Jun 4, 2015

15 to 15: (Un)Common Interests

So here's the rundown.  Wednesday, April 29, 2015 was exactly 15 weeks until our 15th anniversary.  So in a countdown to the big day, I decided to start a weekly series of anecdotes from our 15 years of marriage.  I am calling it 15 Weeks to 15 Years.  Since everything needs a hashtag, it would be #15to15.  I am utilizing the blog because I have a propensity to yammer a lot when I'm writing and no one would want to read a long status update.  So be looking for these weekly entries.

It is very funny to me when I think about ideas and conversations about marriage that I had when I was single, or talking to single people.  The things we "look for" in a spouse and that we feel are important.  I remember talking to one college student about how he dated a lot.  I felt that it wasn't the best idea for him.  He asked me with a laugh, "How am I supposed to know what kind of woman I want unless I date a bunch of them?"  I tried to figure out what exactly he was figuring out in these relationships that was going to help him figure out who should be his future bride.  

There were these little things that I would think were so important.  She likes music!  She likes movies!  It is like the scene in Friends when Phoebe is talking to her mom about how they don't have anything in common:
Phoebe Sr.: Well, I don't know. I mean, it's not like we don't have anything in common. I mean, I like, uh, pizza.
Phoebe: I like pizza!
Phoebe Sr.: You do? Wait, I like, um, the Beetles.
Phoebe: Oh my God, so do I!
Phoebe Sr.: I knew it! Wow!
Phoebe: Wait-wait-wait-wait! Puppies. Cute or ugly?
Phoebe Sr.: Oh, so cute.
Phoebe: Uh-huh, well!
Phoebe Sr.: You see?
Phoebe: Well, um, do you wanna get something to eat? I'm kinda hungry.
Phoebe Sr.: Hey! Me too!
Phoebe: All right, stop it. Now you're just doing it to freak me out.
You can find something in common if you're looking hard enough for it, I suppose.  So I used to put a high value on some of those things that Heather and I had in common.  And while those have been great to enjoy together, I have actually found that it is much more interesting to look at the things we don't have in common.

I am a big believer in laughter being important.  I like to joke and be funny, to tell stories in a humorous way.  (That is probably a surprise to most people.)  I remember once in seventh grade, a friend of mine got mad at me in Algebra class and punched me in the chest.  During class.  While the teacher was teaching. My other friend, Ellis, was about to destroy this guy.  The guy said, "You're always playing!"  Ellis didn't know that I kept messing with the other guy - poking him in the back and stuff.  I keep reminding people that I actually wrote a post "The 33 Most Annoying Things I Did to Greg Ramer."  It's on this blog.  Go read it.  I can be a total punk.

Where was I?  Oh yeah.  So sometimes I cross the line.  But I think that my friends really appreciate the humor most of the time.  And Heather does too.  She likes how I make her laugh.  I covered this in an earlier 15to15 post.  Well, there are certain things that Heather likes that I don't like.  And there are certain things I like that Heather doesn't like.  These Uncommon Interests are a great source of fun-loving banter.  We poke at each other about them.  We try to communicate with each other about them, but it doesn't always work.  We have always tried to keep mean and biting sarcasm out of our marriage.  (Shut up.  My sarcasm dial is turned waaaaay down with my wife.)  But these little areas of friction end up providing a little sarcastic playground.  They aren't big areas of discord or strife.  They are like two magnets with the poles turned the wrong way.  The magnets don't get mad that they are not matching in that moment.  They just kind of bounce around and then get together later.   That's how this works with us.  I actually enjoy these things.  Married couples don't have to walk through life like a shared Facebook account.  They can have their own interests.

For example, I probably would have been a major gamer if not for the fact I didn't own any gaming systems until college.  I have all of the standard markers for this: love of sci-fi, nerdy, geeky, love of comic books, pasty complexion from too much time indoors, the look of a comic book store employee.  But I didn't grow up playing on these systems.  And I am a hopeless klutz.  So I actually am quite bad at video games that require any coordination or skill.  I really wanted the game Injustice for Xbox.  It is a DC fighting game with parallel universe versions of DC superheroes fighting each other.  So I actually got it as a birthday present.  I've played it twice.  There are so many buttons to memorize.  I just would mash things and hope I could beat someone.  The game is very cool.  But I just can't maneuver it.  The same goes for the Arkham City games.  Play as Batman and beat up people?  Sure thing.  I got the first one and couldn't get out of the intro levels.

So I gravitate towards games where dexterity takes a back seat to logic, persistence, and lots of free time.  I love the Lego games.  I have been a big fan of Angry Birds games and endless runner games like Temple Run.  Heather is great at Mario Kart.  I suck at Mario Kart.  So when we all play, Heather will fight for first and I end up falling off the mountain thirty times and don't even get to finish.  I have played Mario Kart for years and have never been good at it.  Now, Goldeneye Multiplayer on the N64?  I was good at that.  Why?  It was strategy and plotting, not how fast you could jam buttons down.  [I bought the recreated Goldeneye for Wii when it came out.  Couldn't get past the first level.  Back to the button mashing and precision playing.]

I will try to explain how I am doing on a game to Heather.  I will watch her.  She loves me, so she wants to care.  She wants to follow along with me.  But she can't.  Part of it is that she does not play the games I play.  Part of it is that she doesn't value them like I do.  Part of it is that she has better things to do with her life.  So she will sit there on the couch as I prattle on like the teacher in Charlie Brown.

