Saturday, June 20, 2009

So how is married life treating me?

In the spring of 2004, almost exactly five years ago, I had a do-nothing job that gave me hours in front of an online connection every day. I was just emerging from a period of social isolation. I had few friends, longed for a romantic relationship and had a lot of free time. I craved connection with others and longed to be a part of a community.

I started this blog.

With one of those rare jobs that pays ridiculously well for an infinitesimal workload, I primarily maintained this blog at work. You might be able to look at the times that I posted during those early months and confirm this. By the end of 2004 I had left that job and started my three-year restaurant career. During that time I posted a lot late at night, which is perhaps a more typical blogging hour.

I spent a lot of this blog mucking around in loneliness and pining for a man. It's clear to me now that I was most prolific when I was most miserable. But over the past five years I've worked hard to build new friendships, solidify connection and create a real-life community of people who I regularly invite over to eat my food. And I found a man to marry. As a result, my emotional dependence on this blog has diminished so much that I seem to have stopped posting. In fact, it has been so long since I last used this blog as an outlet for my ruminations and emotions that I've sort of forgotten how to do it. Typing this right now feels odd.

I craved intimacy and this blog provided it. I still crave intimacy, but now I get it from my friends and my husband. Maybe this is why Facebook fails to draw me. It might seem like a natural fit for someone like me, with a history of blogging and online community, but it doesn't fit because I'm no longer interested in "spilling it" onto a keyboard. Now I do that in person.

Married life is mostly good. There are things I miss about living alone (like quietness and my great spinster pad that got so much natural light), but I'm happier with this particular person in my life. Getting married was a good move for me because it attached me to someone who is so buoyant that I can never drag him down, no matter how gloomy and emotional I get. Before our first date (we met online, of course), Bob Martin described himself as happy-go-lucky, funny, super-easy to get along with and the guy everyone wants to be friends with/work with. That has all turned out to be true. He has his bad days and sometimes his job gets to him, but life never looks completely black to him. His attitude towards the world and everyone in it is amazing to me and I need to be around it even if (or especially because) I'll never attain it myself.

But no matter how well it's going, I know that few marriages last for decades. Bob and I have the advantage of having started this marriage late in life (in our 40's), so it's possible that it will last until one of dies. With less ground to cover in front of us, we've minimized the length of time we have to navigate this institution that some call "unnatural," an opinion with which I can't disagree. Why does society expect two changing, evolving people to occupy such an extremely intimate dynamic, happily, for an unlimited amount of time? It's ridiculous and since I'm rarely surprised when a marriage fails, I hope I'm not when/if mine does.

However it plays out - we divorce, he dies -- I have some expectation that I'll be single again one day, that my role as a wife is temporary. Maybe this is realistic, or maybe I'm in denial: afraid of long-lasting intimacy and trying to regain my former spinster freedom. It's probably the second explanation. No matter how happy I am with Bob, I still see spinsterhood as providing freedom, safety, room to move. I'm what you could call happily married, but I remember the advantages of being single: taking vacations wherever I wanted to go; eating boxes of cupcakes with no one to see the empty containers; spending my money on anything I wanted without ever having to discuss it; being unemployed without dragging anyone down but myself; setting up the exact living space I want.

I am happily married, but I still see the advantages of being alone. I don't know if all the other married women have forgotten those advantages or if they ever knew them. Maybe the sisterhood of married women lives by unspoken rules, one of which is to never express true longing for singlehood, at least not until you're ready to file for divorce. That's too bad because there must be ways to preserve some of those wonderful spinster freedoms even within a marriage.

Today Bob and I discussed going on a vacation to my favorite place in the world: Breitenbush Hot Springs. I took two vacations there when I was a swinging spinster and swore I'd continue regular visits for the rest of my life. But it all came to a halt when I started vacationing with Bob two years ago. Every once in a while I think about Breitenbush with sadness and longing. It's still my favorite place. I see it in my mind whenever I need to relax.

During our talk it became clear that Bob has no desire at all to go to Breitenbush. A beautiful natural resort where you eat vegan food, take yoga classes, relax in the hot springs and basically do nothing? Not only is there no cell phone reception, they have only one landline for office and emergency use only. Bob wants nothing to do with this place.

But he wants me to go back. He wants me to take some vacation time and either go alone or invite a friend. This is a stunning offer. I can go alone? The spinster can swing again?

So marriage is treating me as well as someone like me can accept and often even better. I'm not complaining. Actually I do complain, quite a bit, all the time, but I at least try to keep the really toxic stuff to myself. You'd have to ask Bob if I succeed.

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