Wednesday, May 28, 2014

#YesAllWomen


It’s hard to write about this topic. It's hard to separate the truth of my experience with what others think ought to be true, to figure out where my responsibility departs from the responsibility of the men I've known, to figure out how to discuss this in a way that's easily accessible to anyone who might come across it.

Possibly a good analogy here would be the idea (and reality) of white privilege. It’s hard to recognize white privilege if you’re white because it’s such a part of your experience. You don’t notice it, and so you think it doesn’t exist.  That’s kind of what it’s like when you’re a woman. You get so used to it, you don’t always see it. When I think about sexual predation and sexism and the rape culture, I have a hard time sorting it out. What’s normal? What’s sexist? And why are they so commonly the same thing?

Although I grew up Catholic and believed strongly that I shouldn’t have sex with someone that I wasn’t in love with, I wasn’t quite willing to commit myself to waiting for marriage. That seemed a long time in the future—and also like a bad idea. Test drive before you buy, and all that. But I wasn’t willing to rush into anything, and sex seemed like a really big deal.

In high school, I met this boy; we’ll call him Tommy (for his cologne, of course). He was really handsome, really smart, and really nice. We met at Model UN. I was part of the Russian delegation, and he was France. He had turned around to listen to something I said, and I saw him see me, double take, and then for the rest of the night, he would turn back around and just look at me with this goofy smile on his face. I was smitten. For the dinner break, he approached me. Would Russia be interested in joining France for dinner? Yes, of course, yes.

I was very attracted to him, and it became obvious he was attracted to me too. We started dating immediately. 

I will admit to a certain immaturity. At 16 I had never kissed a boy, and for all that I devoured romance novels by the ton, I wasn’t super anxious to be physically involved. Sharing body fluids still had a certain yuck factor, and I was absolutely appalled at the idea of touching a penis. Even through the clothes. I think I can analyze myself now and say I was afraid of physical intimacy because it meant a certain loss of control, a lack of inhibition where someone else could see who and what I was on the inside when I myself didn’t even know. As a teenager, though, I just thought I was skittish.

But Tommy was patient, and when we kissed eventually it was fine. I guess it was fine, I don’t really remember it too clearly. A few months in, his parents went to Vegas for a weekend, and we had a small party at his house. There were three couples, us, the rest of France (Tommy’s best friend and girlfriend), and one of my best girlfriends and her boyfriend (France’s little brother). We hung out, then eventually separated to make out. It was at this party that I had my first dry humping experience. I lay still and let him do his thing.

I was excited. Not sexually excited, more like giddy. A handsome, smart, nice boy was turned on by me. I felt responsible for his erection and subsequent ejaculation and that made me feel good.

This is where it gets tricky for me, and I’m willing to bet, for other girls and women as well. I liked that Tommy was turned on by me. It felt powerful. I felt powerful. The problem is that every time we went on a date after that, he expected that I’d be okay with him humping my leg again. It was all right at first—like I said, I was thrilled someone wanted me—but my sexual education had focused on abstinence. No one had ever talked to me about the not-sex-sexual stuff that I might find myself involved in.

When I didn’t like our sexual activity any more, I didn’t know that I could say no to him. I didn’t know that I didn’t need a “good reason” to stop doing what I had been fine with before. I didn’t understand my being uncomfortable with it was a good enough reason. I’m not sure when I went from feeling powerful to feeling dirty. Feeling used. I do know that when I realized I felt that, when I realized I didn’t want him doing that to me anymore—because it had certainly stopped feeling like a mutual activity and begun feeling like something I endured—I didn’t think I had the right to say no. I had given him the okay before and now I felt like I had to continue saying yes. In more clichéd terms, I had made my bed.

At prom he had a run-in with a rich asshole who’d said I was hot, so hot that I’d never fuck Tommy. After prom, he drove us up to a deserted spot near my parents’ house.  When I asked what we were doing up there, his response was that I had better know what we were doing up there. I sighed and put my seat back. I didn’t think I had a choice. After all, it wasn’t sex. He wasn’t “hurting” me. But he was angry at me while he did it, and I didn’t think it would ever be over.

It wasn’t too much longer after that that we broke up. I thought there was something wrong with me that I didn’t want to do that with him anymore. I thought I would go back to my guy friends, my safe guy friends who didn’t want anything from me, and just figure it out later.