I play this one game on my phone called Marvel Puzzle Quest.  It is like a Bejeweled game.  You have a team of three Marvel superheroes and are competing against another team of three characters.  You match colors in 3, 4, 5, or more combinations.  The different colors will power up your characters, which let them do extra damage with special moves.  The goal is to kill the other team.  There are story lines and tournaments.  It is quite fun.  But trying to explain the nuances of the game to someone who doesn't play, understand, or care so that they then can understand why you are so excited is impossible.  Heather will listen to me for a while, glaze her eyes over partway through, and then when I get animated enough, she will say, "Wow.  That's cool."  Kind of like what I do when my boys tell me about some level they built on Minecraft.  The other day I was trying to explain something to her and she said, "I don't know what that is, but you don't have to explain it to me because I won't understand and won't care."  I proceeded to explain it anyway.  She looked at me and said, "I said don't bother.  I don't get it and don't care."  Thinking back, it was a pretty stupid story, so maybe she had a point.

Lest you think this is a one-way issue, we go through the same problem whenever Heather is talking to me about medical stuff.  She will come home and be very excited about some procedure she did or some illness she saw.  She'll try to explain it to me.  I just stare at her.  I want to be excited for her.  But I have no idea what she's talking about.  And it gets even worse when she is with a group of other medical people.  They chatter on about all kinds of stuff from med school or residency.  I end up staring at the wall, playing with the kids, or waiting to make some stupid inappropriate joke to remind everyone I'm still there.  We used to get together with some friends when Heather was in med school. Often, I was the only one not in medicine in some way.  Or it was me and one other guy.  We would be chatting and having fun.  The next thing you know, everything would go wrong.
And then I'm standing there looking at the guy.  Dr Whatshisdoodle is actually poking him in the glarnox.  Can you believe it?  He was twitching all over.  Nearly sprained his lumbosis periodontalitis.  I had never seen a doctor do that.  There was the one time Dr Smartybritches diagnosed a case of Rubelian Sea Mumps just by seeing a guy spit on the window.  But this was next level stuff!  (Everyone laughs. I think how happy coma patients must feel at dinner parties.)
We also have vastly different opinions about what makes for quality television and movie watching.  We have some overlapping interest in these things (Castle, Burn Notice, Blue Bloods, Fresh Off The Boat).  But there is also a wide gulf between us.  There are some shows that I record that she has no interest in watching.  Fortunately, since she has a real job, she has to go to bed early and I can watch my Gotham and Marvel Agents of Shield and Elementary and Daredevil. Sometimes Heather will have a meeting or get together at night.  She will come home and I will be watching one of these shows.  I'll stop it and she'll say, "Oh, you can keep watching it."  But I know she has no interest in seeing it.  Since I want to stay in the same room as her, we switch to a common interest show.

Heather started watching Downton Abbey a few weeks ago.  I had deftly avoided this show because it sounded stupid.  I like British stuff as much as most geeks.  But stuffy rich people in early 1900s Britain seemed like a colossal waste of time - which is really something coming from me.  She would watch the show and I would sit on the couch playing Marvel Puzzle Quest or a Spiderman running game.  Then I would be watching the show and asking questions.  But if she asked me if I wanted her to pause it when I took the dogs out, I would say, "I'm not watching it. Do whatever."  Liar.  She did the same thing with Scandal and Duck Dynasty.  I would never admit it, but I think she has better taste than me in shows. I can't think of many shows I have won her over to in our marriage - Eureka was one.  But I know of several she has sneakily gotten me hooked on.

We both love books.  And we like a lot of the same books: Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Divergent, Shade of London.  A few months ago, Amazon made it possible for families to share Kindle libraries. It was awesome.  All of the sudden we both could access the dozens of books the other one had bought.  So we were talking about what series the other one should read.  So far she has read zero of mine.  She told me to read one and I started it.  When she got home I asked, "So what was the big idea telling me to read that stupid romantic bodice ripper?"  Heather does NOT read romance novels. But I have always called her books bodice rippers.  She hates it.  This book wasn't one either, but it was about a world where love was illegal or some hooey like that.  I tried to read Twilight, but it was horrendous.  So we just kept on reading our own stuff.

It may sound weird, but I actually like it that there are things that we don't share in common.  It isn't because I want to have my own world where Heather doesn't cross into.  But it shows that we are two different people with different likes and dislikes who choose to see past that to what is truly important.  I'm not insensitive to her interests and she isn't numb to mind.  In fact, that is where we can express how much we do care about each other.  Heather will frequently come up with great presents from my interests that she would only know about if she were listening when I thought she was zoned out.  I will ask her about things from work that I don't understand.  Or I will try to educate myself enough to be able to at least stay engaged in the conversation.  And we let each other enjoy those things.  We may zing them about it.  But I still encourage her to hang out with her doctor friends.  She still sends me to the movies to see Avengers 2 or to Game Stop to buy Lego Jurassic World.  I have some awesome Batman and Star Wars socks that she got me; she has socks with intestine designs on them (seriously, she does).  The similarities are rewarding.  But the differences, and the acceptance of them, adds so much depth.  To have someone volunteer to climb into something they do not care for, just because you are there?  That is a tremendous feeling.  

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