Thursday, July 29, 2010

looking through la ventana

"For now, I will continue to write as an outsider."

That line is from yesterday's blog. 
Brenda correctly pointed out that the sentence is replete with meaning.  All we expatriates write as outsiders.  Eternal observers.

At lunch earlier this week, we played a little game.  Which character in a book, film, or play do you most identify with?  Not, who do you want to be.  Who do you identify with.

For me, it was easy.  Since 1970, I have identified with Bobby from Company.  One of Stephen Sondheim's better productions.

The conceit is simple.  Bobby is a single guy unable to commit to any relationships -- except for his deep friendship with his married friends.  Five married couples with unique backgrounds.  The wives want to find him a woman.  The men want to hear about his girlfriends.

Of course, the subtext is layers deep.  On the surface, the plot revolves around the intricacies of marriage.  But it is a masterpiece about the complexity of relationships.  Where we find our worth.

Marry me a little,
Love me just enough.
Cry, but not too often,
Play, but not too rough.
Keep a tender distance
so we'll both be free.
That's the way it ought to be.
I'm ready!

The thing I missed most during the last year in Mexico was the network of friends I have developed over the years.  Ironically, I discovered I had started the foundation of a new network in Melaque when I broke my ankle.  Just as I was leaving for six months.

But the network up here is different.  Probably, because of it vintage.  Some of my friendships go back to grade school.

And most are couples.  But the type of couples you can be away from for a long time, but pick up a conversation as if you had seen them the day before.

They are always there for me.  Whenever I need them. For dinner.  For plays.  For sporting events.

And always concerned that I am somehow handicapped without a wife in my life.  At least, that is what my women friends believe.  The men seem to believe that Sondheim had it correct in answering the question: Are you happy being married?

You're always sorry
You're always grateful
You're always wondering what might have been
Then she walks in

But this is my favorite couplet from the same song:

You always are
What you always were
Which has nothing to do with
All to do with her

So, what does all this have to do with writing as an outsider? 

Relationships fascinate me.  But, just as I am an expatriate observer in Mexico, I am every bit an observer of married life.

And I am starting to wonder if both are immutable categories.


Anonymous said...

There are outsiders and there are outsiders. To think about something, much less write about it, already takes one outside the object.

If one takes on the role of writer/observer/thinker, one is going to be an outsider, to some degree or other.

The Germans have a saying: Enough is enough, but too much is unhealthy. I think the principle applies here in the balance between thinking and doing.

Unless of course one is Jean Paul Sartre. But even he, I suspect, concerned himself with the balance. After all, he spent a good bit of his time bedding his students.


1st Mate said...

Aha, more navel-gazing. I think it's a product of summer doldrums, waiting for rain and all that.

You seem to have made a great success of the single life. You can even cook, maybe better than a lot of wives. Singlehood not easy, but then neither is marriage. I had occasion to experience the single life not so long ago, and I found in many ways I was stronger and happier, in that I valued and nurtured my friendships more.

I wish you many more friendships, wherever you go. It's a good motivation, isn't it, to work on your Spanish?

Calypso said...

A good marriage is better than a bad one - I have had some of both.

You're always wondering what might have been
Then she walks in

A good marriage only gets better with time. WHY would I wonder what might have been - total nonsense - far better for a silly musical than reality I think.

A good marriage is a great blessing - if you have friends telling you different - get some new ones ;-)

Irene said...

What I like about your posts is that I almost always have to look up at least one word in the dictionary. Maybe it is because you are a lawyer. And now I have to look up the story of "Company". I have always identified with Dorothy Gale. When confronted with talking scarecrows, flying monkeys, Munchkins, wicked witches, she takes it all in stride and enjoys the adventure

NWexican said...

Dude!! Sondheim??? You could use a long trip south....
Personally, I go with Milne and Tigger with a twist of Pooh. Then again, during those long Salem winters (Sept-June) I tend to do the Eeyore thing..

Anonymous said...

It was Woddy Allen who said 'marriage is the death of hope' Not sure if he said that before or after he married his daughter.

Paty said...

I've been single for 20 years and would now make a terrible wife. I've become accustomed to having my own way. I come and go as I please; eat what, when and where I please and watch whatever I choose on TV, including surfing during commercials. There are a great many "I"s in that previous sentence, proving that I have grown too selfish to ever be married again. Besides, I don't have any more room in my closet.

Having said that, I do enjoy the company and perspective of a man from time to time.

Anonymous said...

Wake us up when you get back to Mexico


Laurie said...

Steve! I feel for you, brother. Maybe because I have walked in your shoes a bit? It's always harder to go back to the States after living somewhere else. It's a weird feeling to be home and yet not be home. I confess the single life isn't always easy, but I have a few friends who have husbands that are well... just let's say they make me grateful I am not married sometimes. And living in a foreign country alone? There's a new degree of loneliness that hits us sometimes when we are away from our familiar surroundings. Hang in there!

Steve Cotton said...

ANM -- Looking for balance in Sartre is like looking for cheese in Velveeta.

1st Mate -- Great suggestion. There is no better way to make friends in Mexico than learning Spanish from my Mexican friends.

Calypso -- My married friends have great marriages.

Irene -- At least Dorothy got to travel.

NWexican -- Ron White. Armani suits. Sondheim. They are all cut from the same cloth.

Anonymous -- Irony is a dish best served with a layer of hypocrisy.

Paty -- In my case, being alone is fine for me.

Norman -- Point taken. Unfortunately, Mexico is still three months off.

Laurie -- Moods of melancholy pass.