th Street from Lexington Avenue to Fifth Avenue and the rue was packed with food stalls and clothing booths and mimes and tourist info stalls, and New Yorkers.

Business was brisk at the marinière stall:

The marinière was adopted by the French Navy in 1858 as part of its uniform for sailors. The stripes on the shirt were supposed to make it easier to spot men that had gone overboard. The shirt is also known as a Breton shirt because, in the 19th century, a lot of sailors came from Brittany.

Speaking of Brittany, there was a crepe stall:

That’s the flag of Brittany in the background.

I liked the Asian girl in the patisserie stall who had two little French flags waving from her chignon:

It was stinking hot and crowded like crazy so Top Cat and I strolled through the block party once, bought a bottle of organic salad olive oil from a town near Carcassonne, and headed back home.

We took the Stromness Rock with us:

In Penn Station (Long Island Rail Road, etc.).


On the E train (subway).


Lexington Avenue at 53rd Street (Citicorp).

That is Top Cat’s hand in every frame, holding the Stromness Rock while I snap the photo.

So, yes, Top Cat and I are still together and still hanging out with each other, doing fun stuff, just like the olden days. The Battle of Scotland is behind us because we work at our marriage, or whatever. As a couple, we concentrate on not hating each other for too long a time.

I have always wanted to punch someone in the mouth whenever it has been said to me (back in the really olden days, when we were all young and newly-partnered and hashing out the “happily ever after part” of our lives) that “Marriage takes work.” 

What a stupid thing to say. Does that statement have any information in it? Tell me, what is the work you’re supposed to do in a marriage? Is it so very different from any other kind of work that you have to do to be a kind, thoughtful, caring person in the world? Is marriage work more magical?  If so, what the fuck is it???

Also, I hate work.

So when someone was stupid enough to give me that line about marriage takes work,  this is what I used to do instead of socking that someone right in the kisser: I used to stop the conversation and say, “Say that again, only this time don’t use the word work. Tell me, Marriage takes ________ (fill in the blank).” In other words, use a different word to tell me what it takes to keep two people in an intimate, close, time-consuming relationship from killing each other.

I can not remember a single time that someone was able to fill in the blank., Go fuck yourself.

Getting back to the topic at hand, you all know that I’ve been reporting on a harrowing ten days that Top Cat and I endured in each other’s company in Scotland. As you know, it was awful. Top Cat and I loathed each other for hours and days and days at a time.

A lot of you, Dear Readers, have emailed me with your gratitude for what I have written about our conflict because my story made some of you feel better, feel relief, feel consoled, and/or feel less guilty about the times that your own Significant Other, love of your life, Dearly Beloved has driven you desperately bat-shit crazy.

First of all, You’re Welcome.

Second, I can report about the fits and tiffs and sulks and murderous impulses that I experienced while I was in Scotland with Top Cat because I speak about it all from a safe place. My connection with Top Cat — the legal, emotional, and historical connection that we have — is solid. Even when it gets rocky, it is solid. I know that, and he knows that. (Well, I mostly know that. Nothing is 100% knowable, right?)

And I’m going to tell you the way that Top Cat and I repaired the huge break in our relationship was not work. It was this:

After Top Cat and I had had several attempts at having a good talk about what went wrong in Scotland, we found that we kept talking in circles. I would ask him, Why did you make us miss the bus in Edinburgh? (That incident on the streets of Edinburgh is what started everything that went downhill.)

And he would answer: I didn’t think we had to hurry; I would never thought that the driver would take off without us; I wasn’t trying to make us miss the bus, etc. And then he would say, Why do you keep asking me this??? Why do we have to talk about this again???

One night, me and half a bottle of pinot grigio were sitting out on the patio feeling aggrieved, as usual, at the end of one of these circular conversations, and I had a Hallejula moment. What I realized was that every time I asked Top Cat, Why did you make us miss the bus in Edinburgh? I had been asking the wrong question. And as long as I kept asking the wrong question, all of Top Cat’s answers were going to be wrong also. No wonder we kept talking in circles.

And I suddenly understood what the right question was.

