Shawn and I met nine years ago this weekend.
“We look so young!” we say whenever we look back on photos of our first years together, as if we’re one of those notable couples celebrating our 50th anniversary.
And yet, there is that sweetness of sticking by each other that has lended some depth, grounded in finally being able to look back a bit now.
The emotional: Processing both our divorces and leaving them (mostly) behind. Raising three boys together. Saying goodbye to friends and family who’ve died. Career changes. Realizing we’re going to get old, we need to work hard and save more than ever for our retirement together.
The physical: His “little belly” after knee surgery. My increasing brown spots and scales. (I showed the scaly skin to my mom and she said, “Oh! Those are just barnacles. Like on a boat. You get them as you get older…” Lovely.) My thyroid medication. His love of sweets. Our faces -- not so young and fresh; tired-looking even after a good night’s sleep. My broken tooth (this week). Like that.
I warn him stuff’s only gonna get worse. I’m going to get uglier I say, testing him. Menopause is coming. Here’s a warning I just read in a magazine the other day: “Painful Sex after Menopause Isn’t Sexy.” It offers a pill you can take for tired, dried-out vagina. There are pills for the awfulness that awaits him too.
Can you hold my hand, I mean to ask him after too much of all this.
I’m feeling scared.
Must we prepare to fight this aging thing so? Maybe instead of taking pills after our bodies change we should just resign ourselves to cuddling the shit out of each other. That wouldn't be so bad. Isn’t that why retirees golf and learn to play bridge? Little less time on their bad backs?
The other day I read an insightful essay about being in your 40s, and liked the author’s view on soul mates:
“There are no soul mates. Not in the traditional sense, at least. In my 20s someone told me that each person has not one but 30 soul mates walking the earth. (“Yes,” said a colleague, when I informed him of this, “and I’m trying to sleep with all of them.”) In fact, “soul mate” isn’t a pre-existing condition. It’s an earned title. They’re made over time.”
The truth of this is finally becoming more real for me. The best romances are enduring friendships that hold onto a little spark and a love of spooning, even as the flesh disappoints and decays. It seems like a sustainable expectation over the long haul.
END NOTE: What's your definition of a "soul mate"? Have you updated it over time?