The Unexpected Adventure

Have you ever had a panic attack at 30,000 feet? I’ve had two in the last month, and one this weekend led to a fairly interesting adventure. But let’s back up.

I’ve never loved flying, but ever since I moved to New York City from Southern California at 18-years-old, I’ve done a fair amount of it. This year, however, what with it being my first year of self-employment, I’ve done a ton. I said yes to personal and professional travel, perhaps a tad too often, just because I could. Then this fall, it reached a critical mass. Since August, I’ve been on 15 flights (including two trans-Atlantic flights, which I actually don’t mind as much), one long ferry ride, and two long train trips. On Wednesday, in the middle of traveling to see my Grandmother for Thanksgiving, my body decided rather suddenly at 30,000 feet that it was overwhelmed by life and done with plane travel. Last time this happened, I was traveling alone, and the stewardesses (God bless them) pulled me out of my seat, blew air in my face, put cold compresses on my neck, and proceeded to get me drunk so they didn’t have to call in a medical professional. This time, I was traveling with my husband (God bless him) and my hands started shaking so hard I couldn’t hold the drink he’d pressed into my hands (and I was already on anti-anxiety medication). To say it was unpleasant would be a small understatement.

When we landed, I turned to David and said, “I can’t get on the next plane. Also, I clearly need treatment for my flying phobia.” And, “But seriously, I can’t get on the next plane.” And that’s when the foundation of what my marriage is started to play out. There I was, sobbing in the Phoenix airport. David said, “Are you sure you can’t get on the plane? Because it’s a short flight and I think you can probably do it.” And I collapsed into tears again, and said, “I can’t.” He asked if I wanted to get a plane home. I said, “No,” and croaked out, “I think we need to rent a car.”

And my amazing husband nodded and said, “Ok. We need to rent a car,” grabbed his iPhone, started searching, and then told me to grab my things. Let me tell you, you get some funny looks when you roll up to a rental counter in Phoenix at 10pm, sans reservation, and ask to rent a car and return it in San Francisco four days later.

The whole thing made me think about what marriage is. Life is a series of things you plan and things you hope for, followed by things going awry. Life is thinking you’re going to have a short and comfortable flight to New Mexico, and ending up in pine-scented Flagstaff, in a hotel you picked because you were too tired to drive your rental car any further, with a wife looking rather green around the gills after a terrible panic attack. And the thing about marriage is that it gives you a partner to sob on, to plan with, and to drive the rental car, when you’re shaking too hard to do it.

Back when I started Reclaiming Wife, people asked me to write about marriage as a culturally privileged state. And while I thought the topic was very interesting (guest post anyone?) it wasn’t something I could personally write about. David and I did our early growing up in creative and ambitious New York City. In the professional creative worlds in New York, powerful men are sometimes married with families. Powerful women rarely have both and are often single. So as an absurdly ambitious person, I felt significant pressure not to get married. And before we got engaged, I spent a lot of time wondering if married life, and wanting to focus on my family, was going to hold me back at all. And the answer that I came to was what played out for us this weekend.

Far from holding me back, David has always been the person who helps me figure out what to do next. He sees solutions where I don’t. He gives me the tools I need to move forward and the push (and hugs) to do it when things are tough. If I’d been alone in that Phoenix Airport, I would have been in a scary place. While I probably would have sorted something out, it would have been confusing and frightening. But with David there, it turned into an adventure.

Rather unexpectedly, we drove 1600 miles this weekend. Also unexpectedly, I went to Las Vegas for the first time, where I finally saw a burlesque artist do a pole dance. (Holy shit ladies. There is a reason this is one of my long time personal obsessions.) I played the slot machines (which I still don’t understand). I saw crazy fake pyramids and Eiffel towers (again, don’t really understand). We had the kind of road trip where you don’t have reservations, you just drive till you’re done driving and then find a hotel. I stared out at the desert and thought a lot. We listened to a two hour interview with Nirvana about the 20th anniversary of Nevermind, did some googling to discover that, as I suspected, we were born in the last two years of Generation X and are not in fact Millennials (being on a generational cusp is fascinating). We read about and discussed generational theory. I stared into space some more. I wrote in my journal in a lot of different locations. I took some photos. We ate a fair amount of In N Out. And when I called my mom on day four in the car, she said I sounded “well rested.” Oddly, I was.

When we told the story of how we ended up in the middle of a roadtrip to the table of seniors at my Grandmother’s retirement home, cheers broke out for David when I told them that he’d rented a car, without hesitation, after my panic attack. And if there is one thing I know for sure, it’s that 70- and 80-year-olds tend to know a ton about life and marriage. So when they applauded David, I knew for sure we were on to something good. Because life is complicated. And frankly, life is hard. And having someone around who’s willing to change plans, to make jokes, and to turn a serious obstacle into an adventure? That may be as good as it gets.

Photos by me, for A Practical Wedding

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  • Wow yeah. That is as good as it gets.
    That sounds like a super fun adventure, road trips are the best.
    I am sorry about your panic attack , they do not sound fun at all. Here is hoping it won’t happen anytime soon, and happily, there is David by your side.

  • Of all the places to get a panic attack, I don’t think there’s a worse one than an airplane. I hope you find the time and space to deal with the underlying phobia soon.

    Despite your ordeal-turned-adventure this piece makes me feel very good. Because (even though you’re nowhere near 70) I have this idea that you know a whole lot about life and marriage, and what you describe is (on a smaller scale) very much the way my relationship/ marriage works.

    I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving, in any case.

  • Hey girlfriend–

    I love this post. It made me tear up a bit. I loved the images of Americana and can picture the table at the retirement home, filled with cheering oldies. I can so relate to panic attacks–I had a series of them several years ago, when I was going through my divorce, and I literally thought I was having a stroke. Once, I ended up having a seizure in the US Embassy with my skirt up over my head surrounded by the marine guard (pro tip: they’ll get your new pages in your passport DAMN QUICK). Terrifying stuff–I’m so sorry, but also glad that you knew enough not to force that last flight.

    I’m feeling tender about marriage today because my husband had a car accident this morning. He is fine. Everybody is fine. He handled the whole things with cool and smarts, and dignity and generosity, because that’s how he rolls. But when you get that phone call that starts with: I had a rather serious car accident… and you are as in love with your husband as a person can physically, emotionally and spiritually be. Well… GAH… it puts one into a teary place thinking about the small and big ways we take care of each other and make each other stronger and better. I’m so happy you have your love. Marriage is special.

    • Kim

      I’m glad your husband is ok, Manya. *hugs*

      Meg – thanks for talking about this at all, let alone so eloquently. *hugs* Hearing your description of David’s reaction to your panic attack gives me great inspiration to provide that support for my husband and his family.

      Our Thanksgiving was fine, until suddenly, it was not. Witnessing his family drama unfold was scary, on an emotional level. We’re all still in a bit of shock because things were said that can’t be taken back. Our heads are still spinning from the drama and now we’re not sure what to do for Christmas. I can help with that, providing ideas and options, ala David. Hopefully the pain will recede for my husband and his family, and we can create a new adventure out of all this. Thanks to both you and David for the inspiration and hope that good can come of sudden shifts in plans.

      P.S. Story idea: panic attacks and weddings – anyone else out there experience a panic attack during their wedding or the planning process?

      • bec

        Kim, I did a wedding with a bridesmaid who was prone to panic attacks. It was an interesting, eye opening experience for me; mostly in the way her community (including the bride) surrounded her and helped her understand that if she had one during the ceremony it wouldn’t ruin anything.

        Yay for the good people in life, who can help you through the challenging moments!!

      • Had the worst one ever the morning of my wedding because of some insane drama with my bridal party that kept me up all night. I had a lunch-time wedding so I didn’t have time to recover and I just sat in a hot bath at 5:30 AM, shaking so hard I could barely call my mom to bring me ginger ale. At some point I decided I had to get fresh air but I collapsed in the stairwell of the inn and just stared blankly at the front door until my husband found me and I cried hysterically. I told him I didn’t want to get married that day, that I felt like all hell, and that I was going to murder the entire bridal party. He just held me and listened and then walked me to my hair and make-up appointment. He stayed with me for as long as he could and then my mom showed up and took over. He has some kind of magic cuddles, I think, because I got through the day after that. Kind of an amazing affirmation of our marriage on the day of the wedding.
        This part did not make it into my wedding grad post, haha.

