It has been quite a while since People for Less Unrest in Marriage – a wholly imagined and completely uncertified relationship think tank, which often fills to the brim with useless information at inopportune times or in the wee hours of the morning, and is also known (by no one) as PLUM -- has issued any public service messages.
Now, ordinarily, this absence of seething, snarky or nonsensical advice, which could be contraindicated for 98.7 percent of the happily coupled public-at-large, would indicate a certain amount systemic health.
But these, as we know from Twitter, are not normal times.
We are experiencing summer.
And summer begets vacations.
And vacations lead to road trips.
And road trips lead to long car rides and traffic jams and fights over the last cookie or who's kicking the back of my seat and why?
No really, why?
And let's not forget that game of 20 questions is going to take the tone of an interrogation in no time, buhleeeeeeeeeve me!
Stop it! Just stop!
Might as well plug in and disengage. (But not unless the device comes with earphones.)
You know all this. So do I.
What I didn't know was that being better "prepared" wouldn't have helped.
Apparently, being prepared or having plans indicates a damning amount of collusion a person can't readily disavow later.
Plans have a way of turning in on themselves anyway.
I didn't just make that up out of thin air, everyone knows it.
Before it ever started, our vacation had already stepped off on the wrong foot.
As we were packing, my daughter hobbled around her room on a recently turned ankle, making quite the racket. With each garment she tossed from her bureau into a suitcase, she'd squeak out in pain. "Don't worry, I'm fine," she'd assure me each time I poked my head in to enquire. Ouch!
Having just spent three weeks, four doctors, and who knows how much money (insurance hasn't yet weighed in) trying to suss out the cause of a mystery pain -- which has kept me away from the sanity-inducing effects of literally running away from my problems -- I was hoping upon hope we wouldn't have to make another unplanned trip to emergent care.
By morning her foot was better. Stupid kids and their stupid quick-healing bodies.
But I digress.
Truth be told, by the time our party arrived in Vacationland the stress had settled in, and I was feeling sorry for myself. And that may have turned a might rage-y before it ignited a war over the perennial question: What are we doing for dinner?
Now, as skirmishes go, this would seem to be a pretty tame one. Expected, even. Easy to settle, shake hands on and move on to dessert island, where you could retire from warring and drink in a few tequila sunsets or gobble up a quickly melting ala-mode.
But not for us.
We don't settle. We need to win. At all costs. Especially on paper where it's counted.
Late into the night, we'll battle for a tiny strip of ground neither of us wanted yesterday.
It might be the same skirmish we had last year and the year before, but it seems different, more urgent even as it loses its grasp on cogency.
And then he asks the question I hadn't asked myself:
"Is it possible that in this climate of inflated alpha-maleness that you have equated me and my alpha-maleness with certain unhinged political factions currently inhabiting the pillars of government?"
I hadn't considered that possibility.
And then I couldn't think of anything else. It is possible that some degree of transference happened. It is possible that with it amplified virtually everywhere I could no longer accept any amount of chest beating in my proximity.
The days of the alpha male are over. There are no zero-sum winners.
We can't bulldoze our way out of an argument and claim it a win. But we also can't back off of our principals. We just have to make sure they are principled.
We have to listen. And think. And work together.
If we don't we won't stay united forever, Fake News or not.