marriage


I think I would make a pretty good wife to (one of) a lot of guys. I’m a cheap date, partially because having anyone’s money spent on me makes me feel really anxious and guilty and partially because I really, really love pizza. I enjoy football enough to get up at 3am to watch a game if that’s when it’s on (because you live on the other side of the world). I genuinely enjoy being left alone. I hate talking about feelings. I’m pretty low maintenance, both in the “I hate talking about feelings” kind of way and also the “I’m almost 30 and finally just bought a hair dryer…which I use but rarely” kind of way. I think shopping is one of the most horrible, torturous ways to spend one’s time and cannot fathom why some people have made a hobby of it. The smell of sweat doesn’t bother me, as long as it’s relatively recent sweat and not the stale-sweat smell of a locker room. I have never asked anyone if I look fat because I know I’m not. I like driving with the windows down and couldn’t care less about the effects on my hair. I honestly don’t get how some people have a “thing” for shoes, and to be even more honest I’m not even sure what that means, except that everyone who says “I have a thing for shoes” has an awful lot of shoes.

And I like cooking from scratch. Not in a snobby way, like I think I can do better than Betty Crocker, but more because I think you should probably at least have a vague idea of what you are ingesting, at least most of the time. So, for example, if I decide we are going to have macaroni and cheese for dinner, I buy a few different kinds of cheeses – a really really sharp cheddar, maybe some Havarti, maybe some Jarlsberg, just whatever sounds like an interesting blend – and I make a sauce with them and whole milk and maybe a splash of cream, if I’m feeling luxurious. Sure, it takes longer than the stuff in a box but it tastes much better and I know what I’m feeding my family. I have no earthly idea what that orange powder is that comes in the blue-box mac and cheese. Anyway one day Jake pleaded with me to buy some blue box macaroni, “just for a special treat.” I stared at him, incredulous, before pointing out that MOST PEOPLE would consider the homemade variety a special treat. He scrunched up his face in disbelief and said, “Really?!” before deciding I was joking. When I assured him that this was not, in fact, part of my stand-up routine he declared all the lost souls who prefer macaroni in a sauce made of actual cheese to be “weird.”

See, I’m not married to most guys. I am married to one very specific man. The oft-repeated advice in marriage books may work for women married to 99% of men, but I often find it unhelpful because I am not married to 99% of men. Or rather, one of 99% of men. I am married to this one guy and I have to figure out how to be the wife that he needs. Sure, there is a lot of wisdom to be found in books written by “experts” but at the end of my life I will be the only person on earth capable of being an expert in being married to Jake. I have to write my own book here, make my own way. Apparently this includes occasionally serving flavorless noodles in an unidentified orange paste. I may think it’s pretty cool that I avoid talking about feelings but if that is something he is genuinely interested in doing I should probably learn to emote now and then. It is incumbent upon me to become the wife that he needs, not the wife that sounds awesome to me.

Same thing with my son. A degree in child development doesn’t make me an expert of any kind, let alone an expert in the development of Asher. It wouldn’t matter if I were Piaget Junior, or if T. Berry Brazelton came to me for advice, if I paid no attention to the one child I am raising. I owe it to my son to figure out how to raise him to be the man God created him to be. And that may mean that I read the widely varying views of all the development/parenting “experts” out there, and pore over the works of Michael Gurian and Leonard Sax to figure out how boys work…and maybe I find something useful, but maybe not. Maybe I still come up with nothing that is useful in raising my particular boy. And if that’s the case it is still my responsibility to work through how to best train my son as he grows up.

I am, barring some unforeseen tragedy, the only wife Jake will ever have. I am the only mother my son will have. Which means I am, to each of them, The One. I can just be the kind of wife I think I would want if I were a guy…or I can do the much harder work of becoming the wife my husband needs (and the wife I need to be). I can parent in a “this is the way it’s always been done” way, or an “I wish my parents had been like this” kind of way, but neither will be as beneficial to my child as painstakingly uncovering his needs and discovering what he responds to, what will capture his heart. These are daunting tasks – am I willing to be the one to each of my ones?

