Monday, February 15, 2021

Valentine's Day Challenge

My husband and me back in Chicago, thirty years after we left.

Here, enjoy this MySpace-style questionnaire designed to reveal weird things about my marriage to you and the rest of the world.

Spoilers: There isn't much about us that is actually very weird. We were nerdy CPAs in Chicago during the 80s when true love took ahold of us and joined our fates. Then we moved to Seattle, birthed four free-spirited little girls, and became West Coast homeschooling progressives. I have no secrets. 

How’d you guys meet?

We worked together on the audit staff at a high-flying public accounting firm called Arthur Andersen & Co. in Chicago.We knew of each other for several years before our paths actually crossed through a mutual colleague named John Keller who eventually stood up as best man in our wedding and probably single-handedly upped our reception bar bill by several orders of magnitude. Technically, since we were professionals working in the same division, we were not supposed to date, so that led to months of sneaking out of the office separately to walk to the train together, and smiling discreetly as we passed each other in the halls. Thankfully it was the nature of our business to spend most of our time working directly in our clients' offices, so we didn't have to pretend not to know each other full time.

Still, it was a big deal when we finally let the cat out of the bag. My friend, Cairy Brown, who as my work bestie had known the full deets of our relationship all along, broke the official news of our status to our co-workers by revealing to them (with my blessing) the monogram on the new leather briefcase my fiance had given me for Christmas. The shiny gold letters of DCS represented my soon-to-be married last name, and though it took them a few ticks to put two and two together (which is adorably ironic considering they were all accountants) the revelation sent a literal gasp through the group of on-lookers.

Where did you go on your first date?
We went to the racetrack and bet on the horses. I'm serious. Looking back, I'd say that's one of the most bizarre and uncharacteristic things we've ever done together. We have zero interest in gambling; once we spent an evening wandering the casinos at Lake Tahoe and had to literally force ourselves to invest a quarter - yes, twenty-five lousy cents apiece - in the slots. I have no idea what compelled my now-husband to suggest gambling on horse races as a first date, and I'd certainly never been to a track before, but I remember having quite a bit of fun studying up on the races, making my bets, and cheering my horses on to victory. Pretty sure we ended up a few dollars ahead, and stopped at Hackney's for some legendary cheeseburgers on the way back to his Evanston apartment.

How long have you been together?
The meter started running that day at the racetrack - late August 1982 - so that's closing in on forty years. Good lord, where does the time go.

What's your age difference?
He is 3,171 days older than me, almost nine years. Though that gap has never seemed particularly significant in real time - by the time we met, we were both established in our adult lives and professional peers at work - but looking back at how the age gap worked in our earlier years seems a little crazy. I was in fourth grade when he started college, and had barely turned twelve when he hit 21. But cradle stealing seems to be a time-honored Streicher tradition since his dad was exactly 3,233 days -approximately nine years - older than his mom.

How long did it take to get serious?
Just a couple months. Both of us had come from serious relationships that we ended in order to be together. Though neither of us were actively thinking about marriage, we both knew that our previous partners were not who we were looking to spend a lifetime with, and with each other, things felt different. Two particular connections really helped us turn that all-important corner toward marriage: 1) we both had fond, formative memories of taking family road trips across the western U.S. and both wanted to bring that tradition forward to our future families, and 2) during our childhoods, our moms used the exact same cookie cutters for our Christmas cookies. If those aren't two key indicators of marital compatibility, I don't know what would be.
Who was interested first?
Hard to say. Since relationships at work were taboo, all of our preliminaries were kept very much under the radar. And there were those previous relationships that needed to be discreetly untangled before we could date. Looking back, I see the forces that brought us together as intuitive and highly nonverbal. And mutual.

Who is taller?
He's 5'11; I'm 5'8". So that's convenient when I want to borrow a jacket, a flannel shirt, or a pair of boots.

Who said I love you first?
I have no memory of that exact moment but as I was always one to hold my emotional cards close to my vest, I highly doubt that it was me.

Most impatient?
He's impatient with other people or flawed processes, say, servicemen who don't show up for appointments, closed lanes due to construction, or the woman at the dentist's office who keeps trying to bill insurance for procedures that never happened. I'm more likely to be impatient when I am excited to get something done. Let's say I wake up on a gorgeous summer morning and want to get straight out into the yard for a day of gardening; I won't have much patience for dealing with dishes in the sink.

