`Smoking Kills! Are you illiterate? Can’t you see the sign? It’s written all over the pack for God’s sake! Look, on this side it has the “smoking kills” sign. The other side says “smoking causes impotence”. When are you going to stop smoking and stop burning money just like that?’ my husband used to say repeatedly, like a parrot on dope. I would snap at him and say, ‘Then you shouldn’t smoke! I wouldn’t want you to be impotent, as for me, I could never be!’ usually, that would leave him with a puzzled expression.
I am a chain-smoker. Especially in front of the computer, whether surfing, chatting or writing. When we were first dating, he didn’t seem to mind my smoking. I even smoked on his bed, after hours of `indoors training’ and he still looked at me adoringly like I was the most beautiful Amazon queen he’d ever seen. Unfortunately men should have come with a warning label just like cigarettes. “Men bitch as much as women. They don’t bitch too much at first, but when you marry them, they will drive you insane”.
But come to think of it, when we first dated there were a lot of things he didn’t seem to mind about me, and to be fair, me about him.
We’ve been together for a little over five years now. Dated for one and a half and married for almost four. A bittersweet merging between two people that – after a year or so into the relationship – discovered that they were total opposites. Well, there is a saying that says “opposites attract”. The “Opposites Attract” campaign should’ve signed us up to be their posterboy and girl. Just like the memorable milk mustaches on those “Got Milk?” ads, they can make memorable ads using us and a little imagination. One that comes to my mind is that they can have us both walk side by side down the aisle of a chapel. He, dressed like a slayer shielding himself with a wooden cross; and I, dressed like a fabootyfulicious vampire, hissing and looking blood-thirsty. A pale ugly priest – almost zombie-like – dressed as Elvis, would be standing at the podium, waiting to marry us.
When I was living with my aunt and uncle, we used to have long talks about life and its meaning. My aunt, who is a very wise woman well into her years, would lecture me a lot and make examples from people (a polite way of saying “we gossiped a lot about other people”) to make a point. Before I got married (for the second time, that is) I was a little frightened that my (future) Mr. me and I would not be a match made in heaven (but then again, who isn’t?). We were in so many ways different that after sometime all we can agree on is how soccer plays an important role in both our lives. He seriously loves it while I seriously loathe it.
My aunt used to tell me that many couples are “setali tiga uang”. An Indonesian proverb that would probably best be interpreted as “you might think it’s opposite attraction, but when opposite attraction happens it’s most likely that the two people weren’t really opposites after all”.
Is it true? I don’t really know, but the more time we spent together, the truer it seems.
When my (chain-smoking) girlfriends met him for the first time, they were too, quite shocked. They thought that we were in no way at all alike. Of course I told them, `If we were alike what fun would it be? What would we fight about? How could we have the (amazing) make-up sex?’ (Which to me is one of the most amazing things human beings have invented after internet and cellphones)
When my little brothers visited and met him, they were more amazed than my girlfriends. They tried to enlighten me. `Kakak, (an Indonesian term of endearment used for calling an older sibling) are you sure about this whole thing? I mean, he is sooo not your type! Not that we would know what your type really is, but really.. it cant be him, can it?”‘
I told him what they said. Every time anyone opens their pie hole and says something unnerving about us I would run to him and pour my heart out. He used to say things like “dont worry” or “dont listen to them” but sometimes he would also make me mad by asking me whether I think we were a mismatch just like the rest of the world.
But there was one time when he said, “Honey, you shouldn’t be upset. (Your brothers and girlfriends) love you, that’s why they (want to) believe that they are protecting you by pointing out the differences between us. Think of it as a movie review. A good movie would stir up emotions, some would say it is a good movie, some would say it was bad. Not everyone can agree on the same thing. Just like us. Just think how boring it would be if we’d agree on the same things, it would feel like we were having a relationship with ourselves!” That was the time when I thought that he was my perfect match for saying what has been secretly lurking at the back of my mind.
I ultimately grew tired of people’s opinions about us and started to root for the opposites attract campaign. I honestly think that all good, solid relationships are based on the differences between two people. So what if I smoked and he doesn’t? So what if he is a serious person and I love goofing around? So what if he is a man and I am a woman? Those are the ingredients of a long-lasting marriage. I truly believe in that, and I think, so does he. And overtime we have found another thing we shared in common besides the soccer thing.
We love each other dearly.
I am not with the man I can’t live without (I think the idea of that died when I lost my virginity), but I am with the man I can live with, whom I love very much. That is the kind of reality mature adults discover. The “Dont marry the man you can live with, marry the man you can’t live without” kind of love that normally teenagers believe in, might be sizzling in the first few years, but after a while, it withers.
We got married March 2003. Contrary to popular opinion (predicting we wouldn’t last for more than two months) we get along OK. It was – and still is – hard work, but I know every marriage is. After all, it is a unity between two very different people, from different families, background and values (unless we are talking about the disgusting incestuous marriages between cousins or siblings still practiced in some parts of the world). It involves a lot of compromise, understanding, giving and taking, loving, fighting and yes, (staggering) make-up lovemaking. So why complain?
This was written in March 2005. I quit smoking August 2005 and haven’t had a cigarette since.