Fantasyland

Courtesy: Disneyland

We’ve been married a long time—long enough that it requires less calculation to say how long we haven’t been married than how long we have, when anyone asks. And we’ve been married long enough to drift apart, a casualty of shifting interests and temperaments, patience and desires. It’s common, I suppose; it’s just not widely advertised.

Oftentimes couples wives try to pinpoint what happened, if there was a single incident that pulled the loose thread that unraveled the sweater. Did I change, or did he? she’ll wonder. (Translation: is it my fault, or his?)

In our case, he changed. In our case, it’s his fault.

Because what kind of animal doesn’t enjoy going to Disneyland?

Oh, he liked it just fine, early on—at least he said he did. But now I can’t help wondering, was it all an act? The smiles, the offers of a Dole Whip, the sitting statue-still while a lady clipped our silhouettes, her hands flying like a Benihana chef’s? Or did he like it just fine for a date, because he knew I liked it, his teeth gritted behind that smile? No, that can’t be. I can spot insincerity from a Space-Mountain-on-a-school-holiday-line away. Besides, he’s not very good at acting.

I don’t understand how he’s blind to the memories, why Disneyland doesn’t hold the slightest sentimentality for him. It was, after all, where we took our firstborn on her second birthday. Is that when it happened, when he became a man I no longer knew? Kids under three were free, so he couldn’t argue with the price. Was it because that free admission ballooned into half a paycheck by the time we left? Or that he had to carry our daughter for hours when she was too tired to walk? Still, it was nighttime by then and the scorching July sun had set. To this day I don’t know what he was complaining about.

Over the years our family’s size and Disneyland’s ticket prices increased concomitantly, and we visited less often—or maybe it was my husband’s grumbling that kept us from going. Anyway, while we were gone they became crafty, those Disney folk. For instance, rides no longer exit into brilliant California sunshine; now they dump you directly into themed gift shops so that when your Pirates of the Caribbean adventure is over you find yourself wading through tricorne hats, eye patches, and flasks. But where I see crafty, my husband sees money-grubbing, children-stalking henchmen. Potato, potahto.

We will probably never go back—not because our girls are grown, but because Disneyland recently raised their adult ticket prices to $99. Without parking. Without food. Without Advil.

So I’m left with my memories and my silhouette cutouts. Come to think of it, maybe there weren’t any flasks in that gift shop after all—maybe I’m just fantasizing about what would have made a day at Disneyland with three small children bearable: a flask filled with something stronger than a Dole Whip.

Unconscious Coupling

Driving home the other day I saw an older couple waiting to cross the street. Nothing alarming there, right? And yet the scene evoked the type of fear usually reserved for that gap of time between medical tests and medical test results. Why, you wonder, would such a benign sight make my palms sweat?

Because I don’t want to be like them—because they were dressed like identical twins.

Same bucket hats—the kind that work equally well for fishing as for safaris—same blue sweatshirt slung over white T-shirts, same Arrowhead water bottles, same cargo shorts, same no-show socks in white cross-trainers. If the Reebok Princess came in a male version (the Reebok Prince, perhaps?), they’d be set.

Not a fan of the attire, but it beats matchy-matchy. Photo: Flickr

Not a fan of the attire, but it beats match-matchy.
Photo: Flickr

Right next to sleeping with the closet door open (The Ghost and Mr. Chicken has had lingering effects), my biggest fear is loss of autonomy.

That may sound like a flare shot up from a sinking marriage—which I assure you is not the case—but I’ve noticed the longer two people have been together, the more of themselves they seem to lose. They blend into one, like lines on Bert’s sidewalk drawings in a monsoon. “We like the Sizzler,” they announce, or, “We don’t care for reality TV.” We? I think. Did you two vote? Discuss your options before filling up on all-you-can-eat 3-bean salad and declaring half the night’s television programming off limits?

My husband sees no point in perusing Barnes and Noble once you’ve found a book because his theory is, how many can you read at once anyway? (More than one, but that’s my personal preference.) And I’m happy he loves woodworking, though I prefer just to go buy the piece of furniture and be done with it.

It’s these separate interests that keep us unique and individual after many years of marriage. Plus, it gives us something to talk about over dinner, which never includes 3-bean salad because my husband hates beans. Note we don’t hate beans—just him. And that’s fine by me.

I like older folks—really, I do. But there’s something so tired about parroting your spouse. It’s like individuality just isn’t worth the effort any more. And that scares me more than the idea of aging. That, and picturing my husband in a pair of Reebok Princes.