I just finished a delightful romp through the pages of Robyn Peterman’s Switching Hour, book one in her “Magic and Mayhem” series. My biggest complaint is that she provided a fairly sizable excerpt from book two, but it’s not even available for pre-order on Amazon. That’s what I call a tease. Not nice, Ms. Peterman! And despite the fact that I’ve berated other authors for writing shallow, frothy characters that long for the depth of Paris Hilton, Ms. Peterman makes it work. Anyone who can get me to laugh out loud is someone on my “must read” list. Belly laughs are to life what silly tiny coats are to toy poodles; an absurd yet perfect fit. Anyway, this isn’t a review, although my expression of gratitude to Robyn Peterman for lightening my day and mind with such an enjoyable diversion is sincere. Today, I am going to focus on is our heroine’s deep aversion to commitment and how relatable I found it. Zelda is not one to stick around, nor did she have any intention of becoming emotionally attached. In fact, she fought tooth and nail (a little shifter humor there) against feeling anything other than admiration for her smoking hot wardrobe. Phobias-R-Us. Zelda and I might as well be wearing signs.
My affinity to this particular psychological boogeyman was mostly negated when I waltzed down the aisle twenty years ago and let out a very audible sigh of relief upon walking up the steps to join hands with my soon-to-be husband. In many ways, I couldn’t believe I’d actually made the trek and hadn’t passed out from the anxiety of it all. I’d spent my life sliding bass ackwards into any sort of commitments, and my marriage was no exception. First we bought the dog, the car and the house together with me thinking Xanax thoughts at each step. Then, we merged our checking accounts and got a joint credit card. Finally, we tied the knot. We got home from our honeymoon and nothing had changed but my name (truthfully, I couldn’t wait to unload my maiden name–UCHITEL–yes, I know, you have no idea how to pronounce it–hence my enthusiasm for ditching it, even though I adored my father).

It wasn’t until I became convinced that life as I knew it wouldn’t come to a screeching halt that I was able to entertain the prospect of forever. I always believed that marriage would be a ball and chain around my ankle, cramping my considerable style and damning me to hausfrau hell for all eternity. Turns out I was dead wrong. It was the kids who were the real balls and chains. Just kidding, my darling boys.

When we commit to one thing, we pay the opportunity costs of being able to choose something else. And what if we’re wrong? What if we find something better elsewhere? After all, the grass is always greener on the other side (which turns out not to be true–I’ve spoken to a number of my divorced friends who assure me that life after marriage is not all that fun, and dating in mid-life is kind of like trying to find the way out of an Escher drawing, frustrating without much discernible progress.

Zelda has a different problem with commitment, which is based on her unfortunate upbringing by a narcissistic witch of a mother. Given that I was raised by a narcissistic bitch of a mother, Zelda and I are practically twins separated at birth. Narcissistic parents raise distrustful children who grow up to be adults with serious confidence issues– both in terms of self confidence and confidence in others. Me and Zelda, we’ve got that going on. Zelda doesn’t want to get attached to anyone or anything because she doesn’t plan to stick around, so why bother to develop feelings that will inevitably get hurt?  No gain beyond a designer dud, no pain. Seems simple enough.

Have you ever gone to someone’s house and there’s nothing hanging on the walls? Usually they say something like, “Yeah, well, we never hung the paintings because we figured we’d only be here a year or two.”  Meanwhile, they’ve been living in that bare-walled box for going on seven years. These are people with commitment issues– not getting attached to physical spaces is usually just the tip of the phobic iceberg; my guess is that folks like this have trouble committing to an entree selection. They get their order, but want to trade with you halfway through. You know these types. Hell, you might even be one of them.

Like Zelda, however, I have learned over time that making a choice and sticking to it can be quite satisfying. I’m still deliriously happy that I decided to marry my sainted husband. And that we put down roots here in Annapolis and raised our family in one place (although the wanderlust in my soul has had to be placated with lots of travel to cool places to see awesome friends as a counterbalance to remaining in our home). There is power and beauty in commitment. There is growth in commitment, including expansion of the heart.  Commitment can even make a heart as small as the Grinch’s grow three sizes at a stretch. And I thought it was just my hips that were expanding.

At the end of Switching Hour, Zelda embraces her destiny. She also bags the hot guy and decides she can tolerate living in the middle of nowhere, as long as she can continue to rock the ultra chic wardrobe (which looks ridiculous in West Virginia, of course, but this is a fantasy book). I guess when you put it like that, happily ever after starts to look pretty good. I can commit to that.

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