      • Jessica

        I had a panic attack the day of my wedding. I think it sort of started as I was walking down the aisle, cause I suddenly got short of breath and had to actively concentrate on breathing. When we got to the reception, we climbed four flights of stairs and at the top, I couldn’t catch my breath and after five or six breaths I started crying- kept up for a good 10 minutes. After my husband calmed me down, I had a great night, but it was sort of scary at the time.

      • um. yes. A week before the wedding. at a Home Depot. and totally un-wedding related.

        it’s kind of awkward in public, but (pro tip) telling your fiance that you’re not crying in the garden store of Home Depot because of him or because you don’t want to get married is the first thing you should try and blubber out.

    • meg


    • Josephine

      *hugs* Manya.

      I’m glad he is ok. You should both check out the signs of post traumatic stress though – they can sometimes kick in after the fact and there is no shame at all in it for either of you. It can help to know what it is that you are experiencing.

      Look after yourselves.

    • oh my goodness Manya, so glad your husband is ok! My husband got hit by a car recently, as a pedestrian – he’s fine! but getting that call is really scary.

      • Mine was hit recently too, but as a biker. He is okay (bruises and back pain, but not worse), but it was very scary nonetheless…. It was a reminder though to be thankful for each and every moment together, however “ordinary.”

  • I think he’s a keeper.

    • meg


  • I love this story so hard. Panic attacks suck but clearly this one showed up to not-so-gently remind you how awesome your husband and marriage is.

    • meg

      This might actually be the perfect Kathleen story, including the pictures, now that I think about it :)

  • This post really exemplifies marriage to me. We’re with our partners for a reason–because they support us and want to take care of us when we’re crippled by fear or pain. If my husband were suddenly unable to fly, I hope I’d be the David and rent a car without question. This post really warms my heart and makes me hopeful for the modern state of marriage in general.

  • Yes yes yes. Love and support. And ambition squared.

  • Nicole

    This is gold.

    In my relationship, I’ve been on both sides of the panic attack coin (though thankfully, it’s been a while since that’s happened to either of us.) It can be pretty scary being either the person under attack or the caregiver. It was a great day when my fiance realized that I knew what she needed when she has a panic attack, and that I could do my part calmly and confidently. I consider those situations to be opportunities for acts of love.

  • Kate

    “If I’d been alone in that Phoenix Airport, I would have been in a scary place.”

    And *that’s* why marriage is culturally privileged, Meg. (That, and the legal benefits that aren’t open to everybody, but I know you know that.)

    I’m sensitive to this because I was perpetually single until I met my fiance, and in addition to the social stigma and wondering if you’ll ever find someone, very few people acknowledge the hardships of picking yourself up off the floor after a layoff, nursing yourself when you’re sick, and driving every damn mile of any road travel yourself. I couldn’t believe how much easier my life got when I finally had someone to split the chores (even if I sometimes have to ask him to do it, guess what? It beats doing everything myself.)

    There’s nothing wrong with writing about your good fortune, but there IS a tremendous amount of privilege in being married, and it sounds like you’re dismissing the people who asked you to acknowledge that.

    • I think what Meg was saying is that she can’t write about it because she hasn’t experienced the other side, not because she doesn’t think there might be truth in the idea.

      • meg


    • Bambi

      I don’t know if Meg is dismissing it – just that the socially privileged angle wasn’t really what she was focusing on in this post.

      However, I had to “exactly” your comment because I completely agree that society doesn’t really acknowledge how hard it is to be single and live on your own. And honestly, I am not even talking about the emotional aspects as much as just the practical side of needing someone to help with the work of daily life. I lived alone for a long time before I met my boyfriend and then for several years while we were doing long distance. For the first few years, I got through it by congratulating myself of being able to do everything alone. On those days when the roof leaked and the car wouldn’t start and the dog has escaped the fence and run away, I would somehow get through it all and then sit back and think how amazing it was that I could manage it all on my own. I’d actually think about how, if I was married right now, I would never have learned to change a faucet or install an invisible fence on my own, but since I’m single I am gaining all these skills and self-reliance (*rolls eyes*). But then later, when he was looking for a job where I lived but it was taking forever, I started to really resent having to do everything all by myself. In fact, once or twice, in the middle of horrible melt downs, I yelled something along the lines of “I shouldn’t have to do everything myself. You should be here!” And ultimately, he did move in. Now I am acutely aware every day how much easier and better things are when you have two people working together. Although we aren’t parents yet, I often think about how amazing single parents are. I cannot imagine how they do everything on their own. I guess we all just have to take a few minutes to step back and be thankful for not just the love and support of our significant others, but also the work they do, and they ways they keep our lives running. It is a huge gift to have someone there to help you!

    • Tennymo

      Of course it can be easier to be sick, or ambitious, with a good supportive partner. I think when Meg said she couldn’t write a post about how marriage is culturally privileged, she just meant that when she was coming up in New York, many of the folks in the cultural space she was part of viewed marriage as something that would distract you or hold you back from going after your goals. So the micro-culture she found herself in did not privilege marriage, especially for women. But there are many other cultural spaces that hold up marriage in a different, more privileged light.

      And, burlesque is so hot/amazing!

      • meg


    • mimi

      Kate, I more than “exactly” this. I was perpetually single too, and now just having someone to take the garbage out is amazing (in addition to everything else he does and helps with, of course).

    • Nicole


      I’m going to explain the way that I think about it, though I wouldn’t assume that this is the way Meg thinks about it.

      Marriage is a priveleged cultural state in some ways, but certainly not all. When you’re on the receiving end of the support/thoughtfulness/extra-chore-doer, sure, that’s something that single people do not have, and often face on their own. The catch is: marriage involves sacrifice and balance. Think of it from David’s point of view: his travel was completely interrupted. The new plan (or lack of a plan) involved a tremendous amount of effort on his part. And he had to care for another person through all of it. If he were single, he would have had the privelege of travelling at his own pace, interrupted only by his own needs or wants.

      I’m not denying that people in married relationships have social, cultural, emotional, etc. benefits. But I wanted to point out that this is certainly balanced by a constant responsibility for another human being.

      • meg

        Ah, this is NOT the way I was thinking about it, but I think you’re right in a sense (or can be right). I’m not ignoring the fact that single life can be hard, but there are other ways that it can be amazing. Some people hate single life, some people love it, sometimes you love/hate it (I loved it so much I was downright bitter about moving in with David when it became necessary). So it’s a balance.

        I certainly worry that the world I see now (online, at least) tends to hold marriage up as this amazing problem solver. And good marriage is a good thing (though not a perfect thing, and thing involving some sacrifice). A not great marriage is something to be avoided, and that isn’t discussed enough, I think.

        • Nicole

          “A not great marriage is something to be avoided, and that isn’t discussed enough, I think.”

          Amen to that!

    • melissa

      I feel like I’m hearing the middle of an ongoing conversation. One where I obviously missed the beginning. Culturally privileged in what way? That everyone is not being allowed to have it? Or in the way society makes second class citizens of even straight people who aren’t married? I agree with both, but don’t really see how Meg is dismissing it. I just thought it sounded like she felt incapable of properly addressing the topic.

      • meg

        “In the way society makes second class citizens of people who aren’t married.” And yes, I just feel incapable of properly addressing the topic.

    • Z

      See, I think marriage is culturally privileged (even in the milieu Meg talks about, of “creative, ambitious New York”), but I’m not sure what you’re talking about relates to that. The hardships you mention seem more to be the disadvantages of being single, and firstly privilege doesn’t just mean “advantages” and lack of privilege “disadvantages”, and secondly you don’t need to be married to your partner for those disadvantages to be done away with.

