‘Every relationship is bicultural’

Feb. 22, 2014 @ 12:13 PM

On a recent Valentine’s Day in Carrboro, a husband brought home to his wife a dozen roses “bundled in red crepe paper and tied up with a pink satin bow” and a small box of “ebony hearts and dense chocolate squares topped with sea salt like cut glass.”
Sounds nice, but nothing special, maybe you are thinking.
But this was a first for this long-time married couple. In the past “each year without fail” she had given him presents on this day, but he had never before reciprocated. And the presents she had given him, “cologne and shaving cream bottles,” were neatly lined up unopened under the sink. “Nearly identical shirts and sweaters” were still hanging in his closet, untouched.
So this year, knowing his disdain for the holiday rituals, she decided to give him “the one present I never had before: nothing.”
This story, shared by Sun magazine associate publisher Krista Bremer on Salon.com, seemed to be a reverse twist on O. Henry’s classic Christmas season short story, “The Gift of the Magi.” In that story, a poverty stricken husband sells his precious gold watch to buy a classy set of combs for his wife’s lovely long hair only to learn that she has sold her hair for money to buy a platinum chain for his watch.
But the marriage journey of Krista Bremer and her husband is no short story.
That saga she tells, in part, in her Salon article, explaining that she had fantasized a wedding to “a handsome, successful, broad-shouldered young husband” with her wearing “a white wedding dress.”
Instead, jogging on a Chapel Hill trail one day, she met a “grey-haired man with a thick accent whose conversation was peppered with references to Allah.”
This older man from Libya “was older and darker and poorer and more foreign than the husband I had planned to have. The husband of my dreams did not put his forehead to the ground to pray in an apartment that was pungent with strange spices, or carry on passionate Arabic phone conversations with his Libyan family that sounded like heated arguments, though he insisted they were friendly chats.”
How Bremer’s marriage to “this older man” and their two children made a family and how their differences seasoned their love will the subject of Bremer’s upcoming book, “My Accidental Jihad,” to be published by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill on April 22.
You will be hearing more about this beautifully written, provocative, and moving memoir. Don’t miss it.
Meanwhile we can, perhaps, put some of her wisdom to work in our own relationships. Bremer tells us, “Every relationship is bicultural. We enter into the foreign country of marriage lugging our particular baggage: assumptions and emotional hard-wiring, expectations and longing. If we are lucky, we eventually discover what weighs us down; we begin to discard what does not serve us so we can travel lighter. When I began to release my fantasies of what love should look like, I discovered a new buoyancy in my marriage.”

D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs Sundays (pre-empted until March 30) at noon and Thursdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV. Viewers with access to UNC-TV’s digital channel UNC-MX can preview the program on the preceding Friday at 9 p.m. See today’s Herald-Sun Book Page for details. For information or to view prior programs visit www.unctv.org/ncbookwatch.