Dan Crane, “Magazine Ready, Except the Marriage”
The author shares a painful chapter in his life. He married a girl he met while competing in air guitar. She was considerably younger than him. He confesses they weren’t very “adult” about things, but at one point they bought a house that required major renovation. He ended up working a considerable amount on the house. The marriage fell apart because the responsibility of home ownership weighed on her; a house entails things that remind of other commitments and ways of living. The author finished work on the house, making major design decisions that made it his home, and ends his reflection with this: “I never pictured myself living alone at 41, but then again, I also never imagined I would have the vision or the ability to transform a fixer-upper into a home, handling almost all of the decision-making on my own. I was a divorced homeowner. An adult.”
There are a number of things to wonder about in this article. Not just on the narrow level, say, of what people who compete in air guitar are like or what it means to marry someone much younger. Those details aren’t really my concern and I don’t want them to be a concern. Mr. Crane shared his experience and I want to leave his own story alone as much as possible. And then there’s too large a level to wonder about. One could talk about how everyone wants celebrity, how this creates childish goals, how things like “faithfulness” become less important than not being bored. It’s too large a level because it doesn’t get at the root of what’s actually being discussed. We see a failure where there was actually a couple trying.
The key experience related is all too personal, but involves some of the larger level. A house means lots of decisions with consequences one has to live with. The competitive world of air guitar and being in lots of bands, for the author, not so much. To fix the house to make it liveable, to do so in a marriage for two as well as under the pain of a recent divorce for one, is the experience of life itself without any other trappings. I think the author gets at this in his conclusion – “I was a divorced homeowner” – but I’m not sure the full import is always clear in the piece.
To be blunt: as crazy as air guitar and age differences can be, they are not the constraint on growing up. Nor is buying a home and working on it an invitation to become an adult. Lord knows there are plenty of people throwing babyish tantrums and acting like perpetual 5 year olds who obsess over their houses. And even thinking a house a responsibility, a duty isn’t necessarily mature. That can actually just be fear and another form of childishness.
I don’t know if this is right, but it’s what strikes me right now from reading Mr. Crane’s piece. Something about maturity is about recognizing what you’re doing and what you’re avoiding. To live well, to provide for yourself and others, you need a number of goods but also need to be able to close some options. One can’t take care of everyone, for example – thus, the concept of a household. Part of closing some options and getting a number of goods is having something one can take pride in, use for fun, and gain materially from. What was unexpected regarding home ownership might have been confronted in something far more ridiculous and silly, with “responsible” choices still being avoided.
After all, some people get paid a lot of money to play silly games and we still cheer them on, invested in their story. Decisions are secondary to wanting to be somebody. I suspect the problem with trying for things like celebrity is that we feel fame and fortune is a panacea where we don’t have to think. Each step where we try for more of both can be a drug we see the same as accomplishment. We don’t really bother to build ourselves or others. Not home ownership but the mundaneness of home ownership may be crucial in a world where people would rather be on Maury fighting over paternity than reading picture books in the library.