If your primary love partner is your overall best friend and provides you many layers of support in multiple life areas, is it OK that they don’t discuss with you the nuances of a short story you emailed them over three months ago and which took you eight years to write?
“No relationship is perfect,” an opinionated person in your life says. “To live with anyone, you have to tolerate certain things. Forty years into my marriage, I’m comfortable saying love is about how much you can stomach!”
Maybe you are being too picky, too sensitive. It is totally possible to view your partner’s failure to engage with your personal creative grail as just another undesirable trait—unavoidable, as in all humans—like leaving the dishes dirty and the toilet seat up.
The voice that chides you next flies in the face of the other opinion. Maybe it’s somebody’s mother, or another matriarch. Maybe it’s just someone extra-assertive:
“If it’s really that important to you that your partner read your short story, climb into bed and read it to them! Better yet, make them read it to you! Better yet, handcuffs!”
Sure, you could do that. But is forcing an activity upon someone the same as them coming to it on their own? Is being pushy really the goal here? Does guilt-tripping someone into admiring your art render false any of their subsequent admiration? Isn’t the natural thing for your partner to want to read something you made because you made it?
When it comes to perceptions of slights and inequalities within love relationships, I have heard more than one person say: “Just flip it around. How would they feel about a hot person inviting you alone to their Italian villa, without them?” And, for this instance: “If your partner had emailed you something they’d written, how long would it linger in your inbox?”
In this case, my partner hadn’t emailed me anything. Their artistic medium was piano. Music, sweet music—immediate, soothing, instant, shareable, here. Music, inkless, is lighter than fiction. Music is air.
Music is fun. We experienced it together. I could dance to what my partner had made and feel it was somehow mine, in that comforting, affirming quality music has that can make you feel like it's yours by mere participation.
But writing is different. Writing is ink. Writing is solitary eyes on a page—a reader's voice inventing a narrator. Reading my writing could send my partner back to places in their own memory, brush them against particular aspects of their own life, and maybe even help them see certain things in new ways. It wouldn’t be the same as music, just different. Still good.
This all happened in New York, In the Spring, I moonlighted as a high school teacher in the Bronx, filling in for absent teachers. My favorite class to fill in for was Playwriting. There were never any lesson plans, so one day at the end of May, I took it upon myself to outline the plot of my novel for my students, so they would have something to pick apart and study as a group.
“No, no, no,” Calista and Alanis, best friends, said after I’d gotten to the part where a burgeoning female pianist working in administration at a renowned music school is given the “gift” of performance by a male student:
“You can’t have him giving her the gift. No, no, no, people won’t go for that. You gotta make it the other way around.”
On the train ride home, I thought about what Calista and Alanis had said. Even if it hadn’t come from my partner, it had come from someone—and not just one someone, but two. Though the source was not exactly what I had hoped for, I had still gotten feedback. My work had been respected, taken seriously, and enhanced in the way that I had hoped it would be. Who cared how or why this had happened: the point was that it had.
Besides, my partner did a bang-up job reading my cover letters.
August Evans founded the 'In Search of Duende' series on Fanzine and the 'Blackcackle' dark humor series on Entropy. Her fiction and nonfiction essays appear in Pacifica Literary Review, Fanzine, Poetry Foundation, Isthmus, BlazeVOX, Entropy, Detour Ahead, The Delmarva Review, and others. Her urban dating blog, "New York City Is My Husband" will launch on July 1.
Please find some links to my work here: