Thursday, July 15, 2010

A light rain on my parade of overpriced tapas

So there I was the other day, spinning in the living room with J, our joined hands the still-point of our turning world whizzing behind us in slow motion. After the spinning and the dancing and jovial pouncing was over, we made plans to celebrate my job news at a fancy restaurant, "Va De Vi", nearby (I needed a good reason to drop an unmentionable sum on duck confit, and now I had one). He resumed studying for the Bar (like he does every day) as I left to hang out (like I do every day) at The Nana's, drinking iced tea and refinishing furniture and having lunch with other sweet, old ladies (which I am definitely getting used to. My brother mentioned I'm "becoming a Golden Girl." My response: "You say that like it's a bad thing." Age is really just a number, after all.)

After a good day of lunching and antiquing and discussing how movie stars today just aren't what they used to be (hello, Paul Newman and Cary Grant), I got back to our apartment in time to shower and head to Va De Vi with J. But he had questionably good news.

I guess I should preface this part by letting you in on the fact that J was flown down to Newport Beach last week for an interview at a law firm. The firm does exactly what he wants to do (corporate litigation), all the partners and associates he met clicked with him right away, and the office -- well, from what I heard the office was magnificent (think one of the top floors in the building, all glass windows, with a full view of Newport Harbor and the Pacific Ocean). They wined and dined him (at this point all I thought of was The Firm, minus the corruption and partially cheesy action scenes), and sent him back up to the Bay Area wanting the job.

Flash forward to yesterday. Literally HOURS after I got my job offer that I'd only JUST interviewed for two business days prior, the law firm called J with good news: They wanted to hire him. The salary they offered was (how do I put this) obscene, and the bonuses and profit-sharing were clutch. All in all it was an offer he couldn't refuse. Almost.

I was happy for him but tried to hide my disappointment: a.) We were about to visit a fancy restaurant (something that's been long overdue) to celebrate the good news, but b.) How could I be happy knowing he'd be leaving soon? Which I wouldn't blame him doing -- the pay is more than good, it's exactly the type of law he wants to practice, it sounded like a great work atmosphere and the lifestyle that comes with such opportunities...let's just say they make movies about such things for a reason.

"So why wouldn't he take it?" I thought. This is exactly what we wanted. What we'd waited for. This is why he worked so hard in law school. Or was it?

As we sat at a table in the posh outdoor alleyway, peppered with hundreds of white Christmas lights and low chatter from neighboring tables, I grew even more sad. Ordering a bottle of Malbec did not help (though said Malbec was a deliciously excellent choice) and neither did thinking I saw Robert Redford (my idol) walk by (turned out it was just some older guy with good hair). I was sad not because J was leaving, or because we'd see a lot less of each other. No, I was sad because it finally dawned on me that we were never given a fighting chance as a married couple.

We got married about one month before J started law school and for three years I've waited for him, meaning waited for him to be a "normal" husband, not one who is in law school full-time. Law school has been like the "other woman" in the first three years of our marriage -- years that newlyweds usually spend setting up house apartment and traveling and enjoying being together before things like kids and mortgages start to take effect. They're supposed to be the carefree, let's-spend-time-together-and-enjoy-being-married years. My first three years were not this.

Nearly every day, every week, was taken up by the "other woman" (i.e., law journal meetings and finals and mock trial competitions and internships). There was always something and though J tried his hardest to spread himself thin and be home as much as possible, there were many, many times when he couldn't be. So I tolerated the early years of our marriage, the him-needing-to-stay-late-at-the-library nights, when I'd come home exhausted from my desk job and eat dinners alone watching reruns of Little People, Big World because this was important. He was building the foundation for his life. For our life.

The saving grace during those years, when his seat on the couch sat empty because he was out hoofing it for some DC judge or legal internship, was that there was a light at the end of the tunnel. "The three years would eventually be over," I told myself. And almost as quickly as they started, they were finished.

The final stretch of this leg of the journey is taking the Bar at the end of July and since he has about two months to study for this test that nearly 40%-50% fail their first time in the state of California, he's been studying his little butt off. Every day. Which -- again -- I'm completely fine with. I see it as the last 100 yards in this crazy legal race and (of course) I want him to pass, so all summer he's stayed home studying 10+ hours a day while I chill at The Nana's, glad to be hanging out with someone who likes classic films and Mad Men and shopping as much as I do (these are the perks of knowing someone who doesn't have to work at all).

