Last night I may or may not have delivered a soliloquy on the word “vulva” to my husband while he was trying to read. That’s what it’s like to be married to me. I’ll make you chocolate whiskey pots de creme on a weeknight, but you might have to endure my monologues (aka rants) on occasion. I hope the trade-off in chocolate and other delicious foodstuffs is worth it.
One of the things I like best about my husband is that he sees the best in people. He looks for the bright side. He points out the silver lining. He doesn’t question motives. He gives the benefit of the doubt. This is probably how he is able to tolerate and even find attractive my sometimes somewhat stormy personality, and I’m grateful for it. I can spill the glass of milk and then cry over it, and he’ll still tell me it’s half full.
I need this in my life. Probably particularly when I’m being cynical and complainy and bitching about exactly how I feel about someone, which is, unfortunately, more often than not, though I’m trying to work on my judgy judgerson ways. So, while I may wish that he would occasionally just agree with me that someone SUCKS AT LIFE, I’m glad he doesn’t. Now if you’ll excuse me, this little black rain cloud is off to hover under a honey tree.
If there’s one thing that confuses me about the whole discourse of modern marrieds, it’s “date night.” Particularly in churches, it seems couples are encouraged to have a regular date night, to continue dating their spouse. And the more I think about it, the more confused I get.
Like, what counts as a date? If we regularly go out to eat, does that count as a date every time? Or only if we plan it in advance? Or only if it’s the kind of place with real table cloths? What about cooking a meal together? Does that count as a date? Do you have to go to a movie, or would renting a movie count as a date? I would have considered renting a movie a date back when Jon and I were dating, but is it no longer a date if we live together? Or taking a walk– we liked to take walks when we were dating, so is it a date when we walk the dogs together? Is it only a date if we’re holding hands while we walk?
Come to think of it, pondering what a married date night looks like makes me think of nothing so much as a brochure my friends and I received and mocked in college: 101 Ways to Make Love Without Doing It. If those things count as dates, Jon and I have had 31 dates (at least, this doesn’t include repeats of the same activity) in the past month. Really, though, I’m not clear on what delineates a “date night” from “sharing life together” and couldn’t tell ya the last “date” we had. Because really, we’re married. We’re not dating anymore. Thank God.
Though I must say, sipping spiked Russian Tea while snuggling on the couch wearing PJs and listening to music in the glow of the Christmas tree, which we did last night, is a darn good date, though I’m not sure it would count towards the mysterious but apparently all important “date night.”
It was not so many Thanksgivings ago that I told my (biological for those who know both of the women who have mothered me) mother that I never wanted to see her again, and then basically didn’t for several years. I was in junior high at the time. Not to get into the whole long story, but we had hurt and been hurt by each other, had misunderstood each other, and basically ceased to have a relationship after years of hurt and misunderstanding. And it seemed that as years went by, hurt and misunderstanding piled upon hurt and misunderstanding, and even talking on the phone became difficult. At the same time I felt guilty and somehow defective for not being able to have a functional relationship with my own mother, but the guilt just made the hurt and misunderstanding even harder to deal with. Others who attempted to help heal this broken relationship just added to the burden of guilt and pain, making me feel even more defective.
Tonight my mother is coming to visit me for Thanksgiving. It will be the first Thanksgiving we have spent together since that horrible Thanksgiving years ago. I’m actually really looking forward to it.
What changed between then and now?
This Thanksgiving, I have to say, I am so thankful for him. It is thanks to Jon that I have a relationship with my mother today, one in which we can email and talk on the phone and visit and just know and be with each other in a way I couldn’t have imagined not so many years ago. Rather than making me feel guilty for my broken relationship with my mother, Jon patiently and gently pointed out that while I didn’t have to reconcile, didn’t have to force forgiveness I didn’t feel, I did have to let go of anger and bitterness and hurt, because those things were weighing me down and making me a bitter and unhappy person. And because I never felt anything but accepted and loved by him, I felt free to let go of those feelings that were holding me back and keeping me from really being myself. And I also felt comfortable enough to see a counselor and work through my own issues. And eventually, I felt free enough to forgive. And forgiveness led to reconciliation, and reconciliation to renewed relationship.
How many people can honestly say their partner makes them a better person, helps them have better relationships with others, and shows them what grace and freedom really look like? I can. And this Thanksgiving, I’m so thankful for him.
