Friday, February 5, 2016

Adventures in Traveling with The Most American Man in the World

In 39 years, I've visited nearly 20 countries. My boyfriend, a nubile 37-years-old, has left the U.S. once -- for Bermuda and the Bahamas.

For friends who have known me for more than 24 hours, this is a highly ironic relationship. It's also a goldmine of cultural misunderstandings, sarcastic banter, and many Felix-and-Oscar moments to which I firmly believe I should not be the sole consumer. So let me present for your reading pleasure Adventures in Traveling with The Most American Man in the World.*

First things first. The Most American Man does not like change. I, Felix, do like change. And new ideas.

My constant flow of new ideas -- for life, for work, for art, for travel destinations -- is often met with indifference or outward resistance from The Boyfriend. In fact, here's a graph of the usually trajectory of my happiness when I introduce Chris to a new idea:

See what happens? A new idea is practically infallibly correlated with my happiness. But the minute I share this new idea with Chris, I am met with 0% enthusiasm. Most of the time, this is not because of an obstinate or grumpy-cat nature; he's simply an introvert who mulls over every idea for long periods of time before getting on board.

He's also a civil servant (see footnote below), who knows when to get on board with management's new plan or initiative. This leads to 10% enthusiasm that can seem like progress, but actually it's the worst stage in the Chris Enthusiasm Building process because it is accompanied with Irish-Catholic-level passive-aggressive statemetns (e.g., "Fiiine, I'll go to India, if it's really that important to you.").

I usually pretend to have Asperger's at this point and simply take Chris at his literal word. I pepper him with questions to which he never knows the answer. ("Do you like to see sights or laze around when you travel?" I ask. "I wouldn't know," he responds.) But life is busy, and it's amazing how much a relationship can progress if you just ignore gaping incompatibilities for a few months.

At some point, Chris will realize that things are moving without much effort on his part. At this point, he adopts adrenaline-junkie jargon like, "Sometimes you just have to turn into the skid." The sheer possibility of chaos brings his enthusiasm to 75%. Which is great.

But then things get tricky. Because The Most American Man can't half commit to something. He can't even let it rest at 75%. It's go big or go home. There's no 100%, just 110%. So now, Chris is not only on board with visiting India, I'm pretty sure that if I mention wanting to travel internationally ever again, he's going to want to come back only to India. "It's a tradition," he'll say. "Why mess with a good thing?"

This makes me want to bury my head in despair for all the countries that are out there to be seen. But then I remember what my cousin Cary once told me. "You want a guy who doesn't like change, because that means he won't want to change you." I'm not sure if he meant Chris won't try to exchange me (for someone else) or won't try to change my fundamental personality. But either way, I realize that this trait, this Most American trait, is why I was happy enough to have all those bright ideas in the first place.

And so we continue on our merry-go-round of algorithmic incompatibility. He makes me happy. I have new ideas. I share those ideas, and he mourns the little creature comforts he so desperately wants, opting instead for a life with me. I charge ahead with my idea, and then he gets on board, outstripping any level of interest or enthusiasm I had. And his dedication makes my heart smile with loyal affection. And so we start again...

*For those of you that may dispute that moniker, I should mention that The Boyfriend is a Firefighter/EMT, was born outside of Boston to parents who are Jersey Italian and Irish, loves chain restaurants, and uses the word awesome at least once a day.

3 comments:

Amrit said...

Such a sweet story. Made me feel so tender towards you both. Love you both.

Barbara Egan said...

What a terrific blog. Hope you keep writing.

Lauren Vasil said...

So now, Chris is not only on board with visiting India, I'm pretty sure that if I mention wanting to travel internationally ever again, he's going to want to come back only to India. "It's a tradition," he'll say. "Why mess with a good thing?"

I feel like this simple observation speaks volumes not jut about Chris, but also you and your relationship.

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