December 26, 2002 ~ The Puritan and the Sensualist
I'm not sure how to say this. I've been reading D.H. Lawrence's Sons and Lovers. I've only read a few chapters so far, but the two main characters (at the beginning of the book, anyway) have one aspect of their relationship in common with Morgan and me. Gertrude Morel and her husband Walter Morel have one main difference in personality and temper that lays the first brick in the wall between them (a wall which continues to build up--with that difference and with others--throughout the opening chapters until they are utterly alienated from one another). Lawrence explains this difference by saying that Gertrude has a "Puritan soul" and Walter has a "sensualist's soul."
After they have been married for seven months, Gertrude finds some bills in Walter's pocket. Unpaid bills. She eventually finds that he still owes many people money for their furniture, the food at the wedding, the wine, and that he doesn't even own their house as he had told her they did. Gertrude's Puritan soul is agonized by the dishonesty, dishonor, and irresponsibility of the fact that they are sitting on furniture that is not rightfully theirs, that they are living in debt. But Walter, the sensualist, likes food, likes drink, likes a nice house with nice furniture, and does not see the shame in being in debt, so long as they live well. Gertrude, though, had she her way, would be scrimping every penny, living without any of their comforts, if it meant that they could be living honestly and debt free. To her, she is living a lie, and it tears at her honor, her pride. As a result of this, husband and wife are set at odds, and they begin to tear at one another.
Now, Morgan and I do not, by any means, tear each other apart; we hardly ever even argue. But if there is one thing that we ever argue about, it is how we manage our finances. We do not, of course, turn against one another, or grow bitter as the couple in the book does, and we never, ever, keep anything from one another, but I couldn't help but understand and sympathize with Gertrude's position in the book and see some parallels.
I'm going to ask you to stretch your imagination a bit--I may not look it, from my extreme left, liberal stance and my unorthodox and heretical beliefs, but I'm a bit of a Puritan, at least in some senses of the word, especially in the sense portrayed by Gertrude in Sons and Lovers. There is nothing that irks me more than being in debt. I hate knowing that I am living off of someone else's money. It shames me. It makes me feel sick inside. I drown. I want nothing more than to work hard and pay it back. I scrimp and save and work and work and save. I am as thrifty as I can be.
If it weren't for my life with Morgan, do you know what I would be doing right now? I kid you not; I would be living in a tent in the woods. If, for some reason, that were impossible, I would find the cheapest rental room that I could. I would be showering in the dormitory where I work. I would be wearing the things that I find that other people have thrown out. (Well, okay, I do that anyway. You can find some very nice things in the garbage!) I would have a bicycle so that I can ride to a store for supplies and food, and I would fix the bike myself when it breaks. Internet connection, books, et cetera? The library.
For Morgan, though, I subdue that part of my personality. I adapt. That sort of life would kill his spirit. He is a sensualist. He likes things like a nice house, good food, and nice clothes. He adapts for me, too. He makes do with things that are not necessarily so nice as he wants. He doesn't splurge as much as he would like to. I try to splurge occasionally for him.
In our first year together, oh were we frightfully miserable sometimes. He would want to go to a movie, buy some books, or go out to eat, and I would plead the need to save, pay off debts. It made us both frustrated with one another. Slowly we learned to compromise. A movie. Okay, a matinee, or could we possibly wait until it comes out on tape? Books. Try it out at the library first? Or, if not, let's limit this trip to the bookstore to under $20? Out to eat. Okay, but only once every other week? Or how about we splurge on some special ingredients and cook something special at home?
Our debts do still pull at me. To be perfectly honest, they drive me batty. I can't stand them. If there is anything in the world that could make me wrathful and bitter, it is they. But Morgan has helped me realize that absolute, strict, unwavering thrift can be a pretty unhealthy thing. Before I met him, I never allowed myself any leeway. Oh, I was stubborn. I was utterly strict with myself. I did not allow for any treats, anything other than the absolute necessities. Utter sensuality is certainly a negative thing. But so is utter financial Puritanism.
I'm trying. I'm trying.