My sister Andrea was telling us the other day that she’s heard that whatever bothers you most about your spouse is usually the downside of the same attributes that first attracted you to them. I.e., if you were drawn to your mate because she’s amazingly tidy, you’re probably really bothered by how perfect she needs everything to be around the house. If you fell for your husband because of how aloof he was when you dated, you are probably getting sick of him forgetting your name now.
One of the things Macy always liked about me from the beginning was that I often take bold, uncompromising stands on controversial issues. That is another way of saying that since we’ve been married, Macy really hates when I take bold, uncompromising stands on controversial issues. When some random debate comes up in a group discussion, I tend to get carried away; I argue just because I enjoy bashing concepts together. It’s fun. Often, these discussions end with me making sweeping, dramatic pronouncements of an opinion which, in the light of day, might end up being a teensy bit . . . indefensible. I am vaguely aware, even at the time I am standing on someone’s couch proudly opining on how the constitution requires reparations for slavery, that many of my friends find this trait mildly irritating. This becomes clear when certain people start to react defensively even when I render a very mild conclusion on a bland topic. When I see those worried looks, I always glance at Macy, just to make sure I’m still in what we call my “safe zone.” Because, you know, I actually have no idea what kind of things are acceptable to say in polite conversation.
My buddy Wade and I used to have a huge, long-running debate about what exactly it is on the pizza that burns the top of your mouth when you bite it. Wade had some cockamamie theory that the sauce actually burns your mouth, based on some “physics” he said he learned somewhere. I staked my reputation on the cheese, which, after all, is the thing that touches the top of your mouth.
I derided him for his sauce argument, so assured was I of my position re: the burning cheese. That debate hung in the air for probably ten years. Then one day I bit into a slice and had the very distinct sensation that the sauce, perfectly insulated under all that heat-trapping cheese, was scalding the skin off of the roof of my mouth. Finally, I had hit rock bottom. I knew I had to make amends or I’d be living a lie about pizza for the rest of my life.
That was the first time I learned how to back off of a bold, uncompromising position. But that’s the problem with bold, uncompromising positions– they’re so much harder to back off of than mild, flexible positions. The more one has to back off the bold, uncompromising positions, the more one learns to moderate one’s public statements, or in my case, learns to maintain eye contact with Macy at all times when speaking in a social setting.
So anyway, a year or two ago, I might have come out and told my family that dancing is not an art form, and cannot even be considered a mode of expression. It was late, the air was thick with the smell of potpourri and bombast, and I got carried away. Macy was mortified. But the intoxicating feeling of defending an irrational position that just felt right led me right back down that sink hole, maybe farther than I’d ever gone before. Someone mentioned the beauty of dance a few months later at the in-laws’ family vacation, and I trotted out my new toy argument, with renewed vehemence. A sister in law told Macy the next morning that she “had never realized that Ryan can be such an idiot.” On a vacation with some friends, the value of dance came up again, and this time Macy firmly steered the conversation elsewhere, but not before I could casually mention that there is no value in dance, nay, not one whit of value.
No, you guys are totally right. Definitely art.
But the stance came out different then. It seemed a little threadbare. While Macy fumed, I found myself stammering backwards, becoming more aware of the uselessness of the idea. By the end of the night I had met defeat yet again, or, viewed another way, found relief from the burden of carrying really a pretty stupid idea around with me. It was hard to finally admit that maybe So You Think You Can Dance is more than just a bunch of repetitions of the same movement over and over. But I was glad I did. Like the pizza argument, that debate had imprisoned me, and now I was free.
Free to argue to everyone I know that college football would be safer without the helmets. Honestly, I’ll defend that one til I die.