A few years after that, when I was 18, I was at Books-A-Million doing some New Age reading.  A man approached me, a fireman I knew because his station was around the corner from my father’s dojo. He was in his fifties. He greeted me and came over to see what I was doing. I was reading up on Virgos in an astrology book. He said that he was familiar with the book and that there was a section on romantic and sexual compatibility. He told me his sign and said we should see what our compatibility was. I stared at him a moment because I wasn’t sure I had heard him correctly. When I kept staring, I managed to sputter that I was only 18. He shrugged and said age was just a number. Then he took the book from me, turned to the section, and began reading the section out loud. Evidently, the sex would be fantastic.

I sat there while he read the whole thing. I didn’t know how to stop him. I didn’t want to be rude. But I also couldn’t figure out why he was doing that to me. Why would he think he could talk to me like that, about that? When he finished, I said an awkward goodbye and slid out of the chair and went looking for my sister. She was shocked and infuriated and thought we should tell my father, but I was embarrassed and disgusted and just didn’t want to think about it. When the fireman would come by the dojo after that, I always made a point of being very busy with other students. Eventually, he disappeared.

I think my dad would have hit the roof if he knew about either situation. If I had told him about Tommy, I’m not sure I wouldn’t have also gotten into trouble—been on the receiving end of “Well, this can be what happens when you put yourself in that situation.” I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have gotten any blame for the fireman. But what kind of recourse would there have been? Dad would have threatened to beat him up or shoot him, and I would still have been spending most of my waking hours at the dojo, just a few feet from that fire station.

For a long time, I really was naïve. I didn’t get the double entendres at lunch, and my guy friends would take great delight in explaining them to me. But I eventually discovered there was also a lot of fun to be had in continuing to “need” the jokes to be explained. I protected my perceived naiveté and soon found that in return it protected me from a lot of uncomfortable situations. If I could pretend I didn’t understand when a friend made an awkward pass, then I didn’t have to deal with it. I could continue our friendship without having to acknowledge the friend wanted more. This was my protection. I’ve had guy friends whom I love dearly tell me flat out that single men aren’t friends with single women they don’t want to have sex with. I, who grew up in a dojo, surrounded by men and boys, who would have considered my guy friends my best friends throughout most of high school, can think of no more than three I would have ever considered kissing, much less doing anything else with. If you don’t want to be in the friend zone, news flash, don’t be someone’s friend. But I digress.

Perhaps that was cowardly—pretending not to notice. Perhaps some of you reading this think it was mean. Someone complimented you by showing interest and you just pretended not to know! You’re a bitch. Well, maybe you’re right. But maybe not all attention is flattering. Maybe I don’t want every interaction with someone’s who claimed to be my friend saturated in significant glances and loaded innuendo. But maybe, more importantly, we don’t tell girls or show them that it’s okay to not return the feelings someone else has for them. We don’t tell girls that they don’t have to feel guilty if a situation is now awkward or a friendship now ruined. We don’t tell them that that’s not their fault. And we certainly don’t tell boys to back off when the answer’s been no in the past. There was a great piece in The Daily Beast about “perseverance” and how it’s okay to keep trying to get the girl even when she’s said no. Even when it’s weird and annoying. Or stalkerish.

You think, maybe, I’m being all woman-y about this? Are you thinking maybe girls should just realize all that on their own? Some do, I imagine. But I think a lot are like me. A lot are taught that you have to be polite, that you don’t argue, that you don’t complain. I’ll even go so far as to say women are taught not to inconvenience people; they’re taught to smooth over awkward situations, to never ever raise a fuss. We're told not to overreact. Don't make a mountain out of molehill. Gaslighting is something a lot of men use brilliantly, maybe even unconsciously, and it always puts the girl at fault.  

But I still don't know what I should have done, when I was much older and much wiser, when my lover, the person I trusted most in the world, violated that trust midway through sex, doing something that had been acceptable on a prior occasion but that I had not okayed this time. That when he had initiated, I’d refused, but he still went ahead? Afterward, when I was understandably upset, he had pouted. Said he thought I would like it. When I asked him what part of “no” he hadn’t understood, he apologized—and then I spent the next thirty minutes comforting him and reassuring him that “we were okay.” What the fuck?

I don’t think I’m the only woman who’s been in that situation. So what do you do? Is that the point you break up? Call the cops? I guess it depends on how badly you’ve been hurt. But at what point did we teach our boys, our men, that no means yes? At what point did we decide that people are not responsible for their actions?

