What was it like for you when you found out that Santa Claus didn’t exist? Did you cry? Did it make you angry? Did it feel like you lost something precious that you could never get back? I’m right there with you. Only I’m not talking about Santa Claus.
So far, the Christmas season has been a time of serious ambivalence, especially considering that I’m going through a bit of a faith crisis. 2017 has been a year of sorrow-filled enlightenment. I finally decided to fully reject literalism in scripture, embrace progressive/LGBT-affirming theology, and even more seriously, only serve at churches that allow me to be open and honest about my beliefs. It’s been a very dramatic journey, filled with tales of abandonment, conflict, and deep loneliness.
It’s okay, though. We shouldn’t let these things get us down, right? After all, Christmas can still be a time of peace, joy, and Mariah Carey, right? It’s also a holiday that allows us to reflect on all that Jesus has done in our lives, right? Who cares that this somehow translates into evangelicals getting really hostile about Starbucks coffee cups and throwing Jesus outrageous Sweet Sixteen parties where (for whatever reason) we get to pocket all the gifts? God bless us, everyone!
Don’t let the state of American politics fool you--it is in fact 2017. For a second there I did have to check, though.
I will say that our country is in serious need of a conversation about what it means to live in a modern world. In a modern world, men and women are equal and are treated equitably. In a modern society, male and female aren’t the only gender options. In a modern society, words matter.
So what’s going on with all of this gendered married stuff that I keep seeing? As the co-founder of a progressive marriage blog, it’s my duty to explore the vasts depths of the internet to ensure that you’re being provided with the best marriage content known to woman, man, and [insert every gender in-between]. And based on everything I’ve encountered/read so far, here’s my general diagnosis:
WE. NEED. HELP.
I have stopped telling strangers I’m getting my MFA in fiction writing.
“Your MFA in fiction writing?” they say, “What can you do with that?”
“Write books,” I tell them, “Maybe a novel?”
“A novel!” they say, “So you’re going to be famous?”
I kick the dirt and mumble, “Um, well, sure.”
When it comes to ambition, Jack and I are kindred spirits. I remember on our first date, sitting on a hill together in Saxapahaw, NC and drinking wine out of plastic cups, we told each other about our dreams. We each had a vision for how we wanted our lives to go. We told each other about our passions--music, writing, art. We ate mediterranean food, talked and talked. We found each other fascinating, electric. We were equally matched in our aspirations. We both wanted to be great. We liked this about each other.
They say that people are at their most attractive when they do something they love--something they’re good at. We’re our best selves when we live out our passions. Before we met, this was what Jack and I did, fiercely.
And now, I worry that our passions are bringing out the worst in us.
From the moment I could date women, I’d date them. I'd date them, and then the relationship would eventually burst into flames. Call it bad luck, call it immaturity, call it me being a bad romantic partner. However you say it, you’re probably not wrong and I own that.
Ex-partners have had an affect on me for a long time. After a relationship failed, I would be back on the market ASAP to find someone else. I never took time to process the loss or think about what I could do better. I was just interested in finding “the one” and I wouldn’t allow myself to waste any time. #TedMosby
When you find yourself silently rooting for your husband as he poops with the door open, or when you spend the whole day on the couch next to him without even looking over, or when you notice that the only things you text him are Miss J gifs and bank account information, you may one day look to your husband and ask, “What’s happened to us?”
At this point, you may summon vague images of your former self. That lithe, quick-witted person. That person whose clothes always fit them just right. You might remember sitting in the sun with your then-date-now-husband and talking for hours. You have forgotten what you said back then. All you can remember is what it felt like to be interesting. You want to feel that feeling again. You want to feel that feeling, but cannot summon the energy to say something clever. Your synapses are no longer firing in the way that makes you articulate things that are both heartfelt and electrifying. So you sit. And you fall asleep next to your husband at earlier and earlier intervals.
Yeah yeah yeah...every marriage blog and their mom wants to recommend 5 fun date ideas to you. But no one ever wants to talk about how expensive they are! Also, most of those date ideas are kinda stupid, so we came up with our own list.
With Annie taking some time off of work to take on a graduate program, we’ve had to get really creative about the kind of dates we go on. Date nights will always be a priority in our marriage, even though our wallets right now can’t really support the more conventional date ideas most of the time. That’s ok...we’ve found a few ideas that really work for us:
1. Monday Movies in Nature
2. Tuesday Tasty Video Nights
3. Wednesday Walk Abouts
4. Thursday Thurstay!
5. Fake Identity Friday
(On Saturdays and Sundays, just sleep in and go to brunch!)
