The Real Work of Love

21 Jul

Do you know what I discovered?  Everybody’s talking about the dissolution of the marriage of Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise.  Who didn’t see that coming?  If you really want to know the real predictors of the longevity of a celebrity marriage you just need to visit your neighborhood beauty parlor, barber shop, or nail salon—you’ll never be taken by surprise again.  At my weekly spa the technicians have names like Mary, Jane, Carol, and Judy but in real life their names are Jungyoon, Yunjoo, Joohee, and Wonjin.  They all pour over People magazine as if their lives depended on it.  They know more about Hollywood celebrities than the celebrities’ own mothers do, and they predicted the demise of the Cruise/Holmes marriage almost to the day.

For years I too had the “gift of prophesy” of predicting how long a couple would stay married because for a good stretch of time in my life I was a wedding singer.  By the time the rehearsal for a wedding was over, I could tell if the bride and groom had the fiber to go the distance or if they were just bullshitting each other and themselves.  During those days (60s, 70s, early 80s), my overall conclusion about the brides and grooms I met were that they were in “lust,” but rarely in love.  Oh, they thought they were in love, and I’m sure it would have come as quite a surprise to them to hear otherwise.  But if their union lasted more than a hot minute and I got to meet them again on their 20th or 30th anniversary, I usually found that by that time they were “growing up” in love because they had journeyed through Hell and back and had truly discovered the hard work of choosing to love each other rather than exiting stage right when the thrill was gone.

Image from

As a wedding singer during that time, I had three songs that I rotated by popular demand:  Paul Stookey’s “Wedding Song: There is Love,” Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly,” and Fiddler on the Roof’s Sunrise Sunset.”   If I had $100 for every time I sang one of those songs at a wedding, I’d be rollin’ with The Donald (no, not that slimball—never that slimeball—but I’d definitely be a baller).  I was thinking about my wedding singer season the other day, and those songs kept ringing though my head as if on a loop (possibly precipitated by the great Holmes/Cruise marital take-down) when I went to get my nails done recently.

WONJIN:  “Well, how yu doin’ my friend?

ME:  “Hey Judy, how’s life—what’s the buzz?”

WONJIN:  “Hangin’ in der, my friend—not too shabby—can’t complain.   Hey, you hear how Katie Holmes kick Tom Cruise ass?  People say she run divorce escape-plan like ‘Mission Impossible.’   Baby-girl one smart cookie, that’s what I say.”

JOOHEE:   “Oh yeah.  People say that that Puss in the Boots guy’s marriage to 9 to 5 actress is toast too, but I don’t want to say too much until I confirm it with the People.  I not surprised, though.  That Antonio has got the look of a real player, but I wouldn’t kick him out of my bed even though he not Asian.  Hee, hee!”

ME:  “Auntie, you so nasty.  What would Antonio Banderas want with an old woman?”

JOOHEE:  “How he know if he never try?  What that thing you tell me last month:  Once you go Auntie-Asian you never go back!”

ME:  “You’re a hoot, Auntie.  The expression is ‘once you go black, you never go back’ and I was talking about myself.  Only Black people can use that expression.  Somehow it gets lost in translation when you use it.”

JOOHEE:  “I can see you never taste ripe Asian fruit, my friend or you’d be singin’ a different tune—forever!”

Image pinned by Lisa Marie DeMedeiros on Pinterest

JOOHEE:  “Anyhow, I gave that Puss-n-boots and his Melanie five years when I first read about them in the People—they been married ten years more than I said they’d be.  And divorces come in threes, you know.  Once People tell me Demi and Ashton on their way down the toilet, and then Katie ditched Tom ass, I knew another divorce comin’ our way faster than you can say kimchi.”

JUNGYOON:  “What all they problem, anyway?  I understand why poor people break up—no money!  It’s hard to be all lovey-dovey when you ain’t got pot to piss in or window to throw it out of.  But how come rich people can’t just get along?”