But now that the Bar is right around the corner, I'm getting excited about being able to see my husband again. ("Again?!" she says, "was there ever a time in this marriage you could?") I know that normal is a subjective term, but I'm ready for a normal marriage (read: one where it's expected that we get to hang out together without a timer beeping when our five minutes is up). And it was looking like things were going to become...normal. I just got that job. We just got this apartment. My friend just dropped off Moneypenny so both our animals are once again under the same roof. We're finally back on the West Coast. To quote Penny Lane from Almost Famous, "It's all happening(!)..."

Then this (otherwise amazing) offer from the Newport firm happens THE SAME DAY as my offer, which by this point I'd already accepted. And nothing felt like it was happening anymore. No more Age of Aquarius or stars aligning, nope, just one, big diamond-encrusted wrench worthy of Lil Jon's toolbox, thrown into the oiled gears of our Master Plan.

But I said none of this. I hid my sadness. This was supposed to be a happy day. One filled with reams of money and pretentious restaurants and funny quips Nana had said that morning remembered over grilled asparagus with panko crusted egg that night. That light at the end of the tunnel -- that pinprick of hope that this would one day be all over and we could actually walk down to the local Farmer's Market together on any given Sunday or finally see movies in theaters again or go out to dinner just because -- it faded to black. That realization alone was enough to ruin my good news. Paper covers rock, and so on. It dawned on me that it would never just be "easy" with us. Things were not, nor did they ever in the last three years, align that way.

As we continued feasting on the tapas that were brought out as prepared, J seemed on edge. Both of us were more quiet than usual. Obviously something was bothering both of us and so he started asking questions of how I felt about it, of what I thought, and everything I just wrote prior to this paragraph began trepidatiously coming out. (I say trepidatious because I'm just happy we're back on the West Coast, close to family and friends and excellent weather. With DC in our rear-view mirror, I really have no more demands.)

Turns out I was wrong thinking he'd automatically accept the position. He shared many of my sentiments and totally saw where I was coming from. His answer back to the firm was not a given "yes", much to my surprise.

Over the next two hours we talked, laughed, drank, ate and discussed the State of Our Marriage -- our wants, expectations, standards, dreams. It all came out on the table (for a couple who communicates all feelings, much of it wasn't new, just reiteration). But many of it needed to be reiterated because, as J put it, we were at a crossroads now. Were we okay with seeing each other on errant weekends (there'd be many weekends where we wouldn't see each other: I'd want to see family and friends, or he'd be expected to network with clients on some golf course)? How would we eventually start a family in a few years if we were apart during those pivotal years leading up to such things?

At one point J and I both got misty-eyed talking about all these real-life, marital issues (confession: I cry easily, especially at those SPCA commercials on TV with Sarah McLaughlin singing in the background) and that's when he said it. On his own accord, even after I insisted this was very much his decision, that I didn't know anything about the legal field and he needed to do what he felt was right for his career.

"I can't do it," he said, pouring himself another glass of Malbec. "I feel like it's a choice between the job and money or you. The firm's offer is attractive and you're right -- it's exactly the law I want to practice. ...But a life without you is pointless."

This is why I married this man.

Later, when we got the check (brought out not in a checkfold like most restaurants, but stuck within the pages of an old book called "La Princessa" -- clever, Va De Vi, clever!), I flipped through the novel as he signed our bill. Dozens of people had signed random pages within this same book, scrawling little notes like "Happy Birthday, Jim!" or "Happy 20th Anniversary, L + M, 2009" or "Life would be perfect if I could eat at Va De Vi everyday." I laughed and pointed out the hundreds of notes left in the margins to J.

He signed his name to our check then took the book from my hands. Turning to a middle page (I believe it was page 51), he wrote "To hell with the Newport job" in the margins, stuck our check in, and closed the book, smiling.

That note said it all.

21 comments:

paisley penguin said...

Choking up reading at work. This will be a story for the grandkids. HUGS!!!

The Non-Student said...

This is a beautiful post! Also, as someone on a journey with a SO in school (PhD--oh my gosh, the endless schooling), it's reassuring to hear that you came out the other side still intact. Ha! Somedays I'm not sure I'll make it.

J2 said...

The last paragraph made me cry. I dated someone in law school and it was rough! Good for you guys for getting through it, and for J for doing what was right for your family.

besswess said...