      I see the cultural privilege accruing to marriage as lying in the overriding status many cultures give marriage. So never mind if you’ve been in an unmarried but loving partnership with your partner for decades; in many cases people will still give precedence to a marriage where the couple have known each other for a few months over a plain old partnership. And there are the legal rights, tax benefits, etc. — you might say those aren’t strictly cultural but our society assigns these to married couples precisely because of the cultural significance of marriage.

      I guess I’d distinguish between privilege and advantages. Having somebody there to take turns driving and to nurse you when you’re sick is an advantage of partnered life. Privilege seems to me to be more about the external, socially-enforced advantages that don’t have their source in the relationship you have – it’s about the way other people treat you and your relationship.

    • meg

      This is a bit of a complicated question. I actually wasn’t often alone during my single life, and being single in New York City was a bit of a different thing… being single and professional in New York City *is* a culturally privileged state. So, yeah, it’s complicated. I’m not denying that for many people it is a culturally privileged state, I’m just saying I never experienced in that way, so I can’t write about it (sounds like you could).

      That said, I think MY marriage is fortunate. I don’t think that MARRIAGE is good fortune. Many of the marriages we’ve seen around us are anything but that.

      This is, of course, taking the legal rights for everyone out of the question, because that’s not particularly what we’re discussing here, and I think everyone is on the same page here, in that discussion.

      • Kate

        Hi everybody, this is the same Kate as above (there are a few of us running around here.)

        I agree with you, Meg, that good marriages, not marriages per se, are the real privilege in the sense we’re talking about (as separate from the legal sense.)

        The thing I’ve learned about privilege is that people who have it very rarely feel like they do. Think about a white person who hears about white privilege and goes, “Hey, I work hard at my job. No one handed me a cupcake today just for being white. What do you mean I benefit from white privilege?” But just because it isn’t necessarily part of her conscious experience, doesn’t disprove that it does in fact exist and that she does benefit from it.

        On the other hand, that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be ready to write a treatise on it, but I think it’s important to acknowledge that just as a good marriage is good fortune/a blessing/fun/etc, it’s a privilege too, and I see you doing that, so thank you.

        Also, I’m glad to hear people talking about their single experiences because I think that’s an important part of conversations around Reclaiming Wife, too.

        • meg

          What I mean to say though, is that I felt very privileged, more privileged, within my particular culture, when I was single. Within my micro-culture, I felt *less* privileged as a married person. Which is an interesting micro-cultural trend, and obviously a counter current to the greater American culture. Hence, me not being able to write about the greater cultural experience, which was all I was saying in my aside in the piece. The analogy between white people and privilege is interesting, but in this case I’ve been both married and not married and I can directly compare, and tell you I felt more privileged single. Again, I’d love someone to write a guest post from the opposite and arguably more common perspective, but you can’t argue that my personal experience isn’t valid.

  • Allie

    I think the even more amazing part is the half of the story that’s hidden. David as your rock (who knows exactly what you need and delivers) is great, but the REASON he’s like that is the really cool part, as I suspect it’s because you provide exactly the same back (in whatever form is required). Give-Give/synergy. And that’s what it’s all about- the strength, maturity and mutual respect that is your relationship and which allows you to be so much more together than you would be apart.

  • Tamara Van Horn

    Thank you Meg. This is much needed and appreciated today. And your trip sounds like it was lovely. Yay David!

  • So sorry you were feeling so awful. It sounds like you’ve had the rest you needed, but remember to make it a priority going forward!

    All the people at the retirement home giving a round of applause actually made me cry. At first I thought your story would be that your husband told you you could do the next flight, and he believed in you, and then you believed in yourself. But it’s also such an important quality to know when to say, ‘I know you can do it. But if you’d prefer we’d just hire a car, follow me to the Avis booth’.

  • I think this post could be subtitled “& Lovely Partners” because you have nailed one of the most wonderful things about choosing to be with someone.

    I’ve been reading up on relationships once you have a baby, which is a whole other ball of wax, and some of the discussion is about intimacy and OVER-intimacy that can make you almost too comfortable with one another. Your post reminded me that marriages/partnerships do not have to have “comfiness” at their base. You can support each other with your individual strengths, like two pillars, rather than having to be one melted-together foundation. Adventure. You have reminded me of it.

    Go David, you pillar you.

    • meg

      I love you Kimi. I love this. We are a very non-melty duo, in most ways.

      • kathleen

        Kimi, I like this image a lot- and really REALLY like the idea of ‘comfiness’ not needing to be the base of a good marriage.

        I sometimes describe my partner as someone who sharpens me- and I mean in the real, knife sharpening way. We aren’t melt-y, we are sharper and clearer and more defined because of each other. I’d never had that in a romantic relationship before, and I feel so lucky to have found it.

        • I like the sharpening image, too. Some friends/mentors recently told my husband and I that if many marriages are like “iron sharpening iron,” we are more like “steel sharpening steel.” Not sure if that was a compliment, exactly…

          • kathleen

            Steel is stronger than iron. It’s a compliment. :)

          • Yes, but I think the point was about our strong-willed and stubbornness, hah.

    • I would love to know what you’re reading. Sounds rather pertinent to my life, what with a baby on the way…

    • I really, really like this image. But only if I get to be a Corinthian pillar. :)

    • I think I find more and more reasons every single day to love the APW community. Thanks, Meg, for this post– and thanks, everyone else, for your comments.

  • carrie

    I cry on airplanes. I think there’s something about flying (or maybe it’s the pressure? something science-y?) that makes you leak emotionally.

    So for the last few days I have been irrationally panicked about losing my husband. Like there’s some finite amount of joy a person can experience in their life and I’m about to meet my quota. Because my husband makes my life SO MUCH BETTER. Things *are* easier, when you know you have someone to lean on. And I’m sorry, but for me, knowing it’s my husband that I’ll lean on feels different than it ever did with friends and even family. I know that I can lean on them, but for me it’s different.

    And sometimes I feel horribly guilty about all of this. I was single till I was 32 – literally, never had anyone who could be labeled a boyfriend. I know what it’s like to be on my own. To be strong, to be sad…on my own. My life changed for the better when I met David and sometimes I wonder if that’s okay. I mean, of course it’s okay, but I have single friends who are strong most of the time and are sad sometimes. I feel like I’m keeping some big secret because I’m so lucky to have David as my partner and that actually, yes, it’s better over here. Not for everyone, b/c there are so many people who are great on their own. I just wasn’t one of them, at least not for the majority of the time. And holy hell, I am so not condemning single people nor do I think I’m better than them, it’s just that my experience is different for ME.

    I’m struggling with these things over the last couple of days and I figure this is about a safe a space as any to spill it and this post felt like the right time to say it. I still feel like a crazy person, but hey. Some days you’re just a little crazy.

    • meg

      You’re not a crazy person. This is a great comment.

  • Red

    While I’m not married (yet, I’m definitely in that pre-engaged limbo land); there is something about Meg’s post that really hits home for me.

    I’m 30 and my momma raised me to be fiercely independent. Couple that with having a front row seat to my parents failing marriage that ended in divorce, and I was perfectly content to not let anyone close, to only keep things casual, and to know that in the end the only person to have my back was me.

    Then I went to the wedding of a high school friend in 2009, and my entire world got rocked. I’m still way too independent for my own good on some levels, but my eyes have been opened to the absolute raw beauty of knowing that there is someone else who has my back, who WILL catch me when I stumble (emotionally or physically, I’m a klutz). Who when I get so consumed, so scared, and unable to do more than hyperventilate, will get me a glass of water, force me to drink it, and then wrap his arms around me until I can stop crying.

    There are so many benefits to having someone love you, but for me it’s those moments when I realize I’m not in it alone, that there is someone else holding my hand who is ready, willing, and able to jump in to action when I panic and no longer have control.

    I’m so happy for you Meg that you have David. As cliché as it is to say, he is one of the good ones! It’s in the not all sunshine and rainbow moments of a relationship where you really see the strength of a partnership.

  • Uzo

    Not too long ago, a young gentleman asked me why I wanted to get married. I replied “because I don’t want to be alone”. And of course I hastily went on to explain that although I have no problem being by myself (as a matter of fact, I have a lot of practice and would recommend that everyone deal and learn how to enjoy their own company) but that I wanted to get married because I wanted a partner to enjoy the adventure that is life.

