My husband and I have nothing in common.
Well, that may be a bit of hyperbole as we both have an endoskeleton and are citizens of the United States. We did once even order identical meals at a restaurant, but it was from a place with a tasting menu that bound us to the same dishes if we wanted to eat at all. Most of the time I’m convinced we even derive from the same genus and species though I’ve witnessed moments, often preceded by heavy highway traffic, that have cast doubt on his provenance. We both like vacations and guacamole, but if those were the standards by which compatibility was assessed, all the world’s people would be braiding each other’s hair and sharing bowls of Pirate’s Booty.
If there were a God of Free Time and Hobbies and Other Things Parents Don’t Have, and that God were to bestow upon us hours to do anything with, G would do something that involved Active Wear. And oars. The very fact that I refer to it as ‘active wear’ reveals my proclivity for everything sedentary and for spending too much time at TJ Maxx.
We’ve always been different, from the very start, though it was less apparent then, mostly because I lied. There were times a bold-faced lie escaped my lips, like “Of course I hike. All the time. Sheer cliffs and rocky passes. I hike all that shit. Yes, in ballet flats. They’re really sort of cross-trainers.” More often the lies come in the form of omission or avoidance, deflections of inquiries into camping, running, and preferred sports teams. Once we were married, the facade crumbled and it became achingly evident I had no idea who the Patriots were and that all of my hobbies centered upon trans-fats and reading about tawdry political scandals.
We’ve tried to find synergies in our activities, but most efforts led to disastrous results. He once hatched a plan to get me on a boat, a jaunt that resulted in the frequent blowing of a safety whistle while I silently wept into the synthetic fibers of my two life jackets. I tried taking him to a foreign film, a regrettable decision from the moment he learned independent theaters don’t have stadium seating nor serve nachos and cheese. I once assembled a handful of his friends into a book club that was soon dismantled due to G’s plodding reading pace and unwillingness to publicly analyze conflicts and themes with the men he stands next to at adjacent urinals. Several years of half-hearted dalliances with bowling, yoga, golf, tennis, walking, croissant-eating, body surfing, cooking, and batting cages concluded similarly. We steeled ourselves to separate interests unless traveling outside of the continental United States because everyone does things out of their comfort zone when holding a phrase book and filled to the brim on unpasteurized cheese.
But every now and then, and not whilst on vacation or in a hypothermic survival situation, we stumble into something that we can do together. Someone points us toward a book, game, movie, or a show that contains the DNA helix bound to catch our joint fancy. I had my doubts when mutual friends suggested we watch the series Friday Night Lights, a show depicting the ups and downs of life in a dusty town besotted by football. After all, the only movie I have ever stormed out of in my cinematic career was a movie about NFL players.*
We’ve been at it for a couple of weeks. The instant the kids are asleep, we resume our posts in front of the screen’s glare, attention held by the stories unfolding. We’re both transfixed, breaking our gaze only to jeer at the other when a prediction about the plot materializes or goes completely counter to our guess. If one of us has to pee, the other threatens to insert a catheter before deigning to pause. If one of gets hungry, the other flings a leather strap to place between the teeth before allowing a disruption to the show’s inertia. If a child wakes, we assume our football personas strategizing our way to the first down. “Hot route to the crib. Clock running out. We’re gonna blitz. Red doll, Blue blanket, on three.”
It’s nice to have something to do together even if it doesn’t involve talking, discovering, or eye contact because it also doesn’t entail drowning, falling, or sweating. When friends extend to us an invitation to socialize, we need only to glance at each other, telepathically acknowledging that we will not be engaging in anything other than the show until we have worked our way through five seasons. We are committed to our hobby, dutifully seeing our way through every dramatic climax and intercepted pass together, willing to waterboard or backhand each other at the first sign of drooping eyelids.
All this time spent communing with each other in front of on-screen entertainment has left us wanting more, wondering what will bewitch us next. G was hoping my newfound attraction to a drama about football might generalize to traditional sports viewing. Over the weekend, he patted the cushion beside him and said, “Come hang out with me and watch the game.” I approached intrepidly, lowered into the seat, and turned my focus to the Giants vs. A Different Color game. Exactly four seconds later, I said, “This sucks. I’m going upstairs to stare at my pores.”
Because shared hobbies don’t come in one touchdown. They’re a series of downs and timeouts. And are aided by cute boys speaking lines crafted by great writers.
(Do you do things together? Hobbies?)
*For those of you who care, the movie I walked out of was Any Given Sunday. I maintain it’s a barren and base piece of shit, and I would tell Al Pacino that if we were ever eating chicken parm together.