Friday, October 3, 2014

My Bearded Beloved

Today is the 5th anniversary of my wedding to Devin. And as I take a moment to reflect on the last five years, or nine years total, I can't come up with one original thought on the matter. All the clich├ęs fully apply here. Time really does fly. And yet the start of our relationship seems like it took place in some alternate universe. We've changed and grown together. And after all this time, he still manages to surprise me. Or, at least, confuse me.

Let me elaborate on that last point. In our marriage, we share everything: a mortgage, a bed, a child. (Nearly 2 children. Seriously, 2 human life forms. Who let that happen?) And this shared existence requires, obviously, a lot of communication. Some of the communication is joyful, much of it's mundane, and a probably unacceptable amount is conducted over text and email. Yet amidst all of this back-and-forth, there's one very valuable shared commodity which operates with almost no communication whatsoever: our Amazon Prime account.

While the account is ours, and the money spent is ours, all the orders and shipping notifications are delivered to my email address. This gives me the foolish notion that I should have somehow been consulted before every purchase and no Amazon-generated email should ever come as a shock. Of course, this is wrong. And just as I regularly place orders without making mention of it to Devin, he too orders freely without my knowledge. It's just... my purchases are really boring. Sippy cups, furniture straps, a shower curtain liner. Devin's, on the other hand, almost always require explanation. Out of nowhere I'll get an order notification for, say, a rock hammer.

And I'll stare at my computer monitor, nonplussed. What is he doing? I'm like that hopeless wife in that scene from Airplane. Jim never has a second cup of coffee at home...

Thus, the Amazon Prime account surpasses dinner conversation and pillow talk as the ultimate window into my husband's psyche. What's really on his mind? What problem is he trying to solve that requires he drop everything to place an order, but isn't so bad that he can't wait 2 days for the solution?

There was season 1 of the Ghostbusters cartoon on DVD.

Random, but harmless.

The Clavicle Support Brace and Posture Corrector.

He now wears it merrily around the house. It looks like he's strapped into some kind of harness, giving the impression he's always ready for extreme sports.

The Heavy Bag

and The Slant Board

These came in quick succession one morning and made me wonder if our account had been hacked by someone planning to open a gym. Turns out, I wasn't far off. When questioned, Devin explained they were "for the gym I'm starting in the garage." Oh of course, that home gym we've been discussing at great length.

But no Amazon order email knocked my socks off like the one I received a few weeks ago.
Beard wax, a beard and mustache comb, and beard oil.  Jim never spontaneously initiates eccentric grooming habits at home. 

Did Devin even have a beard? Well, yes. Obviously. But I'd always thought of it as resulting from a disinterest in shaving. Not an intentional investment. Certainly not something that required styling.

What launched this desire to take such good care of the beard? Had someone told him it looked unruly?

And then came all my questions and observations about the products themselves. Like the beard oil is TWICE THE SIZE OF MOST. There are others? The beard wax is "Amish," but the beard oil is "Mountaineer." Do these two subcultures share the same facial hair philosophies? Do the Amish or the Mountaineers actually get involved with product? Or online retail? And then there is the UK English spelling of "moustache" for the comb. A third, international approach to beard care? Is his beard having an identity crisis? Is he?

My mind whizzed through all of this in a matter of moments and reflexively I hit the "fwd" button on my email to send this to Devin with some abbreviated version of my reaction to it all.

But then I stopped. I thought, maybe a little mystery is a good thing to preserve in a marriage. For years he's remained politely silent as I filled the bathroom cabinets with my own products for grooming and personal care. I've worn my hair long and short, dyed it lighter and darker, and he hadn't asked to be included in the decision-making process. I've come home fresh from a spray tan, orange as a traffic cone and radiating odor, and he hasn't pried as to what the hell I'd done to myself. So where did I get off demanding answers about a few beard care supplies? And really, say what you want about beards, but you can't argue with the fact that they're "manly." And manly is a quality I admire in, you know, men.

I resolved to keep quiet. Then another Amazon email popped up in my inbox.


That evening, Devin had to work late and rang me up of Facetime to say goodnight to Oscar. As his face came into view, it was all I could do to keep from blurting out "BEARD!" How had I not previously noticed this bushy behemoth overtaking his face and extending beyond the reaches of my iPhone screen? Why did I think he just had longish stubble?

Don't ask about the products. Don't ask about the products. 

We made regular chit chat for a while until, finally, I couldn't help myself. I slipped into a peculiar, forced way of speaking, as if I'd just read stage direction telling me to act "fake casual."

Me: So, hey, by the way, what's all beard stuff you ordered?
Him: It's just stuff for my beard.

Don't react. Don't react.

I moved the conversation in a different direction.

When the beard products arrived at our doorstep I resisted the urge to open up the shipping box. I instead left it sitting in the hall and made no mention of it when Devin arrived home from work. Again I adopted the forced casual delivery. "Hmm? What are you looking for? An Amazon package...oh, you know I think I may have kicked a box through the door on my way in. Why, were you expecting something?"

While we gave Oscar a bath, Devin unpacked and inspected all of his new treasures. When arranged together there was something appealing and Wes Andersonian about the whole set.  The tin of beard wax came in a draw string mesh sack like something you might buy at a boutique or spa. The moutasche comb was the exact size of a My Little Pony comb and came stored in a snap-close plastic envelope.

I leaned against the sink, facing Devin, watching intently and resisting the urge to ask too many questions. He squirted a little blob of beard oil in his palm and began rubbing it into his beard. It looked like his face had a Jerry curl.

Me: So, do you rinse that out? Or...
Him: No I think it just soaks in.
Me: Oh. It smells really... piney.

I picked up the bottle and read the short list of ingredients. Essential oils of cedar and fir needles. Well there you have it.

Days later, this beard oil would cause a bit of a disturbance. We were darting around the house in our usual, un-synchronized morning routine, when Devin bellowed from down the hall.

Him: Have you seen my beard oil?
Me: No.
Him: It was in the drawer in the bathroom.
Me: I know. I wouldn't have put it anywhere else.

A minute went by.

Him: It's just, I put it in the drawer and now it's not there.
Me: I honestly don't know where else it would be.

I was picking up on his implication that I was responsible for its disappearance. I began to wonder if I'd unconsciously disposed of it... perhaps in some kind of dream state. But several more minutes went by and it apparently turned up somewhere because Devin called off the search party. I didn't ask for details.

The beard oil gives him a new fresh pine scent, which isn't exactly bad, it's just different from how he's smelled for the last decade so it's a little unnerving. I think it's fair for me to have some objection to this. I imagine he'd take issue if I started rubbing orange slices on my neck before bed or treating my hair with coffee grounds. I said something about it, once, and then dropped it. And in the couple of weeks since, I haven't said a word about any of it. Because, well, there's nothing to be said.

That's the lesson I took from all of this. I discovered I want to leave him alone. I want him to do things with motivations I don't understand. Perhaps that was part of the magic of the early days of dating. I didn't show up at his apartment, rummage through his cupboards and insist on backstories. Things were surprising. There was room to be curious. And maybe that's why I get such a kick out of the Amazon emails in the first place.

Now, because I am sure he'll get around to reading this at some point, I want to direct the remainder of this post to Devin. Happy anniversary, my bearded baby. Mustachioed man of my dreams. May our marriage grow and flourish as mightily as your beard, and be given just as much care and attention. May our communication be as reassuring as an order confirmation email and our trust in one another be as reliable as free 2 day shipping. And for the rest of our future, I promise that I, like Amazon, will always be there, anytime, providing everything you could ever want or need, all waiting for you when you get home.

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