"You can't go tomorrow," I pleaded.
"It's only for two nights," Tom replied. "I'll hop right back on a flight if she goes into labor."
"If Kendra gives us her baby, this is going to be our baby! Would you go if I were on the brink of labor?"
"She's not going to give us the baby," Tom said. "And I still need to support this family. This is the most important meeting of the year and people are coming from overseas. I have to be there."I agreed that Kendra would likely decide to parent her little girl. We were hoping for that. But if she went through with the adoption plan, I did not want to be left alone. And Paula, the social worker, had told us we needed to be there. At the hospital. For Kendra.
"Jennifer, now is the time to put on your therapist hat," Paula had said. "You and Tom need to be there for Kendra. This will be the most difficult thing she'll ever do in her entire life, and you guys need to be there for her."What if Kendra wanted to keep the baby? Maybe it was better not to be there?
"No," Paula had said. "Kendra has chosen you guys for her baby. She needs to see you falling in love with her baby. You need to make her feel comfortable."Who was going to make me feel comfortable?
"I have to go," Tom said. "This meeting was arranged way before we even knew about this baby. If you were pregnant, I wouldn't have scheduled it in the first place."
"I doubt that," I said. "You always leave at the worst times."And so commenced a terrible fight between us. I am not talking mere debate here; I am referring to the kind of explosive drama that requires the use of superpowers.
Tom and I are married for almost 17 years now. That's fairly long for people our age; plus, it was not predicted to work out so well, given our unmarried but pregnant beginning.
So, when people ask about the secret of our success--I usually cite all the therapy bills, our great communication, or some other nonsense. But the truth is that we are simply lucky: we have benefited from a balance of powers in our relationship. Superpowers!
I do not believe that all people are blessed with superpowers. Some have more, others less, and a sorry few have none whatsoever. I am suggesting that an inequitable distribution of powers is what leads to divorce. If a man and woman are not equally armed--they cannot stay married. Because in marriage, as in war, if one side runs out of ammunition--that's it, party's over.
So, the fact that Tom and I have made it this far probably has only a slight fraction to do with shared values, good communication, and (just enough) sex. No, it probably comes down to the simplest of facts: that Tom and I are pretty equal when it comes to the distribution of superpowers in our marriage. And these powers are of commensurate strength, respectively.
Some of my powers include excellent eyesight, a seemingly infinite attention span, a severe case of moral indignation, and superior introspective abilities. Some of Tom's powers include spatial navigation, the art of persuasion, a profound loyalty to his family of origin, and the unsung power of subtlety.
Now, there are some marital disputes that require each spouse to draw upon his/her full arsenal of powers, but on this particular morning, we selected one weapon each (one must assume fairness if any relationship is worth fighting over in the first place). I liken that morning to one of those epic video games kids play nowadays, where the game player collects various weapons/special abilities throughout his virtual existence, but during a particular challenge, must choose one item, and only one item, from his bag of tricks.
On that morning, we each chose our personal best superpower:
I selected the power of extraordinary autobiographical memory, also known as episodic memory. I can recall, and with exquisite detail, most everything that has happened in my personal life. I may not remember names or faces that well, but my memory for what happens to me is surpassed by few. There are the obvious exceptions to this rule (alcohol, traumatic stress, etc.), but if I've experienced it, I tend to remember it. Some of my friends even use me for their own personal memory storage--I'm like an external hard drive for others (that is, if we happen to share an experience together).
Tom, on the other hand, selected the power of denial. The power of denial should never be underestimated and is actually composed of sub-powers. One of these sub-powers is Tom's ability to remember almost nothing from his autobiographical past. If his brain were not a living organ, I'd like to get in and dig the crap out of it. Most psychoanalytic theory will list denial and repression as distinct defense mechanisms, but I think the two are inextricably linked.
And what good battle is without irony? On the very day that we were engaged in combat, three of our dearest friends were composing personal references about us--letters intended for the social worker's inclusion in our home study. But before we get to those lovely artifacts, let the battle unfold!