My husband is my rock. I mean all the nice sappy things that come with that. Stable. Dependable. I also call him that for all the other reasons that so many married women married to men say it. The other side of the coin. Stoic. Distant. All of the things that society celebrates- and demands- of masculinity.
I shouldn't be surprised with his affect. I've studied the patriarchy. I've studied the patriarch: His father is a man marked by calm and understatement. His highest praise of a meal he's thoroughly enjoying is "Está bien", coupled with a shrug.
The guardedness of my father-in-law has served him well in his life, no doubt. Sheltered him from the full sting of the racism and xenophobia and unfair treatment and just pure exhaustion he's faced in the fields, in the factories, in the meeting rooms. He can gather up any sentimentality and lock it away until he's alone watching telenovelas or singing rancheras romanticas. My husband, however, doesn't sing. And he doesn't watch telenovelas. And he doesn't need to labor long hours. Neither of us do, thanks in part to the privileges our parents’ toiling has afforded us.
No, my own parents and grandparents didn't have time for sentimentality either. They didn't even have time for mistakes. Nor being vulnerable to uncertainty, nor the rejection or elation caused by romantic love. What a luxury my emotional pain must be to them. My ancestors’ eyes must be rolling over in their graves when they hear me crying. ("Are you even related to them, Cheryl?", you might be thinking. Yep. I ordered the kit. I mailed my spit. I got the results. I'm just as surprised as you are, sometimes).
Neither my husband nor his father, nor my own parents nor brother, have ever once begun a sentence with "I feel..." My husband and the other men in his family never even say "Wow!" or "That's amazing." It's always "Uh huh", "Of course", and "I knew that". Wonder equals weakness, I guess.
But I don't think of myself as a weak woman. I am often grateful for the many ways in which we don't have a stereotypical hetero partnership, in fact. I proposed to my partner, a fact that I'm usually proud to tell people. It's an incredibly romantic story, how it all happened. The whole story, though, involves a truth that's been hard to admit to myself: The romantic gesture was all on my part. He knew he wanted to marry me long before I felt ready to marry him. But, of course, he could get rejected. And so he couldn't take the emotional risk of asking me. Or even of telling me how he felt, until one time when he shouted it to me in a fight. That moment was both confusingly jarring, and- sadly-the most passionate romantic gesture he's shown me to this day.
I know that the romance of movies is a lie that has embedded false hope in my psyche. That doesn't mean I don't sometimes ache for it. Or at least for something halfway there, every once in awhile.
I know that I'm a highly sensitive person, an empath, and a partner that takes up a lot of emotional space, someone whose level of feeling things and expressing them is hard to match. I also know that if I were married to someone like me, we'd probably be divorced or dead by now. We'd have exploded into a thousand pieces. Or melted into a big syrupy puddle.
I don't think I can survive without sharing wonder with my person.
Without moments were decorum is forgotten and he grabs me in an embrace.
Without emotional vulnerability.
Without ever once hearing my person say how he feels.
THE. ABSOLUTE. SEXIEST. THING. ,to me, is this: the ability to express wonder and vulnerability, to try new things and take risks, to be overcome with emotion- any emotion- and to allow that emotion to be witnessed by others.
Even as I write this, I know that no one person can have everything. I know how fortunate I am to have a kind and loyal and smart and clean and employed feminist husband. I want all that to be enough. I want to stop wanting more. To stop badgering him about something that may be a part of his personality that he cannot change, no matter how many therapy sessions or how many times he enters "Be Romantic" into his calendar- with a reminder.
I wish my heart didn't feel so lonely and unnoticed when I'm with him. I wish his heart didn't feel so far away.
Or maybe I wish for my heart to be just like his. Blissfully complacent, ensconced in sound-proof foam so that no one hears it's yearnings- including him. The silence means he sleeps like a baby at night.
is a health-seeker and health educator living in the US in San Francisco, California. She is also a former (and maybe future) high school English teacher, and she loves words. Maybe health seeker looks better with a hyphen, or maybe it doesn't. You should just get over it. Even if she cannot.