Tag Archives: Family

Hating on Marriage

Recently I have seen a lot of articles hating on marriage. More specifically, married women. Which could lead me into an entire diatribe of why society feels that when men get married it shows that they’re committed and honorable and when women get married it shows that they’re desperate and need a man to define them. But that’s a topic for another time.

Right now I want to discuss why society is hating on marriage. I mean, there’s a huge global movement fighting for the rights for marriage. Gay marriage has been a hot button issue for my entire adult life and yet, getting married is selling out or losing yourself or giving up your freedom. If that’s what marriage is for heterosexuals, then the homosexual community should turn back now! Do not enter! This marriage place is THE WORST!Tandem Love

Except that it’s actually not. And that’s why they’re fighting for it.

Obviously the real aim of these articles is to celebrate being single which I fully support. I just don’t think you have to hate on marriage to love the single life. In fact, I think if you need to hate on marriage to love the single life then you’re really not loving your single life, but rather rationalizing why it’s better than marriage. I won’t rationalize to you why being married is better than being single because I’m not trying to convince myself that being married is better than being single. My path ultimately led me to marriage. Maybe yours won’t. Both are still good paths.

I know a lot of women. I have known a lot of women. Married, single, divorced, old, young, feminists, pro-life activists, religious, atheist, gay, straight, smart, not so smart, funny, mean. A lot of women. I am a woman. I’ve been on this planet for twenty-seven years. It was bound to happen.

Some of the women I know started looking for marriage at a ripe, young age. My freshman year of college I was introduced to the “Ring Before Spring” concept. That is, the girls that go to college simply to find a husband and fully expect to be engaged before they graduate – and maybe even forego graduation in favor of marriage. Some of those women are happily married. Some are still single. Some are maybe divorced.

I know other women, like myself, who were never going to marry. That’s right, I’m writing a blog post talking about NOT hating on marriage and yet, when I was twenty-one I could have written a post on exactly the opposite. Namely, why marriage is an unfounded institution that is the work of governments to keep better track of their citizens. But you know what? I didn’t hate on married people. In fact, I used to tell my parents – who have been happily married for over 40 years despite that they married at a young, impressionable, hardly knew themselves age of 19 and 23 – that they gave their children unrealistic expectations of marriage because theirs is so wonderful. So, despite not needing marriage to find fulfillment in my own life, I recognized that marriage could be an incredibly beautiful and powerful union.

I knew myself before I met my – now – husband. And I know myself now. And they’re not the same people. Because I have had some significant life changes. I opened myself up and let myself be vulnerable. I moved to Cartagena, Colombia without much of a plan and loved/hated every minute of it. I learned more about the immigration process than anyone should ever have to know. I have had multiple real, life-altering experiences with God. I road-tripped across the United States. I picked up my home base and moved it across state lines permanently for the first time in my entire life. Oh yeah, also, I got married.

Wedding DayAnd you know what? I love being married. Not for the title – in fact, two and half years later and it still freaks me out a little bit that I’m someone’s wife – or the security, though sometimes that is nice, but because I love my husband and we both know that our marriage took work and significant commitment before we ever said any vows or signed any papers. That sounds sappy and a little ridiculous even to my own ears and I don’t know if I would feel exactly the same if I was in a committed relationship with the same man and we never signed papers. If we were just partners instead of husband and wife – because marriage really is just paperwork in many ways. But marriage was the path for us – the best path for us and I don’t regret it for a single second.

Sure, sometimes I long to buy a plane ticket and just take off. And I can’t. And, you know what, that moment sucks. And then I think about why I can’t do that and it doesn’t suck quite as much anymore. I remember how much I really love my life now and maybe taking off to a foreign country isn’t the right path or direction for my life in this moment. And when it is again – and it will be, I assure you – then everything will fall into place and we’ll come to it on our path.

The moral of this story? Being married isn’t a bad thing. A married woman isn’t a sell out and a single woman isn’t going to be a cat lady. Being single is amazing and if you are single, enjoy every second of your single life. But don’t love being single because you think I, the married woman, am miserable. Because I’m not. And you don’t need to convince yourself that I’m miserable in order for you to be happy.

Bathroom Blues

I was reading an article recently on marriage. It was written by a man who had been divorced twice and, fair enough, he was writing an article on what NOT to do to keep a happy marriage. Or, at least, some of the things he’s sure went wrong in both of his own. Hindsight is 20/20 and all that.

I found one of the things he mentioned really interesting. It’s not the first time I’ve heard someone mention it in relation to their marriage, but it’s the first time I’ve heard a man mention it. And it’s in a category that many marital fights have started over – bathroom etiquette.

If you have ever shared a bathroom with anyone – ever – you have had fights or at least repressed anger about how they used it. Maybe they didn’t clean up after themselves well enough. Maybe they hogged it in the mornings leaving you barely enough time to brush your teeth. Maybe you shared toothpaste and they left the cap off or – and I personally hate this – left some paste on the top of the tube so it gets all gummy and disgusting! This man was not against any of these things. Well, he might be, but he didn’t mention them. What he did mention was defecating with the door open.

