“Are you Mrs. Bull?”
I often help David. Since he always writes in English - essays, letters and so on - someone needs to help him translate into Japanese, and in recent years it is I who has done this for him. I also do other miscellaneous jobs when they aren’t sent to his regular part-time worker, such as mounting the prints on backboards, etc. It is so much fun to do that kind of manual job sitting side by side with him. Another important job I help him with is the annual exhibition, where I usually sit at the reception desk of the gallery and handle inquiries from the visitors. But it is there that I occasionally face a question that I can’t easily answer ... “Are you Mrs. Bull?”
How should I reply? Even though we always seem to be together, we are actually not married. We live separately, each in our own home, are quite independent from each other, and have completely separate finances. At the first few exhibitions I helped with, my reply to such questions was a mumbled ”Well ... ...”, then after a while I started saying “Something like that ...”, but sometimes when I couldn’t be bothered trying to explain, I just replied “Yes.” But these are kind of evasive answers, aren’t they? So recently, I have decided to just tell the truth, and now reply “No.” Once though, the questioner then stared at me suspiciously, her eyes clearly showing that she thought I was lying! My own eyes instantly flashed a “None of your business!” answer!
But what _is_ the appropriate word to describe our relationship? Each of us once had family around us. When we met, Dave was already divorced for some reason and I was a widow. Even during the time that we were getting closer, we each put priority on our own responsibilities as a parent. As more years went by, Dave’s daughters moved to Canada and my daughters reached an age where they are mostly independent from their mother.
We usually get along quite well, not only working together but also relaxing together: going on trips and picnics, going to the movies, out for dinner and so on. When I need assistance with something, David comes over to my house and helps with heavy garden work or similar things. If David is invited for an event or a formal dinner, then I go with him as his partner with no hesitation.
Reading this, some of you might be puzzled and ask “Then why don’t you get married?” Honestly speaking, there was a time when we thought about this, but when we gave it deeper consideration, and asked ourselves if such a move would lead our relationship in a positive direction, the answer was not so clear.
We are very different - of course from different cultural backgrounds - and often find that we have opposite views on things. Over and above this, our living styles are very different. When we list up such differences one by one, we can’t find a clear reason to start living together. Here I would like to insist that if we wanted to raise a family together the story would be very different. In that case, we would face life as a married couple with resolution, negotiating through the differences. I personally think that this is the basic reason for a couple to be married. If you expect to have a family, then you must live together, as being a parent is such an important task! But we both graduated from that stage of life some time ago, and are now ready to appreciate a more mature phase of life.
So we find no reason to put ourselves in a situation that restricts our liberty, and forces us each to cope with the (expected) conflicts that would inevitably arise. I guess David thinks the same way; it must be a precious situation for him to be able to devote himself to his printmaking work as much as he wants without being bothered by any interference.
So that’s where we are, continuing to steer our two boats towards the future. While we continue to mutually support each other, our boats may float a bit apart from time to time, but for the most part we sail along side by side. I hope that we will be able to maintain this relationship as long as we live.
“Are you Mrs. Bull?” “No, I am his partner.” Is this understandable?