Saturday, March 17, 2007
Why I married a communist
Some 3 or 4 hours into our first date, my husband-to-be raised his mug of hot chocolate and looked me in the eye. "Actually, I'm a communist".
Later we'd laugh to remember the steps towards this declaration. Early in the evening he discussed why he didn't vote (it was November 2004), then mentioned his leftist activism, then socialism, then Marxism, and then finally that word that would "elicit large skin conductance responses" on my laboratory equipment.
As it did on my own nervous system.
The evening had been going well. I'd dragged him to a book reading at the First Parish Church in Cambridge where we listened to Steve Pinker and other authors discuss a new collection of science writing. To prolong the evening and to finally have a chance to talk, we walked a block to Tealux in Harvard Square.
He was an English literature professor. He explained that narrative was the route to understanding -- stories were the way to grasp any system's internal logic. I approved, recalling autism researcher Simon Baron Cohen's distinction between empathizing and systematizing. Intellectual conversation. I was stimulated. Later he told me he was scared shitless.
But why did the "C" word provoke in me that happy combination of relief and excitement?
If he was really a Communist -- really a believer in something that this country we live in vilified for decades -- then, in his mind, all my attributes which had been threatening to other blind dates -- feminist, skeptic, career woman, leftist, atheist, rule-breaker, nonconformist -- would have to be okay.
And they were.