A Mutual Understanding

Mr. Shakes and I just had the most interesting conversation over dinner, winding around the paths of our respective histories and the things that became important to us as we traveled toward one another. How strange I married a Brit who’d never listened to Morrissey, and he married an American who’d never watched The Man With No Name trilogy. It turns out that he likes Moz, but I can take a pass on spaghetti westerns.

One’s passion for certain books, or films, or music is so personal, and the ardor for long-loved favorites becomes such an intrinsic part of one’s nature, that we each develop, over time and not necessarily consciously, a list of things that we imagine must be loved equally by those with whom we fall in love. Finding the place where a love of, say, Harold and Maude ends and the part of oneself that appreciates such a film begins can be difficult, so much so that one almost can’t imagine being in a relationship with someone who doesn’t like the film. Mr. Shakes never could have imagined falling in love with a woman who didn’t swoon desperately over the brilliance of Anna Karenina. I have yet to read book two of the beautifully bound set he gave me the day we met at Kings Cross. I never could have imagined falling in love with a man who didn’t feel compelled to watch Magnolia on a loop. He considers it nice background noise for a three-hour nap.

But the thing is, I understand wholly why he loves Anna Karenina, and he knows exactly what it is in me that informs my fondness for Magnolia. And, curiously, these are parts of one another which we quite particularly adore—and yet it doesn’t translate into a shared passion for the same things. Not always, anyway.

Such a funny thing, that. I can remember being younger and thinking it impossible to even consider dating someone who didn’t like certain things in the same way I did, too inexperienced and immature to have realized that the appreciation of why I liked what I did, being understood, was infinitely more important. I never could have imagined having this hopeless, endless crush on a man who owned Big Willie Style.

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