Most sensitive?
Him. Classic first-born with only sisters. He grew up in a much calmer system that I did, where emotional issues were tread around very carefully and behavior kept firmly under control. With three rowdy brothers, I learned from the get-go to roll with the punches of constant teasing and rough-housing, so I tend not to take things personally.

I'm the one who sings made-up songs, hollers up the stairs, makes ridiculous jokes, and engages in nonsensical banter. Not necessarily loud, but definitely more high energy.

Most stubborn?
Oh, him. Once again, my husband's that classic first-born dominating type who is quite confident in his ability to form correct opinions and expects this expertise to be accepted without objection. I'm a second-born go-along-to-get-along, and as I often point out around the house, I'm the consummate team player.

Cooks better?
My husband can cook just fine. He used to share KP duties with me back before kids, and spent many hours baking snickerdoodles with the girls when they were young. But after decades of serving up three meals a day for a family of six, I've got major chops as an expedient and efficient home chef and I unabashedly rule my kitchen single-handedly. Sometimes he assists me but mostly nowadays, he just watches and occasionally taste tests as I cook. He has no complaints.

Falls asleep first?
Better morning person?
This is one of the most interesting aspects of our partnership. My husband is an extreme early bird. Pre-Covid, he used to happily rise at 4:30 a.m. for his morning commute to Seattle; now he sleeps in until 5:15 a.m. But even more significant than the time he wakes up is his early morning mood; from the minute he turns off his alarm and swings his feet to the floor, he is alert and energetic. His mood stays high all morning, and then begins to gradually temper back throughout the rest of the day. Though his bedtime is officially around ten, he's often snoring in front of the television by 8:30.

In contrast, I am a severe night owl, though my sleep doctor advises me to call my sleep pattern what it really is: Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome. Which means I shut my eyes around 4 a.m. - yes, just as my husband is getting close to waking up - and wake up feeling fresh and rested around noon. My energy starts slow and rises throughout the day; I hit my major stride around midnight and am most productive in the wee hours of the night.

While many early risers do not understand this sleep pattern or have any frame of reference for considering it to be even remotely acceptable, over the years, my husband has seen for himself that there really is something remarkably different about the way our bodies need sleep. We've learned to use our opposing sleep habits to our shared advantage, and appreciate the benefits.

Better driver?
Me. Enough said.

Most competitive?
Neither one of us is particularly competitive, especially in the typical let's-have-a-contest-and-I-need-to-win kind of ways. My husband has a steel trap memory for details and facts so I don't challenge him to his face. But every now and then, I'll Google some information that he vows is correct, and find out that I was actually closer to the truth than he. But I don't need to throw that back at him; I just enjoy it with a secret smile.

Umm, I'm pretty hilarious so it's probably not fair to compare. Like his mother, my husband does love a good pun, so he usually sticks to that niche.

Where do you eat out most as a couple?
As far as meals go, we are extreme homebodies. But when it comes to coffee - and my husband is all about the coffee - we run through Starbucks almost every time we go out. In another bizarrely bipolar aspect of our relationship, I have zero interest in coffee or any warm drinks, so I'm usually sipping on a cold can of La Croix.

Who is more social?
Me. He's a fairly extreme introvert, and after work hours is more than happy to spend some quality time alone with his BFF,

Who is the neat freak?
My husband is not messy. He has literally never thrown so much as a single sock on the floor, or left a box of cereal out on the kitchen counter. But he can tolerate a lot more visual clutter than I can, and does not understand my deep need for cleanliness and order.

Do you get flowers often?
Usually he buys them for my birthday, anniversary, and Valentine's Day. Sometimes he'll surprise me. Most of the time, I buy them for myself.

Who is the first one to admit when they’re wrong?
Me. I'm quick to apologize. Middle child.

Who sings better?
Me. Also I get a lot more practice.

Hogs the remote?
This is not even a question. He does.

Did you go to the same school?
No. My husband grew up near Cleveland, Ohio; I'm from lake country outside Ann Arbor, Michigan. He went to Northwestern University; I went to Michigan State University, and we met in Chicago.

Where is the furthest you two have traveled?
After graduating college, our oldest daughter spent a year living in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and when her visa was up, we drove across the continent to fetch her home. That's 3,481 miles out to pick her up and 3,481 miles home in a minivan with two parents, a young globetrotting adult, three younger teenage sisters, a year's worth of belongings, and a big red dog.

Who drives when you are together?
We mix it up, usually depending on the time of day. If it's morning or early afternoon, my early-bird husband drives; if it's later in the day, yours truly.

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