Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Girl and the Ballerina Too

(The Ballerina - Click to enlarge)

Penny, of the C O H T R blog, left a comment on my last post, inviting me to post something about my wife, since I apparently never or rarely mention her in this blog. My wife is a pretty private sort of person, and I respect her privacy, so it is true that I don't write much about her.

I used to write 'Dear Zachary' letters to my son on my personal website, before I started to write my ramblings in this blog. I have copied one of these letters to Zachary, written early in 2004, below. In it, I pontificate on the subject of relationships in general, before I get to the main point of the letter, which is to describe how his mother and I met, and then how to seek out a suitable lifemate for himself someday.

The Girl and the Ballerina Too (a relationship odyssey)

Dear Zachary:

You’re old enough, Zachary, to know that relationships between any two human beings are never perfect. Consider your relationships with your friends -- things are great one day, shaky the next, back to normal the day after. Think friendships are complicated? If you want the full range of emotional highs and lows, just wait until you start dating and eventually get married!

For better or for worse, men and women need each other. I’m not going to get into a discussion of same-sex relationships here, that’s beyond my realm of experience and I don’t want to complicate this discussion unnecessarily. Men and women usually get together for some combination of friendship, recreational sex and having babies. Long-term relationships sometimes work, sometimes not. I’ve been around, at this writing, for 58 years and have never once talked to anyone who claimed to have a perfect relationship. Such a thing might exist somewhere, but I suspect not. The issue, it seems to me, is how much grief and aggravation the partners in a relationship are willing to put up with in order to reap the benefits, real or perceived, of staying together.

Statistics show that over fifty per cent of marriages fail in western societies. It wasn’t always that way, but since divorcing has become easier over the last few decades and since living together without benefit of marriage vows has lost much of its stigma, people leave relationships whenever they feel the price they have to pay is higher than the value they believe they get from the relationship.

Is that a fair way to look at whether people should stay together? Perhaps not entirely. There are other issues which any rational person should consider, a prime example being the fate of children when couples split up. Children do suffer when their parents separate. I guess the real issue is whether they might suffer more in a family where mom and dad are constantly screaming at each other.

Given discouraging statistics and the evidence all around us of friends, family members and relatives who have divorced or separated, it is a wonder that males and females still seek each other out in a search for a loving, stable, long-term relationship, hopefully with that rarest of creatures, the ever-elusive ‘soul-mate.’

You and I have discussed the fact that I have been married more than once. You didn’t seem at all surprised when you found out that your mom wasn’t my first wife. I guess that since I didn’t marry your mother until I was 38 years old, you concluded that I might have had some sort of life before then. That might be considered an understatement. In my chaotic life, I can say that I made some choices that, retrospectively at least, might be considered to be counter-productive. I worked far too many hours, spent too little time at home and lacked patience. And that’s just my list. I’m sure that my first wife and the girlfriends I had before I married your mom, might have more extensive lists of their own.

Do I regret the way I lived my life?

Yes and no. I certainly might have done some things differently, given the benefit of hindsight. Some changes in behaviour and outlook might have been conducive to keeping or prolonging earlier relationships. But since every action has some direct consequence, and since my accumulated actions led me to your mother, and since without your mother you wouldn’t exist today, then no, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Actions, consequences. That’s the way things work. Every action I took, every action I didn’t take, every twist and turn in my life, inexorably led me to our life today. Had I made the slightest change anywhere along the way, I wouldn’t have you. I have told you that I wouldn’t trade you for the accumulated wealth of the world and I mean it. You are everything to me and I am proud and honoured to be your father. To have you as my son, I would repeat every mistake I have ever made, follow every wrong turn, relive every worry, every frustration, endure every moment of aggravation all over again. You are worth it. Every second.

Weird, isn’t it? In general, I believe that many couples don’t work hard enough to stay together. One or the other, or both, decide that the price they have to pay to accommodate each other is too great. They split up and try to find what they need, or think they need, elsewhere. Some couples, on the other hand, stay together and systematically make each other crazy, diminish each other and fail to satisfy each other in every conceivable way. Sometimes, the best possible thing to do is to cut your losses and run, as quickly as you can, for freedom. I’ve been there. I know.