At some point in toddlerhood, it eventually hits all of us, the “I can do it by myself!” And from that point on, to be human is to want to be in charge of ourselves. You’re not the boss of me! I choose my choice! I’m in charge!
Lately, though, I find myself feeling like a toddler, trying to DO IT BY MYSELF, and this thing called life keeps reminding me that I’m not always the boss of me, I don’t always get to choose my choice. Boy oh boy does the medical education system that owns our lives right now make that clear. You see, in three weeks, Jon will get an email that will suddenly reveal what we’ll be doing with our lives for the next three years. And it’s more than driving me nuts. Continue reading
David Brooks is sort of the Andy Rooney of the New York Times, always baffled by modern ways of life and love, and wishing we could return to the good old days, maybe even in Lake Woebegone, where the men don’t have iPhones, the women don’t have Facebook, and all of the relationships are hookup-free until marriage. Brooks’ latest column is about how cell phones and texting have killed romance.
Brooks’ column is littered with proof of how he just. doesn’t. get. it. (He notes that the daters he quotes make up nicknames for their partners, not catching that “Stage Five Clinger” is a “Wedding Crashers” reference. He also seems to think Bruce Springsteen is an appropriate cultural reference.) I sort of imagine that Brooks does his phoning on a Jitterbug. He seems to almost want to return to the days of arranged marriages:
Once upon a time — in what we might think of as the “Happy Days” era — courtship was governed by a set of guardrails. Potential partners generally met within the context of larger social institutions: neighborhoods, schools, workplaces and families. There were certain accepted social scripts. The purpose of these scripts — dating, going steady, delaying sex — was to guide young people on the path from short-term desire to long-term commitment.
Now we have a dating free market, and free market conservative though he is, Brooks DOES NOT WANT!!! Why? Because “texting and the utilitarian mind-set are naturally corrosive toward poetry and imagination.” Continue reading
Last night we watched “Fireproof” because Jon Netflixed it after countless friends and family members told us we just had to see it. Now, I spent a summer working in Family Christian Bookstore, and to say it made me cynical about “Christian” “art” would be an understatement, so I went into the movie fully expecting to mock and hate it. Jon knew this and was fully expecting my running commentary.
The basic plot of the film is that a married couple is on the brink of divorce, mostly because the husband is a borderline emotionally abusive, anger-freak, porn-loving, workaholic, layabout who disrespects his wife at every turn. Meanwhile the wife is dealing with her aging parents and a mother who just had a stroke, so she is emotionally stressed and in need of support and encouragement, which she keeps finding in the form of a nice doctor at work instead of in her husband. One of the biggest points of contention is that the husband has saved up around $20k and wants to spend it on a boat, refusing to use that money to help his stroke-victim mother-in-law get a new wheelchair and bed. (Warning, some spoilers ahead, but if you don’t know how this one is going to turn out before you see it, then you don’t know jack about “Christian” fiction.) Continue reading
I just read a really excellent piece on marriage by Melissa Harris-Lacewell over at The Nation. The entire blog entry is wonderful and if you’re interested in marriage, marriage equality, civil rights, and/or feminism, you should read the whole thing. What particularly stood out for me was this section:
Typically advocates of marriage equality try to reassure the voting public the same-sex marriage will not change the institution itself. “Don’t worry,” we say, “allowing gay men and lesbians to marry will not threaten the established norms; it will simply assimilate new groups into old practices.”
This is a pragmatic, political strategy, but I hope it is not true. I hope same-sex marriage changes marriage itself. I hope it changes marriage the way that no-fault divorce changed it. I hope it changes marriage the way that allowing women to own their own property and seek their own credit changed marriage. I hope it changes marriage the way laws against spousal abuse and child neglect changed marriage. I hope marriage equality results more equal marriages. I also hope it offers more opportunities for building meaningful adult lives outside of marriage.I know from personal experience that a bad marriage is enough to rid you of the fear of death. But this experience allows me suspect that a good marriage must be among the most powerful, life-affirming, emotionally fulfilling experiences available to human beings. I support marriage equality not only because it is unfair, in a legal sense, to deny people the privileges of marriage based on their identity; but also because it also seems immoral to forbid some human beings from opting into this emotional experience.
