Monday, September 8, 2014

Apart at the Seams by *A*

Welcome to the Virtual Book Tour for Apart at the Seams!  I enjoyed getting to know Arianna better, after reading a little bit about her in the previous books.  And it was great to know her side of the story that was a teaser in Measure of Love.

For the book tour, I am answering two questions that I believe are somewhat related.    
  • A constant theme in Apart at the Seams is whether Arianna's relationship with Noah is appropriate. Arianna wants to believe their friendship is acceptable because she desperately needs someone who understands the pressures of producing creatively. Rachel seems to believe her relationship with Noah is unaccceptable, possibly even bordering on a possible emotional affair. How do you judge Arianna's friendship with Noah? Would you be comfortable engaging in a similar friendship yourself? Would you be comfortable with your partner doing so? 
  • Apart at the Seams, like the previous two books in the "series," examines the ambivalence some women feel toward the institution of marriage. Throughout the book, Arianna tries to explain -- to herself and others -- why she doesn't want to get married. When she is fitting Rachel's wedding dress she explains her reasons for not marrying Ethan:
"I think there are people we should be with at different stages in our life, and maybe those stages stretch on for fifty years or maybe they're over in a few months. But not knowing how long you'll be compatible with that person, something as permanent as marriage seems like a dangerous choice. And with Beckett in the picture, it makes things ten times more complicated because divorce would affect him, too. So that's why I don't want to get married..."
As someone who waited (for both personal and political reasons) to get married until after I bought a house and had children with my partner, I am understand Arianna's ambivalence about the institution, except my ambivalence swings in the opposite direction. I felt like marriage was a formality that didn't really affect my commitment to my partner, that it would be just as hard to extricate myself from my long-term relationship whether there were legal ramifications or not. Arianna obviously feels like marriage would cement her relationship in ways that living together for a prolonged period of time wouldn't. How do you view marriage? Do you agree with Arianna that it adds a level or commitment that is dangerous given the unknowns of the future? Or do you think it's a mere formality, that doesn't really change the level of commitment between two people?

I'm not sure if the first of these is simply a male/female dynamic question, or a time spent with/thinking about question.  I have male friends.  Almost every Wednesday, I have lunch with 5-6 current or former coworkers, all of whom are male.  My husband used to work with us, so he knows them all, but that's sort of irrelevant.  None of us are looking for anyone other than someone to have interesting conversations with regarding current events or random topics.  When we have some interesting encounter with management, or a case of road rage, or some other notable life event, we seek each other out at work to tell our stories.  I email random links that I think will interest them or enliven the monotony.  We attend each others' children's birthday parties or holiday parties or the like.  We're more than just coworkers, we're friends.   I would never consider what my life would be like if I were dating any of them, though.    I think that's where the line of an emotional affair gets drawn.

On the other hand, my husband made lots (almost exclusively) of female friends during his last couple jobs.  He still texts and talks with them.  He has expressed physical attraction for several of them, but recognizes that it would be a momentary thing to satisfy his curiosity.

Back to the book, (and to address both questions) it seems to me that Arianna is dissatisfied and looking for greener grass.  Between her relationship with Noah and her opposition to marriage, it appears that she's always got an eye out for the next thing.  She isn't looking at Noah as an addition to her life, in my interpretation.  While enjoying getting to know Noah on a personal level as a friend, she's also weighing him as a potential replacement for Ethan.  That's what kind of puts it over the line of emotional affair.   

Now, looking for greener grass is not a bad thing - it keeps the world moving through innovation and creativity.  But when it comes to relationships, it seems at odds with her decision to become a parent.  Maybe it's my career (tangentially in law enforcement, and thus, the underside of human nature) that informs my perspective, but while divorce is hard on children, serial dating is even worse.  Do I think people need to be married to have children?  No, not at all.  But if you split with a partner, married or not, it affects the children.  If you have a new partner, it affects the children.  If you and your children move in with someone, it affects the children.  It seems a more dangerous choice to start a relationship, especially knowing that you are leaving the door open to take off at any time...without consulting your children and how they might feel about the situation.  (Apparently, I should change my middle name to tangent, as this foray into SMC-land has nothing to do with the questions!)

