Bob and I were just getting out of our van at a local beach when a woman exiting the car next to us rushed up to me and said, “You two seem like you’ve been together a long time.”
She looked to be about our age. So did the man she was with. I hesitated before responding, wondering if she was about to propose a foursome.
“We have been,” I said cordially.
“I’ve got to show you this quote from Dr. Seuss,” she said.
With that, she handed me her cell phone, which had this on the screen:
We’re all a little weird and
Life’s a little weird.
And when we find someone whose
Weirdness is compatible with ours,
We join up with them and fall in
Mutual weirdness and call it Love.
She told us she and her man had been dating a short time. Each had at least one failed marriage. Incompatible weirdness, I suppose. Then I realized that for her to assume Bob and I had been together a long time, she must have found us weird. But why? We’d barely said hello.
Maybe she spotted the board. She and her beau told us later that they’d grown up locally, spending lots of time at the beach. They knew surfers.
Until I met Bob at 29, I did not. I was interviewing him for a story about sanitation conditions in a migrant camp. It had nothing to do with surfing. Still, he brought up surf trips he’d taken to El Salvador and Costa Rica. I was impressed. Button-down-shirt guy had a sense of adventure. The next time we met, he spoke fondly of the dollar-a-night cabin he shared with three friends and a couple dozen land crabs. He continued with the story about two travel mates who got food poisoning so severe they went to the hospital, then rushed out when they saw that the place was dirtier than the restaurant that made them sick. He talked of the innocent pleasure of holding out a handful of money for cashiers to pick from because he didn’t know Spanish. That’s when I started to think surfers just might be a little different.
Maybe the woman at the beach hadn’t noticed Bob’s board. It might have been the neck gaiter. For those of you who neither know Bob nor live in Alaska, a neck gaiter is a knit wool tube, a turtleneck without the rest of the sweater. They’re wonderful in polar conditions, which to Bob is below 65. Before changing into his wetsuit at the beach that day, Bob also was wearing corduroy pants over his baggies, a t-shirt, flannel shirt, two sweatshirts and a wool cap. I wore jeans and a long-sleeve shirt. It was 63 degrees.
The woman might have reached her conclusion looking inside the van at Bob’s rags. His legs are so long that even with the seat pushed all the way back, his knees hit the door and the middle console. So he puts folded rags between the offending car parts and his knobby knees. He slips another rag under his right elbow and a fourth under his left because the arm rest and console lid are too firm for his bony joints. It’s no wonder the woman at the beach assumed we were compatible.
Weird as surfers are, I learned on our first surf trip together, in Mexico, that they’re not all weird in the same way. Bob was out surfing when I struck up a conversation with an American woman taking pictures from the beach. I was impressed by the length of her lens. She offered to let me look through it but told me I’d have to move fast if her husband caught a wave. There was no telling which would be his best of the day, so he expected her to capture every one of them on film. I left feeling grateful my surfer didn’t have her surfer’s ego. I knew then that Bob’s weirdness just might be compatible with mine.
When we got married a little over a year later, Bob gave me a boogie board for my wedding gift. To some, that might seem weird. To me, it was thoughtful. He didn’t want me to feel left out on our honeymoon.
I wanted to see what Bob thought about this idea of mutual weirdness, so I showed him the Dr. Seuss quote.
First he laughed, so I asked him again what he thought.
“I never thought about it,” he said.
When I persisted, he said, “I’m not that familiar with Dr. Seuss.”
Bob’s better at surfing than expressing opinions, but I wasn’t ready to give up yet.
“Do you think I’m weird?” I asked.
“Do you think you’re weird?”
When I asked why, he said, “Everybody’s weird.”
“So that would mean I’m weird.”
“You can’t say your wife’s weird,” he said.
Sure you can, just like I can say my husband’s weird. Of course I like to think it’s mutual.