    I wish I could send him this post (but I can’t least he think I am all in a haste to get married ) because IT EXPLAINS EXACTLY WHY I DESIRE A PARTNER FOR LIFE.

    Thank you for writing this … Now I have something to send the next time a young gentleman asks me why I want to get married:)

  • Steph

    I’m a daily reader but infrequently commentor. But I just had to speak up and thank you for this post! It was so what I needed to read today. And as an aside, I’m loving that you are interested in generational theory!!! I’ve been thinking a lot in the past few years about what it means to have been born on the cusp between gen x and the millennial generation. Would love to read more about your thoughts on this issue if you are so inclined :)

    • Tori

      As a 1979 baby, I’m very interested in your thoughts on this matter too…

    • meg

      I know right? I was curious about what other 79, 80, 81 babies would speak up all fascinated. I really want to get some books on it and read up. I’ve increasingly been thinking, “But I don’t think I AM a Millennial.” The Gen X-ers were always a little older, but I still share the cultural milestones. I’d define the seminal coming of age creative works generationally as things like: Nirvana, Reality Bites, and Prozac Nation. I didn’t have a cell phone till college, I vividly remember the birth of the internet, and being online for most of it. And I was an independent adult on 9/11, which totally shaped my world view (I mean, I was there, so I’m an extreme example). Plus, I started my work life during the boom, not during the bust. All this means I have different cultural milestones than people just a few years younger than me… but I’ve always been a bit of a tag along for Gen X (“wait for meeeeee!”)

      Anyway. Fascinated, fascinated, fascinated. And curious about other cuspers experiences. I need to read more about it so I can write about it at some point.

      • Steph

        Exactly to everything you just said. I’ve found it difficult to find more writing about this topic from people in our general age group (born sometime between ’78 and ’81). Pretty please post an update about what you are able to find. And to the other commentor, HI from a fellow ’79er :)

        • I’m a ’79er too! And I always figured I was just on the tail end of GenX, especially since I graduated high school in 1996. But my boyfriend was born in 1970 and those nine years make such a difference. He is totally Gen X. I am something totally different. Generation Catalano, I guess?

      • Shannon

        My partner and I talk about this a lot… Until I read your post today, I had convinced myself that although I identify a lot culturally with Gen X, I’m too young to actually be “included” in that generation. I assumed that I was in some sort of limbo land generationally speaking, and honestly I kind of like it in limbo land… I love that I can identify with the things that shaped the Gen X generation/culture (you know, the stuff you listed in your comment), and also appreciate and identify with many aspects of people younger than me.

        I’ve stopped trying to tag along with Gen X, ’cause most of the time those who are older than me tell me that I’m too young (I was born in ’76, and I’ve always looked young for my age), and no really, I DON’T understand… I have found that I have too much hope for most people to believe that I am part of Gen X, and yet I have been affected by many of the same cultural influences as the older, more cynical members of my generation. Ha! MY generation! I’m Gen X!

        • meg

          ’76? You’re not even on the cusp, lady! The cut of year is apparently 81/82! Reality Bites came out the year you graduated college, no? About graduating from college? How spot on is that??

          • kc

            Reality Bites came out in ’94, making Shannon a high school senior? I can relate. I’m ’77 and can relate to both Gen X and Gen Y but have never felt like I belong to either. Same for husband, who is 2 years younger than me.

        • I was born in ’75, in internet years, that makes me 239742897438112.

          I too thought that 1975 was cusp-y for Gen X, at least when it was being talked about a lot, oh, 20 years ago.

          I identify with some of Gen X, but not all – I grew up without a TV. Who wants to be in a generation that defined by TV anyway?

          (My husband, born in 1982, had to explain Care Bears to me. They sound creepy.)

          • meg

            It was cusp-y back when Gen Y existed (remember them/ us?). but then Gen Y sort of got wiped off the map and replaced with Millenneals, which is a whole different thing.

          • Spines

            It’s so weird to me that in the US it’s Gen X then “Millennials”. In Australia we always have Gen X then Gen Y. I’m an ’84 baby, so I’m right at the start of Gen Y. Why did the name change?

            My fiance is an ’82, and it’s really surprising how much difference those two years make! He I think relates much more to the Gen X grunge era, whereas I was a little too young (and too uncool, I suspect) for it to be a defining cultural thing for me.

            For some movies or TV shows, our experiences are really different, just because of the two year agre difference, which I find amazing!

          • RJ

            What happened to Gen Y?

            I thought I was at the tail end o f Gen X – 1970 baby, and my sister -1981 – was Gen Y and millennials were teens/early 20s today – so the 1991 babies.

            Although one definition of the Baby Boom was 1946-1970 (which neatly include my parents’ birth year and mine)

      • Sabrina

        Thank you for thinking and writing about this! I’m an ’82 baby, but I graduated high school in ’99, and I’ve always felt a little left out, too. My husband is a year younger than I am, but graduated in 2001, and his milestones are very different. He has no appreciation for Reality Bites. :)

        • meg

          There was a line that we read that said the idea was that people who graduated from High School in 2000 or later had a different set of cultural experiences. (We’re ’98 and ’99, I’m the older one ;)

        • MWK

          I graduated in h.s. in 2001 (born in ’82) but I appreciate the hell out of Reality Bites. I am saddened to know that I might be a Millennial. Is that bad?
          Also, this article is great. I love reading all of the other APW staff and contributers but it’s always fun to hear how you are doing, too.

          I don’t have the emotional fortitude to speak on privilege right now (end of the day) but I will also say that I grew up in a micro-culture where being married was sort of not what you did and I definitely had fears about it “holding me back”, or it is more like I feared my colleagues and friends would think it was going to hold me back (would question my decision and if i was still “cool” and “capable.” I have the same issues with beh-behs, too – I talk about having kids in the voice people to admit something they’re half excited about and half ashamed of.

      • Tori

        “I’d define the seminal coming of age creative works generationally as things like: Nirvana, Reality Bites, and Prozac Nation.” – And “My So-Called Life.” Were you the one who had the tweet telling women of a certain age to stop the Jordan Catalano fantasy in its tracks and rejoin 2011?

        But I digress. My husband turned 18 the day the first Gulf War began, so he’s firmly in Gen X. His worldview is way different than mine, and he would deny that I would be in the same generation as he. I would also argue that my brother (b. April 1981) would be a millennial: his pop culture references are much different than mine, and he is a cheerier, more optimistic cat than I. Maybe it’s not so much a generational thing here as a gender thing?

        • CHS

          Did you see this article in Slate? Appaently those born between 1977 and 1981 – “Carter babies” – are part of Generation Catalano. (I was born in 1978.) Which is, frankly, kind of awesome.

          • Tori

            I did see that! I wish Jared Leto would stop making music and assume the position of being a generational spokesman. Or something. Can’t you just see him scantily clad, sitting in some throne and being fanned by palm leaves?

          • meg

            AHHHHH! It talks about the Fleet Foxes “Helplessness Blues”, which I also became obsessed with as a millennial anthem, vs. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on this trip. This is an amazing article.

          • mimi

            I love that article. I was born in 80, graduated in 98, and feel the same as the rest of us Generation Catalano-ers.

      • I was born in ’82, which depending on what website you read, puts me in either category. I 110% feel a part of Generation X. My brother and his friends were born in ’88 – their views of the world and general relationship with technology are the complete opposite of mine. We might be on the cusp, but I’d bet on it that the majority of us born from ’79-’82 relate better to Generation Xers.

        • SEZ

          Agreed! this is super super interesting. As an ’81 it seems I am smack in the middle too, though I guess I hadn’t considered how on the cusp that was. Both my siblings are younger which I suppose could have pulled me more into the Millennials, but instead I think kept me more attuned to everything on the Gen X side of it all – perhaps also in an oldest sibling defiance sort of way? Plus, my Co-Adventurer for Life is a ’77 babe, and it just seems right to be on the waning tide of Gen X together.

