Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Nine

I left Lilly Tomlin in because we don't have a pet, and sometimes I pretend she's my mom.
Today, Jeff and I have been married nine years.

[Hold for applause.]

Just kidding. I mean, that's kind of anticlimactic. It's not like ten. At ten, you can throw yourself some kind of luau-themed vow renewals at a luxury resort, invite all of your friends and drink too much until you push someone into the infinity pool.

Let's face it: Nine is juuuuust shy of impressive. I mean, the anniversary gift for ten is diamond jewelry; the gift for nine is leather.



It's a subtle difference, but I think it speaks volumes.

Nine is not a show pony. Nine is a workhorse. Nine is hard-earned, like tanning a gross piece of rawhide to make a sexy anniversary codpiece. Nine is also a 2009 musical drama directed and produced by Rob Marshall. Basically, nine is a diamond still in the rough.

What I'm getting at with these heavy-handed metaphors is that marriage can be hard. (In retrospect I think the hora was trying to prepare me for this fact, as I struggled in vain to hold onto a chair with no arms, hovering eight feet over a drunken mob.)

That's not delight, it's pure terror.
I'm sure some people have effortless unions based on shared values, matching Christmas pajamas, and compatible astrological signs, but Jeff and I... are not those people. We love each other--a lot!--but we're very different, and always have been. He is dark by every definition of the word, hirsute and enigmatic, a steak-loving chain-smoker who reads historical nonfiction and suffers from what he calls “emotional constipation.” I, by contrast, am light in interests if not in body hair. I live for awards show red carpet specials. I have read all of Janice Dickinson’s autobiographies (there are three). I eat a lot of avocado and sometimes drink green juice. Emotionally, I tend towards hyperbolic overexpression, and am prone to dramatic weeping during arguments (if anything, my heart requires Pepto Bismol). Finding common ground, for us, often takes work.

The past few years have been especially rough. Co-parenting is a constant, humbling struggle, money is tight, quality time is scarce, and stress is high. It's a recipe for resentment, and for forgetting why you liked each other enough in the first place to fund an extravagant, legally-binding party just to rub it in people's faces.

I don't think we actually uttered the words "for better or for worse" in our vows nine years ago, but everyone knows that's the deal you make, before you step on the glass or jump the broom or almost fall to your death from your hora chair. And while we're lucky beyond belief in many ways, we've been wading towards the worse end of the spectrum for a while. Which is why I'm writing this post. Because in between bliss and divorce is a wide, murky middle where most marriages go to float like so many lanterns launched hopefully onto a moonlit lake. And we should talk about it.

We should talk about how much it sucks that passion fades. I listened to the Aziz Ansari audiobook, so I get it--our brains can't handle that much dopamine; we would never get anything done if that new-romance high lasted more than a few years. But still, it sucks! It fucking sucks!

We should talk about how a child can change a relationship in ways you don't expect. A baby is literally the manifestation of love (or, OK, at least lust) between two people, so it seems logical that it would multiply affection instead of divide it. But parenting is hard, sleep deprivation is real, and sometimes, at the end of the day, you only have enough love left for one person (and the kid always wins).

We should talk about how every couple is cosmically destined to have the same fight over and over again, at least once a month, for the rest of eternity, like a really terrible remake of Groundhog Day starring those Children of the Corn-looking Hough siblings from Dancing With the Stars.

We should talk about how there's a reason that romantic comedies usually end with the first kiss, because if you followed people through a real relationship--especially one that spans a decade--it would stop looking so romantic and comedic and would quickly start looking more like a documentary with no plot and increasingly infrequent nudity.

I don't mean to scare or depress you. Jeff and I are not teetering on the brink of divorce. In fact, I've been feeling extra grateful for him lately. It's easy to stop really seeing your partner when you're mired in the day-to-day slog, so I try to look up more often--to notice his smile when he comes in the door, or stand up and kiss him before I go back to building whatever 1500-piece Lego set Sam has dumped onto the rug. Jeff and I have been together for thirteen years now. This recent stretch isn't the first skid we've hit. We have a life and a child and a long history together and we are still in it.

I mean, look, we're not exactly living the plot of 9 1/2 Weeks over here, but we also haven't gone the 9 to 5 route of trying to poison and/or kidnap each other. Which bodes well, I think.

We must be into leather.

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2 comments :

  1. Yes! We should talk about it, and I am glad you did because it is less lonely out here in matrimonyland now. 21 is coming next month for us, and we missed the opportunity to do something ridiculously festive for 20-instead exchanging chinese food containers bearing gifts (China obviously). I guess now we just hunker down and make our ways towards silver! Happy Anniversary to you-keep looking up!

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  2. You pretty much nailed it. It isn't all pretty, but if you can choose to stick with it, and to talk about it, you are likely to be rewarded with more together time and an easing of tensions. Good luck and thanks for the laughs.

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