The right question was simple, but it wasn’t going to be easy to ask. Asking the right question was going to make me vulnerable, and feeling vulnerable is as horrifying to me as throwing up on myself in public.

But I knew that I was not going to repair this break in our relationship unless I asked the right question no matter how much I’d rather be tough and not so ruffled-kitchen-curtain-girly. So I gathered my courage and drank the rest of my wine. The next day, I sat down with Top Cat and I explained that I wanted to talk about Scotland again, but this time I wanted to ask him something I’ve never asked him before. He said, OK, let’s hear it.

And I asked: Why don’t you love me enough to walk fast with me so I don’t have to worry about catching the bus in Edinburgh? Follow up question: Why don’t you love me enough to do what you can to ease my ocassional anxiety especially when what you have to do is such a small thing and I need it so rarely?

Top Cat sat back in his chair and thought for half a second (a long time) and he said, “That is a very valid question.”

And that was the exact right answer. NOW we can talk.

And we did, and it was wonderful, and that’s why I love my Top Cat.

All it took was thinking about what my true and deep feelings were, and being brave enough to ask the right question that was based on those true and deep feelings. That’s not work; that’s just awareness. Oh, and sitting out on your patio with half a bottle of pinot grigio, and that is certainly not work.

So let’s now talk about The Stromness Rock.

THANK YOU all you marvelous Dear Readers!

Rachel, Christine, Carol, Amy, Marilyn, Susie, Jeanie, Thea, Alex, Maryanne, Leslie, and Angel!

I have an itinerary for The Rock, and it’s going to go around America clockwise, starting in Virginia. Then: South Carolina, Florida, Louisiana, Texas, Washington (state), Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts.

I will be contacting you this coming week for your addresses (you’re all on the ChrisHanuKwanSolstice list!), and I’ll pack The Rock and its passport and instructions for posting pix, and we’ll get this tour started. I hope to have it back here on Long Island in time for Fall foliage before I send it back to Orkney, where it will have oh, so many stories to tell.

This weekend, for example, The Stromness Rock will be experiencing a hot spell here on The Isle of Long that they will not believe up there, in the isles of The North Sea. The USA National Weather Service has issued a heat advisory for noon though 10 p.m. Saturday, when temperatures will hit 96 degrees and which our very high humidity will give us a heat index of 105 degrees. *cough climate change*

Same on Sunday. *cough catastrophic climate change*

I’ll be making sure that the herd stays cool . . .

. . . by making them stay inside in the basement, where it’s always wine-cellar-cool. Seriously. Top Cat has his wine cellar down there, and this weekend we’ll turn it into our Cat Cellar.

Ha ha.

Have a great weekend, Dear Ones. What a weekend this will be! July 20: Let’s remember where we all were when we watched Neil Armstrong take one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind, when it was the first time humans had seen our beautiful, fragile, life-giving, wrecked, doomed, home planet like this:

1969 Earthrise over the moon’s surface. Photo credit: USgov.

I love you, Earth. It was nice knowing you.

10 Comments, RSS

  1. Casey

    It’s the little things that make me feel loved. Those huge romantic gestures, renting out the jumbotron at Times Square or Fenway Park to write I Love You leave me bored, but wow, when someone listens to me tell them what I need to make me feel valued and then they DO it,,,that is romance. Ad you are right, it’s not work. It’s honesty and bravery that makes it happen.

    I was not alive in 1969 but how I envy all of you who were. What a momentous year, with a moon landing, a Woodstock, Abbey Road, Stonewall, Easy Rider (Funny Girl, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid),,,I love it all and wish I had been there.

    Keep cool, all you humans and its in VivianWorld.

  2. Janet

    Vivian, thx for this brave post. Not all are willing to lay out their vulnerabilities, and I appreciate your sharing how to approach a conflict in a different way. Perhaps the stars aligned this week and created the space for having a real conversation with the one we love above all — surprisingly it happened at our house too. It’s so easy to avoid the heart-to-heart, heavy topics. Especially when you’ve been with someone for a very long time. The payoff for taking the risk makes it all worth it — rekindling and recapturing those often illusive “in love” moments is not something that happens every day. The “work” of a relationship takes sacrifice, trust, respect, patience, tolerance, compromise, honesty, occasionally thick skin, optimism, and a sense of humor. After 38 years, we still hit rough spots but a lifetime of commitment does establish a certain kind of safety net. Neither of us is going anywhere, so it becomes a matter of working things out, standing up for our individual selves, and arriving at a place of true understanding and gratitude.

