Top 10 Ways to be a Not-So-Normal American Couple

My partner Sara and I are beginning to lose touch—

Lose touch with what it means to be an even remotely “normal” American couple.  Some might say that’s not such a bad thing, but I promise you, we have gotten so far from the center of the bell curve, we can’t find the bell any more.  We can’t even hear it ringing in the distance.

So–in light of this loss, today, I bring you the top 10 ways you too can be the most un-American of American couples:

#10.  Station armed guards outside your house. 

This is sure to eliminate any and all illusions of privacy. 

(If you are new to the blog, my partner Sara and I live in Haiti where threats to security are common.  Click here to read a post about this.)


#9.  Argue frequently about how you will generate electricity. 

Sara and I have been known to have some of our hottest arguments around just how long we can safely run our generator, especially on days when we have no or very little electricity from the city. I don’t like to be hot.  Heat makes me irritable, bitchy, and stressed.  So during the hottest nights here in Haiti, I’ve wanted to keep the air conditioning on, or at the very least, a fan running—neither of which are possible without electricity or our generator running.

(To read an entire post dedicated to Haiti’s infrastructure issues click here.)


#8.  Do without television.  

Instead watch DVDs of “30-Something” for evening entertainment. I knew things were getting bad when over the weekend Sara and I watched back to back episodes of the show’s first season and felt like we were enjoying a special treat, hovering around Sara’s laptop like kids in front of Saturday morning cartoons.

“Oh, boy!” we exclaimed elbowing one another.  “Isn’t this great!”  We would have broken out the popcorn, if we had a microwave to pop it in.


#7.  Go to bed before dinner.

Not out of passion, but because you’ve become dreadfully boring and tire easily.


#6.  Have no hot water in your kitchen sink.

Not to mention no dish-washer.


#5. Develop an active fear of kidnapping.

On average—there’s a kidnapping a day in Port-au-Prince—usually of foreigners, often of ex-pats working for NGOs on earthquake reconstruction.  And in fact, a number of these kidnappings actually happen in Petion-ville, where we live, since most NGOs have set up their operations from this location.

Many ex-pats are kidnapped from their cars.  To alleviate that risk we drive with seatbelts on, windows up, doors locked.  It’s harder to be pulled from a vehicle that way.


#4.  Stage incidents of international canine trafficking.

I know most folks don’t traipse the planet, canine companions in tow, but Sara and I, for whatever reason, see fit to move our mutts to whichever corner of the globe is hosting the latest in earth-shaking disasters. 

For example, it was challenging to take a 40 pound, blonde terrier to Vietnam, where the meat of medium sized, light skinned canines is still considered a delicacy.  And though it ended well, concluded with Ralph arriving uneaten in Hanoi, it proved so crazy-making along the way, we “sanely” decided to bring him here to Haiti this past summer. 

However, that trip proved less eventful—except for his traveling companions on the flight from Miami to Port-au-Prince—the 10,000 chicks he still hasn’t stopped chirping about.

(For an entire post on pet-transport mishaps click here.)


#3.  Appreciate the difference between “trash” and “stash.”

Sara has “placement issues”—a problem she blames on her training as an architect and which she insists I knew about prior to our partnering and simply can not change.  Bottom line—Sara likes to arrange things: drawers, cupboards, closets, the contents of the refrigerator, mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup arranged in tidy rows—like items lined up together—like soldiers—an army of condiments ready for edible action.  If an object doesn’t fall neatly into rank, the solution for Sara is simple—throw it in the trash.

I, on the other hand, tend to collect things—and not the kinds of things most would consider collectables, but which I gather in the name of “potential art”—items I prefer to call “collagables”—buttons, beads, ribbons, rocks, shells, business cards, bottle caps, maps, matchboxes, newspaper clippings, play bills, and, among other things, sales receipts—in my mind the most under-rated and readily available of all the collagables—a free gift with each purchase, so to speak.

Sara insists my stash is trash!


#2.  Agree on only one thing. 

That there are too many white people in America. 

On one of our recent trips back to the US what stood out to both of us most, even though our home is in an ethically-mixed neighborhood, was the overwhelming huge number of Caucasian in the city where we live.  At one point Sara turned to me in the grocery store produce isle and asked:  “What do you notice about being home?”  My response was immediate, “There are so many white people in America!  I had forgotten.”  It surprised us how quickly we both had become conditioned to what seems an appropriate ethnic mix.  We had made a shift that we noticed only when coming “home.”  If this can happen for us, it can happen for others.  Come join us.  Make the switch.


