I love you just the way you are

August 31, 2015

Some time many moons ago I was talking with a woman who I liked very much. If you’re a married man, this is one of those relationships that are just about impossible — you’re with a woman who you like very much, and she’s not your wife. In this situation most people either have an affair (and get divorced) or break off the relationship, but I was trying to ride some sort of wave in the middle of those two options.

So this one time we’re sitting there talking and she says to me, “Do you think we should be married?”

I know how that sounds in retrospect, but because at the time she was married to another guy and I was recently separated from my wife, I thought she meant it in a hypothetical way, as in, “Do you think if we met when we were single that we would be married now?” The truth is, I don’t know exactly what she meant, but that’s the way I took it at that time. (The person I am today would ask her for clarification about her question, but the person I was then did not ask for that clarification.)

At the time of this question I had just watched an episode of Northern Exposure that was about how we humans want to possess things, and once we do, how we then want to change the thing we possess. I don’t remember all of the episode at the moment, but it had to do with Chris Stevens loaning Holling some money to keep the bar open, and Holling said he wouldn’t take a loan — it was against his principles — but he would let Chris buy into the business and be his partner.

So Chris gives Holling the money and becomes his business partner, and then he becomes very involved in how the bar is run. Right away he gives away free drinks to pretty much everyone. Then he decides to raise the prices. Then he starts talking about redecorating the bar. And so on. I don’t want to give away the whole episode, but I will say that after a while Chris realizes what he’s doing. Before he was an owner of the bar he loved it just the way it was, but once he was an owner — once he possessed it — he wanted to change it.

So when this woman asked if I thought we should be married, this episode was freshly and deeply on my mind, and I replied, “No, I don’t think so. If we were married I might have some feeling to change you, and I wouldn’t want that. I love you just the way you are.”

(Take it away, Mr. Joel.)

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