you are here and warm


I’m know I’m going to be a complete hypocrite here, but I’m a little tweaked by the constant suggestion that every man who marries someone pretty or smart is somehow “marrying up.” I make the joke all the time, and in fact, it has been something of a mantra among the Williams brothers that we all “married someone who could stand us” etc., but I think if you take that thinking too far, it ends up being problematic and dishonest.

Tessa has taught me to be a better person, and there are at least 743 ways I’ve learned to better deal with life due to her gentle suggestions and leading by example. And yes, I was a pimpled dork in junior high, didn’t kiss a girl at my prep school, remain furious at my childhood assailants, and know Morse Code to 35 wpm – but would it be too pompous to think that she got a catch too?

Everything else, as I’m sure you suspect, is about physical attractiveness. I may have not been classically handsome, but I’m bloody well cute enough, and it never got in my way. I remember a housemate once told me a girl was “out of my league,” and I did two things right away: 1) I told him that no friend of mine, including HIM, was out of ANYBODY’S league, and 2) I dated the girl all summer.

Anybody who reads this blog, not to make this a reflection on me, but you are all in everybody’s league. None of you has “married up,” all of you are brilliant in your idiopathic way, and judging by some of the comments, you possess an introspection and spirit that would qualify you as a coup for anybody.

The idea that there should be some kind of agreed-upon equality in the physical attractiveness of a married couple is the kind of bottom-feeding horseshit reserved for reality television. Transitively, the idea that a bad man needs a good woman to turn him around is a remarkably lazy notion, one that plays upon tired gender roles, allows men to take no responsibility for their own spiritual education, and worse, is boring.

It also sells your wife or girlfriend short, as they obviously saw something in you that was pure and wonderful and didn’t sign up to be a halfway house for your recovering soul.

I think a lot of men, when they look deep into themselves, don’t see much. We see shame, we see secret stashes of porn, we see that time when we did something awful to that girl, we sense brutality and the desire to beat the shit out of some random guy in a parking lot. Sometimes we see these things and it makes us feel like a fraud, because it’s not something we ever share with our girlfriends and wives.

The secret is this: they already know, and decided to love us anyway. And this layer of crap inside men, I’ve come to believe, is largely window dressing. None of us are as really bad as we think we are, and while it’s relaxing to think we were saved by the love of a sentimental lady, it might be a little more empowering to believe that we, too, rock the fucking free world.

0 thoughts on “you are here and warm

  1. CP

    this post makes me feel like going out into the woods, pounding some vaguely indigenous/african drum/percussive instrument with other shirtless white men around a glowing and ominous campfire, talking about my feelings and maybe crying.
    seriously, though. slightly off-topic but still applicable: have you (or anyone else who comes here) read the game?
    makes me glad I’m not single in LA (and briefly back to the original point yes she’s great and I’m kind of a yutz but she did ok herself), despite being what the community of pickup artists in the book might call an AFC (average frustrated chump.) I call them schmucks with magic tricks, but otherwise little else in the way of lives, careers (save neil strauss — the author and master pickup artist himself — who just got 2 mil. from sony for the rights), even the most minute shred of awareness about themselves/the world they inhabit. (or, put more simply, most males of the species here in los angeles…)
    anyway, I’m slightly obsessed with this book. (and old-school professional wrestling.) but I’ve veered completely off, haven’t I? (yiddish, run-ons, parentheticals, tito santana; must be time for bed.) what was your post about again?

  2. Claudia

    Great post.
    “I think a lot of men, when they look deep into themselves, don’t see much…Sometimes we see these things and it makes us feel like a fraud, because it’s not something we ever share with our girlfriends and wives.”
    Your girlfriends and wives feel these things, too.

