Mario and I were getting on a plane the other day, in our typical Italian-Teutonic fashion. He ambled up into line before our group was called. I waited farther back. He motioned me to come forward. I didn’t want to “cut” in front of the people I was behind.
Mario strode down the walkway ahead of me, while I, somewhat disheveled, juggled a cellphone I’d just hung up, my purse and a bag. A man nearby, having observed our interaction, said to me, “You guys look like you’ve been together a long time.”
The comment made me smile. In a way, it was true. I’ve been in relationship with Mario longer now than I was with Phillip, long enough for us to develop a couple culture, which is a kind of shorthand that develops over time between two people.
I think, without stating it in so many words, the loss of couple culture is one of the things we mourn deeply when we lose a love, whether by death, divorce, or some other separation. And no wonder we mourn losing it. That person, with whom we feel seen and acknowledged and connected, suddenly is not there.
Couple culture is a state of understanding and being understood; you don’t have to explain everything in every conversation from scratch. A lot of times, it’s a basis for play and how you relate to each other in your own private sandbox.
It’s also probably fair to say that “bad” couple cultures are at the root of a lot of divorces. (“He always does THIS.” “She always does THAT.”) But “good” couple cultures help solidify relationships. You create a common language of mind, body and spirit with all the complexity and nuance that implies.
So this gig I’ve been doing lately that had Mario and I boarding a plane together (sort of) requires me to record sound snapshots of things like restaurant service. When Mario and I aren’t interacting with staff, the recorder continues, and our personal conversations invariably wind up on the tape, too. Couple culture. In your face.
I am what Mario (and a lot of other people) call bossy. I come from a family of bossy women. I’m a know-it-all, whether I really “know” something or not. Mario, on the other hand, is a force of nature. I like to call him a big tree because his is a formidable presence. Safe to say, whatever I dish out, he can take. Or put up with. There are no withering violets in this match-up.
This exchange occurred after a server brought us some cracked, fresh coconut. Imagine comedian Dane Cook doing this dialogue. That’s what it sounded like.
I should also point out that Mario runs circles around me intellectually. He is a renaissance man, educated by Jesuits, who has poked his nose into more books on more subjects than I will ever hope to. It’s just that, I’ve read more books on nutrition.
The other thing is: We’re not angry in this exchange. We’re having fun, playing a little relationship ping-pong.
Anyway, here goes:
Mario: Coconut is good for you!
Ann: No, it’s not.
A: It’s got saturated fat in it.
M: It’s water soluble.
A: No, it’s not.
M: How can something that grows on a tree be bad for you?
A: Well…. Is there fat in avocado?
A: There’s fat in coconut.
M: It’s water soluble.
A: Fat is not water soluble.
M: Yes, it is. The fat in avocado is water soluble.
A: It’s completely impossible.
M: Are you sure?
A: Yeah. Fats are fat-soluble. Water-soluble things are water-soluble. Fat can’t be water-soluble.
M: Well, why do “they” always say that the fat in avocado is water-soluble?
A: “They” never say that.
M: I’ve heard it said a million times.
A: You have not.
M: Yes, I have.
A: Avocado is not water-soluble.
M: The fat in avocado is water-soluble.
A: No, it’s not.
M: That’s what I’ve been told.
A: I don’t know where you heard that.
M: You better check it out.
A: It’s wrong.
M: You may think it’s wrong. But you may not be right.
A: On this one, I am right.
M: You may think on this one, you’re right. But you may not be. You may not be right.
A: But I am right.
M: You don’t know that.
A: But I do, without a doubt. Without a question of a doubt. If you don’t think so, make a wager.
M: Are you ready to go?
Talk about savoring every morsel. Later that night at an Italian dinner, Mario baits me with the statement that the fat in olive oil is water soluble. He's got a twinkle in his eye. I snap at the bait, we laugh, and our journey of parallel souls continues.