          Loved this post for so many other reasons as well. Oh, and also, that Generation Catalano article is classic – thanks for the link, CHS!

          • huh. I always thought Gen X was people in their teens or twenties in the eighties, but apparently I’m barely too young for it.

      • Yes yes yes. And it’s especially interesting because I was born on the cusp but my partner is 3 years younger and pretty solidly Millennial. It’s fascinating to see the cultural differences that a few short years can make, even though there’s clearly a ton of overlap too for various cultural reference points.

        • Indeed. I was born in ’83, but I do NOT identify as Millennial. At the same time, I’m not 100% Gen X either … but if pushed, that’s where I’d put myself. My husband, however, is slightly younger and is Millennial all the way. It makes for a bit of frustration and many interesting conversations.

          • Ha! I was born in ’80 and he in ’83. It’s really all about specific cultural exposures more than the year, isn’t it? But yes. I’ll sometimes assume we had the same experiences with music… until I realize he was in jr high while I was having high school revelations. There’s such a huge emotional/self-definitional tie to high school and college music/culture/geopolitical events that it’s sometimes jarring to realize we were in such different places for the same things. They *mean* different things to us.

        • Kinzie Kangaroo

          I know this is SO not the point here, but my inner nerd is squealing in joy over how many people are correctly spelling “millennial” in this comment thread. Love it!

          • Tori

            I had to use Google Chrome’s assistance with millennial.

      • I’m reading as an ’84 baby with fascination. I skipped a grade in school and was a freshman in college for Sept. 11. I remember the Monica Lewinsky scandal very specifically as a political moment. When we did a generational exercise at work, I found it intriguing and wanted to read more. They presented the Strauss-Howe archtypes. While I identify more with Gen X folks as far as pop culture (I always hung out with older kids), I very strongly identify with my grandparents generation (GI – Hero/Civic). My husband is an ’82 – so often find it interesting straddling the divide. We criticize stronger millennials in the workplace, but perhaps exhibit it more than we like to think ourselves.

        • Vee

          Very similar to me – I’m an ’83 baby, but graduated in ’00. I always had older friends and my husband is a solid Gen Xer, born in ’77. So I feel like I identify with Gen Xers without feeling foreign from Millennials.

      • I’m born in ’81, David in ’82, and are both firmly cuspers. (Eh, we’re Canadian. Blame cultural time lag or small town living for his inclusion, but he is in no way a millennial.) And we both have younger sisters who are pure millennial. It’s fascinating how the same parents can raise kids a few years apart with SUCH different world views. (We complain about them regularly, and are kind of baffled by how different they live, and their willingness to live random parentally funded lives.)

        We were both babies in one of the blackest financial times in our province’s history, and the NEP and subsequent economic collapse didn’t really recover until we were in junior high. Growing up in that sort of bleak background had an effect – one that we were both much more conscious of than our siblings, who had only ever been aware enough of the upswing. We, along with peers I’ve compared with, may have started working during a boom but expected the bust. (Also, in an oil and gas world, the boom and bust cycle is a constant reality.) We all have savings plans and don’t expect to be famous or world breakers. I’m happy to have got a promotion (finally not pink collar!) but hardly feel entitled to it – I earned that job change. My sister graduated university, travelled for 8 months and has been unemployed for longer because she doesn’t want to like, demean herself with a job below her. (So she lives of my dad’s inheritance… Because that’s better?)

        Long winded, sorry. But as someone floating unmoored from the major generations, with a sibling fully typifying her own, I find this subject endless fascinating.

      • Flan

        This is a fascinating conversation! I’m an ’83 baby, and my fiance is an ’82, which should put us just outside the cusp, but neither of us has ever felt that we fully belonged in either GenX or the Millennial generation. I think a huge of this is that our parents are early boomers, or even a bit earlier, (born in 1943, 1945, 1946, and and 1948), so we were raised by parents much older than those of most of our peers.

        This leads to interesting moments when we realize that our childhoods were remarkably out of step with those of our classmates, and our choices as adults are also sometimes dramatically out of step with our classmates as well.

        I work in a college setting, so the generational sandpaper is a day to day occurrence in my life, and something I’m always thinking about.

      • Mia Culpa

        What made me realize that I’m not quite Gen X (’81 baby, holla!), is the idea that my fiance and I are supposed to be the same generation then. He’s 13 years older than me, so he’s firmly at the beginning of Gen X. As a result, we have almost no common pop culture milestones. That simple fact is weirdly affecting. So hooray for Generation Catalano, for filling in the mini-generational gap.

        • Sometimes it just depends. My husband is 5 years older than me (76 and 81, respectively), and we’re both Gen X, but we have a lot of different cultural milestones. I think those tend to fall into smaller categories. I’ve heard “MTV Generation” bandied about as well. (Though, I never cared for MS-CL; I was a 90210 fan, myself.)

          A fun anecdote – a few years ago, when in Disney World with my husband’s family (we weren’t married at the time), I got very excited when I spotted Scrooge McDuck. “Look! It’s Uncle Scrooge!” C said, “No, I think that’s just Donald dressed up.” “WHAT?! YOU DON’T KNOW UNCLE SCROOGE?” I asked, incredulous. “C’mon, didn’t you ever watch Duck Tales?” I got a blank stare.

          Later that night, at dinner, I was telling the story. C’s brother’s (1978) face lit up when I said I saw Scrooge in the park. The two of us then started singing the Duck Tales theme song. C looked like he wanted to crawl under the table rather than be associated with us. :)

      • Meg, I actually wrote a paper about this in grad school, specifically debunking the “Greatest Generation” theory that the political engagement stemmed directly from the GI Bill (i.e., more educated electorate), but rather that only contributed to an effect that would have taken place anyway. Millennials are the same “cycle” as the “Greatest Generation”.

        I wrote the paper in 2006, stating that the youth vote wasn’t as forceful in 2004 due to the candidate choices/incumbent effect, but the midterm elections in 2006 would have a higher youth turnout (especially in states electing a new governor, which NY did), and that 2008 would set records, because a good chunk of the Millennials were of-age. I was right. :)

        I argued, though, that Strauss and Howe were off by one year – the 21st century technically didn’t start until 2001, not 2000, so I argued it was 83-01, not 82-00. If you look at college acceptance statistics for 2001, you’ll see that average SAT scores spiked higher at many universities – at mine, in particular, by 200 points. I also saw a marked difference in the freshman that came into my college in 2001 vs. my older peers (I am an ’81 baby, graduated HS in ’99).

        • meg

          Good stuff. Wanna pass it along???

          • Sure, would be happy to! I’ll send it over later tonight. :) (It’s open enrollment at the hospital, and guess who’s manning the benefits table for the evening shifters …)

    • 1980 here, graduated high school in 1998 and i am sooooooo with you guys. omg. my husband was born in 1983 and has no memory of some of the things that shaped my childhood. it’s part because he was too young and part because we grew up in different parts of the country (i’m from southern california, he’s from iowa). anyway, i’ve been thinking this for years. my older siblings are totally gen x and i think that was infused into my life to some extent but they were, ya know, older… those a little younger than me i didn’t relate to at all. so strange.

      • Steph

        This makes me so happy to read that I’m far from the only “cusper” who has thought about this stuff. I love the idea of us being the Jordan Catalano generation (never heard it before but love it!). Btw, who here remembers The Great Spacecoaster as a kid? I’ve found that to be one of those cusp shows that people either love or have never heard of…

        • I am not remotely “cusp” (I’ve been having “you kids get off my lawn” flashes through this entire thread — I was born in 1974), but I *loooooooved* the Great Space Coaster. And now the theme song is stuck in my head. :)

  • So much goodness packed into one article (as always!).

    I remember getting into a car accident after we were first married. J helped me take care of everything – after 27 missed calls because he was in the shower at the time. For those 27 missed calls, I felt alone and fearful. I was getting to the point where I needed to buck up and figure out a way myself. Then he answered and he came down to the scene and sorted some things out, missing a morning of work. The bottom line was that I could have dealt with it on my own – I’d done it before, but having a partner to help made it seem more doable. I wrestled at first if it meant that I gotten weaker since getting married. No, I decided. I’m a communal animal and even when I was single, I would have called my roommate, my family,or my coworkers.

