Sunday, April 5, 2009

My Favorite Marxist

Like so many folks these days, I’ve been single for by far the majority of my adult life – meaning neither married (though I was married once for a little over 3 years) nor in a “committed relationship.” Romantic relations were not absent, but were, for the most part, fleeting. So, perhaps I have no claim to be an expert on why some relationships last. On the other hand, I do have quite a lot of experience on why some don’t.

My longest-term romantic relationship was back in the 80s. Anyone who knows both of us might spot a character much like her in my short story collection Scum and Other Tales, but I’ll stop short of identifying which one. I think the reason this one lasted longer than most was the intellectual challenge she offered – yes, really. The other stuff was good too, but the good-natured adversarial discussions were fun, and she gave me a run for my money on almost any subject. We traded books regularly and always had different opinions about those too. She was a Marxist former SDS activist and I was a libertarian, so we always had something political to talk about – perhaps the fact each of us was radical, albeit in near-opposite ways, was an odd sort of commonality. She is the only one of my former partners, to my knowledge, to have left me for a woman. Still, I have fond memories.

I don’t pretend to be less shallow than the next guy. I’m as taken in by superficial prettiness as anyone, which at my stage of life is likely to be considered creepy so I’m careful about expressing the reaction. Any long term pairing, though, requires three things from both parties: loads of patience, fundamental good will, and some sort of mental connection. Lack of any of those by either partner is a deal-killer sooner or later, more likely sooner.

What of passion? Well, in the idiom of my generation, passion is a gas. A person is lucky to experience it once – and I consider myself very lucky to have done so more than once. Unfortunately, it is a volatile and explosive gas that sometimes stinks (methane?). OK enough of the metaphors. Well, maybe one more. Passion definitely should be on your life resume somewhere. If it’s what you feel for a suitable life partner, it is even better (and rare). However, if passion is your only reason for entering a committed relationship, my advice is to pass gas.

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