WONJIN:  “They got money, but they get bored and like to get milk from a different cow.  Sometime they like Asian flavor and sometime they like other flavors.  They think maybe next cow give them chocolate milk, ain’t that right my friend.  Tee-hee-hee-hee . . .”

ME: tuning into the iTune stream in my head)

“Well then what’s to be the reason for becoming man and wife?

Is it love that brings you here or love that brings you life?”

 (“Wedding Song: There is Love” by Paul Stookey)

Bored Couple”||image from

JOOHEE:  “Well, finally Angelina and Brad finally got engaged.  People say her ring cost $500,000.  That no chump change, my friend.  I need me a man like that—Asian or no Asian.  I think somebody tell me engagements come in threes too. ”

ME:  “I think you me mean ‘deaths happen in threes,’ Mary.”

JOOHEE:  “No, this time, I right.  Although I a little worried because karma comes in threes and it is a bitch.  After what Angie and Brad did to Jennifer, I keep waiting for the other rock to drop.”

ME:  “Do you mean the ‘other shoe. . .’ oh, never mind.”

JOOHEE:  “All I know is Angie and Brad not safe from the karma gods until Jennifer finds happiness with her man.  Last month People rumored that Jennifer and Justin may be engaged.  They even show what they thought might be her ring from three different angles, but it was false alarm.  They were pictures of rings she give herself.  I think she fuckin’ with our minds, if you really want to know.  People think that too.  What wrong with these modern American couples?  Why he no put a ring on it?

(ME: zoning out to iTune stream in my head)

“Strumming my pain with his fingers

Singing my life with his words

Killing me softly with his song

Killing me softly with his song

Telling my whole life with his words

Killing me softly with his song.”

 “Killing Me Softly” (by Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel)

Image pinned by Jennifer Bishop on Pinterest||original image

HYUNJOO:  “Auntie, look at this—it’s the new People magazine for this month.  It says Vera Wang is leaving husband, Arthur Becker.  There’s your third celebrity divorce for the month because Demi and Ashton don’t count—they ancient history.  And this People story is about death of an Asian mixed marriage.  That makes me sad—I like mixed marriages.  I think if we all married each other there would be no more racism and war.”

JOOHEE:  “Silly girl—you talk crazy.  I think everybody stick to they own kind—everybody be much happier.  Look at Vera Wang . . . she marry that white man and 23 years later—Pow!—People say he leave her ass.  Nice Asian man would still be there.

WONJIN:  “Auntie, old woman, you don’t know what you talkin’ about.”

ME:  “Hyunjoo, that was a nice thought Baby-girl.  You’re young, and hope always springs eternal in our youth.  But your Auntie and I are old and we know that racism will always be something we’ll struggle with as people because it is an issue of the heart (and OLD PEOPLE really resist change—don’t we Auntie) . . . Besides we don’t all need to intermarry each other (nice to do if you want) to accept one another.  We’ll get better, but we’ll never get over the need to feel superior to one another.  The best we can do is to love each other as we are where we are for who we are and take a sledge hammer to our own prejudices when they pop up.  Speaking of international relationships, are we still going to see Avenue Q next week, Wonjin?”

WONJIN:  “Sure, but only if we get to sing my favorite song in the car.

ME:  “You only like that song because the Asian character sings it to her white husband and gets to scold him, the entire cast, and the audience about their racism.”

WONJIN:  (WONJIN/a.k.a. Judy breaks out in an atonal voice belting “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx like a scalded cat while all the customers in the shop scream in protest):

“Everyone’s a little bit racist it’s true.

But everyone is just about as racist as you!

  If we all could just admit that we are racist a little bit

And everyone stopped being so PC

 Maybe we could live in – Harmony!”

ME:  “And on that note, I’m turning on my massage chair, plugging in my iPod, and I’m taking a nap—this is supposed to be my therapy time, not my eardrum bursting time.  Wake me when you find an interracial couple in People who you think will go the distance.  I’d like to place a bet on that.  Preferably an Asian married to an African-American, because you all know. . .”

JUNGYOON, HYUNJOO, JOOHEE, and WONJIN:  “Once you go black, you never go back!”