Given my convoluted history, that you came to exist at all is a miracle. After all, I was 47 years old by the time you were born. I was beginning to think that having a child simply wasn’t going to happen for me. Briefly, in the 1980s, between relationships, I even considered paying a surrogate to bear a child for me. Then, had I married anyone other than your mother, over twenty years ago, the unique combination of genes that make you the Zachary I love could never have come together. Had any tiny change occurred as the day when you were conceived in late 1991 unfolded, there would be no Zachary, at least not the Zachary that is you. When you were born in August of 1992, you were the unique product of a combination of one individual sperm cell and one egg and had conception occurred a millisecond earlier or later, you would not exist. Perhaps a lovely little girl might have taken your place, or even another boy ultimately named Zachary Alexander Pedde, but it would not be you.

The Beatles’ “Long and Winding Road” would be a great theme song for the saga that culminated with your birth.

My first wife and I split up in 1976, childless. In 1977 or 1978, I attended a Libertarian Party convention in Toronto with the woman with whom I was living at the time. Although our relationship was already shaky, we were still trying to work things out. I was encumbered, but not blind. At the convention, I saw a pretty young woman with a pensive look about her. That look intrigued me. I observed and wondered, but that’s all. There was a fund-raising auction at the end of the conference, with a lovely painting of a ballerina for sale. I would have liked to take the painting home with me, but I really couldn’t afford to bid on it. The ballerina went home with someone else. I went back home to London, Ontario, to endure several more years with my live-in partner.

By 1982, things had finally run their course and my partner and I split up. To say that we had irreconcilable differences would be an understatement. We had had some wonderful times together but to continue our relationship would have been a form of sustained water-torture for both of us. Strike two. Again, there were no children. I was already 37 years old.

Sometime in 1982, I met a woman who I dated for about a year. I was gun-shy, reluctant to jump right back into another exclusive relationship. In 1983, we took a break from each other, ‘temporarily,’ ostensibly for the purpose of analyzing our relationship and where it was headed. As a consequence, I headed for the 1983 Libertarian Convention in Toronto by myself. I can’t frankly remember whether it was a provincial or a federal party convention. It was, if memory serves, October 22, 1983.

At the convention, I was standing in the main conference room, speaking with several Libertarian friends. As we chatted, a strangely familiar female wandered over and joined the conversation. I realized that it was the woman I had noticed years earlier, at the previous Libertarian convention in 1977 or 1978.

At the end of the conference, there was the usual banquet and we sat at a table together. We had many things in common and seemed to have a lot to talk about. Afterwards, we went to a Howard Johnson's restaurant on Yonge Street in Toronto and chatted until the early morning hours. Finally, I headed home to London. Chrystyna Domazar headed back to her mother’s home in Toronto, although her own residence was in Belleville, Ontario.

Over the ensuing weeks, there was much driving by Chrystyna and me. Because we lived so far apart, we would meet half-way between our respective abodes, always in Toronto somewhere.

On November 19th, 1983, I asked Chrystyna to marry me. On December 27, 1983, we got married in London, at the home of my brother Alfred and his wife Joyce.

To satisfy a contractual arrangement with Ontario Hydro, where she worked in the public relations department, Chrystyna stayed in Belleville for several months after we were married. Prior to our marriage, I had never been to Chrystyna’s place in Belleville. After we married, on weekends I would drive to Belleville or she would drive to London. When I visited her for the first time, I entered her little apartment, looked at the living room wall, and was flabbergasted to see the ballerina painting that had attracted me years earlier. I got the girl and the ballerina both. Imagine that!

Early in 1984, we bought a house in London and Chrystyna left Belleville to start a new life with her strange new husband, me.

Over twenty years have passed since we got married. I freely admit that I know as little today about male-female relationships as I did in 1983. Males and females are fundamentally different. No amount of rationalizing and pontificating by sociologists and psychologists is going to change that. Men and women think differently from each other, act differently, react differently, sometimes almost seem to be two different species. Sometimes, things just don’t work out in relationships. Sometimes, they do.

I guess the fact that your mother and I have spent twenty years together means that our relationship has worked. We enjoy our good times together, try to work out the inevitable differences and generally count our blessings. I have a very special wife, Zachary, and you have a very special mother.

