When Nathan and I consider our combined strengths, it’s really just a case of taking one skill (say, mine) and throwing it in with the same identical skill (his). Combined, we are not greater or more diverse, just redoubled. If you picked couples as you picked players for a sports team, you wouldn’t put me and Nathan together.
We’re both good at cooking and eating and hosting and crafting and writing and reading and making puns. We’re both bad at driving and computer problems and financial planning and studying and gardening and cleaning the bathroom. Every time we look at our bank account, it’s a complete mystery to the both of us how the money arrived in it and how it went out. When we go to a computer store we both stand there, passive and helpless, hoping the other one will work out what to do first. We once needed a new battery for our laptop but when we were in the Apple store neither of us could actually remember what size computer we owned. Yay! Go team!
But we’re not the same. Not at all. The way we each approach our shared skills could not be more different. Nathan is slow, considered, perfectionist, while I’m impatient, efficient and slapdash. So you have the dinner party where I do most of the preparations and most of the cooking, while Nathan works all day on one ridiculously elaborate dish that will inevitably steal the show. Or I will quickly write a message on a birthday card, with whatever happens to come to me, while Nathan will labour over the perfect one-liner, even if it means being late for the party.
I had a bit of a crisis of confidence about this when we first got together. He seemed to be better than me at all the things I thought I was good at. And he kind of is, but in an impractical way. I get things done; he gets fewer things done, but better. So we are actually a great team. I will do a half-arsed job at some craft project, and be unhappy with it, and then he will devise a painstakingly fiddly way to improve it. We’re hoping to apply this same principle to child-rearing.
In our beach bungalow on Koh Samui, we are currently engaged in a game of Scrabble. We are both good at board games, one of our shared strengths, but the way the game is played is the perfect representation of our personalities. When I come up with a word I’m happy with, I will play it. I am too impatient to work out if it’s absolutely the best word I can make. My turn usually takes about one or two minutes. Nathan, however, takes 20 to 30 minutes – PER TURN – as he shuffles the letters around on his rack and creates amazing seven-letter words that he can’t actually place anywhere on the board. I get a lot of reading done.
We are close to the end of the game and at the moment I am ahead by twenty points, but I know exactly what will happen: I will get bored of placing my last few tiles, making those unsatisfying little two-letter words, while Nathan will craft a series of perfect Scrabble dictionary-inspired moves, winning the game. But I will claim moral victory, saying that I won with the words that matter. Plus I finished my book.