For those uncomfortable discussing bathroom behavior, you should stop readingPhoto credit: thejbird / Foter / CC BY now.

Honestly, my views on sharing bathroom time have been all over the place. I was raised in a house with three sisters. For a few years we had a foster-sister as well – so that’s six women in one house. (You can go ahead and feel sorry for my father and one brother – even our dog was a girl!) It was nothing to be brushing your teeth while someone was using the toilet. When we visited my cousins in Mississippi where there were seven cousins in the same family and they had one bathroom in their house – you peed with anyone in the room. I thought nothing of it.

I hit an awkward stage around puberty. (Did anyone not hit an awkward stage around puberty?) And I became friends with girls who didn’t seem as comfortable sharing their potty space. Be it that they were only children, had no sisters or were just raised in a more modest household, I don’t know. All I know is I suddenly deemed bathroom time as private time. I have a very distinct memory of locking the main bathroom door at my cousin’s house and a female cousin knocking on the door asking why in the world I locked the door?!

My first semester of college I lived in a dorm with a communal bathroom for the hall. There’s just no way around it, you had to do all your business in full ear shot of everyone else in the bathroom, even if they couldn’t see you. I got more comfortable with sharing the bathroom. I later lived in a house with two female roommates, one bathroom, you get over it. Well, I got over it. And then it’s just a matter of time once you get over it with your own sex that you stop caring with the opposite sex. Whether it’s a close friend or a partner. In the end, does it really matter? If you’re comfortable with them seeing you naked or sharing bodily fluids, who cares?! Everyone does it. Literally, everyone. Obama does it. The Queen of England does it. Jesus Christ even did it. It’s natural. It’s normal. We’re human.

The gentleman warning couples against it wasn’t putting the blame on either of his ex-wives, but mostly on himself. I’ve heard women say that they would never let their husbands even hear them go to the bathroom – have to keep the magic alive. After my sister and her – now – husband started living together they remodeled and were without a bathroom door. It wasn’t uncommon for her to drive to my parents’ house to use the restroom.

And I guess I’m curious, do you really care? Am I the abnormal one?

 

When Family Becomes Friend

I spent a large part of my formative years trying to convince myself and, much more easily, the world around me that I didn’t need people. I had a pretty solid armor. I trained myself not to cry (at least not in front of anyone) for a while. I thought being overly emotional made me vulnerable and I would much rather someone think me flippant or arrogant than vulnerable. It was protection. Or so I thought. In retrospect I kind of wonder why I thought I needed protection.

I was insecure, sure. Most teenagers are insecure and we all coped (and sometimes still cope) in different ways. Some cope with humor – if they’re laughing with me, then they’re not laughing at me. Some with self harm – be it cutting or an eating disorder. Some isolate – if they can’t find me, I’ll be okay. Some cope with confidence – mostly feigned confidence in my case.

I didn’t just do it with my peers though. I did it with everyone including my friends and family. I still do it sometimes though I am working to overcome this mindset. It’s the mindset that when someone walks into the room and I’m not in a safe, comfortable place, I immediately try to identify in what way I am superior to them. Always on the defense.

Please feel free to judge. It’s a nasty habit. Especially from someone raised by a loving, supportive family. I mean, yes, there were times that my siblings made my life feel miserable. And there are still moments when I feel like that twelve-year-old girl ostracized because she’d really rather dress up like the Spice Girls than get drunk. And while I have heard terrible stories of bullying in schools, I never felt bullied. I have always been a bit of a chub and though I never considered myself bullied, there are still a few choice interactions that are emblazoned on my memory.

The people I thought I needed least were, of course, the ones that loved me most. My family. I remember heinously vowing that if anyone died while I was studying abroad in Ireland that I would not be returning to the States for the Funeral. Then I cried over most of the Atlantic wondering if there was any way to turn back. Change my mind without losing face. When I went away to college my first semester – and I had said for years that I was leaving that town and never looking back – I cried after my Mom left from Parent Weekend. In the shower, no less, where my friends and roommate wouldn’t see me.

I tried so hard to push them away. To be Miss Independent. I saw them as an anchor weighing me down and I felt like I had to let go to be free. In an effort to sever those ties, I traveled. I love to travel – and for all the right reasons – but part of why I started was the freedom. A chance to shake off my anchor. I have never wanted to be babied more than when I was riding a train from Italy to Austria with tonsillitis. And when I was living in Colombia, I missed my family fiercely.

My Mom used to tell my sisters and I when we would fight that some day we would be best friends. I very much doubted this. I had absolutely nothing in common with them. My friends were my chosen family. Ten years later, most of those same friends have faded into happy memories that I keep up with loosely on Facebook and my sisters are my very best friends. We’re scattered across the country right now, but those ties, that ones I crossed oceans to try to sever, are stronger than ever. I share their pains and their joys. We love most of the same people. We cry and laugh and get angry on behalf of the other.

