It was a hot, late-April morning, 2006. The Husband-Type Man and I were packing up and organizing various things in our airless, sweltering rental storage unit in preparation for the long stretch of house remodeling ahead of us, of my summer program in Virginia and his trip to Germany for the World Cup. I was meant to be finding the boxes of chillun’s books that I was going to need for my classes, but had gotten sidetracked by a big, tightly-sealed plastic container filled with wax-crusted crumpled white tulle bows, dried flowers, stacks of cards, and a ribbon-tied sheaf of papers. Our wedding mementos. Our wedding vows.
Despite the sweat and dust, we ended up holding each other for a few minutes, shifting through the pages of words and poems and promises. We’d made significant vows on that July afternoon 9 years previously, not just to each other, but to ourselves, committing to be partners in the adventure of life, to be responsible for each other, to encourage each other and ourselves to be the best, most complete possible individuals possible, to respect, to explore, to cherish. With THTM’s chin nestled against the top of my head in one of our favorite snugglin’ positions, I said, “It’s amazing to see how we’ve kept these promises to each other. You know, I’d marry you all over again.”
“Maybe we should get married all over again,” he said. “Next year, for our tenth anniversary.”
And that’s how the seeds were planted for what became a weekend celebration in July, 2007. And you’ll hear all about that, too, after I reminisce about the beginnings for a while.
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There are several subjects I’ve avoided when Blathering, for various reasons. One of them is a whole Blather about The Husband-Type Man and our marriage. After all, have you guyses seen some of those “OMG! OUR TWU WUV IS MAJYKAL!” or “SO-AND-SO + SUCH-AND-SUCH 4-EVAH!!!” twee, usually-Flash-laden monstrosities out there on Teh Interwebs? Heck, just check out some of wedding websites and you’re likely to hit a whole bunch of stuff with pictures of sunsets on the beach and Disney prince-and-princess pictures and tickers for 81 DAYS UNTIL WE’RE MARRIED/HAVE OUR BABY and “Our Story!” and “Our Engagement!” and all sorts of sick-making stuff. I’m guessing the average LiveJournal/MySpace/Facebook sites have those self-important “and here’s the LOVE OF MY LIFE!” elements as well, with pseudo-edgy anime wallpaper and mp3s by Snow Patrol or Fall Out Boy, and blogs about all the buttsecks or pr0n they enjoy with their Soulmate/Significant Other or lists of all of the pretties and pressies and goodies one’s Beloved has bequeathed upon this or that occasion, and all their friends’ validating responses with “You guys are the AWESOMEST CYOOTEST COUPLE! I’m soooo jellus!”, like the Internet is really just one big high school hallway. Or then there’s the super-cynical approach, where a spouse blogs with all of the usual complaints about men never put the toilet seat down, women spend all their money on cute shoes, he just bought a new mountain bike and we can’t afford it, dammit!, she watches those stupid chick-flick DVDs and I hate them, dammit, and you expect marriage is, like, narrated by Ray Romano or Katy Segal.
But I’m due for a little more smoofiness than usual. This year, The Husband-Type Man and I are celebrating our tenth wedding anniversary.
Dudes, I’d never thought I’d be happily married to anyone for ten years!
My expectations of marriage were pretty grim before I met THTM. You made all these plans and promises and had all these hopes and dreams starting out, and then the relationship/marriage itself was a long, usually not-blissfully-happy process of renegotiation and compromising all of those things, figuring out (i.e. fighting about) what was important (and it would usually be what he wanted or valued), struggling along financially, raising children, being resigned to “real life,” all the while reminding yourself that the blissed-out happiness and partnership you’d hoped for was “not realistic” because no typical guy was going to be “into” all that silly mushy stuff and this is what real relationships were like, and you were lucky that at least he didn’t smack you around or cheat on you a lot like so-and-so’s husband, so really, it’s not that bad, is it? I clipped pages of “Can This Marriage Be Saved” from my mom’s LHJ and read Dr. Joyce Brothers, and made lots of mental notes and promises to myself that, when I finally married, I would be sure to do everything right: always put the cap back on the toothpaste, learn how to make his favorite foods, fold his socks the way his mother always had. I’d seen my mom in and out of three marriages, marriages that were filled with screaming fights, infidelity, loneliness, lies, manipulation, passive-aggressiveness, and constant money struggles. So I was going to be prepared to know what it took to stay married. After all, marriage was work. Hard work.
Marriage, as I had anticipated it, based on my experiences, was like something out of a Roseanne rerun, only with fewer quips and wit, and no canned laughter. Marriage was something you’d have to go back and rewrite, self-fictionalize, to make it “right” or even bearable.
Once, when talking about the “somedays” of love and marriage with my then-best friend in Jr. Hi. or high school, I’d mentioned one of the few really positive examples of a marriage I’d seen: Gramma and Papa, before Papa died when I was 10. Even after thirty years of marriage, they’d looked at each other like they were madly in love. They didn’t fight or say hurtful things, even in anger; if they had a disagreement, they talked about it later. They never put each other down or made fun of each other. They treated each other with non-patronizing respect, despite their different personalities and interests, despite the hard knocks that life had dished out to them. Even when they teased each other or poked fun, there wasn’t a hint of malice, only affection. Papa used to tell the story of how he met Gram (leaving out the fact that she’d been a flirtatious teenager playing a couple military guys during WWII at the time), and that his heart started pounding the second he saw her. Whenever she walked in the room, he still smiled at her like that lovestruck-at-first-sight young man he’d been. “THAT’S what I want,” I told my then-friend after struggling to explain. “Someone who loves me like THAT!” My friend, predictably, snorted. “Well THAT’S unrealistic!” she snapped. Her own parents were a semi-arranged Italian marriage, and screaming arguments were a regular occurrence.
I figured, if and when I married, that my “realistic” marriage would be somewhere between those two extremes but closer to the “realistic” end of the spectrum... a few sweet moments mixed in with the primarily mundane, everyday ones. Sort of the opposite of the “those grapes MUST be sour” cliché where you have to convince yourself that, really, compared to those couples on talk shows or your own dysfunctional parents, you have it pretty good, don’t you...?
I was wronger than wrong about all that.
So, y’all, in celebration of all that, after ten years of marriage, why don’t I just go ahead and go whole-hog down Smoofy Lane?