Imaginary Elephants

We had an argument over imaginary elephants last night.

I’m not even kidding. It didn’t escalate into a fight or anything, but that is partially because Gil stopped to point out THE LEVEL OF CRAZY at which I was operating, and how I needed to blog about it as an example of the way a woman’s mind can work that men will never understand.

So here we are. Come on a little journey with me, won’t you?

It all started out innocently enough. We were talking about our upcoming trip to Europe this winter. I am counting down – it will be my first time visiting Europe, and we’ll be spending Christmas in Paris, which has been a dream of mine since I took French in high school. I failed at actually learning French, but discovered brie and red wine and I was sold. One of the other stops we will be making on our trip is Venice. Gil’s been to Italy once with his family, but it will be a trip of firsts for me. We were talking about the things we are most excited about, and I brought up the gondolas in Venice.

Now, you have to understand, I am WAY more of a tourist than he is. I want to do the things I’ve read about, and get pictures of it to remember the experience and remind myself when I’m old and senile what a fun life I’ve actually led. He has an aversion to big crowds and most things considered mainstream and popular. He could spend all day just wandering around the side streets and never take a single picture and be as happy as a clam.

So when I naively asked if he had ridden the gondolas when he was there, I really should have known the answer. “Oh, hell no! It looked fucking horrible. It was snowing and people were bundled up and miserable and it cost hundreds of dollars and you’re floating along what is basically sewage. I can’t understand why anyone would subject themselves to that.”

Oh. Tell me how you really feel.

“I don’t care. I want to ride in a gondola. If it’s dumping down snow then MAYBE we can skip it,” I responded. This was not up for debate. He realized he was going to lose the battle and conceded, but only after I agreed that it did sound kind of expensive and I would have to pony up for this one.

I told him he was being a stick in the mud, and that these things can actually be really fun, SO GET EXCITED. In hindsight, I’m not sure you can really command someone to get excited about something they’re being dragged into, but we don’t need to dwell on that part.

For some reason, I wasn’t done though.

“Seriously babe, we are going to travel so much and there are so many amazing things we’ll experience. But we have to do some of the tourist things too. I mean, when we go to Thailand, you’ll ride an elephant with me, won’t you?”

Young couple tourists to ride on an elephant in Pinnewala, Sri Lanka.

OK, pause. We do not have a trip to Thailand planned. We have talked about it in the abstract, and I know that it’s somewhere we both would really like to go, but a total of zero plans have been made.

For some reason, I just decided that this imaginary trip and this imaginary elephant were the perfect example of the types of things I want us to do together in our travels. This is where things started to go downhill a bit.

Unsurprisingly, he declared that this was yet one more experience he has zero desire to fulfill. “Hey, just because I don’t want to ride an elephant doesn’t mean you can’t,” he informed me. “If you trust it won’t have a heart attack and accidentally roll over and crush you, go ahead. I’ll be on the ground and I’ll be happy to take pictures.”

Spoilsport. Stick in the mud. Parade rainer-oner. Party pooper. These were all the things that were running through my head as he was talking, in the voice of 5-year-old Courtney. And I may have communicated some of these feelings, in the voice of 30-year-old Courtney. And while it had started out as lighthearted ribbing, somewhere along the way I started to actually get a little upset. I’m not proud of it. But it happened.

Let me illustrate an example of how the train of thought can derail and explode so quickly:

He won’t ride an elephant with me in Thailand. ⇒ He doesn’t enjoy the same types of things I do. ⇒ We are going to fight about the things we want to do on our vacations. ⇒ Shit, we are planning to travel a lot together and we’re never going to be able to agree on things to do. Ever. ⇒ Ohmygod, are we not as compatible as I thought we were?? ⇒ I don’t even know this person!!!  We are doomed. 

And here is how it would have gone the other way around:

She won’t ride an elephant with me in Thailand. ⇒ OK, whatever. I wonder what we have in the fridge. I’m kinda hungry.

I exaggerate. Well, a little. Kind of. Luckily for me, Gil is highly trained in detecting crazy, and as soon as I got suspiciously silent (long enough for some of the above crazy train to get rolling) he jumped in. “I want to point out this moment in time babe. Right now. As you are about to get upset with me for not wanting to ride an elephant that DOESN’T EXIST. On a trip we HAVEN’T PLANNED. You are about to get legitimately upset with me for not wanting to ride a made-up elephant on a made-up trip. I can tell.”

And then he broke down into hysterical laughter. So did I. I started laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe. The kind of full bodied laughter where you aren’t really in control of it, and suddenly you snort without realizing it, and that just gets you going all over again.

He was 100% right. I tried to play it off, telling him I wasn’t actually upset and was just giving him a hard time. But he knew. He knew I was full of shit. I hadn’t even realized it, but I was teetering right on the precipice and about tumble down into the crazy canyon of imagined issues and manufactured arguments.

Now, I’m not saying all women operate like this. I may be my own special breed of quirky. But I don’t think there would be so many best-sellers and advice columns and radio shows on the differences between men and women if I am really alone in moments like these.

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