One day, you will start dating. One day, you will commit yourself to a serious relationship. There are a few things that you should look for. If they are not present, you should run for the hills before it’s too late. And don’t look back.
  • Family. If you each can’t stand your prospective in-laws, at least long enough to have Christmas dinner together, it likely ain’t gonna work. You should always make time to visit her family and you have every right to expect her to visit yours.
  • Physical Attraction. It’s a fact -- your libido is going to be alive and well for a long, long, time. Make sure that you and your partner are compatible and share a mutual attraction. Even if you decide not to have a physical relationship until after you are married, you can still talk about things beforehand. Ignore this at your peril.
  • Common Interests. You don’t both have to be exactly the same. However, if you are diametrically opposed to each other politically, philosophically, or worst of all in matters of religion, you have no future. Someday, you will be sitting on the porch in your rocking chairs. What will you talk about?
  • Attitude. If you even consider hooking up with someone who is a perpetual victim, who thinks that all women are oppressed, that they never have the same career opportunities as men because ’men run things,’ who thinks that she has to utter every inane complaint that enters her mind and who has no OFF button on her whine switch, you will deserve what you will get. Hell on earth.
Someday, when you are ready, there will be the perfect girl for you somewhere. She will be pretty, sexy and very intelligent. She will be soft-spoken and will have more than the usual allotment of common sense. Find her. And when you find her, cherish her. She will be one in a million.

Good luck. You’re going to need it.



  1. Thank-you, Atavist!

    What an interesting and wonderful story!

    I laughed! and love your four points to seeking a successful spouse. Especially the "every inane complaint" and the "whine switch".. LOL! Yes, I find those types of energy-sucking personalities are riddled with the most banal anxieties and failures. Vampires. A couple of hours of nattering go by and suddenly you find yourself with the full realization that your mind has been used as an ash-tray. It's infuriating.

    You are very similar in your handling of love and relationships as you are in other analytic and diagnostic posts, yet this story has an effervescence to it.

    "I got the girl and the ballerina both."

    Love looks good on you. Congratulations on your one-in-a-million.


  2. This poignant letter reminds me of O. Henry's story "The Gift of The Magi" in a way; that the painting eventually did end up with you, along with your girl.

    I loved reading this love story.

    I am also encouraged to hear your opinion that marriages are not perfect places. Of course, reason tells us that nothing is perfect. Movies, novels, one's own hopes combined with one's imagination lets one believe that perfection in romance is possible.

    I know that I have brought my share of difficulties to relationships: most striking is an incredibly high sense of expectation both for me and my partner. It isn't fair to either of us.

    I'm glad you found your wife. I'm glad you have your Zachary, the right child at the right time (which is amazing; I've often thought of that myself: a different moment=a different child). It has all fallen into place for you.

  3. That's a neat story, I knew most of it but I never knew the significance of the ballerina. I always loved looking at that painting when I was at your place as a child.

  4. I have to admit I was captured with the letter that you wrote. Now if my dad had just written me such a letter. Ah, but that is another story.

    I hope your son read and applied the well written knowledge.

  5. Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction, isn't it?

    Penny: I love your 'energy sucking personalities' and 'mind has been used as an ashtray' comments. I've had those experiences with people and you have described them and their effect on others perfectly.

    Bellezza: I think we have the right to expect certain things from our partners. The problem is, two people in a relationship seldom agree in what each has the right to expect from the other. And that is why relationships are so difficult.

    It occurs to me sometimes that writing about things that are perceived largely subjectively by the writer (like relationships) can give inadvertently skewed images to others. I always hasten to point out that when relationships are less than perfect, it is seldom the fault of only one of the participants. Life is a complicated and often frustrating journey.

    Jasmine: The thing about fossils like me and your dad is that we have been around so long that among all of the insignificant and inconsequential detritus of our lives are a few nuggets of information that are actually interesting to someone. Now that you are married, you will be building a storehouse of stories of your own, and I would love to hear them sometime. Will you be visiting your mom and dad at Christmas? Maybe I'll see you then.

    Don: You sound like the kind of guy I would love to sit and have a coffee with. Perhaps when I am in the Boquete/David area again, we could do that?

  6. The problem is, two people in a relationship seldom agree in what each has the right to expect from the other.

    Exactly.. it's not so much about measuring up or falling short, as it is about implied imposition, duty and obligation. So true.

  7. I found the same comment meaningful, Penny. It brings to mind the saying, "It's not my job to fulfill your expectations." or, at least, all of them all of the time.

    I know when a relationship works, or fails, it takes both parties.