Youngest son and I were having late lunch out after his show choir performances yesterday. The restaurant was airy and sparsely populated. Seated near the servers’ station, I overheard an exchange between two female servers and one male server.
Red-haired female: “He uses a points system. It’s wife points.”
Blonde female: “What???”
Red-Hair: “It’s like this, if I like do something for him I get wife points. Like if I make dinner or do laundry, he gives me points. After I get so many points then he like takes me out to dinner or something.”
Blonde: Are you fucking kidding me? (looks at male for agreement)
Male: “Hmph.” (walks away)
Red-Hair: “Yeah, it’s like totally normal.”
Blonde: “That is totally sexist.” (walks away)
Normal? Probably not. Healthy? Definitely not.
I don’t know much about being successfully married; just five years ago you could have heard me saying to anyone who would listen, “I don’t know how to be married.” My kind friends would respond, “You just don’t know how to pick a person worth marrying.” Even kinder friends would nod and offer me another glass of wine.
It’s true. Based on my experiences thus far in life, I am not a fan of nor successful with marriage. Despite a wide variety of examples in my family and among my friends, I would not presume to tell Red-Hair what does make a happy marriage. However, I am confident enough in my knowledge, experience, and the holes in both that I will say: wife points are not the way to go.
I have a wide range of rich friendships, and I might assert that marriage is a special kind of friendship. You probably don’t keep friend points, do you? Neighbor points? Family points? Pet points? If, perhaps, you do keep score in some way, how do you know if you’ve won? When does the game end? We are here to care for each other not to keep score.
Around the holidays in America we are encouraged to give to charities and take extra care of those less fortunate. In Augusta, the local paper has a donation drive to help provide Christmas foods and presents for the underprivileged. In Cedar Rapids, I know a local auto dealer solicits letters nominating those who struggle or go above and beyond; then, the dealership gives them specific help or gifts to brighten their holidays.
The National Philanthropic Trust states that Americans gave just over 335 billion dollars to charity in 2013. That does not account for those who don’t ask for a receipt, those who give their time, or those who help out their neighbors. How much was it worth when our neighbor and his son came around after the ice storm last year, cut up everyone’s fallen branches, and hauled them to the curb? Is there a way to measure the value of taking care of a friend’s pets while he is hospitalized? How many points should I give to my friend who let my son stay overnight with her so I could travel overseas? How do you measure the casseroles and love delivered to a house grieving a death?
Nietzsche statement that, “Man is the cruelest animal.” We certainly can see evidence of that in our world lately: from Ukraine to Ferguson to Syria to Portland to Sierra Leone to Kabul. There is horror all around; but, within the horror we latch on to hope. Time Magazine’s Person of the Year 2014? The Ebola Fighters. One of my friend’s husbands paid off layaway for several people. A man in Norway saved a drowning duck.
Novelist Taylor Caldwell said, “I like animals because they are not consciously cruel and don’t betray each other.” I’m reminded of the backyard we had years ago where a one-eyed cat, a dog, two ducks, and a multitude of squirrels lived peacefully if antically together.
I would offer that I like humans because they are capable of sitting by hospital bedsides; they run to the store for neighbors when a blizzard is on the way; they send texts of encouragement; they advise you when your marriage falls apart; they rescue animals; they buy a coffee for the car behind them; they care for the deathly ill half a world away from home; they try to make it all work.
Of course, there are those who ‘keep track’ or feel indebted or owed; some of them even keep wife points. (Something the four-times married Caldwell might take issue with.) Insecure? Unhappy? Controlling? Cruel? Perhaps. Imbalanced? Most likely.
Although an imbalance in the world can result in upsetting even devastating responses, the results can also overflow with beautiful generosity leading to understanding, kindness, and hope.