Till Death


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I’m married, thirteen and a half years to be exact. Growing up, I never thought much about marriage. My parents separated before I was three and even my grandmother, the woman who helped raise me, was a divorcee. There were no married couples in my immediate family. Both my aunts were single and my uncle was closer to my age than to my mom’s, so he was too young to be married. My father had an older brother who was married three times over the course of his short life, and his sister the same, although two of her marriages were to the same man. To say I did not have a healthy representation of marriage in my life would be an understatement.
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My father is currently on marriage number three, and while it looks like the third time may actually be a charm, technically, the jury is still out. My mom, on the other hand, had always vowed that one marriage was more than enough for her, and she swore she’d never attempt it again. True to her word, she didn’t.
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Growing up with a domineering grandmother and an equally strong-willed mother gave me a different outlook on men and the necessity for them. My grandmother had always told me there was no more important trait in a man than being “handy” and that I should find someone who knew their way around a tool box. What a woman really needed was not so much companionship as someone who could fix the broken stuff around her house.
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While she never remarried, my grandmother did have a boyfriend for many years and I called him my uncle. Although Uncle Bill was not particularly handy, he did have a good amount of money, which of course was the next best thing. When Uncle Bill had a good weekend in Vegas, my grandmother would always have some extra cash; when he had a great weekend in Vegas, she’d redo a room in the house. As a little girl, I remember him coming over on Friday nights for dinner. He’d give me a dollar and then whisk my grandmother away for the weekend. I once made the mistake of asking her what they did while they were gone for days on end. Her reply? “We fuck, Cynthia.” After finding a copy of the Kama Sutra while snooping in her nightstand, I’d have to say the one thing my grandmother did not do was mince her words.
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Helen may not have been your typical grandmother baking cookies in the kitchen, but I loved her fiercely. She was blunt, sometimes crude, but always brutally honest, three traits I have recognized in myself on more than one occasion. It was from my grandmother that I learned men had their proper place, and while it was true that they could be very useful around the house, they also had the ability to take care of some other “needs” as well.
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My mother’s relationships with men were always a bit more complicated, as they were ruled by emotion and not the idea of what someone could or couldn’t do for her. After breaking up with the love of her life, her long-term boyfriend Ed, she seemed to give up on the thought that she would ever find anyone to fill his shoes, so she settled with Gary. In the beginning, I’m sure there was a real love between them, but after several years their relationship was vaguely reminiscent of the one from The War of the Roses. I remember endless shouting matches, numerous food-filled pots thrown at heads only to land on walls, and one time a vat of spaghetti got dumped into one of Gary’s treasured Fender guitar cases. My mom was fiery to say the least, and if she was drinking she was downright combustible. I sympathized with Gary because I knew how hard she could be to live with. While I was stranded and didn’t have a choice, I often wondered why he stuck around as long as he did. When their relationship finally ended after years of drawn-out misery, my mother was left a bitter woman in a world of debt, drinking way more than she had before. Not only had she given up on marriage, it seemed she gave up on men altogether.
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Growing up, I dated all types of guys, from the high school basketball team captain to the drummer in a hair band who was addicted to heroin. There were the guys who smothered and loved me too much who were then balanced out by the guys who were aloof and said they loved me, but were really full of shit. Being a teenage girl is not easy water to navigate, but it’s all a part of growing up. Unfortunately, young heartbreak is a necessary evil, and I had more than my share of it.
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When Mike and I met in my mid twenties, he seemed to be everything I was looking for. Strong yet sensitive, smart, funny, driven and yes, even handy! We dated for about two years before getting married in June, 2000. We have always had a very unique relationship in that we both allow each other to be individuals and do not view ourselves as one married “unit.” I really hate those couples, the ones who can’t answer a question without looking at their spouse for approval. I am not the kind of woman who looks for approval from anyone, let alone my spouse. Don’t get me wrong. It’s nice to have someone stand by your side or have your back when you need them to, but I don’t do well asking anyone for permission. I guess that has a lot to do with my upbringing. The women in my family always ran the show.
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I also happen to enjoy my free time immensely and have never had a problem being alone, unlike some of my married friends. There have been times during our marriage that Mike and I have vacationed separately, and while we both enjoy some of the same things, we have many different interests as well. We never stand in each other’s way when it comes to doing something we want to do if we have the means to do it. Yet, even with all of this freedom, there are still times that I feel very constricted and I often ask myself, was I truly cut out for marriage?
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20131207-114608.jpgGrowing up, I had lots of friends who dreamed of their wedding day. I never did. I think what they were in love with was the idea of being married, not necessarily the reality of it. Everyone will tell you marriage is hard—um yeah, relationships are hard in general. What they won’t tell you, or won’t tell you very often, is why.
