grumpy about marriage (guest blog!)

I’ve been super busy last couple weeks, and there’s been sickness in the house, so I haven’t had time to write anything. Also I haven’t had anything to say that I think anyone would find even remotely interesting. So my friend Elizabeth wrote a grumpy guest blog! Yay! I’m not alone in my grumpy!

Let me say this without Elizabeth’s permission: Elizabeth is a most excellent lawyer I worked with some years ago. She’s really bright and snarky and sweet and cynical, with a wicked sense of humor, which is a beautiful combination of qualities. Like me, she came to parenthood late. Like me, she has a daughter who faces some challenges in the years ahead, but hers are probably more significant than Jesse’s. Unlike me, the challenges of parenting a child with unique needs don’t seem to be breaking Elizabeth. Instead she seems to be becoming even more resilient, more peaceful, and just plain better because of it. Woulda coulda shoulda. But hey, that’s why I’m in therapy with Jesse.  Anyway, here’s what Elizabeth has to say this week about her mate, providing further proof for one of my new inspiring inspirational inspirations: Everyone farts in the same language.

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Hi! My name is Elizabeth and I’ll be your guest grump today! I really can’t hope to equal the excruciating grumpitude that is Carla, but I will try to whet your appetite and keep you somewhat satiated while she is recovering from flu, missing An-ton-ee, or just busy.

I have to free associate a bit here to get my grumpitude up to speed. I just had my wedding anniversary on January 8. So I will be….GRUMPY ABOUT MARRIAGE? Yes? Okay. Disclaimer: I love my husband very much, and our life together is good. We have a partnership, he’s a wonderful dad, he respects me, blah blah blah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

When I first got married there was a reality tv show on called “Things I Hate About You” that I liked to watch (in secret, because I didn’t want Max to know that I watched reality TV — I guess I thought I was only supposed to watch PBS or Wall Street Week or something). Anyway, this show consisted of couples airing to their gay boyfriend Mo Rocca their various gripes about the other spouse — the spouse was messy; the spouse sang in the car; the spouse complained a lot; the spouse never cleaned up. At the end of the show someone won a major household appliance or trip, I can’t remember why.

Okay, I’m right on the cusp of getting to my point now. Here’s the thing that’s insane: When I watched this show as a newlywed, I really and truly believed that if Max and I went on this show (okay I’m starting to snort with laughter), he would have a list of things about me that were annoying, obviously– but, but — I would not possibly come up with even a single quality about him that was unacceptable. Yes! I actually believed him to be perfect! OMIGOD! And I was so lucky that this perfect being was willing to co-exist with my clearly imperfect self.   Can you imagine?

Well, times have certainly changed! Let’s see now, do I only have to pick ten things that annoy me about him?

  1. He farts constantly. I’m not talking about a little gas and maybe that was a fart, maybe it wasn’t. I’m talking about gas that ruins furniture, that makes you drop to the floor and moan “Oxygen!”
  2. He won’t drive. Ever. I do all the driving.
  3. His idea of a healthy meal is pork fried rice with extra broccoli. The broccoli cuts the fat, you know.
  4. He can’t hang up a towel without smooshing it so that it takes maximum drying time.
  5. He is incapable of throwing anything away, including any little piece of artwork our daughter does. Believe me, she’s no Van Gogh.
  6. He answers every phone call. Every phone call.
  7. He doesn’t understand the concept that one buys new clothing just because one likes the clothing.
  8. He will talk to anyone. See #6. I think every telephone survey person hits us up.
  9. His idea of a great night of entertainment is a vampire zombie slasher film featuring Nazis on skis.
  10.  He only ever wants to go the Jersey shore on vacation.

(I have to admit I was sort of scratching a bit for the last few there. ) Well, it’s too bad that show is off the air!

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[Carla here: It sounds like love to me.]

Grumpy about marriage (happy anniversary)

I’ve been married 21 years as of today. Anthony and I are finally street legal. He’s a keeper for sure. I feel like we’ve had a storybook relationship. Ups and downs, good times and bad, suffering and decay, yadda yadda. But I can honestly say that there hasn’t been a single day I’ve regretted the choice I made. The only regret I have is that someday it’ll end. We’ll separate, because death. It’s a bitter pill, but one worth swallowing for the (hopefully) many years of love and happiness preceding it.

We’re celebrating our anniversary the old fashioned way. Anthony had to go out to a work dinner. Someone is leaving and it’s good bye, so it didn’t seem right for him to skip it. I’m leaving in a few minutes to go to a friend’s house for drinks. They’ve had my kids all afternoon, so now it’s time for me to impose myself on them even more.

