I had to research the following lines from Shall We Dance because they've haunted me since we watched the movie last week. I didn't remember them verbatim, but the gist of them keeps playing in my head over and over again. I don't know that I necessarily agree with the answer Susan Sarandon's character gives to the detective (she hires to spy on her husband) but it sounds so damned profound and she delivered the lines so beautifully and convincingly it seemed that in part they had to be true. And, would it be so bad if they were true? If this is why we marry? For less than love and passion?
Susan Sarandon: "All these promises that we make and then we break , why is it, do you think, that people get married?"
Susan Sarandon: "No"
Susan Sarandon: "Because we need a witness to our lives. There's a billion people on the planet. I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you're promising to care about everything- the good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things.... All of it. All the time. Everyday. You're saying, 'Your life will not go unnoticed, because I will notice it. Your life will not go unwitnessed, because I will be your witness.'"
Sometimes I feel that that's my role - to be Dee's witness, especially now that her parents are gone and her brother, whom she loves dearly, is so far away. If I am, I cherish that role. I love watching her live her life whether she's rolling around on the floor with the dog, shopping for groceries, watching TV, or making love with me or one of the guys she really cares about. She has such a joie de vivre which stands in stark contrast to the sixteen "lost" years of our marriage during which she was depressed and lived in a world which in retrospect she often describes as one where she felt herself to be an observer of life rather than a participant. Sometimes the simplest of things, like watching her eat ice cream, can fill my heart with such intense feelings of love for her that I think my heart's going to burst right out of my chest. I love being her husband - her witness.
I met Dee when she was 19 and I, 24. Four months later I asked her to marry me. Four months after that we were married, at the end of her sophomore year of college. My parents begged me to wait. My sister begged me to wait. My long time friends begged me to wait. I refused. I laugh when we see movies in which one or the other party to a marriage is riddled with last minute doubts and worries about whether or not he's doing the right thing. The recent "runaway bride" story in the headlines just made me laugh at the pathetic circus that came about from that woman's uncertainty regarding her imminent wedding. I never felt an inkling of hesitation, not once during the four months between the announcement of our engagement and our wedding day. In my heart I just knew without the slightest of doubts that Dee and I were soul mates and that I'd never find another heart that could so complement mine like an adjacent piece of a cosmic jigsaw puzzle.
We both feel as if somehow, somewhere, in previous lives we did this before - maybe many times - met, courted, fell in love, and married. We are soul mates. We've promised each other that in future lives we will look and search until we find each other to do this all over again - to be witnesses to each other's lives - but with passion - with much passion - with more love than a single heart can contain which is why we need both of them together - to hold it all.
If I love her so much, how can I bear to watch her give herself to another man so completely when she takes to a bed with a lover? To be perfectly honest, I don't really know. I admit that it seems contradictory, but I know that it isn't - that somehow it's precisely my love for her which allows and welcomes her to share her overabundance of goodness and caring and affection with others in the most intimate way that two persons can share their beings together. When Dee's clothes are off and she's in a man's arms, it's not just sex; it would contradict her very nature for it to be just that. Even if she doesn't know her lover all that well, there's an emotional element in what she shares of herself with him. What I witness when I watch her make love with another man is the ultimate manifestation of her beauty and her loving nature. It's as if I can see her heart - not the physical organ which pumps her blood, but the very embodiment of everything about her which is kind, and gentle, and sweet, and loving. In its presence I am awed and humbled; I feel that I am on holy ground and privileged to witness a moment which is profoundly sacrosanct. I am her witness! And I love being it.