You're at a party, speaking with a new acquaintance, going through the motions of polite conversation, when talk turns to your mariner's job. You tell her about it and, anticipating the next question, explain that he's gone for approximately half of the year, every year. And then she "gives face" and you've probably got a pretty good idea of the path you're about to head down with her. Ha!
One of the best parts of this lifestyle, I've found over time, is the varying reactions people have when they find out what my husband does for a living. I love to mentally catalog their facial expressions and the kind of questions they gravitate toward, since they're both pretty good indicators of how they perceive my life to be, right or wrong. I've only really started paying attention to this in my married years...when I was a kid, my friends didn't skip a beat when they heard about Big Daddy Mitchell's job, it was just another career as far as they were concerned, he might've been selling rat poison. Kids are so flexible.
Now I know there are quite a few different reactions, certainly more than the ones I'm about to put to paper, but these are the four I've come to really know in the past ten years. These are the ones that surface more often than not, and move me to anger, humility, and laughter. Perhaps you'll recognize some of them, perhaps you've got a few of your own filed away for a particularly stressful time when Mariner is away and you need a good laugh. In any case, it's always educational for me, and even more entertaining. I hope it is for you, too!
|Image by Pixland/Corbis|
Squinched up eyes, tightening of the lips, and extreme focus and attention on each answer that rolls off of your tongue OR softening of the whole body, deep and satisfying breaths, and a far away look in their slightly smiling eyes. This one is by far my favorite because I always try to imagine what their particular circumstance must be. Why would they wish their spouse away for months at a time? Why is the thought of being alone, in a marriage, for half of the year so appealing to them? And because my imagination runs so wild, here's just a sampling of some of the things I come up with.
Was it an arranged marriage?
Does she work for the CIA and just wishes her husband would go away so she could do her job effectively?
Is she married to a man that bites his toenails off and she's ready to kill him?
Was she kidnapped and looking for a way to get back to her country?
Is he a Tom Jones impersonator and her taste runs more to Beethoven?
Does he smell like soup all of the time?
Did he just retire?
Whatever the case may be, I love talking with these folks most of all because they seem to look upon Beady's absences with positivity, not pity. They can see how living apart can be healthy and sometimes necessary for a relationship to thrive. And these are also the people I can joke with. When they ask me how I make it work, I can say things like, "Well, I don't really like my husband that much anyway" or "My boyfriend always helps out when Beady's gone, he's a sweetheart." They envy that piece of my life most people give condolences for and in that way, I end up seeing Merchant Mariner Land as an attribute, not a handicap or obstacle I need to overcome.
Look, I've figured out over the years that in all of these situations each person is most likely projecting. The questions they ask hope for clues as to how they would manage, fail, or thrive in the same situation. I understand that it has little to do with me and more to do with curiosity, but that doesn't mean I can't sit back and enjoy the show!
Copyright 2013 Callie's Mariner