We must do more than simply integrate new groups into an old system. Let’s use this moment to re-imagine marriage and marriage-free options for building families, rearing children, crafting communities, and distributing public goods.
Here I must first confess that I have been one of those people who has said that gay marriage doesn’t change my straight one. That it doesn’t matter to me what my neighbors are doing in their homes, with their families. That two people in love committing to each other has no bearing on my love or my commitment.
But the truth is, it does. And it should. And I want it to. Continue reading
So it’s been about a week or two since I wrote my “Maybe Baby” post about starting to think about having kids. Today I picked up the September issue of Skirt! magazine and read a piece by Valerie Weaver-Zercher, and now I’m pretty sure having kids, while still definitely something that will happen some day, is back in the not SO soon pile. The piece, called “Mentor or Mom” is about Weaver-Zercher’s experience as a mother of 3 who has a lot of 20 year old college girls in her life. She sees herself in them, and she seems to have a fantasy about shattering their illusions of what their lives will be. She imagines:
I pull the college women aside, fix them with a steady gaze and whisper in a conspiratorial voice: I was once like you. I baked bread in Germany and walked through streams in Nicaragua. I worked for a magazine and had a company credit card and wrote editorials that shocked people. I got married to a man willing to clean bathrooms and we lived in a city and walked to market and protested the death penalty.
And then I had a baby. Here I pause, then raise my eyebrows.
And two years later, another. Another significant pause.
And two years later, yet another.
I stop for awhile, until they think I’ve made my point and begin to sidle away. Then I begin again: Each child is like an earthquake that hurls your identity off the shelf, I say. You will spend years picking yourself off the floor, along with everyone else’s socks and Play-Doh. You will no longer know who really wins: the one who goes to the office all day, or the one who stays home with the kids. You will feel guilty about each choice that takes you away from your children, and resentful of each choice that takes you away from your calling. And here I grab them by their scrawny elbows and bring it home: And you will never, ever judge a housewife again!
Yikes! I may not be a college woman, but that’s enough to send me heading for the hills, or at least the birth control pills. But Weaver-Zercher continues:
Young women don’t need phony assurances about how easy it is to be both a mother and an individual, to maintain both a family and a career, to win in both the office and the house. Such platitudes can only lead to disillusionment and anger– unless the next decade brings about sane maternity leaves, affordable childcare, universal health insurance, and family-friendly work environments. (I’m not holding my breath.) Or maybe, if they have children, they and their partners will find better ways to navigate these days of early parenthood– some way to change the world, change gendered patterns and still change diapers. I’ll be the first to cheer them on (provided I’m not too jealous).
On the other hand, maybe some college women will end up like me: bewildered, exhausted, not sure whether they’ve won or not, or whether they even trust the society that’s keeping the score. Indeed, maybe college women need me a little bit like I need them: as a prompt to reexamine how we calibrate wins and losses, and as a reminder that when it comes to motherhood and work, winning and losing are categories that no longer make an iota of sense.
I hope to be one of the ones to change gendered patterns and still change diapers. To read bedtime stories but still find the time to write for myself. But then I read things like this and wonder if I’m not just a hopelessly naive no-longer-in-college woman.
I’m married to a pediatrician. This means he really likes kids. This means he spends a lot of time around kids. This means that he spends a lot of time giving people advice ABOUT kids. This means at some point he needs to have a kid so he can test out for himself all the stuff he spends his days telling people about kids. This means at some point I need to have a kid.
And for a long time, this has pretty much been my line on the subject: “Yeah, I guess at some point I need to have a kid so Jon will know what he’s talking about!” (This is mostly a joke– he’s a great doctor, and most doctors spend their days treating things with which they have no experience. We don’t require oncologists to have had cancer, and most women are ok with male gynecologists, even if those men don’t really know what it’s like to possess a uterus, ovaries, or vagina.)
My other line on the subject has been that I won’t have a kid while my husband is a resident, working 80 hours per week, because “I didn’t get married just so I could be a single mom.” But we’re into our final year of residency, so that line won’t work for much longer.
Add to this that my husband is about to have a milestone birthday and is currently working in the nursery, surrounded by adorable babies and happy families, and you’ve got a clock ticking. I’m not even sure it’s a biological clock, but rather, some sort of societal clock that expects certain things to happen at certain times, particularly in the South and in the Christian culture in which we operate. Continue reading