I want to be clear here. In all 3 situations I experienced, I never felt like I was in danger. I never thought I was being attacked. I wasn’t afraid to be alone with any of those men, but that’s kind of my point.  None of these situations is acceptable. Each of them made me feel less than and degraded. None of those men had any compunctions about doing what they did. And that’s not okay. I did not want these things to happen, but they did. And I had no tools to protect myself. These are the “little” things women are dealing with regularly. This rape culture can be a lot more subtle than a stranger putting a knife to a woman’s throat.

Yes, we know it’s #notallmen. But I dare you to shut up and ask your women friends, your wives, girlfriends, sisters, mothers, daughters, aunts. Have a drink first if you need to--hell, pour them one too--then shut up, and ask them what their experiences are.   

I guaran-damn-tee you that you’ll learn something you didn’t know. My father and brothers certainly don’t know about what I’ve written here. But you know what, my children will know. Because we should not be embarrassed to speak the truth of our experiences, and even if we are embarrassed, we should not allow that embarrassment to keep us from trying to change that culture.  

No, not all men are like this. I married one who isn't like that, thank God. But the fact that Griffin is not this way is not an indicator that we don't need to talk about this. Griffin doesn't negate my prior experiences. He is his own experience. And not everyone has a Griffin or even knows a Griffin. Saying not all men are like this is to say that because not all people have cancer, we shouldn't look for the cure. We have a problem on our hands here. And we need the "not all men" to join the "yesallwomen" so we can suss out the root causes and heal. All of us.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

I Just Can't.



I came unhinged last Sunday. 

I came face to face with something I thought I understood—the same way I thought I understood how big a deal marriage was.  I was incredibly wrong.

I thought I understood Cheryl Strayed when she talked about the tremendous grief she felt when her mother died. Or rather, I thought that I could understand how the loss was excruciating and how terrible it was to watch. I thought that the people who told her that her grief was too extreme were a little pushy and didn't recognize how people experience grief differently (and perhaps how they didn't love their mothers as much as she did). At the same time, there was a part of me that "tried on" her grief to see if I would react the way she did. Try heroin? Have an abortion? Fuck everything in sight? Leave the man with whom I was madly in love? Each thing she did was as alien to me as the moon. I found myself thinking, rather quietly, that perhaps her grief was odd and a little extreme. 

But my mother has MS, which, among so many other things, affects the muscles’ ability to work. Ever since my mother’s diagnosis, our doctor has warned us that one good upper respiratory infection could kill her. The distress would be too great for her lungs to work against and would become paralyzed. In effect, she could suffocate to death and very quickly.

The day after New Year’s, my mother entered the hospital with Type A flu and atypical pneumonia. My father was also sick with the flu, so I became the person in charge as he recuperated at home. The day she was admitted, the ER was so slammed that I helped the nurse with the foley. It was my job to talk to the doctors, to the nurses, to call my sister and tell her that our doctor didn’t think she was going to make it, that a ventilator would probably be necessary. But in a turn of events I still don't understand, none of that happened.  She didn't go to ICU, and I was able to leave after the nurse said that her oxygen levels were very good, but I was back the next day to sit beside her. 

For the next 5 days, I was with her 12 hours a day, listening to her cough, pushing pillows under her behind to ease bedridden aches, folding blankets under her calves to keep her heels from being in constant contact with the bed. The more of these little things I did for her, the more I was reminded that she couldn’t do them for herself, would never again be able to do them for herself. And despite the nurse's assurance and an improvement I could see for myself, I was sure I was watching my mother die. It was exhausting. I was exhausted. Emotionally drained. And when 9 or 10 pm rolled around, I left usually in a slump to go home, to sleep, to do it all again tomorrow. 

There was no relief to be had. Daddy was too sick to be here, and my siblings are too far away. When she did fine the first night, I told them not to come. I could handle it. She would be fine. We would be fine. I broke down a couple times on the phone with my sister, but mostly I held it together. I had to. There was no one else to do what I was doing. Until this, I had never understood how isolating hospitals are. How grateful you are when your friends show up with a bag of snacks or a sandwich and hot soup. How much you wish they would come again and bring you wine and hold vigil with you. How much you wish you weren’t fucking there yourself. This is a time when, added to the worry for your mother, you realize you didn't do what your friends needed you to when they were in similar devastating, terrifying situations. But that could be its own post, I suppose.

