Everyone needs a role in life. Mine is to cancel my husband's vote. Over the years I've concluded that people get married for the most absurd reasons: love, social compatibility, things Dr. Phil details clinically and Paris Hilton displays graphically. Oddly enough, what couples seem to overlook in the height of passion is political affiliation. What's up with that?
I admit that my husband possesses wonderful qualities. It's just that none of them include his ability to choose a candidate. He keeps voting Republican.
Actually, my husband and I aren't hard-liners. Occasionally we've deviated from our affiliation. I remember one time when I voted for a Republican. I knew I was making the right decision because my husband was voting for the Democrat. Still, it wasn't easy.
When I got into the booth, my fingers automatically started zipping down the Democratic line. It took the entire strength of my left hand to force my right hand to push down that one lever in the Republican column. When I staggered out, three poll watchers helped me over to the free lemonade, where my equally shaken husband was being revived.
One year we agreed not to vote at all, since we cancel each other out anyway. You can imagine how irate I was on Election Day when I found my husband sneaking out of the booth next to mine. I mean, can you trust nobody?
But we are adults. We should be able to discuss these issues rationally without accusations. Therefore, I've learned not to condemn my husband for being unsympathetic to the human condition (clearly he was born with a tragic character flaw). He, on the other hand, tries to abstain from accusing me of being to the left of Ted Kennedy because I don't support choice in the public school system.
Still, we haven't given up hope of changing each other's viewpoint. We've promised to always keep an open mind. I immediately discard the William Safire columns my husband tapes to the inside of my medicine cabinet. He takes the Richard Cohen op-ed pieces I staple to his pocket and deposits them in his office shredder.
Every year at election time, no matter if the battle is between would-be presidents or D.C. snow removal commissioner (a fantasy job), we would have a small civil war in this house. Although our cats remained apolitical and our wheaten terrier put his paws over his ears, we did have our kids to work on. Most nights we served hamburger and politics for dinner as we vied for their endorsements.
Me: It's up to you, of course, but there are Third World nations we haven't even thought about, where children are starving to death.
Him: I don't want to pressure you, but at the rate the Democrats raise taxes, you'll probably have to work your way through junior high school.
Me: It would make sense if more of our tax money were spent on curing heart disease instead of allowing another corporate subsidy.
Usually we followed our half-eaten meals with four portions of antacid. That's okay, because during election time it's healthy to air our differences. It even helped my husband to lose weight. When I cemented those Clinton-Gore stickers to the fridge, he lost seven pounds. Take note, South Beach Diet fans.
Most important, we agreed that it was good for our kids to start thinking about these issues in their formative years.
That was until the mock registration at their school. They had to declare their party affiliation. I don't think I've ever seen my husband so distraught. I can't say I blamed him. Our children, our own flesh and blood, had decided to register as independents. We couldn't understand it. Where had we gone wrong?
But the years progressed, our son and daughter matured and so did we.
Me: We have to set up more federally funded programs for the poor.
Him: Any more federal government in our life and Washington will tell us what color sheets to put on our bed.
Me: Why not? Republicans are already telling a woman what she can and can't do with her body!
A woman's right to choose. This was the deal clincher for my daughter. No one legislates her body. She was mine. A registered Democrat. Not that I had any doubts. She's brilliant. She's only a little shaky at tax time. But I keep telling that her taxes are the good news: The more you're taxed, the more you've earned.
My son is less convinced about the wisdom of that reasoning. He's big on loopholes.
Recently, our son moved to Chicago and had to register to vote. He told us he was finally going to declare a party.
I'm fairly sure my husband lobbied him. How low.
As for me, I simply suggested he remember all the sage advice I had imparted to him over the years. And also that I had come to every one of his football games and was the tooth fairy.
He called to tell us his decision. My son, the child I carried for nine excruciating months, is officially a registered Republican. I can barely believe it. We are still a split two-party family.
The beat goes on.
Trish Vradenburg is a playwright and TV writer who lives in Washington. Her e-mail address is email@example.com.