Early Marriage | Part 8

by Elouise

1967 Winter in Cambridge MA

View behind our Cambridge apartment 1967

Cambridge, winter 1965-early spring 1966. I’m driving without a manual or a map. The noisy 24/7 auto shop across the street captures my imagination, especially in the evenings after I’ve finished cleaning up the kitchen. D is at his desk working on another academic paper. I’m waiting for time to pass.

I feel neglected, bored and increasingly withdrawn. Also sorry for myself. I don’t believe our marriage is a wreck. I do, however, feel I’m driving blind, so that any minute now things will blow up.

I’m one person on the outside, another on the inside. On the outside I look like a put-together young woman who doesn’t know what to do with herself. Inside I’m withdrawn and miserable. I feel sorry for myself and prickly, on the edge of anger.

It’s easy to make D the problem. If only he would do something about this! D sees the outside, but he doesn’t understand what’s going on inside me. Sometimes I’m silent and sullen. Other times I try to tell him, but we seem to speak different languages. Or he doesn’t have time to listen right now.

I don’t know what to say or do. I’m beginning to believe D is the problem. If he weren’t so busy every evening….

We talk about this. The way we talk about sex. Over and over, without coming to any conclusions. This would be difficult, since I’m not saying everything I’m thinking or feeling. I can’t. D seems to want me to figure out what I need from him and then tell him! I want him to help me figure it out.

One thing makes sense to both of us: I’m bored. Not with D, but with this pattern of coming home from work, preparing and eating supper, cleaning up the kitchen, and then having absolutely nothing calling out to me the way D’s desk, books and papers keep calling out to him.

I’m right back where I was two weeks before we married. I see D going full speed ahead academically, leaving me in the dust. With no way of catching up.

In fact, I’m falling behind in more than the academic area. There’s sex (D doesn’t seem to have problems the way I do), spirituality (D seems light years ahead of me), self-identity (I resent losing my identity), plus this academic gap between us that’s growing with every new course.

It doesn’t matter how intelligent I am. Even though D is ‘just a student,’ he’s in an exciting degree program that should pay off for him later. I’m not. What to do?

I decide to try reading books in his field of study. Not because I want to be what he is, but because I want to stay in the conversation with him and perhaps have a chance at understanding what some of his colleagues are talking about. Does he have any recommendations? He does.

Here’s what I do to help me get through long lonely evenings.

  • I read several of D’s case studies in cultural anthropology. My favorite, written by Napoleon Chagnon, is about the Yanamamö of South America. I could hardly put it down.
  • I read a few books in sociology. One seemed to know me well. Not only was it written in clear, direct English. It described what might be the reality of my life. Title? The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Written by Erving Goffman.
  • I also read some of D’s academic papers. Hmm. He could use a sharp-eyed editor. And how about a typist? I might as well put my office skills to work. Besides, D is grateful and I’m learning a few things.

Still, when push comes to shove, during many evenings in midwinter and early spring I stand for hours at our kitchen window (see photo in Part 7). I watch tow trucks arrive with wrecked cars. Many seem dead on arrival. Just the way I feel inside. Dead or marking time, with no direction for my life and still no clear identity.

To be continued….

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 11 May 2015
Photo credit: DAFraser, Winter in Cambridge, 1967