I don’t know when this happened. This shift in my universe. I do wonder if it happens to everyone. What I know now is that I can go far, far away and those loves of my life – my family – they’ll be supporting me throughout. They will still laugh and cry with me. No matter how close we live, our time together will always feel fleeting. And that living our amazing and independent lives doesn’t pull us apart – it gives us something to talk about.

I’m sorry for that armor that I built. I thought I needed it then. I’m sorry for ever doubting that I needed people. I was so very wrong. I’m sorry for all those people I loved and who loved me that I hurt with my arrogance or my pride or my hateful attitude. But I am happy now and I’m a better person for having known everyone I have ever known (okay, in fairness, there may be an exception or two).

I am a better person for every person I have ever hugged or had a friend crush on. For every person I felt a connection with – even if only for a moment. It might not have been the best me, but it was me and I’m a better person from having learned from it. Thanks for letting me become this person.

Good-bye July

August, please be merciful.

I don’t think I’m being melodramatic in saying that the month of July in the year of 2013 may have been the worst calendar month I have ever experienced. At least emotionally. It’s over. Today is August. Thank you for coming August.

I usually quite enjoy the month of July. It rides the jetstream of June which is undeniably the best month of the year. It starts with a bang – literally – with fireworks for the Fourth, plays host to the day of my father’s birth and ends with Harry Potter. It also has long, luxurious days of sunshine and summer is always a time for happiness. If by always I mean mostly because this year July did not bring me joy as it has in the past.

I said good-bye to two very influential women in my life. When July began I had two grandmothers. At the close of the month, I am without both of them. And while I can tell you without a doubt that they both lived full, long lives, it doesn’t stop the ache left by their absence.

My Nan fought a short battle with cancer. We knew she didn’t have much time left, but her decline was extremely rapid. One evening she was alert and chatty and the next evening she was gone. She’s been saying for the last year that she was waiting for the birth of my brother’s first child. His daughter was born forty-five minutes before Nan passed away.

Grandma Dillon had been sick for a while. She suffered from a major stroke over ten years ago, but in the last few years, her health began declining more rapidly. I was blessed to spend her last day by her bedside. She died the next morning two weeks to the day after my Nan and while her oldest son, my Dad, was undergoing major surgery.

They were both strong, stubborn women. And, though it’s rare that I admit it, I have a lot of each of them in me. I can be stubborn and opinionated and set in my ways. I love fiercely, but don’t always know how to show it. I can be critical and, though it’s something I am working on in myself, sometimes cruel in my criticisms. Nan blessed me with good, thick hair. And Grandma Dillon graced me with an ample bosom and blue eyes.

I fought with both of my grandmothers. I don’t think this is normal. I don’t think most people fight with their grandmothers. I did. And this wasn’t always wise as they could both hold grudges. And, as terrible as this may sound, in these last few weeks I sometimes find myself trying to focus on the negatives to avoid crying on my drive to work or breaking down in the check-out line. It’s easier.

I didn’t expect this internal reaction to the loss of their physical presence, but I feel distant, remote, and constantly emotional. And by emotional I mean always on the precipice of tears.

There are some things that I hope will stick with me though – good things. For Nan it might be macaroni and cheese, Shirley Temple movies, campfires, Bingo, Bob Evans, or the song You are my Sunshine. Definitely the song. And I’ll think of Grandma Dillon whenever I see beautiful flower gardens, fire ants, homemade biscuits, or smell the scent of Autumn.

Thank you to you both for all that you were. And all that you continue to be for every life that you touched while you were still with us.

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Post Script: I don’t mean to make light of these losses and if my tone in any way suggests that then just know that we all handle grief in different ways. In addition to everything mentioned above, my niece spent the first week of her life in the NICU, my employer offers no bereavement leave, my transmission blew on my way home from my Nan’s service, and my husband still isn’t home from Georgia – where he’s been all summer. All in one month. All in a matter of two weeks, really. So, all things considered, I think I’m handling everything pretty well.

Thanksgiving?

Sometimes I get really grumpy and lose all spirit of the holidays. Sadly. They hold great childhood memories for me but I suppose, through my adolescent years, the holidays were just about being dragged to Mississippi to spend a week away from all of my friends (which are the entire world of a 16 year old) and be forced to spend time with throngs of family members that I had trouble relating to. Don’t worry, things have gotten better since.

This Thanksgiving will involve no sixteen hour drives, drooling babies, or less than pleasant relations because I’m headed to the amazing city of New York for four days. It occurred to me that the last time I was in NYC I was 16 and a Junior in High School. Now I’m 20, a Junior in college and on my own. Since that time I’ve traveled parts of the world. I’m curious to see how the city compares now. I was overtaken with its mystery and intrigue on my last visit, I think this will yield the same results.

To all of you, Happy Thanksgiving! I hope your day is fully of family, love and lots and lots of laughs.