    Not related to marriage, but something I couldn’t help but comment on – I went to Vegas on business for my very first trip and was trying to describe it to my parents who have never been. Surreal was the word I repeated over and over again and I described Egypt, Paris, Pirate ships etc. raising out of the dessert. I thought it was fascinating, but that I didn’t need to go back. Funnily enough, I’ve been back 4 times for business, weddings and a blogger retreat. I go for the food and animals!

  • I’m full of warmth and “exactly” over this post. Thanks for sharing, Meg!

  • Ceebee

    I can’t read anymore because my eyes have become 2 huge swimming pools

  • Cassandra

    Love this.

    I’ve lived alone most of my adult life, and still do (as a single parent) while my partner is another country for his PhD. Of course I *can* do things alone – I can do all the chores and fix things and do my own taxes and raise my daughter. I’ve picked myself up and dusted myself off and figured things out all on my own a thousand times before. But I am earth-shatteringly happy that my partner is coming home on Friday for a whole month – a whole month where someone else can help me overcome the obstacles that will inevitably get thrown my way (and where someone else can do the dishes). The reason I want to get married is not so much because I don’t want to be alone and do all of the things myself, but because I want to do all of the things *together* and to have someone who will find our place on the map to our next adventure when I start to get lost.

    • carrie

      This is an excellent distinction. I was re-reading my comment and it sounds like I love my husband b/c I have someone to help me with stuff. I love the stuffing out of him, that’s why we’re married. But having a partner to help with the trash and LIFE is just wonderful. I love “find our place on the map to our next adventure when I start to get lost.” Beautiful!

  • And THAT is how you ended up in Vegas! It’s all making sense now. :) Also – David rocks. And I’m well aware anxiety attacks are not awesome – but what IS awesome that you guys somehow turned it into a great adventure – and a road trip!! (Which I’m been wanting to do with James…)


  • Megan


    I echo all the bits about what a lovely marriage you have.

    I imagine you have heaps of people giving unsolicited advice, so I hope this doesn’t seem like me assuming I know the source of your anxiety. If the flying itself is a big part of it, I have heard that fear of flying can be a helpful little course. It was made by an airline pilot and is available without charge so people have more background on everything that goes on during a commercial flight and techniques for coping. Maybe not the thing for you, but my fingers are crossed that you find sweet relief so you can keep traipsing with your partner in crime.

    • meg

      Ha! The fear of flying app actually gave me a panic attack once. I just need good phobia therapy, which I will get…

      • Shannon

        I have never had a fear of flying (actually, I love being in the air in a really small plan, which is ironically a lot roomier than a passenger plane…), but I’ve noticed that as I’m getting older I’m hating air travel more and more, and although I’m not having panic attacks like what you’re describing, I might have attacks like that if I traveled as often as you are traveling (as it is, I only travel by air once a year at most…).

        For me, it’s about the whole experience of air travel, from the moment I enter the airport at one end of my journey to the moment I exit another airport at the other end of my journey. Air travel is a very dehumanizing experience. As soon as we are inside the airport, we are told where to be, when to be there, and what to do when we get there. We rush around like maddened people, only to end up standing in line for much of our time in the airport. And then there’s airport security… Don’t even get me started on how dehumanizing that experience is. And wait, we haven’t even gotten on the plane yet! Okay, now I’ve been dehumanized in the airport to the point where I’m looking closely at windows, hoping to find a way out of my post-airport security prison… and now it’s time to board the plane, where I will sit in a seat that always feels too cramped, crammed into a tiny space with a whole bunch of people I don’t know, unable to move around or even go to the bathroom without making a pretty big production out of it… but at least I’ll get to my destination quickly right? In my humble opinion, the airline industry has taken all the joy out of flying, which can actually be a really profound experience.

        Suffice to say, I always drive to my destinations, unless it’s really not a feasible option (like for an overseas or really far away destination). I’ve talked to other people who also feel anxiety about the whole experience of air travel, as opposed to the flying itself. Meg, it sounds like you are focusing in on the flying part of things, and maybe that’s where your phobia lies. I just thought I’d let you know about this other perspective on flying-related anxiety, just in case it helps at all.

        • meg

          Yes, I hate all of it. Which is funny, because I love ALL of other kinds of travel (trains, cars). I’ve just decided I need to fly less for awhile, even if it means taking longer to get places. The good thing about self employment is that with wifi, I can work on a train… so does it really matter? I think no.

          • Lauren

            I am dealing with a driving phobia (brought on by a series of terrifying panic attacks while driving on the freeway), and exposure therapy has been the only way out. I spent years (!) avoiding highway driving and it only made the beast of anxiety get more ferocious.

            That said, until I developed coping mechanisms and practiced cognitive behavioral therapy it got worse before it got better. Each panic attack created a self-re-enforcing feedback loop. I became panicked about the prospect of panicking, more than the act of driving itself.

            Sending you lots of positive thoughts as you embark on therapy. I wish I had done it sooner.

        • I always always ALWAYS get a fever on the day of a flight. I actually enjoy flying, so it’s not that, but I think it’s the time-pressure-location-anxiety that does it for me. Waiting in a terminal for a flight that’s always delayed, after too long in customs. That makes me anxious and feverish.

          I think the only time it hasn’t happend I was flying back from Northern Canada with work on a 16 seater plane after a helicopter ride. I knew that they would wait for me if the chopper was late, and the whole terminal was basically a small quonset and security was telling the pilot your name. So, basically, the easiest most stress free flight possible. (As long as you didn’t mind the fact that it was a tiny prop plane flying over deserted tundra…)

          • One of my favorite flying experiences was out of a tiny airport in Harrisburg, PA. One security scanner, no lines, one terminal with five gates, and ROCKING CHAIRS. I’ve thought ever since that most airports would be vastly improved if they had rocking chairs….

          • Sharon – rocking chairs sound amazing! (And so much more comfortable than benches in a quonset when it’s -35 oc outside.

        • Spines

          I just want to say, I feel you on the whole airport anxiety thing! I always think I’m excited, until I start stressing about being on time, checking in, and by the time I’m on the plane, I remember that I actually really hate flying.

          I hate the food (especially having a nut allergy so I get “special” meals that somehow involve fish for breakfast), I hate other people, I hate the enclosed space, and I really hate the stomach-drop feeling you get when the plane changes altitude! *shiver*

          oh dear, I really think the massively long flight from Australia to the US for our honeymoon next year is going to be really very unpleasant. That’s the problem with being Australian, anywhere overseas that’s not SE Asia is SO far away!

  • Mattingly

    an amazing post. encouraging, challenging, and fun to read. thank you. *this* is why i’m still around reading this blog more than a year after my wedding. also, having been the steadying hands on the other side of a panic attack i know how scary it can be. i’m so glad you had david there to help you, and i hope you are able to figure out the trigger!

  • Mary Jane

    Oh my God. First, love your husband, it’s so amazing that he supported driving. I am also HORRIFIED by flying, despite doing lots of it, and my fiance is equally supportive although sometimes frustrated by my phobia, as we both love to travel. I finally got a benzo prescription after having a panic attack during turbulence a few months ago. So I took the pill for both of our Thanksgiving flights, and they helped, sort-of. But they are not miracle pills, not at all, my brain can’t be tricked into not noticing that I’m way the fuck up in the air where I don’t belong. Benzos and alcohol act synergistically, so next time I’m going to to pair the pills with booze. Yay pharmacology:)

    I’d love to hear how the phobia therapy goes! Good luck, I’m so so sympathetic Meg!

    • Mary Jane

      PS, when imagining the situation from David’s perspective, I’m struck by how much his agreement to rent a care suggests that he very much trusts and respects you. It must be difficult for a person who has no fear of flying and knows, rationally, that there’s no real danger associated with flying to take the perspective that “this is what my partner is telling me she needs, so this is what we’re gonna do.” You guys have a really remarkable partnership.

  • Anne

    Your husband is pretty awesome.

