Saturday, October 17, 2009


As told on radio's "This American Life," when Eric Hayot was 23 he went on an exchange program to China and took an opera class. Before he knew it, he was on stage singing. Accompanying him on a traditional two-stringed fiddle was 19-year-old Yuanyuan Di. Hayot fell for her the moment he saw her, and struck up a relationship. Eventually, however, it was time to return to the States, and he figured that was that. But two years later he returned to China to study, and decided he just had to find Yuanyuan again. He tracked her down through an old music teacher, and rekindled the relationship, which eventually lead to them getting married.

A good story, to be sure. But I was struck even more by a coda that Hayot added: "Everyone always asks you how you met, but no one ever asks you how you stayed together." In his case, there were trials and tribulations once they got married, including cultural and personal challenges. None were as interesting or energizing as the story of their beginning. But they worked through them, the very thing you need to do to sustain a relationship.

I relate this story because this week it has special significance for me, or should I say, for us. Twenty-five years ago my wife and I got married. And while our beginning is not as exotic as Hayot and his spouse, I like to think it has an interesting angle as well.

Back then I was a newly minted freelancer. One day the phone rang, with an inquiry from a headhunter. While I had no desire for the job she was pushing, she suggested we meet for lunch and perhaps help each other by trading contacts. Since she was buying, it seemed like a no lose situation.

We met at a Japanese place, and tried to out-wasabi each other. It was a more than pleasant meal, and as we left, we agreed to stay in touch should either of us hear of opportunities or good people deserving of them. I remember thinking that while I'd like to perhaps take the relationship to another level, she must meet with scores of guys at similar lunches, and I didn't really want to stand in line. So we went our separate ways, and talked every now and again.

One Friday I checked my answering machine to find a message from her asking me if I had dinner plans. (Little did I know her existing date had fallen through, and she didn't want to sit home. So she worked her considerable Rolodex... and since I'm a "W" she was obviously running out of options). Unfortunately, though, I was heading out of town on business, and couldn't make it, and when I returned, she was traveling as well. Eventually we managed to connect, and the rest, as they say, is history. You can say the headhunter, or is this case, headhuntress, filled the position.

All well and good, and perhaps not a bad story. But lots of couples have interesting tales of their beginnings, and part ways at some intermediate point as that high water mark fades into the distance. To Hayot's point, what has kept us going? To be sure, a lot has happened since then to us, some good, some bad, and still we are together. Why us, why not others?

For the record and for the romantics, I love my wife very much. But while that's a good place to start, for a relationship to endure there has to be more. For me at least, I think the reason is both mundane and perhaps exceptional in these times: I want to be with her. When I travel someplace new, I'm constantly thinking of when we could come back together and I could show her what I've discovered. When she's out at meetings it's fine... but it feels empty and lonely, and it's much better when we're both in the house, even if we're in different rooms. And I can honestly say that while we miss both our boys as they start to create lives away from us, being empty nesters means we have more time to remember why we got together in the first place.

Over the many years I've tried to fill this space, I've written about far away places and nearby haunts, and paid tribute to parents and kids and individuals here and gone who have made an impression on me. But I've neglected perhaps the most important one of all. Well, it's time to correct that oversight. If the last quarter century has taught me anything, it's that not only do I love my wife, but I like her as well and want to be with her. That may seem like a small thing. But it's gotten us this far, and I trust it will be the reason we have at least another 25 together.


Marc Wollin of Bedford can honestly say he's happy he's married to Susan. You can send her greetings at Marc's column appears regularly in The Record-Review and The Scarsdale Inquirer.

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