My Midlife Scavenger Hunt: Anniversary Mea Culpa
by Andrea Kayne Kaufman

ClueWhen your husband frames a younger man, shut up and be grateful. 

Our wedding anniversary is tomorrow and I have no idea what to get my husband, Jacob. It has to be something good. Something really good. Really good because he is a wonderful husband. Really good because it’s our 18th—lucky number chai. And really good because he’s been so thoughtful lately and I’ve been acting like—well, let’s just say the phrase “ungrateful brat” comes to mind.

Andrea Kayne Kaufman wrote Oxford Messed Up about OCD

I guess that’s the reason I’m interrupting the chronology of Oxford Messed Up with this blog– this anniversary mea culpa blog. Jacob’s been working so hard on the launch of Oxford Messed Up. For starters, he’s been planning a huge launch party at our house in mid-November.

My editors had given me a vintage Van Morrison poster that Jacob had framed in this beautiful artsy seventies-inspired frame, which matches our 1960s modern decor. When I came in our library and saw young Van Morrison on the wall, I was touched by the gesture but it also triggered feelings of insecurity about the launch. In addition to the framed muse, Jacob wants to fill our bookcase with volumes of Oxford Messed Up.

He was so happy showing me a draft launch party invitation, which contained the word proud at least five billion times. Proud husband. Proud author. Proud this. Proud that. Well, instead of being gracious and appreciative for my loving husband, I was exasperated. “Too many prouds,” I protested. It’s always a bad sign and I always feel guilty when his effervescent smile wanes. Where would I be without him feeling proud and being so loving?

I wouldn’t be having a launch party if it weren’t for Jacob. He’s the one organizing, spearheading and coordinating the team. More importantly, I wouldn’t be publishing the book without Jacob. Even though I quickly signed with a New York literary agent, and most of the publishers complimented the writing of the novel, so many of them passed. The publishers said that the portrayal of OCD was not quirky enough, not funny enough, and way too intense. They didn’t believe the portrayal even though prominent experts, who said it was the first accurate portrayal of OCD in fiction they had ever read, had vetted the book. And when my agent refused to explain this to the editors, Jacob the optimist was encouraged. From the beginning, he had wanted to retain creative control and ride the wave of independent publishing. “This was all meant to be,” he said. 

And even before publishing Oxford Messed Up, Jacob was the one who had encouraged me to write it. He is the one person who read every single draft and listened to the murmurs in my voice recorder. He is the one person I would awake in the middle of the night to share dreams about the story. From the very beginning, he has been the father not only to our wonderful real children, Ariel and Josh, but also to my imaginary children, Gloria and Henry.

Without Jacob, there is no way we as a family could have successfully fought OCD. And because of Jacob, Gloria is so much more than her OCD. Gloria and Henry both are so much more than their sicknesses. They are two graduate students coming from messed up families who believe that their lives were irrevocably messed up until they met each other.  

Similarly, Jacob and I came from two messed up families and believed our lives were irrevocably messed up. At least I did. We met 20 years ago at University of Pennsylvania Law School. While most of our classmates were talking about grades and clerkships and law firms, we were talking about painting and poetry. Van Morrison’s Moondance and Louis Kahn’s Between Silence and Light.

The first night I stayed over at Jacob’s apartment, he had a painting by his bed that he said was in progress. With its symmetrical green and blue lines, it reminded me of prison bars. I asked him if it reflected his life experience, he said, “Yes, but it’s not a prison. It’s a window.”

I’ve been enthralled by my fatalistic optimist ever since. I am proud to be married to someone who turns prisons into windows. The least I can do is let him be proud of me. When your husband frames your musical muse on the occasion of your 18th wedding anniversary and book launch, the best thing to do is shut up and be grateful.

So very, very grateful.


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