Thursday, January 27, 2011

Her Own Square

"How can a woman be expected to be happy with a man who insists on treating her as if she were a perfectly normal human being?" -- Oscar Wilde

Sage words indeed! Be warned, ye men of the Earth: do not treat your wife as if she were a perfectly normal person. For if you think she is normal, that means you think she's pretty much just like everyone else; and if that's true, then why oh why did you marry her? You might just as well have set your sights on the woman down the street, or the pretty girl at the grocery store, or just someone at random. You might, indeed, have set your sights a bit higher. Why did you settle for a perfectly normal person?

In fact most women are normal. That's what normal means. But Alison... well, anyone who knows Alison at all knows she's anything but a perfectly normal human being. The word normal comes from Latin and referred to a carpenter's square: a normal thing is one that stood at the correct angle, conforming to the rule. Alison, of course, conforms to no rules. She has her own religion, her own politics, her own art and writing, her own goals and dreams — there is not anything about her that she has not thought about, weighed, and consciously chosen. And she chooses what she chooses regardless of whether it stands at the "correct" angle to the carpenter's square used by normal people.

Actually I lied: she has rules, of course. In fact, she has her very own carpenter's square in her heart, branded there, I think, by the goddess Bridget herself. (It would be appropriate, since Bridget is a goddess of crafts and artisans.) She holds up the world to it to see whether it's square, and when it's not, she lets us know, eloquently and vehemently.

She also holds Bridget's square up to herself. She has no harsher critic than her own standards (and that's saying something). And if she doesn't stand true, she beats and hammers herself until she does.

So I cannot treat this woman as if she were a perfectly normal human being; she simply isn't one. Instead I treat her like the perfectly odd human being she is. I try to help heal the hurts she feels from standing straight in a crooked world. I try to lend a hand as she tells her truth to those that will hear. I try to give her the gentleness and forgiveness she does not give herself.

And so, perhaps, if Wilde is right, there is a chance she will be happy with me.

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