Every marriage has its own weird language that’s kind of hard to explain to outsiders. I’m going to try to explain a bit of ours so that I can tell you a story.
First of all, Jim came to me with the nickname Bear. That’s what Corinne called him, which conveniently sidestepped the whole complicated “what do you call the step-dad” mess. Together we have a number of bears, and there are many stories told about their antics, including the absurd lengths to which they will go to procure hidden sweets in the house. When something is askew, we nod to each other knowingly and whisper, “bears.” When I get overwhelmed – which happens to me sometimes – he says “your bear is right here if you need him,” and it is really incredibly comforting.
Early on, I tried to be a bear too. It never quite fit, though I had my momma bear moments when the world would fuck with my kid. We tried on a few things, and I don’t even remember any more how we landed on tiger, or why it was a secret. But I am the Secret Tiger (except it’s not a secret any more, I guess – I’ve always been horrible with secrets. Never give me secrets unless you explicitly tell me to forget as soon as you’re done telling me, which I can do, but I can’t hold onto a secret for any period of time. This is why I do my holiday shopping at the last minute). When Jim gets overwhelmed, I say “tigers are standing by” and he finds it incredibly comforting.
After a decade, a whole lore and language has arisen around our alter-egos. I have other friends who have evolved other versions, and I suspect it’s a common thing in intimate relationships.
Anyway, today we had to run errands, but we were both feeling overwhelmed. Unfortunately, the grocery store on a Sunday afternoon was pretty much unavoidable, even though we just needed one thing. We made a plan:
Jim: We’re just going to get in and get out. No browsing today.
Me: Right. We’re marauding.
Jim: YES! Let’s maraud!
Jim: we’re more-odding. Those people are less-odding, but we’re more-odding.
Me: none more odd!
And that’s how we made it through there in 10 minutes with nobody dropping everything and running. Afterwards there were celebratory fist bumps. Now we are sitting at home in the quiet for a few minutes before we do the next Thing Which Must Be Done.
There really is nothing in the world like someone you can be vulnerable with.