    I like that your rock is going to be touring the country. Interesting how traveling stones are also in play for a dear friend of mine. Her 26-year-old daughter died last year in a freak accident when she fell from the upper deck of a boat, hit her head on the way down, immediately sank to the bottom of a lake and drowned. Live Like Rachel rocks are now finding their way all over the world — Rachel’s friends paint them and put this message on the back: “You found me! I was created to celebrate the beautiful life of Rachel Scott, an adventurous spirit who lived in Austin, Texas. Her friends and loved ones wish you well and invite you to take a photo, hashtag #livelikerachel, and take me on a new adventure, no matter how near or far.” Her mom said the rocks have landed in more than 20 countries. Spirits are kept alive in many ways: I especially like this way.

    When men landed on the moon 50 years ago, I had been married for exactly 30 days. We were on the other side of broke and didn’t have a television. We managed to scrape up $10 to rent a tiny black and white TV to watch the landing, and it was amazing. Had we’d stayed married, we would have celebrated our 50th anniversary last month . I celebrated that we had NOT stayed married and I instead moved on and found the real love of my life (see above). So when I look up at the moon tomorrow and remember how exciting it was to see two guys hopping around up there, I thank my lucky stars that life works in mysterious ways and delivers the right person at the right time. And leaves it up to us to make it work.

  3. Marg-o

    That was a beautiful story. I have children with my husband so you could say that we know each other intimately and there are times when I can’t bring myself to talk to him from a place of vulnerability as you described it, that is, putting my heart on the line and asking for him to love me in a way that I need. And Casey is right, it’s little things. It takes awareness on both sides, and Top Cat is an aware guy.

    I was 10 in 1969. I barely remember the moon walk but I have relived it vividly. When I found out that Americans had been on the moon when I was in eighth grade I could not believe it! It was one of the final Apollo launches that my dad and I watched together and I was excited. I thought that by now we would have colonies on the moon and that maybe I would be a stewardess on the shuttle between earth and Space Staton V. Alas.

  4. This post is so perfect, so well stated, so honest. I love it and I love you and Top Cat for “going there,” to the hard part. And yes, I agree — work just drags it and you go round in circles. Being honest, open, listening and courage to hear and process what you may not like, evaluate and understand, as well as being understood — that’s what matters. It made a big difference to me when Rick has been so kind with my illness (and then the infection this week on top of it). He SHOULD be, but the fact is that he IS. We are easy with each other, which doesn’t mean we always agree and have to come to terms, but we DO and like you and Top Cat, that is what matters. And fun still survives.

    How you survived the Bastille gig is beyond me with this heat. I’m glad I can jump in the lake here as long as I don’t put my head in. I, too, have been remembering July 20, watching it all on my aunt’s tv in her house uptown in Gaylord, all of us crammed into a small family room, glued to the telly. Seems like yesterday.

  5. Megan

    My cats would not go in the wine cellar… they all like to lie in the sun until smoke comes of their fur. Weird I know. After 33 years of unmarriedness, my partner knows I would have stayed on that bus and he could have worked out his own way to get where he should have been… well actually he would still be at the bus stop now. You are a kind person.

  6. Rachel

    Vivian, I am so excited to be part of the Stromness Rock Around the US.
    I hope, when it gets back to you, that we will be able to see all the places
    it has been. Do you plan to show photos at each destination or all at once,
    when it returns to you? Do we each have a time limit? This inquiring mind
    wants to know.

  7. Kirra

    Great post Vivian! Amazing how when you ask a different question or think a different way about something then you can work through it.

    Sounds like a grand tour for the rock!

  8. Angel

    Yay! I made the cut!! Rock, get ready for a bike ride to the beaches of Lake Michigan. You’ll be secured to my handlebars so you get to see the scenery flying by.

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