I always said I would never get married.
Conveniently, no one ever proposed to me, either.
Then when I hit middle age, a bunch of my female friends and acquaintances tied the knot.
One (I’m sorry but… extremely unlikely) wedding in particular shoved my ego over an emotional cliff.
“SHE’s married and I’m not!” I heard myself wail in Arnie’s general direction.
He and I had been together for years and purchased a condo (and a beloved cat) together. Arnie didn’t see much point in getting married, but went along anyhow. After all, it meant a week-long trip to Las Vegas.
I definitely got the better part of this deal.
Arnie is smart, funny, hard working, honest to a fault, and only watches sports on TV every four years.
Whereas I can’t cook, still don’t quiet understand the concept of “dusting,” am a temperamental artiste, and look like the love child of Frodo and Hillary Clinton.
So why (besides inertia, and fear of a heated cat custody battle) is Arnie still around?
(At least, until he reads this.)
3. Forget your anniversary
When did Arnie and I get married?
Well, I know for sure it was a month with a “J” in it.
I don’t remember that, either. Maybe 2005? 2007?
Remembering our first date is much easier: April 1, 1998.
That is: “April Fool’s Day” and “The year Frank Sinatra died.”
Since my own family was a mess, I got my ideas about what marriage was like from The Flintstones and any number of movies and sitcoms. One familiar trope was the “forgotten anniversary,” and how fatally unforgivable such a memory lapse was supposed to be.
The more glossy magazines and romcoms and The Bachelor and envy-inducing Facebook updates we consume, the more susceptible we are to fits of faux outrage on the domestic front.
“He didn’t surprise me with a trip to This Year’s Trendy Destination.” “I can’t believe he didn’t plan anything romantic for Valentine’s Day/New Year’s Eve/Kwanzaa.”
Women only “want” overpriced engagement photoshoots or dozens of roses or those frankly charmless Pandora “charm” bracelets because they think they’re supposed to. Oprah gave them away for Christmas or something.
Whereas Arnie and I exchange modest Christmas gifts, and celebrate birthdays in a low-key, pizza-and-birthday-cake way. (This year, mine was VERY low-key, upon request.)
Like a post-modern, countercultural Barbie, I came to his marriage complete with accessories – that is, my engagement and wedding rings, courtesy of my late grandmother and mother, respectively.
That’s set the tone for our marriage. I have my own money. I can buy my own stuff.
Too many wives simmer with resentment about un-given gifts and forgotten milestones.
2. Just say “yes”
It all started when some guy created a spreadsheet listing his wife’s manifold reasons for rejecting sex, that wife posted said spreadsheet on Reddit, and – surprise! – the whole thing went viral.
Since then, my fellow contributors David Swindle, Dr. Helen and Francis W. Porretto have engaged in a polite yet passionate conversation about sex, marriage, maturity and spirituality.
As for me, I don’t understand why a woman would marry a man she didn’t want to have sex with. Again – perhaps because their lives are shallow and tedious – too many wives enjoy nursing trivial grudges, and treating marriage as an exercise in double-entry bookkeeping.
In general, wives should say “yes” to their husbands more often than they say “no,” and not just in the bedroom.
That’s been a challenge for me. I am temperamentally programmed to say “no” when asked almost anything, even if I’m being offered something pleasant.
Being an introvert means I need to mull over every invitation to (scary) personal interaction and intimacy, and possible threat to my autonomy; my “no”s are my emotional speed bumps and yield signs. They buy me time to examine possible actions in my mental “clean room” before I decide to whether or not to say “yes.”
Marriage has forced me to exercise my “yes” muscle.
Arnie is a solitary introvert, too, but not as much as I am. (That would be pretty impossible…) For instance, it took me years to realize that he sometimes needed and wanted companionship while running boring, everyday errands.
Even when I could have used a break from writing, I’d been inclined to turn down (rather curtly) his invitations to go to the grocery store in the middle of the afternoon. (Didn’t he know how busy and important I was?)
Now I (usually) tell him to give me a minute to put on my shoes.
It’s a little thing, but it has made a big difference in my attitude and our relationship.
1. Don’t kill your mother-in-law
It would be funny to have that sewn into an ironic, post-modern sampler, but then again, my mother-in-law would inevitably see it.
After all, the three of us share a 700 square foot condo with one bathroom, and have done so for five years.
This was not my idea.
(See, “Just say ‘yes'”, above.)
So while I do sometimes think that solitary confinement would offer a welcome respite from The Lawrence Welk Show — and, well, Murder, She Wrote — I remind myself that trials are expensive, even if you plead “guilty.”
And I’d miss the cat.