Breakfast at a Paso Robles, California B and B.
A long table stretches down through a kitchen with a cathedral ceiling, six places are set, we wait for the other four guests as the hostess makes us welcome with a dark roast coffee and pleasant morning chatter.
Two young couples appear. We are seated, and then introduce our selves by telling where we live. They come from four different cities, singles on a weekend of partying in California wine country. We are the only couple with a shared address.
Do you like Paso Robles? It’s O.K.
Did you see anything in the area that we should not miss? Dunno.
“Well, we drove somewhere, saw some stuff, don’t remember, can’t say. It was nice, I guess.”
We look at each other with a slight twitch of eyebrow—we seem to be in the presence of people devoid of that special human quality called “curiosity.” Curiosity is what makes people interesting, aware, awake beyond “Duh.”
Conversation progresses slowly.
Central coast landscape? Beautiful.
French toast with Bananas Foster and Greek yogurt? Excellent.
Last night? A concert at the pub. Good but drank too much 805.
Yesterday? A wedding of friends.
And for us, a workshop on marriage at a local Mennonite church. A church? Quaint. Workshop on marriage? Uncomfortable. Marriage is what we do not talk about.
“What kind of things did you do?” the hostess asks encouragingly.
I tell of sculpting the stages of maturing relationship using four couples—the first married two years, the second, nine, the third 19, the fourth, 45.
Yes, we sculpt by arranging people like a living tableau–the first couple was placed picturesquely to model bonding in complementary adjustment to each other’s needs as couples tend to do during the first three years. No conflict, much sameness, sweet closeness. The second was placed back to back in apposition—the symmetrical competitiveness for attention and fairness that happens from year 7 to 10 or thereabouts. Conflict and struggle to work out all the differences. The third couple stands parallel, the struggle is over and they have two parallel lives—careers, roles, interests, work, and both watch out for the space between that keeps them safe and separate yet secure and together. The fourth are doing a waltz, freely close and distant, moving to the same music with freedom and fulfillment.
“Did the couples agree with this?”
Yes, and each told their own stories of going through similar stages and working out the problems to grow into the next period of life. Good stories, great dialogue. Two told of being stuck in that exact stage facing those challenges.
The assorted singles, wide-eyed, say nothing. Marriage seems a foreign land. People getting together at a church to “make good marriages better,” a language needing translation. The hostess and her husband, are curious, wanting to ask more, but we stop, wait for others to speak. Silence.
“Did you see Stephen Colbert’s new show this week?” Leann finally asks.
“Who? Oh him. No.”
“He was terrific with Joe Biden talking of grief and loss,” the hostess says.
No response from anyone else. Atmosphere of “Duh.”
Come curious personality.
“The absence of curiosity is the absence of real creativity; its presence is the most basic sign of intelligent life on earth,” our daughter who teaches in Nanjing, China said to us a few weeks ago.
We must tell her about breakfast, the great French toast and the failure of all our other toasts.