Saturday, August 29, 2009

Bob went on vacation

So my husband went on vacation in August, all by himself. I enjoyed very much having the apartment to myself, eating whenever I wanted and falling asleep without the white noise machine blaring to drown out his snoring.

It reminded me of my old spinster days when I lived alone and hop scotched from relationship to relationship, unable to relax into intimacy, unable to trust, unwilling to let anyone know what was really going on inside here. The week alone also helped me realize that I have managed what I didn't used to think was possible: I have initiated a legal marriage with a real, live man while I still have all those problems.

Being married is no badge of competency in human relationships. It just means the rocks in my head fit the holes in his. I'm still having trouble with trust and letting him really know what's going on inside. It's a mess in here and I think he's beginning to figure that out, which makes me even more hesitant to share things with him.

I remember talking to a "possibility" years ago, who ended the conversation with me because I had never been married or lived with anyone. He believed that if a woman had reached the age of 38 without either of those things happening, that meant she'd never be able to successfully live with a man. I figured the cause-and-effect sequence was that not living with a man during those critical 20's and 30's caused me to be unable to adjust to sharing my life with someone. But now I think it's the other way around: my inability to share my life with someone kept me from marrying or moving in with anyone during my 20's and 30's. The dysfunction was always there. It caused the protracted spinsterhood, it didn't result from it.

So now I'm one of those wives who adores her husband, but who likes having lots of her own space, time with friends, dinners alone and her own room. Are there other wives like that? Women who are truly happy with their partners, but need a lots of room, physically and otherwise? Fortunately, Bob was a bachelor for so long that he has his own rituals and habits and he doesn't mind a marriage with plenty of extra room. Sometimes I think we're still the spinster and the bachelor, only now we're married and living together.

Welcome, Winter!

We didn't get much of a summer in Chicago this year. Temperatures stayed surprisingly cool through most of it and, although we got a few days that were above 85 degrees, I think most Chicagoans agree that this was a non-summer. That was particularly crappy for people who were recently unemployed and experiencing their first summer off in years. They were totally entitled to beautiful weather that could have offered some tiny compensation for not being employed, but no. This summer just sucked for them.

These days fall is in the air, which is making many people unhappy, but not me. I like winter better than summer. Cold weather just makes me feel safer, partly because I prefer my skin covered rather than exposed. Bundling up and hiding in layers of clothing feels like wearing armor against the world. I'm not as vulnerable as I am with arms and legs swinging free.

Also, I'm a low stim person ("low stimulus") who prefers quiet and darkness to noise and light. During summer weather, everything's louder: people crow and bray outdoors, music spews out of open windows, arguments explode in the street at 3 a.m. But nothing shuts the city up like a thick muzzle of snow and temperatures below freezing. Ah, yes, here comes the quiet. I say let winter last for months! Fortunately, in Chicago, it does.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

From the inside

Back when I was single (a little over a year ago legally and three years ago in practice), I used to wonder what it would be like to be married. It seemed unfair that the general answer seemed to be "Every marriage is different." What the heck did that mean? Why couldn't anyone just give a clear answer as to what being married is like?

There's a single/married difference in how much information it is culturally acceptable to share. At least there's a difference in the expectation. We're allowed to ask a single person, "So, how's your love life?" or "So, are you seeing anyone these days?" with the expectation that the single person will spill it, at least some of it. We expect them to tell us if they're currently dating and if so, how serious it is, plus we expect basic information about the person they're dating.

It's obnoxious, but it might be fair if the single person were allowed to ask things like, "So, how are you and your husband getting along these days? Do you feel a real connection with him when you talk about what's important to you? Any fights lately?" But single people aren't allowed to even think of asking such things, unless they're talking to someone like their own sister.

Married people also sometimes ask single people about their sexual activity, either clearly or in a veiled, implied way. Again, this is just rude, unless the single person can also ask, "And you? Are you getting enough?"

At parties, over coffee, in water cooler conversation, everywhere, the lives of the single are much more accessible than the lives of the married. There's a curtain that hangs over the Married Experience and the only ones allowed behind it are the Married.

Screw that.

I remember hearing of a wife's response to the search for a husband. She considered all these women on the manhunt and she said, "All these girls want a husband so bad only because they've never had one." I was single and desperately lonely at the time and I thought, "That's right! I want a husband because I've never had one."

Now I have one. Now I know what she meant.

The only marriage I ever saw when I was growing up was my parents'. Because I thought my parents' marriage was representative of all marriage, it took me an extra twenty years to make it to the altar myself. I was terrified of getting married and by all reason I should still be a spinster right now.

But I've also struggled my whole life with self-esteem and I truly believed that unless a man was married to me, I had proof of my loserdom and failure. I desperately wanted to not be a failure in life and that drove my efforts to find a husband. I saw marriage as my badge of honor. It would stamp me as NORMAL and loveable.

Now it has. Now I don't need it to do that anymore. My husband knows that my low self-esteem was a critical part of my desire for wifehood. I've also told him that if/when this marriage ends in divorce or his death, I will probably not get married again. I liked being single. Living on my own worked great for my personality and values. I've managed to fit myself into this partnership, but there are ways I do not fit the married role. If I one day find myself on the aftermath side of this union, I can imagine resuming my solitary life and taking my time deciding if I want to get hitched again. Maybe I would, but I won't feel driven to it by doubt in my value. That gives me a lot of peace.

In a former post I wrote about the possibility of going on vacation without my husband and how generous I think he is to offer me that option. Since then, the reverse has happened. Bob's job gives him four weeks of vacation a year while mine gives me two. We've made the decision that makes sense: in August, Bob will take a week off to do whatever he wants. He might fish. He will visit family. He stay in a hotel part of the time and with his mother another part. He's looking forward to it.

And so am I. During that week I will re-live my spinster days: I'll nap on the sofa, leave my stuff on the floor by the front door, have the ENTIRE SPACE TO MYSELF, go to bed without waiting for someone else to get ready for bed, sleep with the bedroom door open. I might eat no meat at all and I will never once have him say in a restaurant, "Do you want dessert? Are you sure? Maybe I want dessert" and then have him torture me by ordering a dessert I was really trying to avoid (especially since he doesn't even like sweets!).

I think it's going to be great for both of us.

[I just read this post to him and he says he'll stop with the gratuitous dessert-ordering]