Why Everyone Needs to Stop Telling Me Marriage is Hard

Maybe it’s just my Facebook friends or the blogs I follow, but it seems that the Internet has devoted itself solely to telling me how hard marriage and motherhood will be, lately. Just the other day, Lacy told me how it irritates her that so many people “glamorize” motherhood. Um… I must be reading a different Internet or talking to different moms, because from what I understand, birth looks like this…

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and motherhood looks like this.

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I had my IUD inserted Wednesday and after two months of Summer Reading in a library full of unattended rabid babies, I was tempted to ask the doctor to shove a whole fistful of Mirenas up there, just for good measure. Add in that Facebook post about your four-year-old threatening to throw her dinner plate across the kitchen, those memes about how moms never use the bathroom alone, and passive aggressive remarks about your baby daddy’s XBOX usage and I’m rethinking my entire position on parenting. People make parenthood sound miserable, because all they do is bitch… and the same goes for marriage.

Jake and are getting married. We’re not engaged, because his job is in flux and his hours suck, but we’re no longer speaking in terms of “if”, but “when.” While he still speaks in the hypothetical to his parents, his sister has invited us to attend a marriage seminar at her church, with her and her husband. We’ve discussed dates and venues and argued about how insane it is to suggest an open bar for 200 people, because I’m apparently dating one of the Windsors. No money has been put down and no rings have been bought, but we’re in agreement that it’ll likely be official by the holidays… and that’s wonderful… or at least it would be if I wasn’t constantly hearing comments and reading articles about the impossibility of marriage.

I know, I know, these comments are generally coming from good people who mean well and 80% of the time, I’m more than happy to look past a person’s words or actions and analyze the intentions. Then, why does it get to me so much this time?

It’s just all so generic and… cliché.
I’m getting countless marriage related Facebook ads. I don’t know if it’s because my relationship status changed approximately a year ago or if it’s the fault of all those times I’ve Googled barn venues while bored at work, but nearly every suggested article is about engagement, weddings, or marriage. There was also that one about joining the “cat lady” subscription service, which felt like an implied threat, if I don’t get married yesterday, but generally they all have titles like “7 Things to Discuss before Getting Engaged.” Spoiler alert: children, religion, money, sex, location, family relations, and career should all be discussed before planning to spend the rest of your lives together. Zetus lapetus, I should light a candle at Mass for HuffPost, because I nearly saved that talk about my absurd student loan debt for the honeymoon!

Wait. No. We brought up religion and career before we met, family and kids and location on the first and second and third dates, sex on the sixth, and finances after three or four months… because we aren’t complete morons.

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What the fuck do people think we’ve been doing for fifteen months? Is it really so preposterous to think that in lieu of spending the first year having sex, we’d choose to actually get to know one another, discuss our goals and values, introduce each other to friends and family, and really assess whether or not we could build a life together? Must people actually be told that they need to discuss these things? Does anyone actually find this advice helpful?

It would’ve been nice if someone had told me that birth control could make me sick enough to Google how to cope with chronic pain. I’d have liked a heads up that him turning me down sexually doesn’t mean I disgust him, before I burst into tears while naked in bed about how I’m bad at sex for not understanding these things. It would be great for someone to write an article on how to explain to your future mother-in-law that you’re not inviting your own mother to your wedding. I’d love a how-to guide on letting him take the lead in a traditional relationship without occasionally feeling like I’m being steamrolled. An article with that combination of information wouldn’t appeal to the masses, though, because not everyone needs the same things. 

People assume everyone needs the same things.
Gail and I have been through some frighteningly similar life events, from marriage and divorce to lost babies to money, dating, and career struggles. Interestingly enough, however, these things have shaped us into very different people with completely different needs. Gail needs to know that she is always in control of anything pertaining to her. She needs to be asked not to do something or have it suggested that she might benefit from a specific choice. I need to know that I’m with someone who will take charge and make a decision. I need to know that he cares enough to tell me that I need go to sleep when I’m blubbering from job stress in the living room in the middle of the night. Gail needs to know that she is still in control of her life and I need to know that I’m with someone who will take an active part in our lives. The concepts aren’t mutually exclusive, but our priorities drastically differ… and that is okay. 

