My friend Lynne came through town on a visit recently. And she came bearing gifts, the largest being a huge bag of yarn to cluttercast. For someone who lives way too far from family and lifelong friends, the best gift she brought was herself. I stay in touch via old and new forms of communication—but Facebook is no substitute for a face.
Lynne and I go back to the time when Jane Fonda had a workout studio in Los Angeles. We had a nodding acquaintance in crowded classes when occasionally our eyes met in the mirror across the large expanse of the studio.
Later on we met across the large expanse of our pregnant bellies. Along with our husbands, we connected while taking our official tour of the maternity ward at Cedars Sinai Hospital.
Lynne was also having a girl—it was her third, and my first. I was a mass of anxieties; it struck me immediately how much more calm and relaxed she was. Although what really struck me was watching Lynne and her husband. I couldn’t take my eyes off him them.
You know those couples where you wonder what brought these people together? (Immediately I’m wondering if people are wondering about V and me…) Anyway Lynne and her husband were a couple like that, too. She’s liberal and Jewish, from New York; he’s conservative and Christian from the south. And there was more. When I met them, Lynne was 39; a single mother working to raise two daughters. Her husband was 25; at the time, he worked as a model.
This was before Samantha on Sex and the City. Before Demi and Ashton. When a cougar was still an animal in the zoo. I remember H and I discussing this unusual coupling in the car on the ride home right after we met them. Their marriage was barely a year old; we judged it from the perspective of ours which had already lasted 5 years. We thought we knew something about marriage, about relationships, about what brings people together. And we didn’t think their marriage had a prayer. I would have taken any bet that marriage would be over before their baby would be out of diapers.
Need I even mention that H and I were the ones who split up? While Lynne and her husband are still going strong after 26 years.
So you take a couple like that. Then you take the couples who seem happily married one day and the next day you hear they filed for divorce. And then you think about how little we know about what goes on behind closed doors. And when I look at Lynne’s long marriage from my vantage point of years and wisdom, it convinces me of something else: the older I get the less I know.