So. Wife. Being a wife. There are loaded words, and then there are *loaded* words, and I think wife falls into the second category. I first started thinking about this concept when I got this comment from Cindy (remember Cindy?) right before the wedding:
“Meg, I love being a wife. So far in life, it’s been my most satisfying and challenging role. So here’s to the rest of yours and David’s life. Cheers.”
David was reading my comments over my shoulder (as he does) and he stopped at that one. “Wife?” He said, “That’s sort of a surprising comment. It’s something I feel like you don’t hear very much these days. People don’t say ‘I love being a wife’ unless they are talking about how they love being a stay-at-home soccer mom, and I’m pretty positive she doesn’t mean that.”
“I’m going to be a wife THIS WEEK,” I screeched. “I better love it. I better not become a stay at-home-soccer-mom-with-a-minivan. I better not lose myself. Certainly! Not!”
And then we got married. I haven’t told you guys this, but I stopped wearing my engagement ring the next day, which was funny, given all the time we’d spent thinking about it and picking it out. There were a lot of reasons that maybe I’ll talk about one day, but one of them was this – my bands (I have two, Jewish and well, regular) don’t scream ‘wedding bands,’ at least not without an engagement ring. And while I wanted to mark myself as taken, it turned out I didn’t really care to mark myself as married to the wide world. “Too much baggage,” I said, “Being a married woman comes with a lot of baggage, and a lot of stuff I’m not. I just don’t want to communicate that to everyone I meet.”
So. It turns out I love being married. LOVE it. It’s strange that it’s any different at all, but it is. On our honeymoon I started realizing all the really great things about it – we’re on a team now, a literal team. We support each others endeavors, we encourage each other, we support each other financially. Ah ha! I realized. Now we are two*! This is awesome. As two we should be able to be much braver, much more adventurous, right? We’ll be able to hold each other accountable. Imagine all the stuff we’ll be able to get done! Fabulous. So I started making a list in my head of ‘Now-We-Are-Two exciting projects to consider in the next three-ish years:’
- Project Travel. You can travel with babies, but isn’t it better to practice traveling without them first? I have a lot of the world left to see.
- Project Grad School. I’ve been breadwinner while David is in school, when he’s out, I should take my turn. I started researching graduate programs on our honeymoon. Somewhere in Scotland, I decided on what Masters degree I wanted to pursue.
- Project Start A Business. Look around you. Wouldn’t it be great if I had time to make sure there was more of that?
- Project Renovate a House. I’ve never been super wrapped up in buying a house. I mean, all the places I want to live tend to offer apartments for sale for half a million and up. If I have to choose between renting in San Francisco or buying in the suburbs, I can make that choice in five seconds flat. But then I realized you could buy run down cheap historic homes these days. Tiny, maybe in slightly dubious neighborhoods, but cheap (there are perks to being young in a horrible housing market). Then you could gut them, and make them beautiful again. Ahhhh… refinishing hardwood floors with an industrial sander by ourselves? That’s the kind of nesting that sounds interesting to me.
So I was excited. As soon as I came home from my honeymoon, I started looking around. Married blogs! Married media! I was going to find all the media that discussed exciting married projects! Ambition squared! Whheeeeee! And then slowly, very slowly, I felt the air letting out of my balloon. Where was this marriage discussion? I didn’t want to talk about nesting and buying pillows. I mean, I already had pillows. I didn’t want to talk about cooking organic food. I don’t really cook. (There. I said it. David cooks.) I didn’t want to talk about having a baby. Or I didn’t want to talk about *me* having a baby right now, though your baby is adorable.
And then I started processing this a little bit. Could it possibly be true that much of the available media I could find about new wife-ness was about buying pillows and cooking and having babies? In 2009? That couldn’t be right. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I like cooking and babies and maybe even pillows, but I’ll be damned if I was going to let being a wife mean just cooking and babies and nesting. I had a list of PROJECTS damn it. I wanted to think about what new marriage meant. It’s joys, it’s challenges. I wanted to talk about wife-dom, and what it means to me now, as a woman with a very independent streak, a woman who’s a feminist, in 2009.
The New York Times recently ran a Modern Love article (that you MUST read right now if you haven’t already) written by a gay woman about her stay-at-home-wife. She said this:
I want to broaden the meaning of “wife.” When I call Ellen my wife I don’t want to mean that she is simply the chore-doer but that she’s the guiding intelligence behind her half of our household. Ellen doesn’t take care of the children the way I would, not by a long shot. If I were the stay-at-home mother, they would wear different clothes, eat different lunches, attend different activities. The cleaning and the laundry would get done in a different order and to a different standard. It took me a long time to accept that Ellen’s way is legitimate; it was probably 18 months from the time she began taking care of our son full time to when I truly let go of trying to make her do it my way.
That passage reminded of two members of our family. We don’t see them very often, but every time we do, we come away saying, I hope we’re parents like *that.* I hope that’s us, 15 years in. The kind of parents no one tell you that you can be – the wry, honest, funny kind. The kind that can love your kid and still note that parenting, when paired with sanity, needs a pretty serious dose of irony. The stay at home parent** in that family is the dad (parent and artist, natch). And this passage in the New York Times reminded me that as far as I can tell, he’s one of the best wives I know. I don’t think I’d mind growing up to be a wife like that. And I’d like a little more of that. A little less pillows, and a lot more honesty.
So lets do this thing. Lets reclaim the word wife. Lets talk about marriage. So tell me what you want to talk about, and then lets c-h-a-t. You can bring your pillows, but you better bring a conversation topic that doesn’t involve them.
*Two. Count it. Two. None of this two-become-one bullcr*p. Why the hell would I want to go from being One to being One-Half? Right. I wouldn’t.
**For all I know he may have a mini-van. Do y’all even drive mini-vans in the UK?