(ME: sleeping while listening to iTune stream in my head)

“They look so natural together

Just like two newlyweds should be. . .

. . . Sunrise, sunset

Sunrise, sunset

Swiftly fly the years

One season following another

Laden with happiness and tears”

 (“Sunrise, Sunset” from Fiddler on the Roof by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick)

“Interracial” Marriage||image from

JOOHEE:  Wake up, my friend.  Did you hear what People have to say about Joraan van der Sloot?  He may
be getting engaged.
  WTF!  Go figure!  How a convicted killer get a woman to marry him in prison, and his ass
in jail (in Peru) for twenty-eight years?  I tell you right now, if what People say be true, I give that marriage two days—maybe one week, tops!


I am discovering that real love takes a lot of work.  Whether it is the love of a petulant toddler, a rebellious teenager, a thoughtless spouse, or an unkind friend—to love is to sacrifice.  I don’t believe in staying in a marriage where it is abusive (physically or verbally), or the partner is a substance abuser, or if the partner is so self-centered that the spouse has to play second fiddle to his or her ego more often than not.  I know nothing about Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise’s marriage, but I suspect, given the cult-like nature of Scientology that infused their lives she might have escaped a volatile situation by the hair of her chinny-chin-chin—or else why the subterfuge?  (Hey, get off my case:  I read People and I know these things—so there you have it!)

But as Americans (without an oppressive cult-like religion breathing down our throats), we’ve really been sold a bill of goods about love.   We’ve been told that it is something we “fall into” rather than “grow into over time.”   We’ve also been told that love is a “feeling,” but it is more than that.  Love is actually a choice—an action.  Feelings will ebb and flow like the tide, but the ability to choose to give and receive love is always with us—it is organic and it grows as we make the choice to choose love over self-centeredness over and over again.  I have been fortunate to find the man of my dreams and to be married to him for 33 years after dating him for six.  He is not the same race, his family did not openly embrace me, he is better educated, and our initial “hot” bodies that we had when we were young that caused us to drown “in lust” for each other now sag in all the wrong places and increasingly feel more like the Pillsbury Dough Boy when we cuddle together at days end against the slings and arrows of the outside world.  We have been to Hell and back together.  But I love him and he loves me in all our twilight failings and oddities—so much more today than we did the day we first said, “I do.”

Pinned by Jennifer Bishop on Pinterest||Image from

“Love is action. Love is tolerance. Love is learning your partner’s love language* and then expressing love in a way that he can receive. Love is giving. Love is receiving. Love is plodding through the slow eddies of a relationship without jumping ship into another’s churning rapids. Love is recognizing that it’s not your partner’s job to make you feel alive, fulfilled, or complete; that’s your job. And it’s only when you learn to become the source of your own aliveness and are living your life connected to the spark of genius that is everyone’s birthright can you fully love another.” By Sheryl Paul (“What is Love?”)

“No matter what way you dress it up, the best thing you can bring to a marriage is not the feeling of ‘being in love‘, but romance’s poor relation: tolerance. . . And while I am pontificating, one more tip for the ladies: Try to find a man who has that most underrated of qualities: character.” By Kate Kerrigan (“Blog post: Marriage Myths”) and author of Recipes for a Perfect Marriage.

Book cover for excellent study on speaking and listening to our partners regarding their needs

*“Something in our nature cries out to be loved by another. Isolation is devastating to the human psyche. That is why solitary confinement is considered the cruelest of punishments.”
Gary Chapman, The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts


July 20, 2012 In Memoriam

Artist: Mark Rantal

Mark Rantal’s blue ribbon image interlaces elements of the Colorado state flag, a heart shape and an outline of Batman||Image from or “like” Mark at


Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Eleanor Tomczyk and “How the Hell Did I End Up Here?” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Posted by on July 21, 2012 in Uncategorized


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18 responses to “The Real Work of Love