#1.  Be denied the right to marry.

This one I think speaks for itself, but if not please watch this video:


Sara reminds me, that though we don’t have the right to marry in Kentucky, we at least now have an openly gay mayor in Lexington, so that’s a step in the right direction.  (To  read about Jim Gray click here.) 

However, Sara also insists that, by far, the weirdest thing about us as couple is that I asked her to brainstorm with me about “what makes us weird as a couple.”  I’m not exactly sure what’s so weird about that, but Sara says my not recognizing the strangeness of that request makes it even weirder.  I don’t know.  You be the judge.

At any rate, remember that “normal” is a difficult to define category.  I appreciate that.  But if you recall the 1960s television sitcom, “The Odd Couple,” you’ll see that I’m not talking so much about individual issues that separate us from the crowd.  I’m looking at the entire constellation of individual quirks that combine to make a couple what most others would consider strange.  I’m looking at the “Odd Couple” factor, if you will.

Felix Unger and Oscar Madison epitomized for a generation of Americans just what it meant to be uniquely coupled in the 1960s.

But If Felix and Oscar were the not-so-average pair of heterosexual bachelors in the 60s, I would argue that Sara and I are the same for this decade’s no-where-near-single lesbian couple—a uniqueness not related in the least to the reality of sexual preference.

In fact, Sara and I give whole new meaning to the notion of “odd couple”—sexual orientation not withstanding.

We may be weird–

But we do want to wed!

What sets you and your partner apart from the crowd?  What makes a couple “weird” in the country  you call home?  Do gay and lesbian couple have the right to wed where you live?

32 thoughts on “Top 10 Ways to be a Not-So-Normal American Couple

  1. I see nothing weird at all about #3: my purse is a home for wayward receipts, my Gmail inbox is a hot mess, and I am queen of the free gift with purchase.

    Drew’s emails are archived by date and topic, his file cabinet is more than just a handy side table, and I’m fairly certain tee shirts are sorted by color 😉


  2. Kathy–
    Here…well, we’re still fairly “white-bread”–although the population of Samoan Americans and African Americans and Asian Americans grows. We are a magnet state for illegal immigrants because of the ease of access to programs…and, no, in Washington state, gay couples are not allowed to marry–here we have “domestic partnerships”…
    as to what sets my husband and I apart from the rest…well, I will have to ponder that…
    fun post, and blessings


    • But the domestic partner law is a plus! I have some friends who recently moved to Seattle because of it. They married in Canada.

      Also, didn’t know your state had benefits that attracted illegal immigrants.

      Thanks again for you comment yesterday–it meant so much to me, Jane!


  3. I love your list, although I’m very sorry about #1. I’m embarrassed that American culture even makes this an issue. It’s ridiculous that anyone should be denied such a basic right.


  4. Thirty-Something… I had forgotten about that show. LOVED it. Thanks for the reminder.

    We have some strangeness too. For one thing, it’s not uncommon for us to go days without seeing each other. (He works rotating shifts.) I actually enjoy having the bed all to myself when he’s on nights.

    I really don’t get why gay marriage is such an issue. When it all boils down to it, we are all just people… not male or female, white or black … just people. Why is anyone fighting against people wanting to love each other and take care of one another? There are real battles to fight out there.


  5. Wow, the words are coming fast and furious. You are denied your rights by your birth country, and you are living in another country that, by virture of poverty and upheaval, restricts your rights even further. Hell, traditional married couples in safe, secure, 500 channel TV and Target-infested worlds have a tough enough time. I don’t think you are weird at all. You are simply living in very weird circumstances.


  6. Hilarious! And sad. All that said, although this isn’t helpful curently, my children don’t baulk at same sex couples, don’t understand why benefits of marriage aren’t extended to all, and frankly don’t see what all the fuss is about. Good sign for the future…..


  7. Same-sex marriages have been legal in South Africa since 30 November 2006. According to Wikipedia: “South Africa became the fifth country, the first in Africa, the second outside Europe, and the first republic to legalize same-sex marriage.”

    Another reason it’s good to be South African! 🙂


    • Sara and I have talked for a while about getting married in Cape Town. I have never been to South Africa, but Cape Town is one of Sara’s favorite places. In fact, before we were heading to Haiti, we were headed after Vietnam to Pretoria, which is still likely where we will go after Haiti. Sara’s NGO’s area office for Africa and the Middle East is in Pretoria.


