Midnight, 7 October 2008
One year ago today I married my husband Jake. We’re quite an odd pair: me a petite yet pudgy weirdo and him a big, burly, hairy freak. I waited a very long time to find the love of my life, and gave up looking more than once. And Jake is the love of my life. I joke that he is the manliest unmanly man I’ve ever met. He jokes that if he’d only known he was going to marry his father, he might not have worked so hard to avoid marrying his mother. We’re perfect for each other.
If you knew him, you’d love him too. Quiet, intense, sincere, he also has a great sense of humor (when he’s comfortable) that is not always ready for prime time. Though completely silent here in the ‘sphere, he plays a major role in this blog. He is the confidant I test my secrets on, the guy I bounce my ideas off, the critical proofreader when I have the patience to wait before publishing (not bloody often). Every single day he makes me a better writer and a better person. I am confident I do the same for him.
(I should really go to bed. And I need to read an Alice Walker story (Everyday Use) for my 9:00 class tomorrow, a story that is seven pages in one of the literature anthologies–you know the kind, with a thousand Bible-thin pages in 8 point font. But I don’t want to. I’ll set my alarm early. It’s my anniversary and I have a split-shift teaching that will make it unlikely that I can dwell on this topic for any length of time until tonight, when I will actually be celebrating with my husband, so I think I’ll just lay it down right here and now. Free-write it. Remembering is important and, quite frankly, Alice Walker would approve.)
Marriage, like actually having children, is different. I am amazed at the changes in my life and in myself, my daughter and my husband. My daughter is a great, light, funny kid with a bit of an intense side (she is her mother’s daughter). I have watched her struggle for the last few years with the growing intensity of her emotions as the world opens up around her. She went through a particular rough patch her 8th grade year last year, resulting in a total overhaul of her identity, including black hair. We joked that she was our Gothling.
She handled the stress of the impending wedding last year very well, but I was surprised by her reaction at the wedding itself. Even upon waking that day she had such a glow about her, and she seemed to float through the day as if she had borrowed Hermes winged feet. It had been a long time since I had seen that inner child dominant in her, and it made that day all the more joyous.
For myself, I’m surprised at a number of things, of course. I was surprised that the statistic is true about housework, how it goes up for a woman and down for a man after marriage. Note I said was, because I put a stop to that right quick. Heh. But more seriously, I am surprised about what marriage provides both me and my daughter in terms of security. I always thought we were pretty secure, but I wasn’t seeing the big picture. I realize now that my unmarried status as a mother, and my daughter’s status of child of a single mother were sources of shame and longing in us. I believe that’s why she was so filled with joy that day; because she had always longed for what she considered a complete family. I could write 10 essays on what’s wrong with that, but there it is.
I don’t think I’d have ever started this blog if it weren’t for the changes in my personality as a result of this security. For the record, I’m talking about more than physical security, but that’s part of it too. I think on some unconscious level I always thought people found me unacceptable because of my single parent status and because of my outspokenness as a woman. Outspokenness is okay for a man, but people tend to harshly judge women who are that way. Maybe my working poor upbringing has something to do with never feeling adequate enough, a fundamental lack of confidence that I was never even aware was missing. I think it’s probably a combination of that and few other factors, but the point is, the security of marriage has helped address it. And I love that and feel uncomfortable about it all at the same time. I hope I don’t have to choose one or the other, but I probably will as I process the changes in the context of the larger world and the history of that world.
Of course, I realize this is a young marriage. Ten years from now I could be burning his metaphorical poetry here at P&L. I don’t think so. I think we were both wise to wait to get married. I like to think of dating as a process, where taking advantage of the opportunity for failure is a crucial part of it. And I like to think I reached Master status in learning how to relate on a romantic and partnership level before I met Jake. When I met him, I realized immediately that he was a guy like none I’d ever met before. That’s why I married him.
It’s difficult to talk about this topic without sounding trite or like I’m gloating. Marriage is a mixed bag of bones for women so often. We’re trained from such a young age to want that wedding, the diamond, the husband, the kids, the whole bit, and to feel incomplete if we don’t get that when we think we should. As a result, we’re often confused about what’s important, which leads us to always putting everyone else first. Is it any wonder women haven’t gotten as far as men have in terms of power? Hardly. I understand that. I guess what I want to mark here is that one woman took the time to figure all of that out, reject it, do it different, and to look for someone who had also figured that out. That’s us, and that’s worth recognizing. 365 days in, it’s also working.