    For me, things like this were why I really started to want to get married — we’d been together for a long time, and both thought of marriage as something that would be part of our future. But it was a moment like this, when I really freaked out about something and Ben dealt with it so wonderfully, that I finally thought, “yes, this is right.”

  • In the day-to-day reality of going to work, paying the bills, managing schedules, etc, it’s easy to forget how awesome & supportive my husband is for me. Thank you for the great reminder! & count me very jealous for every In-n-Out burger you enjoyed :-)

  • Shannon

    Oh Meg, this is such a lovely story! YAY!! AND OH MY GOD, I’m in Generation X?? Seriously, this question has plagued me for a long time, and I keep getting different answers… So from now on I’m just going to say “well, Meg looked it up, and SHE SAYS we’re Gen X…”

    Yes, it is interesting being on a generational cusp. Thanks for your wonderful little adventure tale. It will be part of the book you write when you’re 80, the guide for all the young brides of the day…

  • RachelC

    Thank you for this, as always. This is actually my marriage but it’s my husband who struggles with anxiety. I’ve been sort of taking a firm hand with him (“You can DO it babe! Just a few more steps and we’re there babe! You’re doing so great!”) as opposed to stopping, listening to what he needs, and being flexible enough to give it to him. I realize I am not flexible enough a) in general and b) with him and what he needs in those anxiety-provoking situations. Thank you for writing this from his perspective and helping me realize that I can be an even more perfect partner by switching the plans up if that’s what he needs. *deep breath*


  • “Life is a series of things you plan and things you hope for, followed by things going awry.”

    This. So much. I think it perfectly sums up just about everything.

  • Christy A.

    I love this story. Mostly because you’re right: marriage is what happens when all your plans go crazy-off and you’re left with just your spouse, having to pick up the pieces. I can’t say A. and I have always done the best job, but it’s those moments I think we’ll look back on forty years from now and call turning points for the better.

  • Lynn

    This strikes a chord. I’ve had perhaps the worst Thanksgiving of my life this year. Lots of reasons (including unintentional food poisoning by my FH’s mother or grandmother…we can’t figure out what it was, but we were all sicker than dogs…and issues surrounding my dog and issues about not feeling in control of my life). Some of them FH can do things about and after a terrible, tear-filled, gasping conversation, he’s working on (particularly the issues surrounding my dog, which are really a smoke-screen for the issues surrounding my not feeling in control of my life).
    There’s stuff he cannot help with, but he’s doing his best to create an environment that allows me to deal with them. I think I cried literally all weekend long…just couldn’t stop…and he was right there. At first he was trying to “fix it” but as soon as he realized the problems are ones I have to sort out, he held me, brought me water and advil and food when I thought I needed it (I cringe still at rejecting the breakfast he made me Sunday morning. He was so sweet when he brought it to me, but I couldn’t do anything but cry). He wants what’s best for me and he’ll do whatever he can to help that happen…even when all he can do is tell me it’s going to be OK.

  • LillyTop

    Just wanted to pop in and recommend the book “When Panick Attacks” by Dr. David Burns. I just finished it, and oh, the relief! The book might help tide you until you choose the right therapist.

    Good Luck, and Great Post!

    • meg


  • Wow, what great writing. This might be my favorite Reclaiming Wife post ever Meg! I mean if you can residents at a retirement home to cheer, it’s a good damn story. That’s a tough crowd…

  • Love this post. And I’m so with you on the generational cusp thing. I feel like I don’t belong to either generation. Or both at the same time. So weird.

  • These are things that I couldn’t love more about this post if I tried: spontaneous road trippin’, senior citizens, and amazing husbands. Congratulations on turning what could’ve been a much worse situation into an rad story.

    • meg


  • The first thing I did this morning after reading this post was run up to my partner and hold him hard for a long time. Right now, I’m not having plane panics but I’m having “holy crap this change is huge and overwhelming and will require immense sacrifice from both of us waaaaaaaa” panics. 180 degree changes from our previous life-direction panics. Metaphorically, we’re also getting off the plane in Phoenix and taking an impromptu road trip home (though we haven’t quite figured out what home will look like.) And he’s carrying the burden of the change. Because for me, the change is necessary and getting off the plane is a Very Good Thing. But for him, it requires a different sort of less-exciting sacrifice to support my needs… and along the way we’re both hoping it will be a worthwhile adventure anyhow.

    This is all huge stuff. Every day, I feel so privileged and lucky to have my particular partnership and marriage and this post outlines exactly why. Because sometimes there are huge sacrifices for the other person, but somehow the flying-forwardness of the whole relationship makes it worthwhile for us both.

    I’m not being articulate or insightful today. Essentially I just needed a lot of words to say Exactly over and over and over again.

    • meg

      But he might to get to go to Las Vegas, and play craps, which he loves… and otherwise would totally not get to do if you didn’t change course. YOU DON’T KNOW.

      • Absolutely. And we’re both excited about exploring the unknown possibilities. But there’s no question that he’s the one making more of a sacrifice (at least upfront) and that I’m feeling overwhelmed with gratitude these days. He’s giving me this opportunity and therefore I’m feeling my responsibility to him (and us) even more deeply.

        It’s all just a huge turnaround from my stridently single days. Because I was really great then, but it’s been revelatory to find out how much better marriage has made each of us – independently and as a couple – even with the sacrifices. Or perhaps *because* of the give-and-take nature of those sacrifices.

        Gratitude is not a feeling I am used to. It always felt like a trap to want or need help from other people. (There was one occasion when I was literally crawling on the ground outside an ex’s house because I couldn’t/wouldn’t ask for help with completely damaged leg. Achem.) But gratitude is actually the best thing ever when it’s reciprocal.

  • I’m sorry you had such a terrible time with flying, Meg, but I’m so glad to hear how wonderful David was about the whole ordeal and helping you out!

  • I love so much about this, but the number one thing is that I love how you’re a team for each other.

  • Life is a series of things you plan and things you hope for, followed by things going awry.

    As a wedding graduate and (almost) 9-year veteran, I’ll say YES – it’s about making plans, then taking things as they come, on the fly. And it’s so very important to have the right wing man or woman.

  • Fairly early on in our dating relationship, I sat Jason down and had the “I have lowgrade depression and bouts of anxiety; if that’s something you’d rather not deal with, then here’s your out” talk. And he looked me straight in the eye and said, “I’m not afraid of that. And I don’t see that as ‘your problem’ – it’s now *our* issue.” Still one of the most precious statements he’s ever made to me, and he proves it over and over in our marriage.

    What this post reminds me to do, Meg, is to let him be that rock that I sometimes need (I have to “manage” my anxiety in so many personal and professional situations that I often forget that he doesn’t expect that from me, you know?), and to try to let the curveballs that my anxiety throws us not result in a feeling of failure but rather a *more* adventurous approach to life and living it together.

    • It took me years to accept that my husband fully understood and embraced my low-grade depression and anxiety too. And somehow, not having to “manage” myself around him and having him help me manage it overall has been lifechanging. I wish I had been smart enough to have that conversation with him upfront. Instead, it took years to really believe it via his actions.

  • ah where to start! So many things to say but so little time in five minutes of internet play before meeting! Amazing partner, spontaneous road trip, drive by Vegas, thanksgiving in the retirement home, generation Catalano (I’m now humming Buffalo Tom in my head)…yes to it all! And yes, I am now late to my meeting because I had to google this:

  • KA

    As someone whose husband has panic attacked himself into being removed from a plane (that’s right, straight across the tarmac on a little cart), and who strongly dislikes flying herself, and who has been pining for a good Southwestern road trip (driving from Long Island to Bucks County, PA this weekend does not compare), this story resonated on quite a few levels. :D

    Embracing unexpected adventure can truly be one of the best things in all of life. You guys rule.

  • holy moly! It’s on everyone’s mind. My co-worker just posted this

    Love that this discussion is happening!

  • Josephine

    I’ve only ever had one panic attack but I can totally see how travel can bring it on. Today was long train journey 3 of 7 this week. I’m glad you had David there with you.

