When I started thinking about this entry weeks ago, I decided that, whatever the topic, I was going to write an excoriating response to Wrecked-Um’s December 31 post (“The Incapable Wrecked-Um”) wherein he expresses so extreme a disgust for his pregnant wife that he suggests men push their pregnant lovers down the stairs, thereby avoiding the “9 months of mental and emotional HELL [their] knockupee[s] are about to put [them] through.” And that was just the opener on this topic. I was going to attack the post from a feminist perspective (wow, look at the woman-hater!), from a generational perspective (it’s one more foot in the grave for Generation X if we can’t even love the families we create), and from a writer’s perspective (we can do better than this for our blog!). I was going to be the self-referential straw that broke the camel’s back here at 30POV. I was going to tear shit up.
Then I woke up. A little. Just enough to get out of the way before the hypocrisy lightning could strike me.
To be clear, nothing is ever going to make me like what he wrote, and if this dude were my husband, I’d divorce him so fast that he’d have road rash. Hey Wrecked-Um, it’s not cool or edgy to say things like that; it’s dick, pure and simple. Were you joking? I’ve decided that it doesn’t matter. And the fact that so many people, both men and women, cheered you on in the comments section made me temporarily not want to write for this website anymore. It made me think that we 30ishes are a sorry lot.
Then I got to thinking about one of the main challenges I’ve encountered since getting married. By now, most of my friends are married, and right after each beautiful, expensively dressed bride (or groom) walked down the aisle, something strange happened: everything from then on was JUST FINE. REALLY. NO PROBLEMS HERE. OH LOOK, IS THAT A HUMMINGBIRD? Women and men with whom I’ve had lengthy, intricate discussions about their relationships, frustrations, recurring hurts and mistakes were all of a sudden purporting to now be happy as clams every day. Their lives turned perfect, as if they’d had plastic surgery to correct their tendencies to be melodramatic, or distracted, or selfish, or disloyal, or closed off, or…
But just like plastic surgery (and clams), something was fishy. Because I’m married too, and I know from the inside that marriage is, to put it so lightly as to be euphemistic, not easy. I love my husband, but that didn’t keep me from discovering that I’m not the world’s most adept long-term companion in ways I both could and couldn’t see coming. At first I thought I was part of a vanishingly small minority of people who somewhat lack the natural instinct to be a spouse, who have to work at it so hard and in so many ways that it feels like getting another degree (I even went to hypnosis, for chrissake, and all I learned was that charlatans apparently circulate the same “soothing music” CD; once a “Reiki master” tried to blank out my mind with the same disc the hypnotist used). I thought maybe I was delayed, that my selfishness was hard-wired when everyone else’s had fallen neatly away. It seemed like all my married friends had fit perfectly into their “adult suits” while mine was still in the process of being yanked into place with huge binder clips. I am not “sample size,” and I thought maybe I was the only one.
I couldn’t keep my struggles to myself; I take the perspectives of my friends very seriously when I’m making a decision or wrestling with a problem. If I had a Jersey Shore name, it would be “The Committee.” So I talked to my friends. And to their friends. I even talked to the friends who had worn perma-smiles since their wedding days. I needed perspectives on how to be better. And it turned out that all it took was one person who was willing to admit that not everything was perfect to get people talking about the strange, sometimes unpleasant things going on in their own marriages. It turned out I was actually flattering myself to rate my own situation as high on the chaos scale; some folks beat me by a nose. Hearing that I’m not the only one who feels as if she signed up for the Ironman Triathlon while still on training wheels didn’t solve my problems, but it sure did make me feel less alone.
The “moral” of this story is that, in my opinion, we shouldn’t feel like we have to pretend everything is ok just because we’re big, serious grown-ups. Whether I like it or not, I have something in common with the man who penned that post that I loathe: neither of us is afraid to admit that the cultural milestones that our society has trained us to believe are joyous can actually be stultifying and scary. The wonderful thing about the street-smart practicality of our generation is that we don’t bother as much with other people’s judgments of our behavior (and I’m wearing my Converse to work until someone tells me it’s a breach of contract). So why should we pretend, for the sake of our images, that the most important parts of our lives aren’t also the hardest? I won’t; I can’t!
And Wrecked-Um: congratulations, not empty ones, on your soon-to-be baby girl.