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I have the challenge misfortune blessing of sharing a bed with a man who, while sleeping, has no sense of personal space. Mind you, when he’s conscious he is quick to notice that my pinky toe has strayed to the edge of his couch cushion, but once asleep he has this notion that if he can roll there, it’s his space. He also rolls the covers around himself like a burrito, so that I never have enough covers, and if I pull them and thus un-burrito him he accuses me of stealing all the covers. I actually once started a photo essay which was to be entitled, “My Husband Is Literally the Reason I Get Out of Bed in the Morning” as proof that I am the victim in the situation.

Notice that the covers are on the ground on Jake’s side, and don’t even reach the edge on mine. I was forced to rise for the day because he grouched at me for trying to re-distribute them in a more even fashion, and it was freezing.

Now, it’s not all bad. Sometimes I get in bed and Jake is laying diagonally across the bed, with his feet where mine should go. This is nice because after he kicks me for invading his foot space, he rolls over (re-burritoing himself in the process) and leaves me with a nice pre-warmed spot for my feet. Of course I have scant covering for the rest of me, but at least my feet are cozy.

Enter the beauty – and brilliance – of German engineering. In Germany, individual sleeping space is a priority. When we stayed in a hotel in Germany, they had two twin-size mattresses in a king platform. Each mattress had its own flat sheet and duvet. You had the togetherness of sharing a bed with the comfort of your own covers, and a clear boundary line for your bedmate. I don’t think I have ever slept so well in my married life. I determined that as soon as it was financially feasible, we would procure similar sleeping arrangements. You could even use a king mattress and fitted sheet for this, and just get separate duvets. I haven’t executed the plan yet because it’s not financially feasible – king mattresses are expensive! – but I think I may go ahead and do the separate duvets with our queen bed. I mean, we may never be able to afford a king and that way I’ll at least have some covers. (As a side note, I have become convinced that the size of bed directly influences the health of a marriage. Full bed, unhealthy marriage. King bed, you probably really like each other because your sleep is the undisturbed slumber of one whose partner is several feet away.)

I think Germans are brilliant.

Also – this is totally unrelated – they eat ice cream for dinner. Like I said, they’re brilliant. In the summer they go to ice cream shops and order these huge masterpieces and that’s their dinner. This is another tradition we have decided to incorporate into our family.

I found this in a Google image search; my pictures don't turn out this well.

A long time ago (10 years, to be exact), in a galaxy far, far away, my now-husband asked me to go out with him. I declined. He asked me out again, exactly one year later, to keep the “tradition.” To keep the “tradition,” I declined. But yet another year later, my resolve had been worn down and we went on our first date.

The intervening years were all celebrated with special dates (by which I mean, “going out,” not the “specific days” sort) until our engagement in September 2005. And every year since, we have continued to mark September 14 as an important day in our relationship. This year a night out would also require a babysitter, and as there were no babysitters to be had we celebrated at home. Jake made homemade refried beans with some pintos brought to us and the stock of bacon grease we have been saving, and they were PHENOMENAL. Soooo delicious. He is on his way to rivaling Ms. Mary’s beans. We made nachos with the refried beans and real cheddar, which is practically a delicacy ’round here these days, and I took him up on his offer to watch Pride & Prejudice – the long one. Of course we didn’t make it very far into the movie because I was exhausted (hmm, wonder why?) but that wasn’t the point.

The point is, our life looks wildly different now that I ever imagined it would – 10 or 8 or 5 years ago. And it is still our life, and we still enjoy each other’s company (though admittedly that has taken work), and while it might have been nice to visit my favorite restaurant in the whole wide world, it was perfectly delightful to eat nachos on the couch with my pal in honor of our years together.