As anticipated, my new-but-now-longer-than-three-month relationship no longer shimmers with the gloss of perfection–same for D, the person I’m in it with.
Don’t misunderstand: both things–he and the relationship–continue to be the source of many things happy, as things that aren’t flawless often do. I still get giddy about seeing him and feel extremely fortunate to have him, and us.
But we seem to have entered this sort of in-between sphere: the relationship is no longer brand new, and yet–it’s coming on four months now–it’s not exactly a thing of profound length. We’re not quite in the honeymoon stage anymore, that time when you just can’t stop thinking of the person and want to be with them all the time and believe them more or less perfect. Okay, maybe a little bit.
Anyhow. There’s a baseline commitment–breaking news, internet: in a few weeks, I’m taking the boy home to meet the family!–but no talk of anything significantly longer term.
In other words: we’ve yet to discuss the fact that in about twelve months, godwilling, I will be done with my MFA and don’t know where I’ll want to go (you know me and my persistent, unresolved New York-or-not-New-York angst), while his career (read: pension) means he’s not going to leave New Mexico for the next nineteen years.
As he put it when I, sort of accidentally, brought up the point a few weeks ago: that’s a conversation for another time.
What time, though, I couldn’t tell you. I don’t know when you move from the short term commitment we currently occupy, of meeting the family and going to weddings and making plans for months ahead, to the kind that necessitates that conversation. The talk about whether-this-is-possibly-forever-or-not.
I’m certainly not anxious to get there. As I’ve been realizing, the territory is entirely unfamiliar.
There were a lot of strange things about my first and only long term love. Most notably, that, when we started dating, he was thirty-five and I was nineteen.
That particular strange thing generated a lot of other strange things: namely that, in my head and I’m pretty sure in his, the possibility of permanence never took up much space.
Sure, there were moments. One, in particular, that I always think of–spending time one summer with my friend K, an older woman who is now my ex’s girlfriend (also, a conversation for another time) by the pool at her St. Paul country club. We sometimes saw Garrison Keillor there, striding by in long maroon trunks and a serious scowl.
We also saw, reliably, a lot of little kids. And a lot of young mothers with those kids: playing and policing the floating landscape of bright yellow butterfly wings, purple floating rafts and bendy foam noodles.
Growing up in New York City, the squad I saw parenting was an aging one. I thought thirty-five was young to have kids. But since then I’ve been drawn to the idea, at least, of being a young parent. And in that moment I remember thinking: I should just do it. Marry the guy I’m with. Have babies now. Play in the pool with the rafts and the moms and call it a day.
And then the moment passed. I returned to my normal way of thinking: that I was far too young and inexperienced to even consider settling down. That sooner or later I’d have to pursue opportunities, professional and otherwise, outside Minnesota. That my first real relationship would not be my last.
A way of thinking that, I now realize, was something of a luxury. It allowed me to enjoy the relationship, the person and my time with him, for what it was. Never–or, perhaps, rarely–did questions about longevity loom in the back of my mind. I was able to appreciate the present without the constant distraction of the future.
Now, I have no such luxury. Now, as I fall for someone in an increasingly serious way, I can’t help but let thoughts of what might be, accompany–and sometimes, I fear, interrupt–those of what is.
I hate this. Four months is a short time. Possible flaws and issues have only just begun to surface, and I’m sure they will continue. They always do. The question isn’t how close things are, or us together, is to perfect, but whether it’s the right thing–let’s be honest, whether it’s a good-enough thing (Jesus, have I lost all my romanticism?)–for me and for him.
And that, there’s no doubt, is a question for another time.