  3. Laurie from Manly Dorm

    I don’t quite know what to think of today’s post.
    For all the glorious wonders that are ME, no one has ever, in my 11 years of marriage, indicated that Tim has married up. In fact, all I ever hear about is how lucky I am to have a husband like Tim — after all, he cooks, cleans, and does an equal share of the childcare responsibilities. “Tim drives Helen to school in the morning, takes her to doctors’ appointments, AND he cooks dinner? My God, you are lucky, Laurie! My husband would never do all that!”
    I mean, my husband IS wonderful, but why are the expectations for a husband/father of today so “bare-minimum” that I am “lucky” to have a husband who co-parents? He and I both are attorneys, we both work full-time. . . why am I lucky that he shares in all the household drudgery?
    Come to think of it, the only compliment I have ever heard in the way of “marrying up” is from Tim’s friends who tell him that he is lucky to have a wife who works and brings home a good salary. What am I — a cash cow?

  4. LFMD

    Oh, and I forgot to tell you that your tux was the best I have seen on a groom (aside from my handsome husband’s tux, but he just wore what my mother told him to wear — no thought went into it). Beautiful color, beautiful style and cut.
    And, just when I didn’t think you and Tessa could rock any more than you already do, you both have ascended to a new level of “rock” because you involved Chopes in your wedding.

  5. emma

    Or could it be just that everyone who is in love with their spouse believes they are marrying up, both the husbands and the wives. I am amazed everyday that someone as special as my husband loves me, but I think he would say the same about me. So maybe we both married up, in our own minds.

  6. Tanya

    I love Laurie from Manly Dorm – for the record. Heh. She’s captured my exact thought on your post, too, re: lucky to have husband, cash cow, etc. And Ian, I’ve ALWAYS thought you were fabulous.
    As for yesterday’s topic, I like to think of myself as somewhat aware of the latest styles and trends, and will even wear them more often than not. However, am I the only woman on the planet who can’t tell the difference from one tux to the other?? I mean, I get the obvious purple polyester tuxes from the 70’s, but Ian’s tux looks just like my husband’s tux when we got married (7 years ago) which looked just the same as the tux my friend’s husband wore in their wedding two weeks ago. Tails or no tails, I get that, but otherwise, they all look the same to me (which is to say they all look GREAT).

  7. Just Andrew

    that was the whole point of my comment yesterday – we’re willing to say we ‘married up’ only to placate the shallow jocks and athletes who thought they were the ones who deserved to marry these lovely creatures. If we don’t placate them, they will get really depressed and won’t show up for work and then who will we get to pick up the garbage?
    One of my wife’s rich, attrative friends told my wife that she was in a different league than I was. (a) my wife is no longer friends with her and (b) she married a dumb jock that spent most of her trust fund before dumping her. So Hell, ya, I was a catch.

  8. CL

    I think everyone who gets married should believe they married up, but so should the person they marry. To find someone wonderful and then have them commit to being in your life forever is a lucky thing.
    I’ll admit that I *was* getting a bit ticked off yesterday by the implication that a beautiful woman is somehow the prize. The theme in some of the responses was, “Heh heh, the male nerds may not get any play in high school, but eventually, beautiful women realize they want one, so the nerds end up with the real prize – a beautiful woman.” And what if they end up marrying an average-looking, wonderfully kind, funny, smart woman? Is she not a prize as well?
    Seems like there’s a lot more to Tessa than her beauty, and that’s what makes her a prize – and you’re right, Ian, you have boundless charms as well. But there is nothing wrong with acknowledging that marrying someone you love is a lucky thing, and I always think it’s cute when a guy professes his love and appreciation for his wife instead of hoisting the usual male ego and shell of toughness.
    The talk of being out of someone’s league is a bit foolhardy. What’s irritating is people who think they won’t have to do any work. If you love someone, you should always try to be at your best for them, and they for you.

  9. CL

    >>have you (or anyone else who comes here) read the game?
    I’ve looked at it. All of these guides for men on how to seduce women tend to miss the point. And guys who read them for tips are not going to use those tips properly if they don’t have the one thing you need for seducing someone: Common sense. It’s all about making effort and showing someone you care, not tricking them. I’d write more on this, but I have to work and this topic irks me.