Anthony will be home about when the kids fall asleep, and then we’ll drink together and watch MI5 re-runs. Or maybe we’ll get crazy and watch the silly parts of BBC’s now-ancient Pride and Prejudice. Either way, it’s romantic enough for me these days. I’m just happy to have Anthony by my side at the end of the day, even on the grumpy days.

Grumpy about love: marriage proposal

Anthony asked me to marry him on New Year’s Eve, over a 750 ml bottle of Jack Daniels. NYE is amateur night, and we’ve never gone out to celebrate it. There are a lot of people drinking and driving who rarely drink and drive, and who therefore don’t have as good an idea when not to drive because they don’t have as much experience endangering their own and others’ lives. Also there are inexperienced drunks around, more likely to lean toward bellicose and vomitous. Anthony and I are happy to get drunk at home on NYE.

So there we sat in out tiny apartment on Swann Street, near Dupont Circle in DC, at the little table we bought with a year’s worth of change we collected, slurping happily at our Jack. Life was simple, complicated, broke, and good. Anthony had a funny look on his face. He was obviously thinking about something heavy.

What is it? I asked. What’re you thinking about?

“So I’ve been thinking,” he started, and then hesitated. What? Go on then. “I’ve been thinking we should get married.”

From 18 to 26, I was never going to get married. I came of age as the planet Reagan ascended, followed by the hypocrisies of Newt Gingrich and Ralph Reed and the “family values” crowd. I used to rant at the TV and newspapers as we drank up all that inside-the-beltway political chatter. We’ve been together and “living in sin” longer than most couples last from first date to divorce! I don’t need a piece of paper to know that I’ve made a lifetime commitment to Anthony! Marriage is a social construct and false institution that adds no value to a relationship! I know gay couples who will never marry but they have plenty of family values! Couples use marriage to cover up unresolved flaws in their life together! No wonder divorce rates are so high! I would never abandon my mate while he was dealing with cancer! Hypocrites who’ve been married 3 times and had extramarital affairs shouldn’t lecture me about family values! I’m never getting married! EVER! F#@* MARRIAGE!!

So Anthony proposed anyway. Later he told me he assumed I would leave him, given my point of view.

I handled it well. I chewed him out for even considering dragging me into such a broken, biased, sexist institution. I ranted at him about failing to pay attention to me, ever, because how else could he ask me to do something I PLAINLY had such a strong moral opposition to?

Okay not really. I don’t remember that emotional moment clearly except for this: I cried and said YES YES YES right away and was overwhelmed by an unexpected feeling of happiness that came out of NOWHERE, all the while deriding myself inside for being such a complete hypocrite. So really, when I’m being straight with myself, I have to admit that agreeing to get married was sort of a humiliating moment.

Not satisfied with my own emotional dissonance over being so happy about this marriage thing, I called my mom the next day to tell her. She used to have a special knack for putting beautiful moments in a negative light. She had three specific things to say when she heard about the looming nuptials.

“Mom, Anthony and I are getting married!”

There was an inappropriately long silence.

“Are you pregnant?”

Gah! This was a cheap shot. Mom never could accept that I Lived In Sin with Anthony. It horrified her. I was exasperated that pregnancy was the first place her mind went. She knew me better than that.

“No, mom! I use birth control! Jeez!”

There was another inappropriate silence.

“You’ll get married in Stockton.” It wasn’t a question.

“Yeah, I know. Anthony and I already talked about that.”

Another pause.

“You’ll wear a white dress.” Now she was grim.

At the time, I thought this was about her knowing what a slob I am. But maybe it was just another cheap shot about my Living In Sin. It doesn’t matter anymore. By the time Mom issued the dress edict, I was rolling my eyes so thoroughly I was giving myself a headache. I was ready to hang up, and I was a little pissed off.

I used to think of this conversation with dismay, a perfect example of my mom’s disfunction — a general opposition to letting others’ happiness just be, without criticizing or putting down. But I also recognize that, wittingly or not, Mom gave me exactly the cynical, comic relief I needed as I struggled to understand how I had been flipped off my anti-marriage stance so easily. And now as I write this, it occurs to me that my mom — sharp-witted and insightful about people — probably was also just plain mocking me. I deserved it.

I don’t think I’ve ever come to grips with what happened in my heart when Anthony proposed. My conversation with Mom filled the slot where I should have fitted in a conversation with myself about the why’s of marriage. Why was I so moved by Anthony’s proposal, when I already knew he was committed to me for life? I still don’t know the answer.