Opposites Attract, So How’s That Working Out?

Along the lines of opposites attract, in all fairness to my wife, if she had written this article it would probably read somewhat differently (think opposite of everything I’ve said). To begin with, our backgrounds are very different. I come from the Midwest, and she’s from New Jersey. When I was a kid, we were poor. My family’s big entertainment was a trip to McDonalds on Saturday night, and we could barely afford that. My wife grew up in a middle class family; not wealthy, but McD’s was not their idea of party time.

My wife stands five-foot-three and I am six-foot-seven. When we first met, it was summer at an outdoor camp in upstate New York. I remember a cute young woman in a bikini walking up the hill from the swimming pool. I was talking with a group of male friends, and she walked up to me and started a conversation. Later she told me that she went for the tall guy with the deep voice. So, from the start, the height difference supports the premise that opposites attract. I’m guessing there’s been times when she’s regretted her choice. Her neck must hurt from looking up at me all the time. But, we’ve been together for 46 years, so something must be working. 

Along the same theme that opposites attract, we have somewhat different tastes in food. We both worked hard, made a decent living, and can afford an occasional visit to an expensive restaurant. However, it’s my inclination to find one or two reasonably priced places with good food, and to go there repeatedly. 

For example, in St. Augustine, Florida where we currently live, there’s a place down the road called Redfrog and McToads that serves an unusually varied menu. This includes fish and chips (choice of haddock or cod), an incredible Midwestern fried tenderloin sandwich, an awesome reuben, great pizza and even bangers and mash. It’s close to home, lots of parking and the food is great. To my mind, why go anywhere else, other than an occasional trip to McDonalds for a quarter pounder? (Keep in mind that my comfort foods are a quarter pounder with cheese or a large bowl of popcorn).

My wife, on the other hand, likes to try new things. She also goes for restaurants that are a bit more upscale, and different. Fortunately, we both love seafood, so there’s that. However, I have a couple of pet peeves along these lines of trying new restaurants. There’s the time I found myself in an Indian restaurant in Virginia, eating a fried appetizer that I couldn’t even identify. The closest I could come was, “Honey, why am I eating fried tarantula?” Her response, “Just hush and eat. It’s better than McDonalds.”

Then, there’s the time we ate in a fancy restaurant in New Orleans. The bill was over two-hundred dollars. The appetizer included a glop of rice with a single shrimp sitting on top, positioned in the center of a full-sized dinner plate. The shrimp, and the entire plate, were painted with a green paste that included wasabi and several other spices that I didn’t recognize. The entrée consisted of some sort of fish stew over another bed of rice, drenched in a colorful sauce of undetermined origin. My taste buds were unable to decipher what was happening. Dessert included a tiny piece of cheesecake with a strawberry on top. I desperately needed to go to McDonalds after that meal, because I was still very hungry.

Then, there was the authentic German place in North Carolina. My wife had eaten schnitzel in Germany and really liked it, so it was schnitzel for two. (They didn’t have quarter pounders on the menu). Even she was disappointed at the blandness of the food. Upon further research, we discovered that schnitzel is simply breaded cooked meat, and can consist of chicken, veal, turkey, beef, mutton or pork; pretty much anything that’s laying around. I thought (but did not say) this is what you get for trying new things. But, I feared her response would be something like, “Kind of like McDonalds. Do you really know what that meat is?” (She’s not big on fast food in general).

She likes cooking shows and romantic movies. I like movies with action, fast cars and blowing shit up. Fortunately, in this case we both like murder mysteries, so we spend a lot of time binge watching those. We especially like murder mysteries in foreign countries, like the UK, tropical islands, and Australia. There’s something about the combination of the mystery, the scenery and the different cultures that is really interesting. And, they also have McDonalds in most of those places, and popcorn too. (Comforting thoughts).

When it comes to cars, my wife’s idea of a vehicle is something to get you from place to place. Her main concerns are that it runs, and it’s pretty. To me, driving is a sport, and I like cars with manual transmissions that go fast. To her credit, she is great with a manual transmission, but she prefers automatic. We tried to compromise on a new car once. I chose the BMW 3 series with 6-speed manual and she chose the color, a regal looking metallic gray. Unfortunately, the metallic gray turned purple in sunshine, and I had to drive a purple BMW for four years. Yikes!

When it comes to outdoor recreation, everyone loves the water. We were fortunate enough to live on a large lake for twenty years, and I thought we were in agreement on this one. Then my wife retired, and informed me that she was really a beach girl. Her family in New Jersey had rented a house on the beach for a month every summer, she had fond memories of this, and she wanted to retire to the beach. 

That’s how I ended up in St. Augustine, with the poisonous snakes, alligators, hurricanes, tornadoes and various other things that would like to kill you. We were awakened at three in the morning a couple of weeks ago with our cell phones screaming out a tornado alert. I turned on the TV, to discover that a tornado was predicted to travel directly over the top of our condo complex in the next 10 minutes. Fortunately, the weather people get it right about as often as it snows in Florida, and it ended up that the “tornado” was reduced to 20 mph winds, and missed us anyhow. But, it got the old adrenaline pumping. My wife is okay with all of this. As long as she gets her morning walk on the beach and yoga class, all’s right with the world. I should be so mellow.

Our taste in furniture also differs considerably. At six-foot-seven, I need furniture that will fit comfortably. I also prefer sturdy, practical things that will last. My wife likes things to be pretty. Our attempts to compromise in this area have resulted in some interesting problems. There’s the enormous sofa that filled the living room in the lake house, plenty long enough for me to lay down. However, it was so large that when my poor wife sat on it, her feet couldn’t reach the ground. Now, there’s the pretty swivel chairs with no lower back support and the small sofa on which I do not fit in our current condo. There must be a furniture maker out there somewhere that manufacturers furniture with the ‘one size fits all’ concept in mind.

Our worst disagreements occur when it comes to remodeling projects. My wife is extremely detailed, while I look at the big picture. We’ve gone through several building and remodeling projects during our marriage, and I suffer severe PTSD from these experiences. 

I look at the overall picture, and if the construction is quality and comfortable, I’m okay with it. Inevitably, the builder will refuse to pay attention to some detail or try to cut a corner or two. My wife, at five-three, will have trouble getting him to pay attention to her. So, it becomes my job to use my large carcass and deep, masculine voice, to get the guy’s attention and force him to follow her instructions. In other words, I always end up in the middle of the battle. Come to think of it, maybe that’s why she went for the tall, large young man with the deep voice. And I was silly enough to think that it had something to do with me being attractive. Maybe she knew that later on she could weaponized me against builder/contractors?

Actually, our being opposite in so many ways has made our life much richer. She loves to travel, and I’m a stay-at-home kind of guy. If it weren’t for her, I’d have never seen all the wonderful places she has taken us around the world; so many different tropical islands, Scotland, England, Ireland, Germany, lots of great experiences. She has also convinced me to try different foods, and some of them have been enjoyable. Come to think of it, that’s how I found those two or three restaurants that are on my list of favorites.

Most important, in spite of our differences, my wife and I have always shared a love of the important things, God, family, certain moral and ethical values and each other. Maybe that’s why we’ve been together for 46 years. But, knowing what she’s had to put up with, I might not blame her if in the next life, when she’s walking up that hill towards a group of young men, she goes for the short guy with the high, squeaky voice. I’m just saying…

If you got a few laughs from this blog, you might enjoy my book PLEASURIA: Take as Directed (Koehler Books), a comedy murder mystery. Buy it on Amazon at http://bit.ly/pleasuria. I’m giving all my after-tax profits from the book to two children’s charities, Holly’s House and Darkness-to-Light.