Thursday, November 16, 2006

Married to a Tormented Artist

If I ever write a novel, it will be about a marriage, because I think marriage is the Great Mystery. No one can know the truth about someone else’s marriage. (Probably we can hardly even know the truth about our own.) I’m very curious about other people’s marriages. (But then, I’m very curious about most things about other people. Which is why I am a peeping tom, either through windows at dusk [from the street! sheesh! I wouldn’t walk right UP to a window—what do you think I am??], or through reading fiction so that I can peek into other peoples’ minds.)

I had a really hard time with both of my marriage decisions. (For those of you who don’t know, the first one ended in a broken engagement. That is a whole nother story for another day.) One of the things that made my decision to marry Roger so difficult was that he was NOTHING like what I had always pictured my future husband would be.

Of course, when I was quite young, the person I was going to marry was Donny Osmond. When I grew out of that, it was Steven Kapp Perry, which is very daring of me to admit since there is the very slight chance that he might actually read this someday because we are sort of on-line acquaintances now--very distantly. (But, come on, you can’t blame me. All us fifteen-year-olds hoped we’d marry him. He was, after all, doing the fireside circuit as an unmarried young man with a beautiful voice during the time we were all in seminary. Forgive me, Steve. Now I suppose you’ll never be able to meet my eyes when we meet in person.)

Later on, in college, I had imagined somebody tall (well, we got that one right, at least), dark, older, brooding, mysterious artsy guy—sort of an intellectual Mr. Darcy. I particularly hoped he would be a professor (slightly better than a writer because at least he would make a regular income with benefits).

So I met this guy who first of all looked really young, with blond curly hair and dancing eyes who hardly ever read a book for fun but who I just couldn’t get off my mind or out of my life! A couple of times I tried to get rid of him but I just couldn’t do without him for long. He made me come out of my brooding cave into the sun, to move my body and giggle and play. He taught me not to take myself so seriously. He was my best friend. I had to have him in my life—but MARRY HIM? What about Mr. Serious, Mr. Artist, Mr. Professor? Luckily, I eventually saw that Mr. Happy was exactly what I needed, and Mr. Brooding was exactly what would be disastrous for me.

I scare myself sometimes when I think of what would have happened if I had married Mr. Professor. I would now be a bitter woman. Because being a professor (and especially being a writer) was MY dream. How awful to spend my life staying home with kids while my HUSBAND got to go to work doing my dream job! How miserable to watch him spending time writing and reading and teaching all day long when that’s what I wanted to be doing! To say nothing of the awkwardness and envy if he turned out to have more talent in the things I cared about. The marriage wouldn’t have survived grad school!

I eventually kind of developed a theory that it is only with difficulty that a marriage can handle more than one artistic spouse. So I’m very curious about other marriages in which one or both spouses are artistic. But I can’t exactly ask my writing friends, “So, how’s your marriage?” LDS marriages, in particular, must be awfully difficult when both want to become artists, because we Mormons feel so guilty when we spend time writing that could be spent in our calling, with our family, doing family history, attending the temple, etc. How could two spouses carve out time for themselves to practice their craft without great difficulty?

So, what do you think of my theory? Do you ever wonder what Orson Scott Card’s wife thinks of all this? Richard Dutcher’s? Anyone else?


Anonymous said...

I am glad you were able to bring yourself to marry me instead of that Mr. Professor guy. I sure love being married to you!


Anonymous said...

I agree with the theory. If one marriage partner is an "artist," the other needs to be grounded and logical. One of the best proofs of this is that celebrity marriages (both partners as artists) often fail. In my marriage, I'm the artist for the most part. Not to say my wife is not creative. She certainly is. When it comes to the children and the kitchen, she is the artist. So I guess we have our artistic categories. And in those, we either support each other, or stay our of the other's way.

Dave Y.

queen serene said...

I believed the theory until I met my friend Jennifer. She and her husband are both freelance writers by trade (narrative nonfiction). And they're both amazingly talented, deep thinking, careful crafters of words. At the same time they're both hard workers in the outdoor/physical realm. Maybe that's what makes it work-able--they have the proverbial head in the clouds but also feet on the ground.

As far as scheduling goes, they trade off parenting and writing duties (they homeschool their kids too). Writing is their income, so they've gotta be disciplined and get it done.

and yes, I'd love to be a fly on the wall in their house. I've just been reading one of the husband's books and I loved reading all of the domestic parts of the story. I told Jennifer I felt a bit voyeuristic, but it was fun!

mary ann said...

I am generally a huge believer in the opposition of all attributes in marriage theory, but I think that this aspect hinges more on your schedules and your workloads. Rob and I both have liberal arts degrees, and our interests and talents (and disinterests and weaknesses) are very similar. I think of myself as creative, but he is even more creative (where does that leave us?). His research and writing have at times made me envious(when I'm up to my elbows in babyhood)but they've also jumpstarted my creativity and my thinking. He makes space and time for me to do creative things as well.
One of the best things we've ever done is to change places for a few hours. I go into his office and type in some dictation or file or collate something for him, and he watches kids and does laundry and homework for an afternoon. Or right now, when I go learn German and he is the hausfrau. We both come out of those afternoons really respecting all the work the other is doing.
But again, I think it has to do with your situation.