An article appeared in my inbox yesterday asking what I had in common with the macaroni penguin, sandhill crane, gray wolf, barn owl, shingleback skink, bald eagle, gibbon and black vulture. I like to think I share a certainly badassery with the gray wolf, bald eagle and black vulture although I fear the creature with whom I share the most traits would be the gibbon—a “lesser” ape with a big personality. But that isn’t what the authors were driving at. It turns out all the creatures on the list are monogamous, and they mate for life. Happy Valentine’s Day the email cajoled as though I should be thrilled to be lumped in with a skink.
Without doing a ton of research on the cohabitating customs of faithful varmints, I suspect there are biological reasons that drive them to select a partner and then stick to her or him like glue until the end, which according to Animal Planet, is often bitter. Jeez Louise, you sit down with your five cups of Skinny Pop, intending to watch a lovely nature show with soothing ocean sound effects only to be assaulted by footage of a ravenous sea lion culling a shrieking flightless bird from its posse, ultimately making a meal of someone’s penguin husband (or wife—it’s hard to tell).
Divorce penguin-style is brutal although being party to two human-style “conscious uncouplings” I will say there were times I wouldn’t have minded being a Mrs. Penguin whilst a peckish sea lion were nosing about the old man.
When my mom passed away in 2016, my folks were just a few months shy of their 60th wedding anniversary. I often asked my mom how she knew pops was “the one,” and the answer was always unsatisfactory to my romantic notions about such things. “He was a nice guy from a nice family and we got along.” What now? No fireworks, volcanos of lust, poetry even? The way both my parents described mate selection could as easily been the same formula for purchasing a car, which explains my childhood ride—a dependable if unsexy Rambler.
While my mom advocated for good guys and sensible transportation, I gravitated to the fast and undependable in both. Every so often I’d miscalculate a man’s character, meaning I figured I had found someone without any only to learn I had accidentally stumbled upon someone with scruples, morals, ethics and a job, and I would find myself out on the town with a nice guy—exactly once.
But bad boys…ah. We don’t need to itemize the various criteria that comprise the classic rogue for each of us has our own reasons for pairing up with guys in rock bands and the federal witness protection program. My friends told me I had a bad “picker.” Pshaw. I knew exactly what I was doing.
People cite growing apart, changing needs and falling out of love as the reasons for splitting up. Didn’t my parents grow, change, throw china at each other’s heads from time to time? Oh, all right, so they didn’t chuck Fiestaware at one another, but between the ages of 13 and 16 I drove them to the brink by employing a divide and conquer strategy worthy of Julius Caesar as he defeated the Gauls. Yet they remained a team—unwavering. Powerful. How?
I think luck has a lot to do with it. There’s a certain amount of luck—kismet maybe—that brings people together, but after that you’ve got to bring in the heavy artillery; the big guns. You have to be lucky enough to realize you’ve got a good thing, and lucky enough not to fuck it up.
Sure, sure, sure, it all involves hard work, respect, love and patience, but without the component of luck—that mystical little song that breathes softly into your soul “be kind, be sweet, be loving,” you may as well be a dead penguin.
Happy Valentine’s Day! Wishing you love. And luck.