That’s my best-beloved, Cathleen Collins, about whom I have written much in the past, and who is present, in ways you normally are not likely to see, in everything I write.
Here’s the thing about her, the thing that makes that photo leap out at me: She has always made me crazy, and I expect she always will. I find her irresistible, which means that and only that: I can’t bear not to have her.
Have her sexually? Yes, please, as often as we can work it in, as it were. But I yearn to have her in every possible way, and the way I love her best is the way I love her most often, as the giggling girlchild I get to torment with jokes and pokes and tricks and riddles and songs and poems all day, every day. I love the smile you see in that photo, and I love it most because I love to be the cause of it.
But I love the love you see, too. Cathleen is looking at me as I take that photo, reacting to me, responding to me. The face she is wearing is one drop in her ocean of love for me, but that one drop encapsulates the whole.
What do you see? There’s love, of course, almost a dreamy, schoolgirl-like adulation. But there is respect and admiration, an unshakeable confidence in me. And there is a gentle derision layered over everything, a teasing response from a lovingly-teased woman.
Putative “humanitarians” never tire of chastising us for falling in love with our own reflections, but the values Cathleen reflects back to me, when she looks at me like that, are precisely those values I most want to embody. If there is any external measure of human success, it’s an admiration that pure, that total and that exacting. I am proud to have earned that response.
But I am proud to have earned that response from her. What made her irresistible to me from the very beginning is the perfect virtue that makes a face like that possible to begin with.
Take a look at my wife, six months away from sixty years old. Her blouse is the very finest laute couture from Scrubs ’R’ Us and her jewelry, hair and make-up reflect a similar investment. She cleans up nice, as I’m sure you can guess, but she doesn’t have to. She’s stunning in anything and utterly radiant in nothing.
Why? Because she’s gorgeous from the inside out. She radiates goodness, and everyone who sees her knows it.
This woman is irresistible to me. I cannot have enough of her, and I am niggardly, at my best, about sharing her. I love that she loves me, and I love that I get to see such a perfect reflection of her love for me. But what I love more is that she loves the things that I love, but better — more thoroughly, more thoughtfully and more joyously.
I love that nothing in my love for her feels like a betrayal of my values, and that nothing in her love for me costs her any kind of compromise. She is free to leave tomorrow, and she won’t. I am free to flee tonight — except I never could.
Love is lust. And love is care. And love is affinity. But the love that makes a marriage last is all of those plus one more, the durable love of families, the love of people who would sooner die than choose to live without one another.
But every love is durable, and every love is breakable, and every love is repairable, in potential, but not every wound fully heals. But if you want a miracle salve that makes marital wounds vanish, try this:
Prove to be irresistible to a spouse you could never choose to live without.
Get that part right, and the rest is easy.