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I have several friends who will openly admit that they wear the pants in the family, others who insist that both people are equal, and some who believe the man should be the head of the household. None of them are wrong. Just because one perfect view of marriage means the woman works 70 hours a week and the man stays home with the kids, doesn’t mean the opposite is archaic and degrading. We’re all so quick to point out that there is no right way or wrong way to parent, but no one ever says this about marriage. They just talk about how hard it is in general terms, because everyone has different needs and therefore different struggles. I’ll never have to worry about crying in frustration, because Jake won’t put down the XBOX controller and discipline his kids or help me around the house, but I will cry after a ridiculous fight over the fact that I threw out a carton of expired milk without even tasting it first. My marriage will not look like anyone else’s marriage, so they really can’t give me advice about the ways in which it will be hard.

I’m divorced.
It’s actually pretty cool that everyone in my life seems to have completely forgotten about the four years I spent married to Lord Voldemort, but it’s still one of the primary reasons that receiving generic marriage advice gives me such a burning desire to be a patronizing asshole right back. Oh, he left a glass by the sink?

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You know what my ex-husband left?

My ex-husband left…

  • … a lawn full of dead pets after he burned our house down.
  • … me alone while I miscarried.
  • … my dog chained to a wall for a week, while I was on vacation with my mother.
  • … a window unlocked after our divorce, so he could break in and steal things to sell.

I could go on, but I’m not actually trying to belittle anyone else’s marriage struggles. Yes, being treated like a house elf for twenty years is a legitimate problem, but that doesn’t give anyone the right to trivialize the pain I suffered. I know that marriage is hard, but the broad reasons cited are usually ones I’ll gladly face if it means my pets are all alive and well at the end of the day. So, if you don’t want a copy of the fire report, while we compare marital woes, then…

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But… again, I know these comments are generally coming from good people who mean well. There were things about their own marriage that genuinely surprised them and they want me to be prepared. That is so very kind of them and I hope they’ll invite me to the marriage seminar at their church, lend a supportive and non-judgmental ear when we do have struggles, and tailor their advice a bit more specifically to the situation and people involved. Most importantly, I wish they’d just celebrate when we do get engaged and married, because  I research for a living, so I promise I’m getting plenty of the doom and gloom marriage prep material. We’ll have problems one day, I’ve no doubt, so let’s be joyful while we don’t.

 

I hate my job.

Library page: “You know who’s just a fantastic boss? Belle. She always knows everything that’s going on in the library. She walks around and sees what needs to be done and talks to people. She really is great at her job.”

Ngo, other supervisory librarian: “No, you are really good at this. You have a great balance with the staff.”

Brett, my boss: “You are just doing an awesome job. You’re also the only person who is ever willing to disagree with me and that is so valuable to me.”

It really sucks to be so great at something I hate so much. I am every sports movie cliché I’ve ever seen.

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Center Stage is a sports movie.

20% supervisor and 80% librarian. That’s what I was told the supervisory librarian position would be, when it was created and I applied in November. On Thursday night, I got off at 9:00, stopped by my favorite ice cream place for chocolate frozen yogurt and discovered too late that they’d given me a chocolate and vanilla twist. Jake was staying with me and had long since gone to bed, but came into the living room to find me quietly weeping over frozen yogurt.

Jake: “What’s wrong?”
Me: “Vanilla frozen yogurt doesn’t taste like anything!”
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Jake: “What’s really wrong?”
Me: “I hate my job! I have everything I ever wanted: the job, you, and I even got a cat and I am just so unhappy. I dread going to work. I never thought I would feel this way about being a librarian, but I don’t even get to be a librarian anymore! I spend a minimum of twenty hours a month in meetings and the supervisory librarians just decided we need to have another weekly meeting, between just the three of us! We sit down and have a meeting about something we just talked about in another meeting, even though we haven’t had any time to work on it since said meeting, and if I have to tell one more grown ass adult to do their fucking job, my brain is going to bleed out my ears and they gave me the wrong ice cream!”
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He wants to create an app that translates Crying Girl into English.

I love being a librarian, y’all. I love planning and putting on programs, weeding the collection and ordering replacement materials, helping little old ladies realize they can do this iPad thing, teaching twenty-somethings to make a resume, assisting ex-offenders in their job searches, and giving the rare well-behaved child a sticker. I used to be so excited when my copy of American Libraries came in the mail and now I hardly even look at it, because it’s officially a magazine full of articles about awesome things that I don’t have time to do.