  1. imagesbytdashfield

    July 21, 2012 at 8:05 am

    GAWD!!! Will they never let that Jen, Brad, Angie ish go???? Sick to death of it. Who cares who was right or wrong, we are not to judge as we are all a bit jacked up anyway. Not a one of us can throw a stone and I cannot stand Jen and her non-acting self anyway. Why do we humans get so wrapped up in celebrities lives like we are kin to them? Marriage is rough no matter how much money you have (and the less you have sometimes its rougher)

    Frankly I think Tom is more busted up in his ego by Katie getting the upper hand on him than her actually leaving, then again I could be wrong but either way – I don’t give a damn! It’s interesting to see and read for a hot minute and then I want them to stop writing and reporting the hell out of it.
    There are more important issues out there to be concerned about like the tragedy in Colorado or people dying in Syria or other war/politically torn places.

    Offa my soap box now but after having been through an ugly divorce myself, hearing about others and their boo-hoo how is some heifer going to manage on alimony of 20K a month is not going to get any sympathy from me. Oh hell naw!

    On a positive note – you were a wedding singer? Too cool!

    • etomczyk

      July 21, 2012 at 3:45 pm

      TD: I love your tirade! I honestly thought this would be a throw-away piece, but it struck a chord in you.

      You’re so right, of course. This blog came about because I really did go to that kind of spa where English was their second and sometimes fourth language. I had the same nail technichian for a decade and we have become friends (characters have been exaggerated for humor and the names and nationalities have been changed to protect the guilty People magazine readers. 🙂 Every time I went to get my nails done, someone would try and engage me about a topic they had read in one of the gossip mags (People, US Weekly, In Touch) and when I didn’t know what they were talking about and could care less, I was roundly chastised and told about the stars and their misdeeds ad nauseum. It irritated the crap out of me until one day I realized something: this “gossip” was a common denominator form of social outreach. Everyone in the shop was either of different nationalites, different religions, varied economic backgrounds, and disparate ages. Discussing the “People” gossip put everyone on the same plane and provided all in the salon a form of communication. It’s like when guys say to each other around the water cooler at work: “how about those Bears?” or “Can you believe Linsanity is leaving NY?” The boss can engage in a conversation with the mail guy and neither will, inadvertantly offend each other or lose face (a really big deal in some cultures), unlike if they discussed religion, politics, or racial issues. Once I realized that aspect of it all, I’ve lightened up about the whole star gazing.

      As to the wedding singer gigs, when you’re trying to make it in the biz, a “baby has to do what a baby has to do” to pay the rent! Cheers!

    • Dienna

      July 21, 2012 at 5:23 pm

      “GAWD!!! Will they never let that Jen, Brad, Angie ish go????”

      Oh, my god, yes! I really hear that.

      “Why do we humans get so wrapped up in celebrities lives like we are kin to them?”

      I get the impression that these average Joes and Jills are so bored with their own lives that they need to live vicariously through the lives of celebrities to make themselves feel like they’ve got something going on. I completely agree with you that people do take it to obsession and it gets ridiculous.

      “It irritated the crap out of me until one day I realized something: this “gossip” was a common denominator form of social outreach.”

      That’s probably why it’s that way at numerous jobs I’ve worked at—people would rather talk about celebrity gossip and other useless nonsense as opposed to things that really matter. And I’m looked at as if I have three heads growing out of my neck because I either don’t know or don’t care about that mess.

      • etomczyk

        July 21, 2012 at 8:58 pm

        Hi Dienna. It is an interesting phenomenom to watch–this obsession with celebrities. It has spawned the birth of reality shows and created a nation of voyeurs. But I have a feeling this has always been. Somewhere in a prehistoric cave is a Neanderthal’s markings showing the scribe’s adulterous relationship with the tribal leader’s wife. Such is man. Thanks so much for stopping by.

  2. Sondra Smith

    July 21, 2012 at 9:20 am

    When my sons were teenagers and wanted to start to date, I told them not to worry about dating, learn to be a friend, a relationship will spring from that or it won’t. But you need to marry your best friend, lust will fade but a friendship will endure. I am happy to say that both sons that are married did exactly that. Well done Eleanor!
    Thank you for remembering the people of Aurora, such a tragedy. Prayers go out to the families and friends.