    This post reminded me of my panic attack – but the good part, where I had someone there to look after me, even though it was 6am and it woke her up. It reminded me of how lucky I am and how awesome she is.

    So, a fairly selfish response to your post I suppose. But partly why I love APW – it makes me think and reminds me of the wonderful things about my relationship. It also made me run through the list of questions before I proposed and that made me realise that we were *more* compatible than I had thought.

    Thank you Meg.

  • David has to keep talking me off panic-induced ledges about how having a baby is going to ruin our lives and that we’re going to regret it. Having a partner to help you when your ability to logic yourself out a problem is a blessing. Calmly, I know that we want this baby! Planned for this baby! It won’t ruin things, though it will change things, and probably even inhance them! But when the panic hits, I need him to say them for me, because I can’t hear myself – all I can hear is that we’re making a hooooge mistake and there are no takebacksies now.

    It’s a huge huge blessing to have a supportive partner.

  • So Kate said above:

    I agree with you, Meg, that good marriages, not marriages per se, are the real privilege in the sense we’re talking about (as separate from the legal sense.)

    The thing I’ve learned about privilege is that people who have it very rarely feel like they do. Think about a white person who hears about white privilege and goes, “Hey, I work hard at my job. No one handed me a cupcake today just for being white. What do you mean I benefit from white privilege?” But just because it isn’t necessarily part of her conscious experience, doesn’t disprove that it does in fact exist and that she does benefit from it.

    And can I just say…oh wow, oh wow, oh wow. I find this fascinating. I started out reading it and thinking — no joke — “but I work really hard to be a good spouse! I have *earned* my good marriage.” I mean, I’m aware of how fortunate I am in other areas, but the way I interact with my husband? Come on.

    And then I stopped and thought about it some more and realized how many factors have a positive effect on the success of my marriage that I can take zero credit for (e.g. my parents modeling a healthy relationship throughout my entire life).Yeah. Bam. Privilege.

    Thank you, Kate, for making me think about this.

    • meg

      This is interesting and true, but actually totally different from what I was talking about :) I was talking about the way outside culture rewards people for being married, as opposed to being single, and how I personally had a backwards experience with that.

      • Oh yes, I know (and I agree with your premise too). I just took Kate’s separate thought and ran with it because it struck me so.

    • Anonymous

      YES. This. I take such pleasure in my marriage, and feel so lucky to have a partner who supports me — in my decision to live 2,000 miles away for fourteen months for school; in my ambitions; in my day to day pursuits. And yet I’m also guilty of assuming sometimes that I’ve “earned” this. That I earned a solid marriage because I somehow picked an appropriate and fitting match for myself, or that I earned a good relationship by working hard and communicating well and being clear eyed and clear headed.

      But then there’s all of those privileges I forget about so easily. That our parents both modeled successful relationships for us is huge. That we’ve been given a leg up in the world — financially and educationally — is also ENORMOUS. My parents just celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary, and I called them up to say thank you; thirty years of largely happy marriage is a huge accomplishment for them, yes, but it’s also a tremendous gift to their children that I didn’t fully appreciate until I got married myself.

  • I just wanted to say: THIS. And that your post has made me so excited to be getting married next year in a way that poofy dresses and cakes never have and never could.

  • april

    I’m late to the comments but just *HAD* to say this:

    BRAVO, DAVID. And to Meg: *HUGS* It must have felt so awful in that moment to go thru the anxiety you experienced of not being able to make your next flight. I am glad you are home safe and feeling stronger.

    To you both: Here’s to endless years of support, having each other’s back, and spontaneous road trips. XOXO

  • Kaitlyn

    This post made me smile, because it reminded me how much I really do rely on my FH as a partner. When I say that I need to eat RIGHT THIS MINUTE, he doesn’t hesitate in cutting whatever we are doing and running out to bring me food. Or he doesn’t complain when my hip gives out in the middle of Central Park, and he has to essentially carry me to somewhere we can sit. I actually don’t know how I would get through life without him.

  •! I feel incredibly lucky to be married to someone who would do the same thing for me. To be partners with someone who can be strong when I am weak and for whom I can be strong when he is weak, is a joy.

  • Ceebee

    I am not going to say this in a Single vs Married Faustian argument.
    But… Having the love of your life by your side as my daddy puts it makes your dreams come true.
    It’s like having a Red Bull – Gives You Wings, to get out there and get things done.
    It’s like having a fairy godparent – to help you get things magically done so you could get ready for the ball.
    And that’s the magic. That you keep doing that for one another, to allow you to be the best person inside out.
    And all of it will feel like magic. It’s not a Maybe, it’s a Must Be!

  • MWK

    All right, so I already commented and I know that Meg wasn’t talking about privilege in a sense that many people understood it, but I need to say: god bless a blog that starts several discussions about privilege (white, married, straight, what-have-you) in the comments. You go, ladies (and secret dudes who are reading but not commenting). Also – privilege is a word that I apparently can’t spell without spellcheck. Sad.

    • meg

      Aw, yay!

  • Holy fuck, Meg. HOLY FUCK.

    Sobbing. Because you’re so right. And because HOW THE FUCK do you always have exactly what I need to read exactly when I need to read it?

  • Beautiful post, Meg.

    Although we always love our partners and know why we’re with them, sometimes it’s the times when things are going wrong when you can totally see with clarity *why* you chose each other and how you work together. I just had a personal experience of that after moving to a new city, and it was so good to be reminded of how we balance and support each other out.

    And yes, less travel for you I think?

  • HeatherM

    There is something incredibly therapeutic about road trips. The conversations, the time alone with your spouse – sans tv and computer, belting out songs together while blasting the radio. We go on a major road trip 3-4 times per year, because we honestly just find it more fun than flying. And we love the freedom of doing what we want when we want. Recently we decided to drive from Chicago to a family wedding in Arkansas. We were both crazy busy and stressed with work at the time, but once we got 2-3 hours out of town, I could feel the stress leaving my body the farther we drove. And then we saw a meteor shower as we were driving. Road trips are one of the things I’m terrified that we won’t be able to do anymore (or that they just won’t be fun anymore) once we have kids.
    I think if you’re married and still have stuff to talk about after spending 20 hours in the car together in the last 3.5 days, then there’s a good chance you’ll still have stuff to talk about after 60 years of marriage too. I sure hope so.

  • Courtney

    I’ve been thinking about this post for days. I’ve been quietly reading APW for awhile now, as I attempt to get my head around the idea that marriage might not be the worst thing that could happen to me. :)

    Different from many, I guess, I’ve spent most of my adult life convinced that marriage is awful. I left home early; went to work and supported myself entirely independently; got pregnant raised a daughter entirely on my own (she’s ten!); put myself through college and law school with zero assistance from anyone, really. I dated a LOT, and have pretty much never wanted to “settle down.” I always said “I’m an island.” And I really, really liked my island.

    It has always been clear to me that partnered is the culturally privileged state, and marriage the ultimate expression of that privilege. I personally shunned partnership (and particularly marriage) in part because of the privilege. I liked the pride I felt in accomplishing things on my own. It gave me a feeling of credibility that meant a great deal to me.

    And then I met my boyfriend, who’s a magnificent human being, and really wants to be my partner. Much to my consternation, I want to be his partner too, and it’s really rocking my world’s perspective. Among other things, I feel a deep sense of loss as my identity is shifting. I realize this is kind of a punk thing to say – I’ve gained a huge privilege by becoming partnered, both personally and politically. But it’s still hard to adjust to my new status and lifestyle, one that includes having someone in my life who will do things like Meg describes her husband doing in her piece.

  • Sweet Moses and Mary, WHY did I not read this sooner!?

  • Emily Ardoin

    I’ve been a lurker for a while now, but this article is just wonderful.

    I love this article so much. I love the celebration of love and the bragging about your partner in crime. Because I’m currently “pre-engaged”, I feel like people look down on me and my relationship when I “gush” or talk about how wonderful it is that I’ve found my teammate for life, simply because I don’t have a ring yet. This article makes me want to stand out the mountain tops and celebrate my wonderful relationship! This is seriously a beautiful article, and congrats Meg, on finding someone so wonderful for you!