Friday, May 4, 2018

This Is Marriage: Day 971

Pete: (walks into living room as I am measuring George's feet with a tape measure): No. Whatever you're planning, no.
Me: I'm measuring George for roller skates. I need a way to take him on adventures without getting his feet dirty.
Pete: They're not going to fit.
Me: Yes they are, I already checked the dimensions.
Pete: George doesn't need roller skates.
Me: Oh, so the man with 5 computers thinks roller skates for a giraffe are excessive?
Everyone laughs. Pete probably hopes I have given up on Operation Outside Giraffe, but by this point he knows me well enough to know that I have most definitely not.

A few days later...

Me: So you think I should just get regular shoes for George instead of roller skates? I think roller skates would be easier for moving him around.
Pete: No, he doesn't need any shoes.
Me: But then how am I going to take him on adventures? He's too big to carry.
Pete: Just get a smaller giraffe for outside adventures
Me: So you want me to get more animals?! Ok!! (Begins lengthy internal debate about if George will feel left out if I get smaller animals and take them on adventures instead of him and how roller skates still seem to be the most logical answer to this problem. Will require further analysis).

Sometimes marriage is a circus. Or maybe it's just our marriage that is a circus. Because my life is a circus (but not the kind that harms animals, the kind with jugglers and stilt-walkers and other nonsense). But funny anecdotes aside, what I really want to talk about is the hard stuff.

I have enjoyed marriage immensely, but I have also struggled with it, and especially with finding my place within in. I don't know how to be married. I'd never done it before and I hadn't seen any firsthand examples of the kind of marriage I wanted to be in. I wanted a life partnership, where two people who had built awesome lives separately, came together and built something even more awesome together. I wanted an equal partnership, with no gender roles or stereotypical divisions of labor (which never made any sense to me anyway). Which is pretty much what Pete and I have. But I still felt this weird sense that something wasn't right. I couldn't explain it except to say it was like some kind of underlying despair-rage. Despairage? I didn't know why I felt like that and I didn't want to feel that way. Sometimes I felt crazy because Pete thought everything was fine and I was all like it isn't fine, why am I the only one who sees it?

Then I realized my experience of marriage was different than Pete's. The undercurrent of frustration I felt was not with Pete or our relationship but at the actual institution of marriage, with all its patriarchal, oppressive baggage. So while we are equal partners in our own marriage, no one ever referred to Pete as Mr. Jen Lacey, whereas they did refer to me as Mrs. Pete Lacey. I don't think people mean to insinuate that I am no longer a whole person with my own first name and life. I think they just do it because it's what has traditionally been done. Sexism is so ingrained in marriage, even today, that I think sometimes people don't even realize it. Let's be honest, I am Privileged AF. I have white, straight and economic privileges that many people don't have and I can only imagine how much harder it is for them to find their place within marriage (if they choose to, or are even able to, get married).

I already felt this internal pressure of wanting to be the best life partner I could be - after all, my choices were not just my own anymore - now the decisions I make also affect Pete. On top of that I felt like I had to fight against the external pressure society puts on women/wives to be smaller, subservient, absurdly agreeable. The person I want to be and the life I want to lead could never fit in such a restrictive box. Pete married me for the smart, funny, weird, adventurous person that I am. And I married Pete for the smart, funny, weird, adventurous person that he is. Of course I want him to be happy and I want to do whatever I can to make our lives and our marriage as excellent an adventure as possible. But I can't afford to make someone else happy at the expense of making myself miserable. So I have to figure out how to participate in the institution of marriage without condoning or perpetuating its oppressive past. I have to ignore the external pressures to be a certain way or do a certain thing and just be who I am, doing my own thing. With my favorite human and my roller skating giraffe (or posse of giraffes? TBD).

Marriage means a lot of things to a lot of people. But to me, marriage is like the best hug, with the perfect amount of holding on and letting go. Where you're free to be everything you are - the good, the bad and the ridiculous - and you have a hand to hold as you make your own path through the adventure of life. 

1 Pete + 1 Jen = a most excellent circus

Lyric of the moment: "This mind, this body and this voice cannot be stifled by your deviant ways.
So don’t forget what I told you, don’t come around, I got my own hell to raise..." ~Fiona Apple "Sleep To Dream" (Because it's an excellent song to sing at all the mean voices you encounter, whether external or internal). 

No comments:

Post a Comment