There’s a running joke in our family about how, if it weren’t for my wife, I’d still be living with my mother. It’s meant as a compliment to her, and I tell that joke to just about everyone we meet.
We slap our knees, grab our guts, and have a good laugh.
Here’s the moral of the joke …Any amount of success that I have I owe to my wife.
But to be honest, if I’d never met my wife I really don’t think I’d still be sleeping on my mother’s couch at 38 years old. I would’ve killed myself long before that.
The guys over at Freakanomics have a nice podcast on suicide. One of the experts they tap explains that the states where men tend to be alone and possess a gun have the highest suicide rates.
Think Montana and Alaska.
No mention, however, of economical or relational states, like sleeping on your mother’s couch at 38 years old. I wonder what they’d make of that.
Common Sense Is Over-rated
My wife and I met in our mid-twenties. She had her act together more than I did because, as I mentioned, I was still sleeping on my mother’s couch. Over a course of about ten or twelve months we fell in love and eventually I proposed to her.
Funny. She agreed.
As the wedding approached, we naturally spent time planning. I also started school and quit my job. Earlier that year, my step-father was killed in a climbing accident and insurance money that my mother got (and shared with me) allowed me to pay off my car and an old student loan — the only debt I had. It was an exquisite situation for someone who wanted to do nothing but write bad poetry.
My soon-to-be wife, however, thought otherwise.
She was matter-of-factly patient, understanding that I would eventually come around. I’m sure this was going through her head: “He understands we’re about to get married, doesn’t he? And he understands that he must eventually pony up and put his big boy pants on and get a job? That I must not be the only one providing for our small family?”
Poor girl. She thoroughly over-estimated my common sense.
Information Loafers Hate to Hear
In response to my stepfather’s death (one in which I’d been party to) I’d written a rather sad poem about three men in a boat who can’t figure out how to get to the shore. Why I placed the obvious characters of the story on a boat and not on the side of a mountain as it actually happened is beyond me.
In fact, much of the poem is beyond me. Looking back it’s apparent I was incapable of expressing how I felt. I was an emotional corpse.
That inability proved exhausting. And distracting. And I was somewhere around the fourteenth revision of that really sad poem when my soon-to-be wife approached me with some disturbing news.
At the time I was living with my grandparents — my mother’s parents. My mother lived in the basement apartment. I lived in the room down the hall from my grandparent’s bedroom on the main floor. I “worked” in the office tucked in a corner of their living room, a pleasant place to revise poems. That’s where my soon-to-be wife found me on that afternoon.
Because the puzzle that was this poem about three men in a boat was not giving up its secret any time soon, thus frustrating the daylights out of me, I was not happy to see her. I was in a foul mood. The scowl on my face said as much. Yet, she was not to be deterred.
“I need to speak to you.”
“Yes, what is this little discussion to be about?”
“Well, we’re getting married soon.”
“And we need to start thinking about our future.”
“Like, where we’re going to live.”
“Like where we’re going to live?”
“Yes, like where you and I will live.”
“What do you mean ‘where we will live?’ There’s no discussion. We will live with my mom.”
The horror that appeared on her face was unexpected. It was like I’d just asked her to step inside an oven so I could gas her. I jumped to defend my position.
“But babe, I mean, we got it made here. I don’t have any bills. Nobody’s collecting rent. And they feed us. What more could you ask for?”
It sounded like an open-and-shut case to me. Who could resist?
What she did next is one of the main reasons why I fell for her in the first place, why I married her, and why I thank God for her every single day.
Who’s Your Hustler?
She hardened her face, locked eyes with me, and scooted her chair close to mine. Then she said, “You need to get a job. We are not living here. We are not sleeping here. We are not eating here. We are going to pay rent for our own place so we can start a family and live like healthy, normal married people.”
At that point I knew that I had punted way beyond my coverage, and that if I wanted to keep up with her I needed to get my butt in gear and start hustling.
I’ve been hustling ever since, thanks to her, and managed to pick up a little common sense. But you really can’t tell unless you look really hard. I’ve still got a lot of loafer blood in me.
So let me ask you: who is responsible for your success? What one person is your hero? Your hustler? A teacher? Spouse? Give up your comments now. We all know you got them. What are you waiting for?
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Paul W. Anderson, Ph.D. says
You hooked me pretty solid this time with this blog installment, Demian.
If a man has not outgrown his mother emotionally before he meets his wife (or one of his wives), he runs a great chance of marrying his next mother, not a wife. And that guarantees he will have to stay functioning as a son to his wife (and she a mother to him) because parents can only relate to children, not peers or equals, and vise versa for the so called “wife”.
When will we as a culture learn to grow our sons into men and pout grow their mother’s soft sofa before they marry? Answer: as soon as men who have grown up before they have kids are able father their sons as sons not siblings of their mother(s).
Demian Farnworth says
Spot on, Paul. Growing up without a father has made it tough to pass on the masculine/fatherly/husband-like qualities that he so desparatly needs to thrive in our culture, but with books and some great mentors I’ve managed to do an okay job. Got any advice?
Paul W. Anderson, Ph.D. says
I think it’s a big issue and it affects all of us. We struggle to find the pathways to maturity.
Anything we can do to increase our (males) emotional intelligence and sensitivity will help. Learning to see the emotional landscape of our relationships and use that information as we interact with our mates and children provides good modeling for our sons.
I think one of the biggest difficulties is the inertia of existing patterns. I don’t know whether it’s tougher for a young person to give up their parent/mom or for mom’s to stop mothering and let their kids go? It’s a self perpetuating symbiosis.
Oh my gosh, I don’t know how I missed this post. Hilarious. Many, many years later, I am happy to report that you do not even remotely resemble this “character” above. Too funny!