I really hope that you didn’t think this week’s blog would about how I don’t like sex anymore. I mean, do you even know me?? In the words of my late, great friend, Jim Smith, “[Sex] is THE MAD NOTES!”
He’s right for the most part. For me, sex has been such a weird recurring theme (for good and bad reasons). When I was young, I couldn’t wait to get married because I was so obsessed with sex. Growing up in my shared room with two other brothers who had similarly raging libidos, we kept swimsuit model photos on the walls, watched Cinemax when we weren’t supposed to, and made sex talk our dirty little secret.
At the same time, I also grew up in a very religious household where sex wasn’t really talked about except for, “It’s for marriage.” Youth group was all about “purity rings” and how being “a real man” meant respecting/preserving a woman’s purity (as a feminist, a little bit of me just died inside writing that).
In short, sex became very taboo--and therefore insanely desirable. This led to a variety of issues moving forward. Pornography, weird encounters during college, and worst of all: guilt. Serious, serious guilt that I still struggle with to this day. Sex is an amazing thing, but the guilt kinda ruins it for me.
But then I met a woman. A beautiful woman (both inside and out). She helped me to become a better person, we set really healthy boundaries for physical intimacy, and sex seemed like less of a stronghold in my life. We got married after a few years of dating and the first thing I thought was, “Ah snap! Jack gets to have all of this awesome, guilt free, married sex for the rest of his life! STARTED FROM THE BOTTOM NOW WE’RE HERE!”
Title: “Will You Still Text And Drive When We Have Kids?”
Abstract: I see you, what you’re doing there. Just a quick one. Just a quick text. The light turns green and you’re searching for the peace sign emoji. We’re on the highway and your football thread is exploding. It’s Fantasy Draft Day. We’re just trying to get home. Once, you tried to watch a basketball game while driving home from work. I made you pull the car over and let me drive. I know I should not read into this about how much you value my life. But sometimes I do.
Concerns: It’s not as funny as I think it is / Puts us on too much of a binary / I’ve done it too / I’m not trying to pick a fight / This makes you sound more reckless than you are / And when you start having blog posts that mention offspring in the title, too many folks start pondering the contents of my uterus.
Before Annie and I got married, I had a dream about us moving in together. In the dream, she arrived at our apartment with a few bags and a rolling suitcase. I, on the other hand, showed up with an entire moving truck of stuff. And as she opened up the back of the moving truck, she gave me a disconcerted look and said, “I don’t know if I can live with all of this.” I still think about this dream to this day.
I entered into my relationship and marriage with a lot of baggage. The more I process my feelings, the more baggage I find. It often feels infinite. Anxiety, depression, vices, anger, past relationship woes, you name it. I never used to talk about it with my significant others, mostly because I never thought I could. How could they be with me if they really knew everything about me? It seemed so much easier to live a partitioned life.
Act One: The Call
1. The Ordinary World
Me. Girl. Mid-twenties. Eats vegetarian food. Watches How I Met Your Mother, often alone, often while eating rice pudding or strawberries. Goes to yoga. Goes to church. Has a normal job. Drives cautiously. Has never gotten a speeding ticket. Spends nights painting flowers and trees. Acrylic on canvas. Values: Comfort, Beauty, Trader Joe’s.
2. The Call to Adventure
Jack. Husband. Skinny jeans and a Banana Republic non-iron. A reckless driving ticket knocked down in traffic court. Possesses: A Stage Presence. Together, we watch How I Met Your Mother outside on an iPad with a thermos of gin and tonic. Does not value: Comfort Zones.
3. The Reluctant Hero
I’m not ready for a baby! I’ve just gotten my thyroid problem under control!
4. The Mentor
I’m not ready for a baby, I tell Dr. Stanfield. She nods. She points to the IUD on that little chart of hers. A triumphant 99.9% effective. It takes out the human error, says Dr. Stanfield. You can just forget about it.
5. Crossing the Threshold
At installation, the uterus seizes up in a single contraction, like one during childbirth. A quick irony, spending a few seconds doing exactly the thing you are trying to avoid. They did not tell me this until I was on the table. Before, only a vague warning to come with Tylenol.
Annie & Jack
Love. Marriage. Teamwork. Art. Offsetting the patriarchal footprint. These are some of the things we're thinking about.