Love me, love my umbrella
James Joyce and the annoying bits of love
Unreadiness. A bare apartment. Torbid daylight. A long black piano: coffin of music. Poised on its edge a woman’s hat, red flowered, and umbrella, furled. Her arms:a casque, gules, and blunt spear on a field, sable.
Envoy: Love me, love my umbrella.
That’s an excerpt from Giacomo Joyce, a short story written by Nobel prize laureate James Joyce in 1914 which is “a hazy chronicle of erotic fascination between the narrator and a female student to whom he was teaching English in Trieste.”
It’s also Katia’s go-to quote indicating that sometimes you just gotta put up with something or someone your partner loves and you don’t (yet).
My umbrella is the San Francisco Giants. I’ve been a fan since the first year I moved to SF and Barry Bonds was the most exciting thing I’ve ever seen. If Bonds was up in the next half hour, you didn’t risk going to the bathroom. You didn’t risk taking another sip of beer to ensure you didn’t go to the bathroom. Every time he came up, something thrilling happened. His walk to the plate was menace and muscle. His swing slashed like a cutlass in open battle, precise and lethal. God it was beautiful.
Since then the team has produced a two-time Cy Young winner and won three World Series — it’s been phenomenal. Baseball has become my way to wind down after a nerve-racking day, a way to spend time with friends outside at the ballpark. Listening to the radio broadcast team feels like I’m hanging out with friends. The McCovey Chronicles blog covering the team is a joy to read and some of the best writing in the world. (Don’t believe me? Try it!)
Katia finds baseball inscrutable and boring and a waste of time. Billions agree with her. But she puts up with it with a smile, because it’s my umbrella.
What can you do but smile?
Navigating our partner’s umbrella is a tricky phenomenon. Naturally, most of us have no interest in participating in an activity or with a person we don’t like, and the last thing we want to do is encourage further interaction. Our top goal is to destroy the umbrella!
But if Katia took the Giants away from me, I’d be missing a chunk of my life packed with warm memories and friendship. That’s not what love is.
There’s one school of thought that suggests we love our umbrella like we love our partner. Push ourselves to be kind and engage with the umbrella. Maybe one day, it will become ours too.
But that’s really hard. I’d love for Katia to love the Giants, but I don’t expect her to sit through three-hour games, learn what OPS means, decode the infield fly rule, and debate leaving in the starter for an extra batter after 100 pitches. I just want her to let me love them! And that’s not so hard.
This can get gnarly with people. In a previous relationship, there was one person–let’s call her Laura–who I was friends with who my partner hated. My partner quietly put up with all of us hanging out together for a few years, and then finally my partner let me know she wanted nothing to do with Laura anymore. I actually came around to see that my partner’s complaints were spot-on, I was enjoying hanging out with Laura a lot less than I used to (though maybe that was because of my partner!) and our friendship petered out. I’ve never had any regrets about letting that friendship go, though in retrospect I can see how I might feel manipulated.
There are no easy answers. For me, I’ve found that recognizing our umbrellas, openly discussing them, and negotiating a way to manage them in the context of the User Manual or old fashioned conversation is the best way through. And never let an umbrella get in the way of your screaming love!
1 Unreadiness! The story of every morning in history.
2 The umbrella also offers debatable phallic imagery, which you can think through here. Not what Katia means, though!
Originally published on The User Manual.