Last week, I e-mailed the third grade teachers at the Catholic school just up the street from the Northside Library, where I work. I wanted to know if they’d like to take part in a pen pal program, with the nursing home I visit monthly. I received a reply immediately, that they’d both love to participate and, together, they had about 40 students. My first thought was one of excitement. The second was that I didn’t know if I had the time to devote to an 80 person pen pal project. I went to college for seven years, took out $150,000 in student loans, and I don’t have time to do the enjoyable parts of my job. I don’t have the time to talk to customers about their favorite books, to sign someone up for summer reading, to consider rearranging the collection, to make book displays, to fill out the checklist for that digital scrapbooking/online dating/adult coloring class I want to do. No. My time has been scheduled for supervisory librarian meetings with our manager, my one-on-one meetings with my direct reports, my one-on-one meetings with Brett, my one-on-one meetings with the other supervisory librarians and now our group meeting with each other; none of which I singularly despise, but rather have a growing resentment toward for taking so much of my time.

Jake: “I’m sorry your job sucks right now.”
Me: “My job sucks all the time. I just don’t talk about it.”

I immediately realized just how true that was. When I started in January, it was natural to be overwhelmed. In about mid-April, I thought I’d started to get the hang of all this manager stuff. I only had Ngo and Brett to consult with and the Supervisory Series training came to an end, freeing up much of my week. I wasn’t yet required to meet monthly with my direct reports, do evaluations, or address workflow and personnel issues, so the bulk of my management responsibilities involved making the page schedule and entering programs into the calendar. 20% supervisor and 80% librarian seemed about right. Then, the reality of my position settled in, along with all of the additional responsibilities. In the last couple of months, I’ve realized that aside from that six to eight week respite, I have hated my job since I started.

I have a more or less private office. I have my own laptop. Brett gives me the go-ahead on most of my ideas, even when they cost money. He solicits and respects my opinion. I love my coworkers, even the ones I have to supervise. I live in the cheapest part of the country and pull in about $50,000 a year, at the start of my career. I am really good at my job… and I hate it. I’m no longer waiting for the dust to settle on this new position. It’s management and if it continues to evolve, it will only become more managerial. I got my MLIS to do a job that should require an MBA. I have skipped over being just a librarian and unless I step down, I will never get that chance. I will forever supervise those I envy, because stepping down could mean that I never get the opportunity to move up again. It could mean that everyone assumes I was reassigned by force, because I failed. It would mean telling my dad that I gave up all the momentum of a management opportunity to be just a librarian.

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Well, so… fucking… what? I am not going to spend the next two and half years crying over frozen yogurt and yearning for all the missed opportunities of being a librarian, to hit some arbitrary number that will look good on a resume, just in case I want to be a manager again. I didn’t work 60 hours a week and go to grad school to hate my job, just because modern society expects intelligent women to hit the corporate ground running. I have amazing momentum with my system. I could manage my own library inside of three years and that’s not what I want. So, after discussing it with Jake, I decided to apply for an open librarian position at the Southeastern Library, in Cherokee. Cherokee is a more rural city inside the same county as the other libraries in the system, with a population of around 10,000, even smaller than Shetland. I could have the small town existence Jake and I imagine and still make $50,000 a year. I can do adult and senior programming and be just a librarian.

Jake: “Babe, I’m totally fine with whatever you wanna do. I couldn’t do what you do… being people’s boss? That would drive me crazy. I just wanna make sure you know that if you leave a management position, you may not be able to get another one.”

This is the point that keeps coming up. It’s a legitimate possibility, despite my conversation with Brett, in which he told me about prominent women in the system stepping down at some point and rising to even higher positions, later in their careers. It’s one thing to work in management for five years and step down to care for children. It’s another to last eight months, before burnout. At this point, however, if I have to choose between never being manager or never being just a librarian, there’s no contest. So, after another meeting, where everyone agreed that we needed more meetings, Brett asked for a moment to discuss why this idea upset me so much. Apparently, it’s not normal to get teary-eyed over meetings.

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Me: “Maybe you’re all exactly right and we do need more meetings. Maybe this is just about me, because every hour I schedule for management duties is another hour that I don’t get to be a librarian. I never got to be just a librarian. At best, I left a substitute teaching job in the day, to be a half time librarian in the evening, and it was exhausting. So, I wanted to tell you that I applied for the librarian position at the Southeastern library, in Cherokee.”