  10. scruggs

    I think the only real criticism (hopefully light-hearted) we each got from our family and friends concerned our shortfalls due to “geographical origins.” I had to listen to incessant jokes about bringing a “yankee” into the family (and one with a really long Italian last name that still solicits the same, tired comments on a DAILY basis), and after 12 years his mother continues to call me a “Southern Belle.”
    I would say we married “suitably.” As one would hope is the case, we seem to complement each other pretty well. Also, he’s better with “domestic” things, else we wouldn’t eat or have a sanitary home, and I handle the “logistic” things: financial management, our kid’s school stuff, etc. He puts up with my micro-managing, and I tolerate the fact that he is slow as molasses!
    I guess our only “dual-complaint” is that at least one of us could have been from a little dough! We make a decent living, but I’m not against a little subsidizing…how ’bout finishing my basement or paying jr’s preschool tuition!?!?

  11. killian

    scruggs–how come the italian yankee is slow as molasses–seems he’s crossing those geographical origins, no?
    I LOVE the idea that “we all marry up” and I actually believe it, too.
    Fortunately, so does “my better half.” I am a lucky, lucky grrrrl.
    PS. This BLOG rocks the free world.

  12. scruggs

    killian: he is indeed the contradiction of the fast-paced stereotype given to northerners (Now his mother, on the other hand…). I guess that’s why he was so drawn to Chapel Hill and why we’re still down South.

  13. Charles Star

    All well and good, but I still know how lucky I am. The feeling that she feels like she got lucky too thrills me no end, but doesn’t stop me from feeling like I am getting a deal. Self-doubt doesn’t immediately cease just because someone you love tells you it should.

  14. Beth

    CL: so well put. LFMD: cracked me up; we could all use one of those! Ian: if we’re talking about physical packaging here (and we are, primarily, aren’t we?), beauty is fleeting. But to judge from your pictures and your words, what you and Tessa have isn’t. You came to each other and remain equals, no? If anybody ever suggests any different, fuck ’em.

  15. CP

    to quote frank t.j. mackey, it’s not a guide on how to seduce and destroy women. it’s actually a really entertaining book about a fascinating subculture and what essentially amounts to the lowest common denominator of gender relations. reading it for tips and tricks is missing the point entirely. of both the book and being in a meaningful relationship with someone you find amazing.
    in general, books on how to pickup women and how to keep a man are sort of like books on screenwriting. not very helpful and basically manipulative in sense that they play off the insecurity of their potential buyers to move units.
    but back to the game. the corrections, the sun also rises, the blind assassin it’s not. obviously. however, despite not being highbrow lit, it’s still a great book and to completely dismiss it without first reading it is not only foolish but crotchety.
    ok, grandpa?

  16. CL

    Hey, you wanted someone to discuss it, so I tried. You’re right; I shouldn’t judge without reading it. I just think a lot of people take those books the wrong way. I’ve heard the comments from bitter male friends: “maybe I should be a jerk and then women would like me; maybe I should play games, bla bla”. So I’ll leave discussion of this to people who have actually read it, if you promise to stop calling me names, you, you…reprobate! (And I’m no grandpa.)

  17. kaz

    ian, this is exactly what i needed to read today…and YOU rock the world of my little office now and again when i share your insights with the gang. woohoo!

  18. Cris

    Ian – Great blog topic as always.
    Same-sex couples wrestle with these comparisons, too. My partner and I have been together for a few years, and for the most part we’re pretty evenly matched in terms of accomplishments. Still, next to his tall, blond, muscly figure – which stands in stark contrast to my short, underexercised, slightly balding one – I often find myself thinking sometimes that he may have gotten the better deal in this arrangement. I have to remind myself periodically that he also landed a pretty cool prize.
    As for you and Tessa… well, within our crowd of adolescent prep school overachievers, Tessa always seemed the rock star. It wasn’t just her stunning beauty that dazzled us (most of us turned out to be gay men anyway) or the sheer power of her intellect (there was always plenty of that in the room)… it was just this Tessa Quality that, for those of you reading this blog that haven’t met her, I doubt I could adequately describe. In any case, I distinctly remember one trip in which a bunch of us were piled characteristically in a hotel room. As we sat around talking late into the evening, I remember wondering aloud as to what man could someday possibly capture the heart of our dear Tessa. Now, some twenty years later, I find the answer to that question here, having stumbled across this blog while searching for info on “Five Wives.” Admittedly, I don’t know you at all… but reading your posts every morning during my routine caffeine infusion, I have to admit that the two of you make absolute, perfect sense to me.