  8. Ohio is as backward as they come, and same-sex marriage has been banned. There are times when I wish I could leave this state (the current theme in the state house is to ban abortion, make collective bargaining illegal, and do whatever the Republicans can possibly do to make life harder for women, children, and the poor in general). (I will step down from my rant box now.)

    Although I cultivate my own freakishness, I suspect my husband and I are probably pretty normal as far as couplehood goes. Boringly so, at times, but I’m not complaining. I’m getting too old to live with the drama llama. The only thing that might make us different from other couples we know is that we’re always off having adventures and trying new things. I am sure there are other couples who do the same. We just don’t know them. Yet.

    I really enjoyed the humor in this post. I don’t like the heat either, and would find it difficult to be funny if I had to live with it on a daily basis without air conditioning.


    • So glad you enjoyed this post, Robin. Kentucky is just as backward as Ohio, I’m afraid. And about the heat–the worst psrt about the heat here is when we haven’t even been able to use a fan. Though, yesterday we invested in a rechargable fan–which will be amazing, I’m sure.


  9. I’m proud to live in a country like Canada where same-sex couples can legally be married (though our current PM is not thrilled to have inherited the top office after the permissive same-sex laws came into effect– jerk). I have never (ever!) understood the big deal with same-sex partnerships. People are people, and love is love!

    I think one of the things that sets Marty and I apart as a couple is that (for better or worse) we are the only two adults I know who don’t use any recreational drugs. It’s not some moral high ground issue, either– we just don’t use or take any.


    • Actually, we don’t use recreational drugs either, so now you sort of know someone. Weird thing is that we don’t drink much either. I hardly do at all. Sara some.

      It does have to feel good to live in a country that grants this right to their gay and lesbian citizens. We actually have some friends who went to Canada to marry.


  10. Hi Kathy:

    I loved “Thirtysomething”!

    Sorry about #1…gay marriage has been legal in Canada for several years…

    I can’t think of much that makes Jim and I weird as a couple…we each have our own little idiosyncracies, but somehow, it works…



  11. You two sound like an awesome couple! And weird is good! Have you not heard? “Normal” is just so boring! I believe you two should have the right to wed just as much as the rest of us. Good luck to you both! I hope we quit dragging our feet and give equal rights to EVERYONE in our lifetime! Have a great day ladies! (Thirtysomething? Gah! At least watch some Northern Exposure or something…ha ha)


    • Ah, but I loved Northern Exposure too! We just don’t have it on DVD, but it would be fun to have. Thanks for thinking we’re a cool couple. The strange thing is that we’re both weird and boring. How’s that for the worst of both words?


  12. “Potential art” — I have to remember to use that one with Roger …
    #2 reminded me, sort of in reverse, of the experience of the sister of a friend, when she married and moved to Iowa with her new husband after a lifetime in the Bronx. A very fair, blue-eyed blond, after living in Iowa several months, she told her sister that she was making the adjustment to her new home but still had trouble with living in a place “where everyone looks like me.” And when you write of you and Sara, I think of close friends of mine, a gay couple, who have similar issues. One time when the “Oscar” half was looking for something he wanted to show me, he opened his drawer and rummaged through the jumbled contents. Not finding it, he opened his partner’s drawer, where the few items were each placed “just so” and in neat little compartments. Chuckling, he glanced up at me and said, “You can tell which drawer is whose, can’t you?” Yup.


  13. I could use someone who has “placement issues” since I have have no idea where to put things and everything just ends up in piles. Maybe I have “pile-it issues”.
    The couple thing is fairly unknown to me since I’ve spent the vast majority of my life being single even though I’ve had two marriages and a few short relationships. I don’t do coupledom well, at least I haven’t in the past and who knows what the future will hold. Maybe we could say I’m coupledom phobic.


  14. I think all couples have differences that draw them together, Kathy! Imagine how boring it would be if we were all the same, like if you also loved order – who would line up the condiments? 🙂
    So sorry you can’t marry in your home state – Cape Town would be a perfect alternative! Just make sure we’re there at the time!
    Sunshine xx


    • You are so sweet, Sunshine! Capetown is one of Sara’s favorite places on the planet, and I have never been to the continent of Africa. Our next move will actually likely be to Pretoria–that’s where we were headed next when the earthquake hit Haiti.


  15. Pingback: “We’re Not in [Haiti] Anymore”– | reinventing the event horizon

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