    • etomczyk

      July 21, 2012 at 3:49 pm

      Sondra: I know, isn’t that Colorado tragedy just awful? I immediately thought of you. Isn’t this the 5th or 6th such tragedy for your state? I’d probably never go to the movies again. I don’t like crowds as it is and that would have fulfilled my worst nightmare. Thanks for stopping by. Hugs from Va.

  3. Elyse

    July 21, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    That was delightful! Now I don’t have to read People Magazine when I get my hair done! Thanks!

    • etomczyk

      July 21, 2012 at 5:05 pm

      The best expose about People magazine was Jeff Goldblum’s character as a reporter in “The Big Chill” and the ribbing he gets from his pals about the base gossip in the magazine about the stars. He always thought he’d write the great American novel but now he was slumming. One of my favorite movies. Thanks for stopping by. Loved both your blogs on Michele Bachmann and on the random things that affect us and how we respond. I couldn’t agree with you more. Take care.

      • Elyse

        July 21, 2012 at 8:08 pm

        Oh, I agree about the Jeff Goldblum scene. Funny, I was just thinking about that the other day. The scene AND the movie!

        Glad you liked my last two pieces!

  4. becomingcliche

    July 21, 2012 at 8:49 pm

    You are so right. Love is a choice. If we don’t stick together when we hit the bumps in the road, we’ll find ourselves all alone when we arrive at our destination.

  5. composerinthegarden

    July 21, 2012 at 9:03 pm

    Ah, a fellow wedding singer! My husband and I survived getting through grad school by playing weddings, and we used to make the same type of predictions. There were some couples that almost made us weep in their sincerity and respect for each other and then there were the other ones. Sigh. I can’t stand to go to weddings anymore – like a busman’s holiday. I sang all of those songs plus “The Rose” – at least I still like to sing 🙂

    When we were first married, we got some great advice from a lady bartender in a club where we were working. When she found out we were newlyweds, she asked if we minded some advice. I’ll never forget her words. “I’ve been married five times. If I knew then what I know now, I would never have left the first marriage. Just remember that what you don’t like about the other person is really what you don’t like about yourself. So, the problems are just the problems of marriage; get over it, work it out, and stick together.” Best advice I’ve ever had and she was absolutely right.

    Great post as always, Eleanor – I love your insight about gossip as a way of reaching across social barriers and finding common ground.

    • etomczyk

      July 21, 2012 at 9:52 pm

      Lynn: “The Rose”–I had forgotten about that one. Oh my gosh. I actually once had a bride request Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise and I almost cried from appreciation, although it is a bear to sing and sustain. Unfortunately, these people stayed married until one of them died but the marriage was miserable. They should have stuck with The Wedding Song!

      The lady bartender in the club was sooooo right. I wish I could bottle that wisdom and sell it. I could save people a whole lot of pain.

      Thanks for dropping by and leaving such an insightful comment. All the best.

  6. mary i

    July 22, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    Great post. I had to smile,until the very end.I do love that ribbon. How very sad that whole thing is… so just bad… did not mean to rhyme its just that my heart has a lot to express and all my words seem so small… Later hon from Tuscaloosa Alabama 😦

    • etomczyk

      July 22, 2012 at 4:49 pm

      Hi Mary. I know, isn’t that situation in CO just horrific. I am so sad for all concerned, including the shooter’s parents. Can you imagine thinking you have a son who is brilliant and studying neuroscience on his way to becoming a scientist that can bring some sort of healing to the world and you wake up to news that he is a mass murderer. It’s just so awful. The victims and their family and friends are constantly in my prayers. I can’t imagine living through something like this.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment. God bless.

  7. aFrankAngle

    July 23, 2012 at 7:42 am

    Romance is the road. Love is the destination …. But once arriving to the destination, many forget that they must return to the road for the never-ending, spiraling journey.

    • etomczyk

      July 23, 2012 at 3:42 pm

      Frank: So true, so true! ET


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