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I am not ashamed to admit that at forty-one I am a sexual being who still wants to be desired. I am sure that there are some women out there who will say I am completely shallow and that I should view myself as more than a sexual object—by the way, I do—but now that I am in my forties, I have never been more comfortable in my own skin and with the person that I have evolved into. I’m at the point where I embrace all of me and like it or not, that happens to include my sexuality. I make no apologies for that, nor do I think I should.
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Being with the same person for over fifteen years can be suffocating on both ends. I am not naive enough to think that I am the perfect mate and that I fulfill Mike on all levels. I know I don’t. Nobody is more aware of my failings than I am. But just when I think I have it all figured out and that marriage is an archaic institution that needs to be abolished, I meet someone like Dan who tells me that he still believes in true love because he witnessed it with his parents, Tom and Julie.
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Up until his mother’s last breath, his father was madly and deeply in love with her. After twenty-plus years of marriage and three sons, he would spontaneously bring her flowers and sing her name as he walked in the door. Dan showed me pictures of them together, and I have to say it looked like the real thing.
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Unfortunately, it seems like Tom and Julie’s story is the exception and not necessarily the rule. It’s extremely hard not to take the people we love for granted and we seem to do it more often than not. Whether it’s our parents, our friends or our spouses, complacency tends to breed boredom and there is nothing less sexy than “comfortable.” All you need to do is look at a shoe rack to figure that one out. When is the last time you looked at a pair of Easy Spirits and thought to yourself, “Wow, those are some hot, sexy shoes, I can’t wait to rock them!” So how do we keep the mundane from happening? How can you stave off what seems to happen to so many couples? It’s a hypothetical question. I have no fucking clue.
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This summer, while having drinks with a friend at one of my favorite bars, I was approached by a man who started a conversation after seeing the fire dancer tattoo on my back. At first I was definitely on guard, but after some harmless conversation I realized he was actually a really nice guy and that we had a lot in common. He had recently lost his mother to cancer, which was something I could totally relate to, and I realized he was not just some dirt bag trying to pick me up in a bar. He seemed legitimately interested in what I had to say.
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It had been a long time since anyone had looked at me the way he did, and when he half-jokingly asked if there was any chance I was going to get divorced, while feeling very flattered, I answered, “The idea of me and the reality of me are two completely different things.” As if nobody could possibly stay interested in me for any extended amount of time. How sad.
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Who knows, maybe not everyone has the genetic make-up to be as fortunate as Tom and Julie were. Maybe we just need to accept that and move on, or maybe the problem is not with our spouses. Maybe the problem really is with us.
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My first reaction when Mike brings me flowers is, how much did they cost? I have always been a practical person, and spending money on something that will only shrivel up and die in a few days just doesn’t make sense to me. Mike knows that unless it’s my birthday, he better not walk into this house with flowers, especially expensive ones. And don’t get me started on my disdain for the greeting card industry. Every February you will hear me bitching about Valentine’s Day, that horse shit holiday the greeting card industry pushes on the masses in order to get them to buy their corny five dollar cards. I have a hard and fast rule that a card of any kind is wasted on me.
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This is not to say I don’t appreciate a gift or show of appreciation from time to time; it’s just that my idea of what’s wanted doesn’t seem to line up with the typical woman’s idea of what would be an appropriate gift, which in turn can be very confusing for most men. Just ask Mike what happened when he brought me home a pair of $300 earrings. For most women, $300 would not even be considered a lot of money for jewelry, but to me it was an obnoxious amount of cash. I made such a stink that he returned the earrings that very night.
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As difficult as I am, should it surprise me that Mike’s eyes don’t burn with passion and desire every time he looks at me? No. I am as equally responsible for the way things are in this relationship as he is. It would be so much easier if I could blame it all on him and resign myself to starting over, but the truth is, unless I change how I react in my relationships, I am doomed to eventually find myself in the same situation again.
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The question isn’t, would I be happier if I were in another relationship? The question is, can I be happy and fulfilled in this one?
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Cynthia ConeAuthor: Cynthia Cone is a heavily tattooed Ex-Con with no college education and very bad punctuation. She currently lives on Long Island, NY where she pays extremely high taxes, likes to drink, rage against the machine and shop at the GAP.

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Cynthia is also a satellite producer for the radio show Dangerous Conversation which can be heard on radioio.com.

Contact Cynthia at 2100hours@optonline.net

Twitter: @BookingGoddess

Read More Essays by Cynthia Cone

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2 thoughts on “Till Death

  1. Some TV show had some smart writer who either discovered or developed this quote…”All of a man’s troubles come from his inability to sit quietly in a room by himself”. Who’d a thunk the simplest reality of our being is also the most fundamental puzzle in which we are engaged in a lifelong solution…how to live with ourselves.

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  2. Pingback: Chaos 2013: Year in Review | Chaos Section

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