  19. Cris

    Slight correction to the above…. I meant to type in line 3 “… that *I* may have gotten the better deal….” After the day I’ve had at work, it’s amazing I can type anything correctly at all…

  20. CL

    Btw, does anyone remember that there was a Sex and the City episode on this topic? Charlotte got mad and made some comment to Harry about how people see them walking down the street together and are surprised. The implication was that she was the real prize. He broke up with her after that. (For a while, anyway.)

  21. JJE

    Scruggs – The first thing my family noticed when my husband-to-be’s car pulled up in our driveway (Labor Day weekend of our sophomore year, 14 years ago) was the NY license plate on the front. I reckon that’s the only “complaint” they’ve ever had about my beloved Yankee.
    I know I married up. When I figured out he was hot AND he could do math (me = journalism major for a reason), I fell hopelessly in love.

  22. Laurie from Manly Dorm

    Hmmmm. I never thought about all of this until your post today. But, I have to admit that when Tim and I married, we looked pretty equal on paper. We both graduated Phi Beta Kappa (please excuse me — I am not boasting, and this is something that never comes up in daily conversation, but I thought I’d mention it!) from our respective schools, we both are attorneys, and from the first days of our employment, we have earned nearly equal salaries. It is kind of creepy, because all of this “equality” has creeped into our daily lives in that we make sure that we each spend an equal amount of time with Helen, help out around the house equally, pay for things equally. . . it is a pain sometimes. It’s as if neither one of us want to feel as though we are doing more than the other.
    In the looks department, we are both cute I suppose. What I can’t stand is all the height talk. I am 5 feet tall. Tim is 6 feet tall. My tall girl friends always tell me that it is not fair that I snagged a “tall one.” I suppose tall girls have trouble finding tall guys? People comment that I look really short next to Tim (um, I am really short, people) and it is a good thing I brought Tim into the gene pool because now Helen is tall. Whatever!
    One thing for all to think about. When I married 11 years ago, my mother told me that “you never look as good as you do on your wedding day.” I ignored her comment, thinking it was a bit obnoxious, but I think it is true now! I have put on a few lbs., Tim has turned completely from blonde to gray, and it is all a reminder that we all age and looks are fleeting. What do all these critics say as we age? How do the critics gauge whether someone has married up when we are all plump, gray, bald, etc?

  23. LFMD

    And, I just read Cris’ comments about Tessa. Wow. I have never met her, but that is quite a compliment! I read Tessa’s blurb somewhere on this site — the one about her professional background. She truly is accomplished — as far as overachievers go, she is in a category onto herself! I still can’t get over the fact that she went to boarding school overseas at such a young age. An age, mind you, when some kids can’t get up and dressed in the morning on their own! Anyway, you rock, Tessa! You make Carolina proud!

  24. badbob (real)

    You’re a lucky man as are I.
    I attribute my good luck to my wife’s vision. She wears contacts.
    You pass some important, sage information on regarding men’s views towards women. I wish I had heard it about 25 years ago!

  25. block

    Dude, you did marry up. No doubt. Get over it! Of course, you do have that one attribute that a lot of your blog readers might not know about…

  26. Tara

    You DO rock, man! I don’t know how I stumbled upon your blog, but I’m glad I did. Making peace with your “layer of crap” (which women have, too!) has made you a kind and self-actualized person. Thanks for sharing so we can all grow a little, too.

  27. rp

    Though I’m not married, what emma said above sounds about right.
    And nice work on the Bob Welch/Fleetwood Mac reference, Ian–even if (or maybe especially since) it took me four days to get it.


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