After several days, the doctor declared his amazement at my mother's improvement—with a warning that it could be and probably was artificial, thanks to the massive steroid and antibiotic intervention. But, she was released to the rehab hospital which was close to my father but not to me. It was too far away or felt too far away with the winter break over and me up to my ears in teaching 3 different novels and an additional prep for 3rd quarter. I couldn’t make the drive out every night, even though  at the back of my mind was the doctor's words about how she almost died. My mother almost died. My mother almost died, and I was going to work, teaching, grading, like she hadn’t.

My husband assured me of course that she was not going to die and that I wasn't to think of it because I would think of it enough in 30 years when it did happen. But it burned at me. Hissed. It slithered around inside of me. My mother almost died.

Now, I have a relationship with my father which, for many reasons which are none of your business, is by turns uneasily contentious and perfectly sympatico, but suffice it to say that I love him deeply. And he sometimes cuts me to the bone without ever knowing it. I watch some destructive behavior patterns as they continue to happen and I feel a rage. I want to say horrible things like, if you're so sure you're going to die soon (and he thinks in no more than 5 years), why don't you go ahead and Death of a Salesman it so that we can get on with our lives. In the same breath, I don’t want that at all, could never imagine wanting it. I want my father. I want my father here with me with every fiber of my stupid, mixed-up being. But the fury sneaks up on me. In those moments where he hurts me and doesn’t know, he makes me crazy with his decisions that make life harder on me. With his wild inefficiencies that he doesn't acknowledge.  With these habits that are going to kill him. But these are things you don't say at our house.

This past Sunday, I went home to do a deep clean so that when my mother finally came home, the house would be spic and span and her lungs would be as protected as I could make them. Griffin and I set about putting away the Christmas decorations while Daddy puttered in his workshop. The anger I’d been feeling started to well in me, and ripple. Why hadn’t he done any of this? Even the slightest little bit of it? And while we were at it, why didn't he ever help set it up? Why had he never helped set it up? I seethed. I became inarticulate as I carefully put away the Christmas village and the manger scene. I took a Xanax because the rage was building up. I could feel it in the back of my throat closing off my esophagus. Why was I here putting away their shit when he was off fooling around in the workshop? Why was I always here taking care of their shit so he could be off fooling around in the workshop? Here’s the problem, though. It's not actually a fair argument and I knew it and that made the anger so much worse.

When I visit, most every Sunday, the first thing he greets me with is a litany of things he has done so that I didn’t have to. In fact, every time we talk on the phone, I get the list of things he's accomplished that day. It's so irritating. I want to say, I don't freaking need to know that you loaded the dishwasher this morning! It’s taken me until now to realize that he’s not trying to make small talk, and this is the best he’s got. He's telling me he loaded the dishwasher because I always grit my teeth when I see him handwashing because why is he going to all that effort, all that time, when the dishes would be a lot cleaner if he'd just use the dishwasher. What I now realize is that in these sometimes mindless conversations, he’s trying to tell me what he’s done so that I won’t scold him for everything he hasn’t done. The floor that didn't get swept. The towels that didn't get folded. The clothes that didn't get put away. I’m ashamed to write that. I’m ashamed to acknowledge that I’ve become the kind of person who only sees the cup half empty. I’m ashamed that my daddy, with multiple spinal fusions and two hip replacements, feels like he has to defend himself to me, his daughter, his 100% healthy daughter whose own house is frequently a train wreck and who could do more if she weren't so busy. That he wants my approval for something, anything. When did I become that awful person? How do I fix it?

Once the breakables were safely ensconced in their packing, I began cleaning with a detailed fury I learned from my mother. She would have seen the danger signs as I used my finger and a rag to wipe dust from the individually routed edges of the bottom of the buffet and the china closet, as I closed the rag around the rungs of the dining room chairs. She would have known I was ready to blow when after Griffin mopped the hallway floor, I went to my hands and knees to get some marks my husband had missed. 

That evening, my father came in and started working on dinner. Sensing all was not well, he offered me sugar. I tend to be evil when I get hungry and that, rather than hunger pains, is usually the indicator I need food. I repulsed his attempts at feeding me through clenched jaws, and with a wisdom earned from 40 years of marriage, he let me be. 

Griffin, Daddy and I made it through dinner. I added a prodigious amount of rum to my Coke. Three times. 

