There is a French bakery in my tiny little town called The Bread Peddler. It is amazing and delicious and I swear it has the best almond croissants this side of the 2 degrees east longitude center of Paris. This fall my friend Lisa and I have begun a delightful tradition of meeting once a month for breakfast. (we’ve met twice now. Doesn’t that count as tradition?) Last month she asked if I was going to start writing about couples. Relationships. Partners. I said sure…And I’ve been mulling it ever since. Tuesday we met again, and while sitting at ‘our’ table a few minutes before she arrived, I remembered my promise.
And so I introduce to you ‘A Tent For Two’. Yes, yes, this whole thing is getting ungainly. I need to organize regular blog posts / indigo-orange / two martini lunches (that’s what I am going to call the irreverent ones, I think) / a tent for two in some reasonable way. I don’t know yet what that way will be. We’ll get there. Or, conversely, if you are incredibly organized and have time on your hands, please, send me a suggestion or two. Or eight. Or come help me sort out my attic storage.
A Tent for Two will be the place for reflections on couple-dom. Kids or no kids; dogs or cats or exotic pets; married or cohabitating; gay or lesbian or straight; young or old; in friendship or romance; currently with or currently without someone — it does not matter. (although, I must admit, I am partial to the dog people).
Why a Tent for Two? Because it calls to mind the image of a simple space, a simple place. Where the excesses are stripped away and it is just us and our beloved. …And a couple of pairs of stinky socks, and well-worn hiking boots. And a warm down parka. And possibly a rain tarp. And, ok, whatever else is essential to you. But when we are in a tent the monochromatic fabric creates an uninteresting background, so our focus is on the foreground. On the person sitting next to us. In a tent you can hear their breathing, count the lines of laughter at their eyes or see a brow furrowed in thought. In a tent there is only one room. You have to be with the one you love. And a tent is surrounded by open space. Whether you’d pick mountains or meadows, deserts or city parks, the outside space is one of your choosing. And so, Tent for Two will have more questions than answers. More openings than endings.
Today’s Tent for Two is inspired by my interactions with my daughter. (see? Keeping all of these categories separate is going to be a nightmare.) At age six and a half, Eleanor is sure of herself and her ideas. She is confident in expressing them. And sometimes, sometimes her tone of voice when she says “Mom, you are embarrassing me” or “Mom, you are stressing me out” or “Mom, quit telling me what to do!” is not, shall we say, full of delight. No, her tone is harsh and cold and even contemptuous. Yet I am very willing to say to her “Darling daughter that I love, your tone of voice hurts my feelings.” I don’t even hesitate to help her understand that the method is just as important as the message. But I don’t think I’ve ever said that to my husband. Or any other adult. And while I am sure that I think of it as helping her learn and grow, it is also true that I am not threatened by acknowledging my small flesh wound. So why am I hesitant, even unwilling, to expose that vulnerability to a beloved?
Being with the one we love, truly, fully being with them, is scary. Inviting them into our inner living room means letting down barriers and releasing floodgates and all sorts of mixed metaphors around being completely open.
So as your day unfolds, look for the places of self-censorship. What do you stop yourself from saying? Why? Would it help your partner to understand you if you said it aloud? (of course with a gentle tone of voice…) What do you think about the possible journey of A Tent For Two? Let me know. Keep me posted.