Brett was unbelievably supportive. He told me he’d miss me, because I’m great at my job and everyone else is too intimidated to tell him what they think. He told me he’d give me a fantastic reference and that he understands that I have to pursue what I want for my career.

It’s a hard thing to do, make a decision that will change your whole life. I don’t have to leave the Northside Library, where I have great coworkers and a great boss, where I’m making connections in the community, and working from a semi-private office. I could stay in familiar surroundings, continuing to commute from Shetland… or I could make a change, move to a new library and a new city, for the chance to enjoy my career again.

“It’s a hard thing to leave any deeply routine life, even if you hate it.” – John Steinbeck

 

No. It’s not okay if I get pregnant.

I’ve had to abandon hormonal birth control, because it makes me sick. While I’m considering an IUD, that’s something of a process, so it’s just condoms and somewhat hypocritical prayer for the time being. This comes up a surprising amount, with medical professionals and even family and friends, perhaps because we live in a society where people “check in” to the urologist on Facebook…

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… therefore, I’ve realized that the world is super okay with an accidental pregnancy for Belle.

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Aunt Lacy: “Why get on birth control? Why not just have a baby?”
Me: “Because Jake and I… aren’t married?”
Aunt Lacy: “So? You’re old enough.”

Me: “Well, I’m not on anything right now. Both Nuvaring and the pill made me sick, so it’s just condoms and prayer.”
Nurse: “Well, if it happens, it happens.”

Aunt Dee: “Well, you’re 28 now. If you got pregnant, it would be wonderful.”

Please, tell me more about how okay you are with taking my remaining years of freedom. Let’s talk about how great it will be for me to get fat and go five years without sleeping. I’m sure Jake will be thrilled to either have to propose, knowing he’ll never convince me that he actually wanted to marry me or break my heart forever.

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I have just gotten the hang of putting the dishes in the dishwasher, as I go, as opposed to musing aloud about taking them to a car wash while balancing a mug precariously on top of the pile like a game of kitchen Jenga. I am so shocked that I’ve kept a plant alive since Christmas that I’m not even sure it’s a real plant. In just the last week, my pets have had to alert me to their need for water by barking and meowing when I turn on the bathroom faucet. It’s either really flattering that the rest of society thinks I can handle the life of another human being or really quite sad that their standards are so low, because I’m perfectly willing to admit that I can barely take care of myself right now. I am finally at a point in my life where I can afford a small emergency and remain on top of my bills and I’m enjoying such expansive financial freedom in comparison with where I was one year ago.

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… how my bills got paid from 2007-2015…

It’s fantastic that the rest of the world is now so keen on babies born out of marriage. I’ve seen Bastard Out of Carolina twelve times and I’m not a member of the Westboro Baptist Church, so I really do mean that. I’m glad society is more accepting of individual lifestyles, but I still have a pretty traditional idea of the one I want to live. Call me old-fashioned, but I think life is generally easier and more pleasant for everyone involved if two people fall in love, marry, enjoy some time alone, and then have babies. I don’t want to be the only one to take my kids to basketball and ballet, to be the enemy when I take away electronic time for the weekend, to attend parent teacher conferences and pick up snacks for pre-K, because it’s my week to be the parent. I admire my single mom friends, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t look absolutely exhausting.

Fine. I concede that at this point in my life and relationship, I wouldn’t actually even be a single mom. Jake would step up, but his mother and father would never respect me again. Regardless of my financial standing, my dad and step-mom would be disappointed in me, too. Who cares what they think, though, right? I do. I care what they think. I care how the world reacts to the news that I’m having a baby and entering a new and exciting stage of life. So, yes, maybe a child wouldn’t derail my entire future, as it might have once, but it’s still one of my greatest fears and will remain so until long after my wedding day, because I can only handle one mouthy redhead for the moment. Am I being ridiculous and overdramatic? Possibly, but no one really gets to decide that other than me. I am not ready for a baby. I want to be excited by the prospect of parenthood, as does Jake. We are the primary individuals effected, after said baby, therefore it’s only our opinions that matter. So everyone needs to back the fuck off and stop jinxing my uterus with their damn well wishing!

 

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I’m glad I wasn’t hot as a teenager.

