November 30, 2020: “Married Love” by Tessa Hadley

Here’s another Monday, Story366!

I never spoke about the silent concession by the current president that went down last week. I got embroiled in all kinds of holiday and holiday-related distractions. But for the first time in nearly a hundred years, there was no gracious speech, no greeting of the masses, and no real cooperation in terms of the transition efforts. He’s pardoned a turkey, taken credit for a record DOW day, and his wife has revealed what some designers did with the White House Christmas decorations. Otherwise, he’s been silent. Could we ask for a better Christmas present?

Only, the Tweets continue, the petty lawsuits continue, and his supporters continue to claim the election was fraudulent. We’ve heard all kinds of grandstanding and press-podium nonsense, but so far, nothing in terms of evidence. Forced recounts have only led to a wider margin of victory for President-Elect Biden. Oops.

I’m not sure why I’m reporting old news at this point, but as I’ve mentioned before, if this blog serves as my personal diary as a side effect to all the stories and books, then I want to note important historical events. I’m not sure if I’ll ever forget this four years, let alone this two months of limbo between hell and heaven. Maybe my boys will read these one day. Maybe someone else. But it’s just sad that the guy has to be such a bad sport, right? The outgoing president won’t have too many opportunities to save face, but this could have been a way for him to earn some self-respect, for him to overcome his narcissism. Nope. Instead, we’ll see what happens on January 20. I can barely wait.

For today’s post, I’m sneaking in another Two-Timer, Welsch author Tessa Hadley. I’d ordered today’s book for last week’s Two-Timer’s feature week, but didn’t get it in the mail until today. No reason not to cover it, anyway, so today I read from Married Love and Other Stories, out from Harper Perennial in 2012. I first covered Hadley in July of 2016 when I read from her other collection, Sunstroke, which is likely the last time I’d read any of her work. Let’s discuss this other book.

The title story, “Married Love,” focuses on Lottie, one of four adultish kids in a rather traditional family. Lottie is 19 and announces over dinner one day that she’s getting married. The real trick here is that almost nobody in her family—her parents nor her older siblings—believe her. They assume it’s a joke, as Lottie is a small, mousey woman who’s never even had a boyfriend. Lottie spends the first few pages of the story convincing her family that Edgar, her fiancé, is real. Only her younger brother, Noah, believes in her, the family member with whom she’s always been closest.

When everyone finally agrees to Lottie’s claims, they are stunned to find out that Edgar is one of her music professors at university, not to mention forty-five years her senior. They disapprove of the union, basically conversing amongst themselves how Lottie will not be marrying this perverted geezer. Lottie is insistent, however, and goes on with her plans. Her mother, Hattie, refuses to acknowledge the whole shebang and does not attend the service.

The story moves quickly from there, covering not only Lottie’s life with Edgar, but includes tidbits on the rest of the family as well. Before long, the honeymoon is indeed over and Lottie gives birth to three girls in three years, girls who steal her youth. Lottie gives up on her music, threatening to throw away her violin. On the whole, she adjusts, but doesn’t seem overly happy.

Part of this has to do with Edgar, who doesn’t spend a lot of time at home, let alone contributing around their meager apartment. Edgar actually spends a lot of time at his former house, with his ex-wife and grown son, as he has an office, it’s quiet, and he’s still paying the mortgage. Noah asks Lottie if she’s okay with that, and she says she is, but really, who could be?

Yet, Lottie never wavers in her dedication to Edgar, or that decision that changed her life. Married love seems to be a special love indeed, and I’m glad I got to meet Lottie, this hero who does what she wants, has no regrets, and doesn’t care if you judge her.

“Friendly Fire” is an introspective story about Shelley, a middle-aged woman who helps her friend, Pam, with her cleaning business. At the outset of this tale, we find Shelley waiting in the cold dark for Pam to pick her up so they can clean an entire warehouse over the course of the day. Shelley heads off to work by herself, charged with the various bathrooms and toilets, and as she scrubs, she thinks about her life, what’s led her to this point. She also considers her husband, daughter, and son, all of whom have various dramas going on in their lives; at the forefront of her mind is her son, Anthony, who is stationed in Afghanistan, keeping one of Shelley’s eyes on her phone, every call bringing a feeling of dread that something has happened to her boy.

Alec in “Journey Home” is studying art history in Venice, but is worried about his kid sister, Em, who is back on the island, not returning his calls. The two were raised by their grandparents, who have since died, leaving Alec as Em’s guardian. Em is a little bit of a wild child, so when Alec’s flight home is canceled and he’s stuck in a hotel for an extra couple of nights, he starts to panic. Eventually, Alec finds his way home, hoping to find that everything’s okay, that his selfish trip to Italy for his studies has not led to his younger sister’s doom.

Tessa Hadley writes solid stories that focus on their characters’ relationships with their families, those unchosen relationships that guide and fuel and frustrate us. Married Love is another winner from Hadley, a writer who’s had an impressive career, and because of Story366, I’ve come to know and admire.