Ten years ago I married a man from Scotland.
I cannot recommend this life choice highly enough.
All of us are shaped by where we grew up, but Scotland imparts some unique characteristics on her sons and daughters, all of which are well suited to that legally binding cage match known as marriage.
First off, please understand that none of what follows is meant to be critical.
I love me some Scotland.
I lived there for four years and loved every minute. It is, without a doubt, the most beautiful country in the world. The people are hysterically funny. The culture is rich, the history is fascinating, the cuisine is…there.
If it were up to me we would move back tomorrow, but my husband — who manages to be a devout Scots patriot while making his homeland sound like Thunderdome — says he can’t deal with the weather.
Here are a few things I’ve noticed about the Scottish over the years:
1) Everyone in Scotland grew up during the Great Depression. (Even if they were born in 1975.)
As a child, my husband’s big Saturday night treat was a dinner of baked beans on toast. He wore shorts in the cold of winter to school.
Scottish children don’t carve pumpkins on Halloween, they carve turnips. On Christmas Eve they don’t leave Santa milk and cookies but whisky. (No one questions how Scottish Santa can drain a dram at every house and still operate a sleigh. Perhaps because whisky to the Scots is like breast milk.)
When I found out that the Scottish Tooth Fairy leaves money under your pillow I was relieved. I assumed she punched you in the face and took off with whichever teeth fell out.
2) Scottish people are really good with money.
The most unrealistic part of the film Jurassic Park wasn’t dinosaurs being brought to life. It was a Scotsman using the expression, “Spared no expense.”
I’m not saying the Scottish are cheap. (Anyone who thinks that should spend five minutes with someone from Yorkshire.) They are simply incredibly gifted at determining financial priorities.
If a real Scotsman had started Jurassic Park he wouldn’t have sprung for the high-end ice cream that melted anyway because the power went out after the computer system crashed. He would have bought the cheap stuff and invested the savings in a better security system so one disgruntled employee couldn’t shut down his operation. He would have known that no one was going to write about the caliber of dessert on TripAdvisor when they’ve just watched a T Rex devour a live goat.
Say what you will about Scottish independence, but if Scotland ever does secede from the U.K., its new budget would be a work of staggering ingenuity.
They would seriously balance the s—t out of that thing.
3) They don’t get unduly emotional.
I once attended a midnight screening of The Exorcist in Scotland. From the audience reaction you would have thought it a musical comedy.
People laughed not only at the special effects — which were admittedly outdated as of 1980 — but at the abundant moments of melodrama. The priest’s tenuous grasp on his faith and doubt over his life’s decisions? Hilarious. The mother’s concern over her daughter’s alarming transformation? A freaking riot.
When the (smoking a cigarette) doctor says, “Mrs. MacNeil, the problem with your daughter isn’t with her bed, it’s with her brain,” I thought the audience was going to collectively wet its pants in laughter.
4) They don’t hate you, they’re just being honest.
When I first moved to Scotland I was constantly checking the bottom of my shoes as I couldn’t understand why all of my social interactions were so cursory.
It took me a while to realize this is just how the Scots are. (And yes, that is a huge generalization as there are some who are effusive. I think.)
They don’t use five words when one will do. While it is seen as rude in the States not to ask everyone how they are — and here in the South you’re a downright dick if you don’t check their blood pressure and ask after their mama — the Scots don’t bruise so easily.
It never occurred to me that American niceties could come across as insincere until one day my friend Martin snapped when I asked how he was.
“You always ask that,” he said. “You don’t really care.”
Fortunately for my psyche, I had long since dialed down my yankee sensitivities.
“I care deeply,” I replied. “Let’s try this again: Martin, you miserable bastard, how the hell are you?”
(He and I aren’t in touch anymore. So weird.)
5) They believe all of life’s little pleasures can go f—k themselves.
My husband refuses to use a clothes dryer. This isn’t for environmental concerns or because he’s worried about shrinkage. (He actually looked surprised the other day when I told him heat can make cotton clothes smaller. The man is 40.)
No, my better half prefers the way clothes feel when they’ve been air dried. First, let me say that fabrics hung in the sunshine and kissed by gentle breezes are lovely. My mom used to hang our laundry outside in the summer and it was the bomb.
But summer in Scotland is kind of optional. The rainy season lasts from June to June, so if you’re going to hang your clothes to dry most of the time it will be inside. This makes the fabric stiff and wrinkly, and you don’t pull the clothes off the line so much as peel them.
Personally, I don’t want my socks to crunch when I put them on but my husband prefers this. It’s like he’s doing penance for sins of which only he knows.
And it’s not just with laundry. The guy only chews half a piece of gum at a time and eats oatmeal for dessert.
Sometimes I’m convinced the entire Scottish nation is the result of a brief fling between stoicism and masochism.
By now you are probably asking what any of this has to do with being a good spouse. All I can say is, isn’t it obvious?
When you’re going to partner up for life, which more often than not can mean hard times and repeated metaphorical kicks in the teeth, you want someone who has all of the above qualities.
You want someone whose past experiences make them appreciate the little things in life, but who also doesn’t require a lot of fancy extras. (I never thought of dessert and clothes dryers as extras, but there you go.)
You want a person who will give it to you straight and doesn’t resort to melodrama when things get rough.
You want a partner who knows his way around personal finances and doesn’t mind eating baked beans on toast for dinner because both of you forgot to pick something up.
Of course, it’s not just the men who possess these qualities, so for all those seeking wives out there, you might want to check out Scotland.
Just don’t bring up clothes dryers. They are the devil’s appliance.