Wednesday, September 20, 2006

When A Man Loves A Woman

And Moves For Her)
by Matt McAllister

My wife Stacey and I had been married for exactly two months when she got an offer that would change our lives.

At the time, we were like any newlyweds, trying to settle into our new lives together as husband and wife. We’d dated for over five years before tying the knot, and for the first few weeks in the wake of our wedding we were asked by practically everyone we knew if it felt any different to be married. We quickly grew accustomed to answering that, no, not much had changed between us.

Before long, however, we were admitting at least to each other that perhaps marriage did make us feel slightly different about things. It was like we were being pulled by something larger than either of us, as if we’d been entered into some sort of competition to which someone had neglected to tell us the rules. Still, we were proud to be married to each other and excited to wake up with one another for the rest of our lives. Anything else was peripheral.

When the offer was presented, the first real challenge in our lives together as husband and wife came with it.

They’d called her at work to explain the position and say that they wanted to fly her down to L.A. to discuss the possibilities. When Stacey came home that night and told me about it, my initial reaction was less than supportive. “I am NOT moving to Los Angeles,” I told her, although as far as stances go mine sounded a bit halfhearted, even to me.

The truth was, as much as we loved the Bay Area, we’d never intended to stay there for as long as we had. A year turned into four, and although we’d been in our current, tiny apartment in Sausalito for only ten months, already it was beginning to feel restrictive and tiresome. In fact we’d been talking about moving anyway; it’s just that at that point we were only considering a move back into the City or up a little farther north to Mill Valley.

She came back from L.A. feeling and looking inspired. They wanted to make her a vice president, and the job was doing something she’d always wanted to do. “It just sucks that it’s in La La Land,” she said.

“That really does suck,” I agreed stupidly.

Now, it did eventually dawn on my thick brain that what I should’ve said—like anyone who’d ever read a single Dear Abby column knows—was that if she really wanted to take the job, then the city it was in shouldn’t make that big of a difference. When at last I realized this, I said something to that effect.

“But you’re still in school,” she said. To be exact, I was nine credits short of receiving my M.A. at San Francisco State.

“I could always transfer,” I countered.

“What about your business?” she asked, referring to my modest roster of clients for whom I offer marketing and writing services.

“I can pretty much work from anywhere. And there are plenty of Internet companies down there,” I said.

And so the seed had been planted. For the next week or two we argued the pros and cons of staying and going, weighing each point with care and precision and trying to assign values for each of our reasons. We flip-flopped back and forth, thinking on numerous occasions that at last we’d made a decision, only to change our minds again an hour or a day later. What compounded the dilemma further was the fact that Stacey’s old employer was making a comeback offer in an attempt to keep her.

Throughout all of it we argued a little, drank lots of wine, reminded each other that it was a win-win scenario for Stacey’s career, and like any newlyweds had tons of really great sex.

We told some of our friends and family that we were considering moving to L.A., and were greeted with reactions that ranged from supportive to derisive and everything in between. My parents and in-laws of course were proud of Stacey come what may and proud of me for being so supportive of my new bride as to move to L.A. for what was ostensibly her benefit. Most of my close friends, on the other hand, (especially those in San Fran, where there is a general snobbery towards Los Angeles) all thought I was crazy. Some swore up and down that I’d hate it there. Even the ones who understood my reasons—or at least that I must have reasons, of some sort—all seemed to look at me as if I'd just lost a little bit of my manhood.

“You're letting your wife's career dictate your life!” they said, if not with their mouths then at least with their eyes.

They may have had a point there, but I tried to look at it more like I was enabling my wife to dictate her own career without my meddling. And wasn’t that admirable?

Finally, a decision was made, and this time the resolution that came with it seemed to stick. I think that after a point all the reasons we had for staying in San Francisco seemed less and less important. It wasn’t like we had a house that we’d have to put on the market or any kids to pull out of a school system. (I felt fairly certain that our dog would adjust to a new dog park without much trouble.) Of course, some of our closest friends were up in Northern California, but we looked forward to getting reacquainted with some old friends in Southern California, and we could always make new ones.

But what I think ultimately proved to be the deciding factor for us was simple. For Stacey, she always would’ve wondered “what if?” had she not taken the job in L.A. In my case, it wasn’t so much that I worried she might someday ask herself what would’ve happened if she had taken that job; I simply couldn’t live knowing that her question might be, “What if Matt hadn’t made me stay in San Francisco?”

Once I thought about it that way, there was nothing else to consider.

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