Growing up, I was not only chubby, but also an early bloomer. This meant that I was naturally taller than the other kids my age and grew breasts sooner. In the sixth grade, when the other girls still wore t-shirts with glittery puppies on them, I shopped in the women’s section and experimented with taping down my breasts like Roberta in Now and Then. Spoiler alert: don’t.

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I also happened to have a mother who swung between the extremes of neglectful and overindulgent, letting me go without a bra and put on extra weight in the first place, only to eventually fight the insurance companies to fund my breast reduction at age 15.

It wasn’t until I was 24 years old and 90 pounds lighter than a year before, that I began to consider diet and exercise just a part of life for all people and not just those who struggle with their weight. My high school years were spent watching TV, playing the Sims, and enjoying Elevensies and Fourth Meal, before they were cool. My favorite outfit was pretty much stolen straight from She’s All That, consisting of combat boots with ribbons for laces, overalls, a turtleneck, and thick black framed glasses. I wasn’t morbidly obese at the time, but I wasn’t Rachel Leigh Cook, either. Since I was never great with makeup and still prefer portable drug store options, 15-year-old Belle was pretty strictly a concealer and lip balm gal, on a fancy day. In short, I was never that girl who wore Abercrombie and Fitch.

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It. Was. Awesome.

Y’all, I got to do the high school thing without any of the “I have nothing to wear! I’m not going!” crap that I’m faced with on a daily basis, now. I was a lot of things in high school. I was smart, funny, driven, mouthy, relatively responsible, creative, loyal, and insightful. Being hot, having people appreciate my appearance first, was just never a priority for me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not entirely consumed with my appearance, today. I often rejoice over the fact that I’m officially old enough to be mistaken as an overworked stay-at-home mom, on the rare occasion that I go out in an oversized t-shirt, Star Trek pants, and flip flops. When I’m at work, however, it’s all A-line Zooey Deschanel dresses, cardigans, and full makeup and jewelry. I have to be a professional, these days, and that takes a lot more work.

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Still, even at my most dolled up, I’m not what an average guy would refer to as “hot.” I have nice legs, hair, and clear skin. I’ve also never seen my own ab muscles and don’t know how to use foundation. I’ve never been comfortable in a bikini, even outside of my own standards of modesty, because I’m still… soft. Extreme weight loss comes with stretch marks, no matter how you do it and honestly, I don’t really mind. Yes, yes, I’d love to be 20 pounds lighter and it’s certainly a goal, but this is good, too. In fact, it was good at 24. It’s awesome now.

Y’all, I am officially at a point in my life where everyone is soft. The girls I envied in high school, who could put away 4,000 calories and still maintain their lithe, athletic figures no longer run five miles a day. The one who wore that prom dress with the slit cut to her waist only gets to exercise when she’s chasing her two kids around the McDonald’s play yard. We’re all wearing mom jeans now and I have fifteen years of experience on the high school hot girls. When I look back at my nerdy girl, awkward years photos, the nostalgia isn’t tainted by envy. There was only one way to go from Carrie White bleeding in the locker room showers and that was up… or you know, to prom with fire. Fortunately, I chose the former and I am in my hot years, now.

I’m getting married naked.

Gail and I are living the besties dream, y’all. We’re looking at being engaged at the same time. Naturally, this means we spend all of our time poring over $16 bridal magazines, discussing the merits of white versus ivory, and sewing lace to burlap.

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It’s funny, because it’s a lie.

Gail and I both find weddings to be one of the most superfluous luxuries of modern society. So much money is spent on flowers and tablecloths and wedding favors and no one even remembers them. Tell me: why exactly would I buy gifts for my guests? Their wedding favor is free food and booze. But no, I will not get on that rant right now. That’s much better saved for another time. My rant, today, is purely about the horror that is wedding dress shopping.

Neither Gail, nor I, plan to endure the actual wedding dress shopping experience. Gail wants to buy something at a department store the week before the event, like she’s going to the 8th grade formal, while I want to buy something right off the rack and hope for the best from alterations. For this reason, I suggested we go wedding dress shopping now, when it truly doesn’t matter, because I don’t even have a ring and Gail just mumbles something about the year 2018, when asked when she’s getting married. So, the plan was to browse, perhaps try something on, but be completely transparent in our intentions, so as not to waste anyone’s time. What better place to do that than David’s Bridal?

