Recently, I was at a party with my wife, Kate, and we were cheering full champagne flutes, in honor of a friend's success. He had just published his first novel, to great acclaim. We raised our glasses, and introduced ourselves to the other couples around us until someone kindly congratulated me on my book. Because hadn't I just published a book, too? Before I could say one word, my wife -- my very funny wife said when we first met, some twelve years before, my opening line was: "You know, I have a book coming out..."
That's not exactly true, but it certainly feels like it is. For her and me. When we met, I was a writer, yes, but like most young writers I was broke, tending bar, and directionless. I immediately fell for Kate. She was thrilling and alive. She had a fiery presence. Not to mention she was (and is) a real looker. She made me laugh. Predictably, she did not return the sentiment. Not at first. She had a career, an apartment, and a college education. I did not. But eventually she softened. She saw something in me, I know not what, and took me in like a dumb stray.
There is the cliché of women wanting to "fix" men, and that some women want a "project." Maybe that's true, although I've not seen much evidence for it, at least not specific to women. I've known plenty of guys who do the same. I know this much -- I needed lots of work, and I'll forever be grateful to her for tackling the job. Within a year of meeting, we moved to New York City, where I went through a series of crappy bartending gigs, while writing less and less terrible short stories, as she continued to advance an already successful career. More responsibility. Better and better pay. All accompanied by less and less motivation to explain her boyfriend's life-choice of serving margaritas at an Applebee's in Queens. One day, she wisely stated the obvious: You need go to college.
So I did.
And it was just a few weeks before I realized how right she was. Despite the fact that I was the tallest and the oldest guy in every class, I loved every minute of it. Especially the English classes. I literally took every one available, some of them twice. And then I took a writing class. And before long I found myself applying for grad school writing programs, and was generally having the most intellectually stimulating time of my life. But I never saw my lady. She worked long hours and I was closing the bar at 2 a.m., and then I did homework on the subway home, prepping for class in the morning. At some point, Kate said enough. She told me to quit my bar job and put all my efforts toward school, and my writing. It was scary, for lots of reasons, most of which had to do with my then preferred adherence to "traditional" masculine social roles. Those roles are dumb. I quit. I went to grad school. I started a novel.
Six years later I sold that novel, and a few weeks ago I handed Kate -- my wife, my partner, my best friend, the still-thrilling love of my life, the very person emotionally and financially responsible for the making of this book -- a hardbound copy. The dedication page reads: For Kate, before, now, and after. She cried. She kissed me, and then said, "I always believed you could do this. Now go get a job."