Memoir: Lonnie and Matrimonial Complexity

Like me, my Uncle Lonnie (great-uncle, actually) married an English woman. He met her when he was stationed in England during the second world war. I always heard the story that he married an English woman, she flew over to Texas and then high-tailed it back to England in short order. I always assumed she found the conditions in Polk County somewhat lacking for a woman of good taste, because conditions around there were a little Southern Gothic, to be sure.

I’ve recently found that many memories of my family are based on false assumptions I made when I was too young for the adults to tell me the whole truth. So to be safe, I asked my mother if I had the story straight. First of all, Mom said I was at their wedding, which means it was after 1960. I had always assumed it was the late 40s or early 50s in the years immediately after the war.

While I had assumed the wife wasn’t happy in Texas, Mom said the problem, as she remembered it, was that Lonnie’s Texas girlfriend was none too happy when his new English wife showed up, and made things uncomfortable for everyone.

So, I had to ask a followup question. “His Texas girlfriend? Did he have another one besides Aunt Jewel?” No, that’s the one, Mom assured me. She also added a bit of additional information: the English wife, I wish I knew her name, had “medical problems” related to sex. This was all so upsetting that my Aunt Edith took her to the doctor and let her stay with her and my Uncle JC for awhile before she returned to England. Apparently, the rest of the family was appalled by the way he had treated his wife.

My own memories of Uncle Lonnie are fairly benign. He owned an ice cream stand just outside of Livingston and a general store a few miles down the road. Jewel, previously mentioned, lived in a house next to the store with her children and ran the store. I only remember her being kind and patient. I never knew any of her children.

When Lonnie would smile, you’d get a glint off his gold tooth, and he smiled a good bit. My memory is a bit sketchy, as it would be, but on one occasion, I remember his bending down, smiling and either giving me quarter for ice cream or just telling me to tell “Aunt Jewel” it was okay for us to have some ice cream. It may well be a phantom of my imagination, but I remember his saying, “Here, take this quarter to Aunt Jewel and tell her I said to give you some ice cream.”

You know, it may have been a Coke or candy or something, but I left with something. When I got back to my grandmother, she asked where I’d gotten my treat. I told her, “Aunt Jewel gave it to me,” and she went white and said, “That woman is not your aunt, and I’ll not have you calling her that in my house!” I never forgot the lesson, but I also didn’t understand it till years later.

About the only other thing I can tell you about Lonnie is that he was reputed to be quite a miser. He never really looked like he had a dime to his name, but owned quite a bit of property in Polk County, and he was the only person I ever knew personally who owned an industrial-sized backhoe, though I don’t remember a time it was ever out of the shed he built for it. When he died, some people had quite a bit of anticipation about where his money would go, but I don’t know how that turned out. I can only share that it didn’t go to me.

Fiction: Sex as Nuclear Option

“I’ve had plenty of anonymous sex before,” she said, “and I still know how to find it.” Jan intended this as a threat or warning, obviously, but she also knew it stung in its own right. She first learned to weaponise her own sexuality when she saw the crestfallen look on her father’s face when she knew he knew what she’d gotten up to with John one night. Since that day, she had learned a number of ways to use her own numbness to sex to devastate men. Not that it made her feel that much better, but it was something.

Maybe it was revenge. Maybe it was something else, but it gave her a feeling of power, and who doesn’t want to feel that sometimes? Everyone wants to feel a little control over things. The way she told it, she had always controlled her own sexuality. She was 12 the first time, she said, and she knew exactly what she was doing. Her parents were gone for the day and she called her school band director on the phone and asked him over. It was her idea. That’s what she said.

She said it hurt, but he was very nice. He took care of her. When he lost his job at the school, she and some other girls formed a group to get signatures on a petition to get him his job back. They really liked him. When she graduated high school, she wrote to him to let him know she was doing all right, and he wrote back and said he was glad to hear it.

Bobby couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He told her she was only 12, for God’s sake, and definitely no child could be responsible for what she described. She had obviously been groomed and manipulated, and so had all the other girls. She was raped, he said, but she averred. “But I knew what I was doing was wrong,” she said, “That’s why I never told anyone before now.” Bobby told her it wasn’t her fault, but he wasn’t prepared for this conversation.

Somehow, he made her feel more judged than supported, not that he was trying to, but he really wasn’t equipped to respond to this information, and he felt a little sick. But Jan didn’t notice that. She was just trying to make a point about her prissy classmates who acted so shocked to find that a professor was having an affair with a student. She was just wanting to say, “Hello! I was having sex with a teacher when I was 12! Grow up.”

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Poem: How Marriages Become Sexless

She exaggerated to her friends that he
Wanted sex
Four or five times a week.

He snuggled her in bed, and
She complained
That he pressured her for sex.

He reminded her he had not
Initiated sex
For several months.

Then why are you
Touching me?
She asked.

Shortly thereafter, she complained to her friends that
He deprived her
Of even the basic comfort of human touch.

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Don’t Advertise Your Man (#fiction)

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VII

You have to be careful. I mean, you have to watch what you say. It’s easy to think everyone will see things your way, but you never know how they’re going to take things.

That’s what happened when she went to talk to Valerie. She wanted to get some things off her chest, and she just knew Valerie would be sympathetic.

Valerie was sympathetic. Of course she was sympathetic. What kind of friend wouldn’t be? And Valerie enjoyed, maybe enjoyed isn’t the exact right word, listening to other people talk about their sexual problems, so she was bound to be a good listener.

So she unloaded on Val. She talked about how her husband was supportive and everything, but the sex was too burdensome. She told Val how he had a slow fuse and could never just “get to business.” She liked a sort of “stick and go” approach, but he always made a big production out of everything with lots of cuddling, kissing, and holding before ever getting around to the good stuff. By the time he was ready, she had lost interest. You know how it is?

Valerie certainly knew how it was. Valerie understood the dynamics all too well because her husband, too, was a “stick and go” kind of person. He never cuddled her or kissed her or stroked her at all. He just went at it, had his orgasm, and fell asleep.

So, as Val listened to her friend sort of just describing her frustration with the burdens of too much kissing and cuddling, Val got a little turned on. Her fantasies were racing through her mind. She’d been lost in a kissing desert, and now her friend was describing a sort of sexual oasis, and, man, she’d like a good long drink.

So Val was a good friend, and a good listener, like I said. She shared stuff about her life, her sexual past, which had a bit of trauma, too, and her frustrations with marital difficulties. She listened intently. She made herself vulnerable. She offered warm hugs and encouragement.

Once she’d set her friend off in a cloud of mutual support, her own needs and fantasies drove her straight to the telephone. She was tentative and nervous, but desire is sometimes greater than fear. “Hi, I was just talking to your wife. She said you really enjoy long, deep kisses, just like I do.”

Superposition of Marital States of Bliss and Misfortune (#poem)

shallow focus photography of man and woman kissing each other
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There’s always that stage
Where you’re both in
And you’re out, you know?

You never thought you’d
Be caught in the trap of
“I owe it to the children.”

You didn’t think you’d
Ever cringe just because you
heard the creak of a door.

When the lid is lifted on
Your Schrodinger’s Cat
Marriage, you hope for death.

And maybe it is a quantum
Problem of superposition of states,
With each profoundly undesirable.

Maybe a cold observation and
Measurement can settle the
Confusion once and for all.

So it’s the doctor who peers
Inside and runs the numbers,
Calculating possible futures.

With all that’s going on,
You don’t expect the prognosis.
You aren’t really ready, but

His eyes tell all as he says,
“If this emotional blackmail
Continues, it will kill you.”