Y’all, I might be getting married naked. Perhaps I’ll wear some kind of paint with large jewelry concealing my illegal bits, like in that erotic novel I read. Maybe I’ll play homage to my Native American roots and get married in a fringed nightgown… because traditional wedding dress shopping is miserable when you’re not getting married any time soon, so I can’t imagine how it would be were I actually engaged.

When we walked into David’s Bridal, the first thing we were asked was whether or not we had an appointment, because each dressing room was assigned to a personal stylist. The second thing we were asked was for our wedding dates. After explaining that we weren’t serious shoppers, I made an appointment for thirty minutes later and jotted down some time in April, because it’s approximately a thousand years from now.

Five minutes later, Olga the Stylist (not even a pseudonym) introduced herself.

Olga: “Well, your wedding date is coming up really fast…”
Me: “Oh, I just wrote that down, because she asked me for a date. My boyfriend and I are definitely planning on marriage, but I don’t even have a ring yet. We’re really just browsing.”
Olga: “Well, what kind of dress do you have in mind?”
Me: “Honestly, I’m not even sure if a bridal shop is the right place to find what I’m looking for, but I was thinking tea length.”
Olga: “Well, we only have a few tea length dresses, but your date is right around the corner, so you’d pretty much have to order now, unless you want off the rack.”
Me: “I’m actually totally fine with off the rack. That’s likely what I’ll do anyway, because I imagine we’ll have a pretty short engagement.”
Olga: ::laughingly:: “Well, I’m not pushy at all. I’m a terrible saleswoman. Let’s just see what we’ve got. Now, your wedding date is coming up really fast, so if you like any of these, we have a credit card with no interest for the first six months…”
Me: “Well, really, we’re not even engaged yet, but when it does happen, I promise my boyfriend would not be okay with financing anything.”
Olga: “Is he the one who will be paying for your dress?”

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Me: “Well, he’s the one who wants the big wedding, so yeah, probably, but we’re not actually engaged yet, so…”
Olga: “Oh, sweetie, I’ve sold dresses to women who don’t even have the ring yet.”
Me: “Well, I definitely don’t have a ring.”

What… what do I even say to all that? I mean, do I just read off the bullet points?

  1. Horseshit. There is no way I can’t get a dress in less than eight theoretical months.
  2. Please, continue telling me how not pushy you are, as you try to get me to take out a line of credit for a wedding dress, before my engagement.
  3. Said wedding dress is hypothetical, because my “wedding date” is pretend. I’M NOT ENGAGED! I’ve told you that five times.
  4. What the fuck?!?! How is it anyone’s business who’s paying for what part of my MAKE BELIEVE wedding?!? If it weren’t incredibly rude and inappropriate of you to ask that, are you really suggesting I go against what my NOT FIANCE wants for us financially? Should you really be in the wedding business?!?!
  5. It’s oh-so-fortunate for you that you serve so many batshit crazy customers, but buying a wedding dress before being asked to marry someone is insane.tumblr_mvk8usae1r1rtzeu6o1_500
  6. You’re right about one thing. You are a terrible saleswoman.

Gail and I stayed and tried on a couple of dresses, giggling in the fitting room about how horrible the whole thing was, while Olga aggressively tried to get a date out of Gail. We left pretty quickly, as neither of us was comfortable continuing to browse imaginary wedding dresses to the sound of a ticking bomb. Later, as we browsed dresses at Macy’s, we declared that that was the very last bridal store trip either of us would take. One thing I will credit this venture with, however, is my re-dedication to my diet. There’s nothing like trying on a wedding dress to make you want to moo at the mirror. I mean, my wedding is in like five hours and I’ve gotta look damned good, since I’m going naked.

Losing an Unwanted Child

Seven years ago today, I found out I was pregnant. I know, because it was my brother’s birthday, and also because I’m the guy from Rain Man and can remember exactly what I was wearing the first time I saw Jurassic Park, when I was five.

Miscarriage is a common topic for bloggers. Women everywhere grieve through writing, discussing their struggles with infertility, their fears that they’ll never have a child, and perhaps even previous losses. When we know them personally, we weep for these women and pray for them, as we should. We tread lightly and try not to look their way when someone else announces their own pregnancy. Hopefully, we celebrate with them when they refer to their first live birth as a “rainbow baby.” It’s really quite beautiful to see how kind and loving people are to a woman who loses a wanted child.

