When I was almost nine, my family moved from Southern California to Western Maryland, which is a place I didn’t believe existed until I saw it on a map. When my sister and I stopped crying and we settled into a home, my dad took me to the local park, where there was a little local pond, where I would have my first experience with fishing.
My dad, who has a PhD in special education and is the calmest man you’ll ever meet, baited my hook. We sat on the edge of the pond for a while and, as an anxious child who had only recently outgrown the clinging-to-Mom’s-skirt stage, I was happy for the silence and calmness of the sport. The waiting was easy; peaceful, even. And then I caught a fish. My dad helped me reel in the line, immediately after which my curiosity faded, giving way to a new self awareness, and it occurred to me that HOLY SHIT THAT IS A LIVING, BREATHING ANIMAL THAT I HAVE STABBED DIRECTLY THROUGH THE MOUTH AND IT IS NOW THRASHING AROUND VIOLENTLY AS I DRAG IT TO ITS DEATH AND, HOLD ON A SECOND, THAT THING IS ALL SLIMY AND ALSO KIND OF POINTY IN PLACES, AND NO I DO NOT WANT TO TOUCH IT DAD WHY THE FUCK DID YOU BRING ME HERE THIS IS HOW I’M GOING TO DIE.
My dad threw the fish back. It didn’t die, as far as I know. And neither did any other living creature by my hand until I moved into my first place after college and discovered an infestation of spider crickets, which I eventually gathered the courage to smash with an un-padded Swiffer Wet Jet while screaming at the top of my lungs and sometimes crying.
And, in case this isn’t clear, I never had a second experience with fishing.
As I grew up, I discovered many other things that made me panicky and/or uncomfortable. Loud noises. Sudden movements. Sharp objects. Professional wrestling. Blood. Dirt. Firearms. Imitation crab. Violence. The fear of swallowing my own tongue. Rollercoasters. Eyeballs. Bears.
Luckily, I lived a lifestyle that could protect me from most of those things. My friends and family learned not to sneak up on me or force me onto Splash Mountain. I generally avoided contact sports. I didn’t play in mud, I didn’t get hurt, get into fights, go camping, or eat grocery-store California rolls. And that’s without mentioning that my mom is a self-professed ex-hippie who would never keep a gun in or anywhere around the house, and who has probably had enough acid trips to know that if you feel like you’re swallowing your tongue, you’re most likely not.
As far as violence goes…there was just never any need. I am the child of hippies and academics. We prefer Scrabble and a good Broadway musical over gun shows and bar fights. We mind our manners. We avoid danger. We go to college, where we briefly consider joining PETA, but decide against it. And when we’re grown enough, we let handsome Goldbergs and Rosensteins bagel and lox their way into our hearts, and we live happily ever after.
So that’s what I did. Until I met Jonathan.
The first thing I learned about Jonathan was that he was in the army. The second was that he was the kind of guy who wore cowboy boots to the bar and thought I was ridiculous for wearing leopard-print ballet flats which are a staple of every woman’s wardrobe. I’d only had one drink, so it was difficult for me to decide which was more unappealing—that he was almost certainly a brainwashed caveman with too much testosterone and a machine gun, or that he probably knew more about cows than he did about literature. (Jonathan has made it clear to me several times that the correct term for a group of cows is “cattle” and not “cows,” which I honestly think proves my point.) Despite having lived in rural Maryland for more than 10 years, I’d never met either a soldier or a cowboy, and I assumed the two could only coexist on Halloween for a schizophrenic.
This was not the man I was destined to marry.
Except he totally was.