As we were cleaning up dinner, the dam broke. Dad was standing there when I started crying in a way that I haven't cried in years. It was a sobbing hack that came from the pit of somewhere I didn't know was in me. The fear came out. I poured it out. Questions I never knew I had poured out of me. How would I ever have a baby without my mother? Who would walk me through pregnancy? What would I do without my father? How could I raise my kids without their grandparents? I tried to say things that I had only half-realized I felt. I tried to tell him how I worried I was about him, about Mama. He put his arms around me and comforted me some. I managed to get it together and then Griffin and I left and started home, Griffin driving. I tried to text my sister to tell her how awful the day had been and the sobbing started all over again because what was wrong was more, even, than what I had said to my father.

Who would I be without my mother? How would I know who I was, without that tether to life? Who would love me like my father does? How could I go on without him? How can you live without your parents?

You have to understand that these are not questions I ever asked myself. You are who you are. I made me me. I'll always be Mena. But Mena never didn't have a mother or a father. With all their health problems, with all the crazy of the last 10 or so years, the thought my parents could die had occurred to me loads of time. That thought that my parents would die had occurred. But I’d never thought it would happen. I don’t know a way to explain that trite statement any better or more clearly than that. I had never stared their deaths in the face, never seen their weaknesses so clearly. Maybe they would die, but it wasn’t nowHow could it be? I didn't even have babies yet. I wasn't ready. Parents’ dying before their kids is the natural progression. But as far as I was concerned that was never actually going to happen because my existence is fundamentally linked to theirs. 

 And so I came unhinged. The depth of Cheryl Strayed's grief didn't seem extreme to me at all. I could fully imagine going completely wild in the face of reality ceasing to be real. How can you know anything to be true when the reality is, your tie to life, the reason you exist in the first place is gone? How would I be able to sit at that dining room table across from my mother’s empty seat, day after day until the man sitting at my left hand was gone too? How could it be that a world exists in which my parents aren't immortal? 

I’m still struggling with this. I have these moments where I am absolutely drowning in grief and anger, where I cannot breathe because my parents are going to die and that nothing I do—no amount of vacuuming or grocery shopping or dogwalking or floor mopping can make it not happen. I’ve been to more funerals in the past 3 years than I have in the past 15 combined. At each of them, I was struck by the loss, struck by how all those people were going to have to put on their pants every day. Brush their teeth. Decide what to make for a perfectly ordinary Tuesday night dinner while living with knowledge their loved one has died. Their dad or grandmother or friend were never going to walk through the door again.

I just can’t fathom it. I just can’t.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

I Don't Stand with Phil Robertson

Chick-Fil-A’s chicken minis are quite possibly the best breakfast food on the planet.

But I don’t eat them. I don’t drink Chick-Fil-A's freshly-squeezed lemonade or eat their pickle-juice soaked sandwiches. I don’t eat at Chick-Fil-A anymore. Period. Their political position on gay rights is repugnant to me.  Chick-Fil-A gives money to organizations that actively work against equality for the LGBT community, and that makes me angry. So I refuse to eat there. I don’t spend my money in their establishment. And on mornings when I think that maybe, just maybe I could get away with a 4-piece, just this once, I remind myself that my brother had to go to Montreal to get married. Don’t get me wrong—it’s a beautiful city and we had a wonderful time. But my country and organizations like Chick-Fil-A don’t think that my brother and brother-in-law have the right to say  “I do” to one another.

It’s not practical for me to become an ex-patriot, and my becoming an ex-patriot wouldn’t help the problem anyway. I have to stay here to fight the fight. I’m not leaving my country, but I can—and it’s easy to—avoid Chick-Fil-A. So I do.

By not eating there, I haven’t affected their right to donate to whichever organization they please.  They can still give as they choose. But I’m not going to give them any more money to violate my principles with, and I wrote Cathy Truett to let him know.

On Facebook today, there are lots of people writing that they believe Phil Robertson has the right to say whatever he wants. They’re appalled at A&E’s quashing his freedom of speech, and I think this is ridiculous. When an organization or a person has strong beliefs that they want to trumpet, then I think they should go for it. But when a person is given a platform by someone else and uses that platform  to voice beliefs that are contrary to the giver-of-the-platform’s principles, then the giver has the right to say that that person’s words are not condoned by the giver and that the giver no longer wishes to be associated with that person.

This is not taking away Phil Robertson’s right to anything. This is A&E saying that Robertson does not represent them. This is A&E avoiding guilt by association. This is A&E taking responsibility for their content and deciding they are not going to be the vehicle from which ignorance is blasted nationally. This is A&E saying that speaking words of oppression is not acceptable. This is A&E saying they refuse to be complicit.
The following is an excerpt from CNN.com:

[Robertson] said, “"Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men." And this, “Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers -- they won't inherit the kingdom of God. Don't deceive yourself. It's not right."

