A glimpse of E. Tomczyk’s garden | photo by “WW” Tomczyk
Do you know what I’ve discovered? It is just days before my thirty-forth wedding anniversary when I’ll celebrate being married to the most amazing human being I’ve ever met: WW (a.k.a. “White and Wonderful”). So it seems like a good time to take a couple of weeks off and hang out with my man and revel in those gorgeous blue eyes—contemplating how blessed I am to know such a man of integrity, strength, and courage. I want to celebrate love with a man who has spent our entire married life helping to heal all the wounds my childhood haters inflicted. To do this, I will need to step away from the news (Farewell, M. Bachmann: there is a God and you just got schooled by him), step away from my blog, and tune out all my trolls. I plan to sit amongst my flowers with my man, read some books, drink lots of wine, thank God I’m alive, and work on my memoir—especially the love story of WW and me which is the book’s last chapter and rivals anything Nicholas Sparks has ever written (yeah, Baby!). And then I’ll swing back in a couple of weeks to pick up where I’ve left off and see if my readers have kept out of trouble. In the meantime, here are a few thoughts on marriage.
Cartoonist: Kevin Siers | The Charlotte Observer
What’s your secret? That is the most commonly asked question I get when people hear that I’ve been over-the-moon, happily hitched for thirty-four years (plus six dating years) to a white dude. Anyone who knew me in my youth knew that my mantra was that I would never marry someone who was white, because “there was nothin’ no white man could do for me.” (Good grief—the arrogance of youth still makes me shudder!) In previous years when asked what I thought made a successful interracial marriage, I’d say all sorts of cliché bullshit that first popped into my mind without giving it much thought:
“Weekly date nights”
“Must have things in common”
“Being each other’s best friends”
“Learning how to pick your battles”
“Being a good listener”
Early on there was also the Herculean task of ignoring the racist naysayers when they tried to thwart our marriage by saying stupid shit like: “A robin can marry a dolphin, but where will they live and what about the children—they won’t be fish or fowl!”
The children (ages 29 and 30) did just fine—they neither have flippers nor wings—and WW and I didn’t have to summer in a nest at the top of a tall tree or winter beneath the waves of the Caribbean Sea to survive. While the list above contains some truths about sustaining a marriage, none of them were ever any guarantee that our marriage would form into the rock that it became. I’ve known Christian couples who claimed Jesus as their Lord and Savior every other breath, could quote the Bible backwards and forwards, went to church whenever the doors were open, were religious about a date night every Friday, preached against Gay marriage as a sin and a detriment to heterosexual marriage, and yet they were the nastiest piece of work toward each other that I’ve ever had the unfortunate opportunity to witness.
Somehow, being at peace with the concept that one has found the right person who aligns with one’s spiritual and aspirational goals is half the battle. But making damn sure that one is truly in love with the individual and not “in love with being in love” is the hardest plumb line to adjust to—especially for women. Between our little girl dress-up fantasies, our Cinderella and Prince Charming fairy tales that we’ve grown up with all our lives, and now the “keeping up with the Joneses” Pinterest, women can get pretty screwed up when it comes to what is real or what would make a great “pinned by______” on the photo-sharing website when it comes to getting married and staying married.
Cartoon from: www.thelaughinghousewife.wordpress.com
I am discovering that I do know (after 33 years) what makes a good marriage go the distance—no matter who you are, and even if you’re a robin who married a dolphin: It is grace, respect, and a sense of humor.
Grace: to be able to accept the things about each other that drive us nuts without developing a nervous tic whenever our spouse’s peccadillos emerge. Grace doesn’t work without forgiveness and therein lays the stumbling block to it—grace takes daily exercise.
Respect: to never, ever, ever cross the line of contempt, disdain, rage, or abuse when it comes to dealing with our lovers. Those are flesh-eating zombies and very difficult to survive. But if it should happen, having the grace to immediately, and genuinely, ask forgiveness, along with the grace to do whatever it takes to never cross those boundaries again. No amount of love can keep a marriage together without an equal amount of respect.
A sense of humor: the ability not to take oneself too seriously—about anything! The ability to laugh uproariously—in the moment—about our own imperfect humanity!
Cartoonist: Walt Handelman|Newsday
“It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.”—Friedrich Nietzsche
“Every good relationship, especially marriage, is based on respect. If it’s not based on respect, nothing that appears to be good will last very long.”—Amy Grant
“People always fall in love with the most perfect aspects of each other’s personalities. Who wouldn’t? Anybody can love the most wonderful parts of another person. But that’s not the clever trick. The really clever trick is this: Can you accept the flaws? Can you look at your partner’s faults honestly and say, ‘I can work around that. I can make something out of it.’? Because the good stuff is always going to be there, and it’s always going to pretty and sparkly, but the crap underneath can ruin you.”—Elizabeth Gilbert, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage
“A wedding anniversary is the celebration of love, trust, partnership, tolerance and tenacity. The order varies for any given year.”—Paul Sweeney
E. and “WW” Tomczyk| Photo: Tomczyk Archives
WW and I: many anniversary celebrations ago . . . a little more hair, a little less “fluffy-nutter,” but very much in love.
E. and “WW” Tomczyk| Photo: C. Tomczyk
Ebony and Ivory: 34 years and counting . . . a little less hair, a lot more ass, but still very, very much in love. Thank you Loving v. Virginia (Mildred Jeter, a black woman, and Richard Loving, a white man) for paving the way. WW and I are eternally grateful to you and I know you cheered us on in that great cloud of witnesses!
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