As to my opinion of marriage - ooh, that's a tough one!  I think there is something to pledging "til death do you part."  Society has obviously downplayed that idea, or else divorce wouldn't be so prominent.  If you had asked me about marriage when I was in my 20s, I  would have told you that I was too young to get married.  That was more or less true, but a supporting factor was that I hadn't found anyone with whom I wanted to spend more than 8 hours, let alone the rest of my life.  But, all in all, marriage ends up being more of a legal state than an emotional one.  Once a divorce is sought, the relationship has already ended.  That being the case, I think Arianna's explanation is actually more about commitment than it is about marriage.  She's not willing to predict how long the compatibility will last, so there's no reason to make a legal commitment if she's not even really making a specific emotional one.  It seems that her view is "I love  We'll see how it goes."  Is it foolish to imagine that you will love someone forever?  Who knows?  Probably.  But I don't think Arianna sees that there's an intrinsically pessimistic view that can be taken from that, and that's why I felt bad for Ethan (even when he was irritating me by being a completely insensitive dunderhead).

BTW (oh look!  Another tangent!), I think Ethan went very wrong with his announcement about wanting to adopt Beckett because he made it about commitment to Arianna.  That's sort of insulting to Arianna (he was trying to end run her into any sort of commitment) and pretty insulting to Beckett too.  Beckett should have been the focus of the adoption idea, not Arianna or what kind of picture-perfect family they would make.  (I think I've been reading Lori's stuff for too long!)

It's taken me a long time to process this book, which was supposed to be a light summer read!  There are a lot of themes in here that struck me and made me think. 

To continue to the next leg of this book tour, please visit the main list at Apart at the Seams Book Tour on


Lori Lavender Luz said...

I agree with your last sentiment. The book is like a clown car -- much bigger on the inside than on the outside.

And yest, I have observed this phenomenon at certain stages: "marriage ends up being more of a legal state than an emotional one."

Read my stuff too much? Impossible!


So glad you added your voice to the tour, A.

Lollipop Goldstein said...

I like the idea of it being a clown car :-)

I think the "I love you now, let's see where it goes" thing is damaging if you look at it through one lens, but isn't it more honest through another? Aren't we all -- through our actions -- doing that too? We're saying, "I love you forever!" and then we're divorcing. Whereas she is saying, "I love you right now. And I'll hopefully love you tomorrow and the next day." Reality.

That said, I would skin Josh if he ever said to me something akin to "I love you today, let's see how tomorrow goes." :-)

Thank you for not only reading but sticking with it and processing it for so long.

Mina said...

I think, as you already know, that Arianna is clueless about a lot of major things in her life, and this is the reasons she is able to commit to a child, but not to Ethan. Is there a bigger commitment than that made to a human being you don't know and have never met? Yet Arianna is capable of committing herself to Beckett, and she goes to great lengths to have him in her life, but when it comes to Ethan, whom she knows before he moves in, and can talk to and reason with higher success than one can expect from a toddler, oh, no, let's think it through, we have it so good, why change, it's not you, it's just that I don't want to ever get married, because I have said that since I was in junior high. Really?! This to me is a sign that "I love you right now" is in fact a "I kind of sort of love you, but don't read too much into it".
Ethan is himself all the time, he does not hide, he is not afraid of sharing the wildest ideas that go through his head, he is sure of himself and of his love and of Arianna, and wants her to be the same. Which she can't be because of the greener grass found somewhere out there. She is willing to find out more about Noah, and lets herself slide into an emotional affaire, even though one-sided one, because she is not really committed to Ethan. And she does that very soon after Ethan moves in. Ethan's encouragements for her to commit in a bigger way makes her go find refuge in harder work than ever before, and release in another's company. Yay, domestic bliss! (Bazinga)
We all have friends that we have loads in common with, and in a parallel existence, we might even make a good couple. Nevertheless, in this existence, we are good friends, and nothing more. There is the type of "I like tall, bearded, blue-eyed guys" attraction, and then there is the "I wouldn't mind getting to know YOU so much better" type of attraction. The first one is harmless, the second one leads to affairs. We can let ourselves find out more about guys we never thought we would be attracted to when we are not in a relationship. But when we make a commitment to someone, that includes not "finding out" things about anyone else in that way. Arianna is not committed to Ethan, so she does find out how much she has in common with Noah, and how much she ultimately likes him. She realises how she feels about Ethan only after Noah rejects her and her mum tells her about cancer. And through some miracle, Ethan does not go find himself another partner to travel the world with, he stays around and waits for Ari to sort things through. I can forgive him being a spoilt, messy brat for that, since dirty dishes can be washed by a paid cleaning lady, but hearts can be mended only with love and tenderness. And I think Arianna sees that too.