Betsy’s at work from early morning to late afternoon teaching high school art. I’m home, plugging away at my bookstuff.
She comes home, we say hi – catch up on this and that. She kisses me goodbye and goes out to the gym to work out/run errands.
An hour or two later, I go off to my Combat Hapkido class.
I get home around 8:15PM. She’s done working out, fed, and winding down, sitting in her Lazygirl in the living room, sipping a glass of Merlot, and tapping away at her laptop.
I change my clothes, mix a martini, and sling back in the Lazyboy positioned beside her. The TV is on. It’s just another presence in the room. It doesn’t matter all that much what’s on, but it kind of matters – especially on Thursdays when her “Earl” is on and my “Office”. But I think the key is that whatever’s on can’t be irritating to either one of us (not always an easy find).
I pull my laptop onto my lap.
So, there were are. Husband and wife, laptops on laps – side by side as our night winds down.
Is this a bad thing? I don’t know. We’re together – less than two feet apart. We share interesting things we come across on our computers – and beyond (you know, real life), as they come to mind. Sometimes, we’ll hold up the laptop so the other can see what we were just laughing at. Sometimes, although we’re side by side, we’ll forward it in an email – “Did you get it yet? Check again!”
Is this much different from the husbands and wives of yore who sat side by side watching the flickering flames in the fireplace, sharing stories as they came to mind? Or enjoying the shared silence? I mean, instead of staring into a fire, we’re staring at little computer monitors. Oh, and our fireplace is burning, too, but it’s propane generated. It looks kind of nice, but it’s not the same as a real fireplace.
Fast forward to the 50’s through 90’s – the pre-wifi days, when couples and families would sit and watch what the television had to offer. People seem to have the need to stare at something when they’re doing nothing. Books are good, but that’s not really a social thing. I read after she goes to bed. She reads in the summer – sometimes all day. But it does appear that we need some kind of focal point. Lately, it’s been of a digital nature.
Hey, we interact. We share. We commiserate. We opine. We laugh.
I don’t know if it’s better, the way things are now. I don’t even know if it’s all that different. One thing the digital age has brought us is a new kind of guilt; that of wasting too much time on our computers. Betsy and I have been together for about 30 years – since before most people had video tapes. I think we talk more now than then, despite all the wonderful new distractions technology offers.
Betsy and I do have a rule. When one of us speaks, the other stops what they’re typing/reading/playing to make eye contact and listen. I think that’s a good rule.
This isn’t the scenario every night, of course. We go places. We rent movies. We make stuff and do stuff, but during the workweek, there are just nights when you don’t want to do anything. There are so many ways to do nothing, and this just seems to be the way we’re doing nothing now.
I kinda like it.