Posted 23 days ago
I enjoy the personal histories that The New Yorker publishes, not because they give me some important insight into life, but because they are often beautifully written and allow me to see the world through somebody else's eyes. Sedaris's wisdom is meant only for his and Hugh's relationship, I don't think that anybody should take it as fact, but that being said, it has done them well over the years.
Sedaris writes extremely well, and provides some comments to think about:
I thought that, in order to last, you and your wife or boyfriend or whatever had to have a number of mutual interests.
Sedaris says that he found out this wasn't true; what was really important for him and Hugh was that they were bothered, or not bothered, by the same things. Their lifestyles fit together like puzzle pieces. It's not that they when camping on the weekends, but that they had a "mutual aversion to overhead lights, or to turning the TV on before 11pm."
They bought the apartment right above them to use as a separate living quarters so that Hugh could play the piano downstairs while Sedaris was upstairs. I think this is most everybody's goal, it might just be that they don't have the financial means to do so. Everybody would love a separate office, isolated from everybody else, where they can spend their time and not be bothered. He didn't mention kids in the essay, so I think that would really, really change how this situation goes down. Somebody would have to have the kids in their space, and they wouldn't want to be isolated in one or the other.
But curiously, there is a fine line to the space they give each other:
Hugh says that if we ever get separate bedrooms that’s it—he’s finished. I know this works for a lot of couples, they’re happy being down the hall from each other, but I couldn’t bear such an arrangement.
This is a personal history, and it's curious to see that although they do some "out-of-the-ordinary" living arrangements, not sleeping in the same bed is where they draw the line.
What makes me think the most, however, is this idea that living together for so long is somehow a moral achievement. I don't want to say it's not, but why do we care so much that relationships last so long? What if they would have been better in their lives apart than together at some points? Or isn't it just entirely irrelevant if they are or aren't? Of course, I would love to have a relationship that lasts that long, but I question if this is a feeling that is "innate" in some sense or just what culture tells me to do. As if we are "successful" when we achieve thirty years together.
I would disagree. I think the people that recognize that they could be better apart than together are just as successful. But divorce or breaking up is seen as some moral failure. I guess sometimes it is, but it should also be seen as an achievement at times (and not just in the extreme cases of domestic abuse or what-have-it, but in recognizing that sometimes people change and aren't meant to be together for forever).
It is a beautiful piece thought that Sedaris has written, even if it does play to the nation that relationship length is a success. But we all do wish we could have that, and Sedaris does give us hope.