If you’d asked me when the Turk and I got hitched, fifteen years ago, “What’s your love language?” I would have laughed. Our love language was most likely something that included no verbalization. While we had several commonalties, our respective native languages were not included in that list. (His English was rough at best and my Turkish consisted of about ten words.) Over the years, his English got much better (though his smart-assed children find great joy in mocking it) and I learned Turkish, so we’ve come a long way. But our love-language is still something many of the less nerdy would consider a foreign language.
To the outside eye, my husband The Turk, and I appear to be polar opposites. He’s a Turkish city boy and I grew up on a farm in Iowa before finding my true home in Philly. He’s analytical and I’m impulsive. He’s mathematical and I’m artsy. He’s quiet and reserved and I suffer from verbal diarrhea on the reg. He has to be either comfortable or drunk to get chatty and I gab like a Jewish grandmother on uppers to the check-out lady at the food store. We’re literally the poster children for “Opposites Attract.” But then there is science.
Years ago, through a crazy turn of events, I found myself teaching science and quickly learned that I’d missed my calling. Like so many 80’s ladies, I was dissuaded from the sciences and sent down a more delicate path in high school. But as a surly gal in her 40’s I embraced my new career and nerded hard. I became obsessed with freshwater conservation and biology. I took workshops, sat through webinars, and absorbed water knowledge like…well like a sponge. Runoff, contamination, macroinvertebrates, microorganisms, speed, turbidity, cyanobacteria, I loved all of it. So did the Turk. See, my husband isn’t just an engineer, he’s an environmental engineer specializing in water. Cue maximum bonding.
Suddenly all those years of editing the English on his work reports made sense. I understood terms like DO, BOD, and all the other acronyms he bandied about. For the first time our work actually had common ground. He urged me to go back to school and follow my passion for science and I was ready…until his company relocated us to Boston.
While water science was my new jam, someone had to parent our children through a cross country move and in any relocation that goes to the lower earner. (Spoiler alert: When you’re married to an engineer and you have three degrees in the arts, you always lose.) I’m what is referred to in the expat community as the “trailing spouse.” The trailing spouse is the one who gives up his or her career to follow the higher paid spouse while also running the household before starting life all over again with each relocation. I’ve trailed the Turk to two different countries and four different states. He only had to be the trailing spouse once and he only lasted 6 months. It stinks but it’s reality.
Though my dreams of going back to school for a degree in science were dashed, our unexpected shift to homeschooling this year (Thanks Covid.) allowed me to immerse my kids in all the science their little brains can hold. Between shooting off rockets powered by Alka-Seltzer and growing different forms of mold, dissecting crustaceans and analyzing the acidity of sour candy, I’m getting my fill. When we start cataloging the macroinvertebrates from the bogs behind our house next month, I’ll be in heaven.
But there’s even more. For the past couple years, The Turk has been finishing his Masters in Engineering and my man of science, like many others, falls off the rails when it comes to the literary side of things. He can do calculations that take a ream of paper and three full days but ask the man to write an opinion paper and he’s a blubbering fool. Lucky for him he has a hot wife with an understanding of water and a degree in writing. (Full disclosure, he is doing this in his second language so I will cut him slack.)
I’ve spent the past two years proofing papers on microbiological processes, helping prep presentations on nitrogen dominance in effluent and editing the grammar on essays explaining the failure of the passivation layer which led to the lead contamination. I’ve learned how to stop the spread of numerous deadly algae and the necessity of bacteria in wastewater. It may not be the advanced education I was planning on before the relocation but it’s a damn good one.
Most importantly, all this nerd-talk has given us a total love language. I’m not sure how normal couples work, before this our most passionate discussions revolved around world politics, but now scientific water discussions form our marital foundation. The Turk and I frequently sit by the fire, sipping wine, debating the merits of chlorination in antiquated water systems. We lay in bed talking about the results of various dissolved oxygen levels. We have date nights that include deep dives into microbiology and we discuss trihalomethanes like normal couples discuss…whatever normal couples discuss.
I can’t imagine there is a soul in the universe that looked at the two of us 15 years ago, the costume designer and the environmental engineer, and dreamed we’d be here now. But people get older and, women especially, figure out what they were really meant to do and they get there however they can. The Turk still thinks I could become a water engineer. (He has far more faith in my math skills than he should but its freakin’ adorable.) But someone still has to raise these surly kids so that science degree might have to wait until I’m in my 60’s. His confidence in me is damn flattering though. For now, I’m cool with loving discussions around flocculation, sediment and biosolids with my nerdy husband and a nice Malbec. Dreamy.