So, my gay brother is just one slippery-slope step away from raping his dachshund. I’m surprised Robertson didn’t also include the frequently feared, “What’s next? Incest?” question. But let’s not stay with gay. Let’s move into even more murky ground: how black people were just so happy before the Civil Rights Era:

"I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I'm with the blacks, because we're white trash. We're going across the field. ... They're singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, 'I tell you what: These doggone white people' -- not a word! Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues."

You can read it all for yourself here. There are no caveats in his statement to suggest that he recognizes that black people in this country weren’t universally happy. The way he posits his experience suggests that it was universal, that there’s just been much ado about nothing when it comes to civil rights.  That separate but equal was fine. That racism isn't a problem. That discrimination doesn't exist. 

I don’t stand with Phil Robertson.  And I don’t hold with the idea that A&E’s putting the show on hiatus is somehow a violation of Robertson’s first amendment right.  He said what he wanted to say, and A&E has responded.

He’s white trash, he says? I quite agree.

A&E didn’t inhibit his right to free speech. They exercised their right to freedom of association.

I stand by A&E. 


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Parenting



Do you know what kids don’t have? Any sense of the trauma their parents went through trying to get them here.

Here, as in born. As in alive and whole. 

 As children of parents, we are all so fucking selfish. We don’t think about how we almost killed our mothers trying to get into this world. We don’t think about how she hemorrhaged in an overheated van while her husband went looking for help.  Hemorrhaged while her other two children slept in the back, hot but oblivious.

We live our bitchy little lives, sighing and gritting our teeth over every imposition, every voice mail, every piled up email, every “When are you coming to visit again?”, completely blind to the fact that our birth was terrifying and exciting and looked forward to and feared, and we sit there smug about how big we are now, and how not like children we are, when in fact the act of saying we’re not like children is what makes us so fucking childlike.

We think of our obligations and our inconvenience and their ridiculous habits and points of view and never once question the way her body changed, the swelling, the hunger, the bills they feared, picking beans out of chili and making brown gravy even for pancakes, the sleepless nights driving round and round the block, the endless fight with doctors who don’t believe in you the way she does. The people who teach you to speak and walk and to function.  

They shrug and call it parenting. I shrug and call them trouble.

The realization that I suck is as baffling as it is true. The realization that my parents will always be excited when I come to visit, that they will always look forward to getting hugs and kisses from me—me a grown-ass woman of 31. Too proud to hug and kiss. Too smart and impatient. Rushing them off the phone because I’m busy (and I am so fucking busy…but too fucking busy for the people who made me possible?).

We take our very existence for granted when our parents know how delicate and fragile a process it was getting us here. Here, as in born. As in alive and relatively whole. While we tear down the highway. While we skydive and join the military and insist on breaking our own hearts over and over again. They watch. They worry. And we scoff.

And that’s being a parent.

Friday, November 2, 2012

A Very Good Thing

Griffin was in the bedroom putting clean sheets on the bed, a chore I detest in some crazy exponential inverse of how much I adore clean sheets. I'd taken my wedding and engagement rings off to do the dishes, but as I walked from my bureau back to the kitchen, I saw him standing beside the bed, his arms full of comforter.

I thought, I married him. I actually stood before God and our loved ones and he is mine until the end, and I'm his. And I know this because I have the pictures.

And it was this crazy moment that I'm going to go ahead and say I bet a lot of women feel. Maybe it's more the women who've been sad before, who've lost hope that they'd find their Griffin, or thought they had found him but instead had a Lacoste or a Cool Water. Women whose wedding days blur with the passage of time so that the wedding itself doesn't feel real even though every moment in their everyday lives sings of that joy. Or maybe it was just me, bemused and grateful that Griffin was home and clean with a belly full of what I had cooked and who was in that moment, in all likelihood, thinking of nothing more complicated than which end of the comforter is up--these are the moments in my marriage that fill me up so fully I don't know how I ever lived without it. I recognize that I thought I had it before, but the reality of missus is so unknowable until it happens. I think about all the married women I know, all of whom kept this secret, keep this secret: you feel the preciousness of your marriage in clean sheets, that check in the bank, the fence he built. 

I think about all the married people I know who are happy, and I can't believe they never told me about how safe they feel, how loved, how responsible, how even in the humdrum-don't-know-what-to-make-for-dinner of the everyday, your heart keeps getting refilled with the thought: I married him.

It is a very good thing.