[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published March 8, 2021] ©2021
Anyone who has been reading my column for a while knows that I’m a sucker for those internet articles about how to make yourself look 20 pounds thinner (Photoshop?) or what your car says about you (cheap?) Recently I reviewed an internet article entitled “14 mistakes that will kill your home’s value.” I concluded that we probably wouldn’t be able to give our house away (although quite a few of those mistakes came with the house).
A recent Valentine’s Day-inspired listicle offered “10 Steps to a closer, more loving relationship.” I mean, who’s not going to read that?
Well, my husband for one. Olof is disturbingly sane but there is not a sentimental bone in his body. As of January 20, 2021, we have known each other for 56 years, having met as 17-year-old high school exchange students headed to Brazil for the Southern Hemisphere school year. After a 23-year hiatus during which we went to college, married other people, and he spent 10 years as an Air Force pilot, we reconnected again.
So, here’s how those 10 steps to a closer, more loving relationship would work for us:
1. Hang some photos of the two of you together. Go to Michael’s for some cute new frames. Aside from the fact that our house is already filled with pathological numbers of photos, I honestly, I think I could replace every piece of furniture in the house all at once never mind stucco the exterior, and Olof would merely look around for the briefest moment with a look of puzzlement and query, “Is there something different here?”
2. Send him lexts (love texts) such as “I love that you get me peanut M&Ms when I have PMS.” This text would find my husband racing to the nearest toilet so fast I’d be afraid he’d break a hip.
3. In terms of relationships, positivity means those little fun, romantic gestures. For us, “little fun romantic gestures” means both of us getting our second doses of vaccine (not yet achieved, by the way) or finally getting grab bars installed in the bathrooms.
4. Let your partner know the real you. Hell no. We’re strict advocates of “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” In 2006 we were in a devastating auto accident, hit at 85 mph by a drunk driver. Even after I recovered, I found driving very difficult and began seeing a therapist. It’s not that Olof is against psychotherapy per se; he’s just puzzled why anyone would do it. In his personal view, if one has a problem, one mulls. One ponders. One might even create a flow chart. No, one especially creates a flow chart. One certainly doesn’t pay after-tax dollars to some charlatan with a pseudo-degree in what he refers to as the “squishy” sciences to engage in sharing of Too Much Information.
I didn’t mention my therapeutic activity to Olof although if he had asked, I certainly would have been happy to discuss it. Which, of course, is exactly what he was trying to avoid. I know he wouldn’t have begrudged me any help that the quacks could inexplicably provide although I am sure that he thought if I would just get in the damn car and drive, we could cut the witch doctor out of the equation.
5. Make a relationship bucket list. I think after 56 years, that bucket is pretty much at the bottom of the well. But Olof is still hopeful that he will be able to go back to the Oshkosh AirVenture Air Show which has been cancelled for two years due to the pandemic. I wouldn’t mind being back in Sweden. (Sorry, kids!)
6. Don’t try to change him. OK, I don’t really expect to change him. But I will never give up trying. This whole thing of me turning on lights and him turning them off two seconds later has got to stop.
7. Schedule a double date night. Believe me, we are desperate to socialize with another couple. It’s been a year since we’ve been able to have anyone inside for dinner. We are really social people. Gotta get those vaccines!
8. Dress up in something special just for him. French maid costume? Does it come in XL? Actually. we both pretty much became bag people when we retired but during the pandemic have descended in a look best described as “homeless.”
9. Let him know you’re committed. No problem there. Given that we’ve both been divorced, we’ve agreed that if the relationship doesn’t work out, we’ll pace off in the street with 45s and see who’s still standing.
10. Have gratitude. This one’s easy. From time to time I try to imagine what my existence would have been without Olof. On every level, the kids’ and my lives have been utterly, totally, vastly improved by Olof being part of them. I don’t know what I did right to get Olof, but whatever it is, I’m sure going to try to keep doing it.