So, I started crying while reading this post. For a moment, I thought that you and J might start different lives.
The ending was so touching. As I was crying, a guy from work came to my desk. Ooops. I think I scared him with me tears. :)
I'm so happy for you.

Heather said...

Way to bring your readers to tears! It's good to know that I'm not alone. That was a beautiful moment-- best of luck to both of you.

Secret Asian Man said...

Well a great lady once said a man puts his woman before himself. That woman was Spiderman's Aunt Mae. I think J made the right decision. Dream jobs are great, but a) you guys only just moved back here b) you just took a job here c) the bay area is huge, there's a ton of law firms in the area so there's gotta be at least one which is just as good and d) I and probably everyone you know out here would cry if you moved.

-Jimmy

Tami said...

He really IS a KEEPER!!!!! You should always come 1st in the marriage, and vice versa. :)

Douchegirl said...

Confession: I cry easily too and this post made me tear up at my desk.

Congrats to both of you!

Stephanie said...

True love is absolutely breathtaking in moments like these. J sounds like an amazing man. The two of you are lucky to have one another. I wish nothing but happiness and more treasured moments like these in your future. :)

AuntBT said...

Misty eyed at work. I know you could have handled the seperation, you handled law school . . . most couples don't make it through that. But, it makes me so happy for you that he turned the job down. What a wonderful husband. He will get a good job in the area, good things are headed his way, I just know it!

Kirsten said...

This post made me so happy and it was a great reminder that there are great men left in the world! J will definitely get the job of his dreams, this one just wasn't it.

As sad as I am that this post didn't end with, "we are moving to Newport" (I would love to meet you), I think the decision was the correct one.

As somebody that has lived in this area of Orange County for most of my life, as beautiful as it is, it's not exactly...ideal. For many, many reasons :)

CameronPoe2409 said...

Wow, that was such a moving post! I'm sure both you and J are on the start of a great big adventure in both your careers. Good luck to you both!

PS The Nana - were you an OC fan? I loved it too!

Lauren said...

Wow, what a beautiful story. I'm tearing up at the coffee shop and getting some odd looks :-P

Mandy's Life After 30 said...

To hell indeed! :-)

A life without you would be pointless and full of misery, for that I am sure.

What an amazing moment between the two of you! thanks for sharing it with us readers. I'm so happy (and kind of proud) for you both.

p.s. - I love "Almost Famous" -- one of my all time fave films.


p.p.s. - Which Golden girl would you want to be?

p.p.p.s. - did you do a book review on Eat, Pray Love? I'm reading it now and really love it so far. Just curious your thoughts on it.

p.p.p.p.s - For some reason after I read this story, I immediately said "Towanda!" in Kathy Bates' voice from "Fried Green Tomatoes." I don't know why but I did. And I smiled! :-)

Maritza said...

Moments like that show you what a great man you have, and how amazing your relationship is. =) Everyone should be as lucky!

Carolyn said...

Awww I totally got teary-eyed reading this!!! I'm so glad you got the job, and I'm glad he got the offer. But I'm even more glad that you two are on the same page when it comes to what you want in life. That's so rare.

High Class, Low Income said...

This is my first visit to your blog and I loved this post! Almost made me teary eyed, you have a great husband and I'm glad it all worked out in the end :) Looking forward to reading more.

legallymarried said...

What a wonderful story - true love in action. So happy for you that things are working out; with as much love as you all clearly have for one another, there's no doubt that you'll have a successful marriage where ever you both land.

** Still so excited for you about your new job. **

High Class, Low Income said...

This is my first visit to your blog and I loved this post! Almost made me teary eyed, you have a great husband and I'm glad it all worked out in the end :) Looking forward to reading more.

lawschoolwife said...

What a story! I was on the edge of my seat, I really thought this post might take a turn for the worse and I was reeling. I am so happy for you to have such a grounded man, a man who knows exactly what I was talking about the other day when I said that compromise in a marriage isn't meeting halfway (seeing each other on weekends). It's giving up something because your spouse is more important than whatever is to be given up!

You are right, we know every day how lucky we are that we're in the same city, the same city we both *want* to be in. I'm not really worried about where we'll end up geographically after law school. Even if we end up in my least favorite city (Houston), I'd rather be in Houston with him than Austin by myself!

The Jazzy Olive said...

Awwww this is an amazing post. It made ME teary eyed!

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