Written last night, posted after my usual spousal approval system for posts about Matthew.
Matthew’s coming in from Seattle tonight and I’m camped out at National waiting for him to arrive. I’ve got my half-dozen red roses, my mix of electronic and analog entertainment, and the itchy-internal-butterflies which always accompany this part of my waiting ritual.
It’s not like I hold within myself any realistic fear he won’t want to see me. He just spent a day off work flying across the country, and even if he didn’t say “I love you,” as often as I need to hear it, which he does, I would know it from his behavior.
A mutual friend of ours has a joke that we know Matt is an engineer because he describes people by their behaviors, not their looks. This became relevant when there was a puppy at his job. We spent months talking about it. How its owner would put it on the filing cabinet, which was too tall for the timid creature to jump off of, and severed as an effective playpen. How it would chew the legs of his swivel chair but was always too cute to castigate. How tiny its barks were.
In the middle of a recitation of some of the more adorable of its exploits over brunch, Shep (our friend) turned to me and asked:
“Did he ever tell you what color it is?”
I thought back. I’d assumed it was puppy colored–some kind of muddy, mutty-brown. Little ears, little eyes, little feet, brown coat. My default puppy icon, animated by the described behaviors.
I shook my head. He turned to Matthew:
“What color is the puppy?”
Matthew didn’t know. It wasn’t relevant to the story or its cuteness, so he’d never collected that information.
This to me is one of the great and enduring favors of loving an engineer. He could care less what color my hair or eyes are; my dress or shoe-size are similarly irrelevant; if and when any of these change, it only matter to him insofar as it matters to me. Whether I wear make-up only really comes up when it smudges on his collar when I press my face into his jacket when I first see him, or when I smear lipstick on him in my first frantic kiss. But the actual impact of the cosmetics is truly cosmetic and therefore irrelevant to him.
I find this deeply comforting. It means that when I’m with Matthew, my dog-suit isn’t where I live. It’s my brain he cares about, the things that are me and will remain me as I age, as I grow slower and wider and foldier.
It puts a due amount of pressure on my behavior, a pressure I accept gladly. I can’t and don’t mask the importance of my actions, I try not to hide my eyes and pretend I’m fine when I’m not. I try to be on-time to meet him at the airport, and when necessary I spend 6 hours in O’Hare in 2 days to make sure I get the chance to smear my make-up on his collar.
By focusing on my behaviors, he’s able to see the version of me that we hope will be constant across jobs, cities, and life’s transitions. He’s able to see me and be there for me, and, in return, I can behave in a way that shows the essential truth that I love him.
“Love is the condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.”–Robert Heinlein