At 21 years old, married to a lazy sociopath, one year from my college graduation, which I intended to follow with grad school, I did not want my baby. I hadn’t figured out how to take care of myself, yet. I couldn’t imagine another human being relying on me, particularly when I could expect no help from my ex-husband, who I suspected was lying about his employment, again. I was heartbroken that another thing hadn’t gone as planned in what was a pretty wretched existence, at the time. I prayed. I did not pray for the strength to be a good mother. I did not pray for my ex-husband to shape up, as those requests had previously seemed to fall on deaf ears. No. I prayed for God to take it back… to make me not pregnant.

I was supposed to hear my baby’s heartbeat on my 22nd birthday. My first trimester was coming to a close and I needed to pull up my big girl panties and get happy, because there was going to be a baby. I cleaned out a room. I began to look forward to the ultrasound. I tore the tags from the clothes I bought and registered at Baby’s R Us. In spite of all this, on the first day of my senior year, at eleven weeks and one day, my prayers were answered. I started to bleed.

No one ever talks about what actually happens during a miscarriage. I never gave it much thought, myself. I had always just understood it to mean a woman went to the doctor and wasn’t pregnant anymore. Being on state insurance and having visited the worst emergency room ever, no one told me what to expect. The pain, the amount of bleeding, the baby coming out in the toilet… I had no warning. No amount of prayers reversed the course of the one that was being answered. I had no one with me as I lay on a beach towel and my body ripped apart my child… just as I had requested.

When you lose an unwanted baby, there are no flowers. There are no tears, at least not from anyone else. People still have good hearts, but they’re… well, they’re glad for you. Perhaps they wouldn’t word it that way, but you can hear it in their sighs of relief, in their condolences. Your life is back on course, just a little bumpy, and you’ll get through this… certainly more easily than you’d have gotten through that unplanned pregnancy. Despite any pro-life convictions, they even speak of the baby in less significant terms, as if you weren’t really pregnant. There’s a lot of emphasis on how “sometimes this happens” and “chromosomal abnormalities,” things they would never say about a planned pregnancy. Now, I know each scenario is different, but I promise there is no woman on Earth who wants to hear that the baby she just flushed was probably defective or that it’s “for the best.” In general, it’s a safe assumption that, regardless of the circumstances, you should just keep your fist bump to yourself.

When a woman loses a wanted child, she feels guilt and even betrayal from her body. She feels as though God is punishing her. Years later, when she’s melancholy after looking at an ultrasound photo of equal gestation to her own pregnancy, people mourn with her. For me… well, I quite literally asked for it. I should feel guilt. I should be punished. I should feel heartache when I look at the same photo. I didn’t want the baby and God reclaimed that blessing.

My reasons for asking God to take my child back, have only been validated over the last seven years. My ex-husband is still psychotic and neither I, nor a helpless child, have any ties to him. I have only just gotten to a point where I can afford to take care of myself and don’t feel I could fund a baby, even now. Although I’m in love with a wonderful man, I’m still a couple of years away from being in a place where I can properly prioritize the needs and wants of another little life with mine and be a truly good mother. No one talks about what it means to lose an unwanted child, to feel grief and relief simultaneously, even years later. That doesn’t mean that I don’t still weep over tiny overalls as I thank God for the way things turned out… just that I do it confused and alone, as I deserve.

Living in the Moment

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At 19, nine years ago today, I came home from work to find my house burned down, my pets dead on the lawn, and my ex-husband suspiciously profiting from the tragedy on the same day he lost another job.

At 20, I woke to pounding on my front door and an officer telling us we’d been evicted… with my ex-husband suspiciously insisting he’d been paying the rent.

At 21, I spent an ice storm in a motel room after being evicted, again… with my ex-husband, suspiciously insisting he’d been paying the rent, again. Later that year, we lived in another motel room for two whole months.

At 22, I had just lost a baby, my ex-husband totaled the truck my Gramma gave me for my 16th birthday, Gail buried her infant daughter, and the engine blew up in my car right after my college graduation… with my ex-husband suspiciously insisting he’d changed the oil.

At 23, 24, and 25, I worked two jobs and took grad school classes online, while coping with the fall-out from an emotionally exhausting divorce and attempting to date.

At 26 and 27, I continued working two jobs, with my only emergency fund and healthcare provider being prayer.

My entire adult life has been spent looking toward the future, because the present was at best unsustainable, and at worst made me near suicidal. For years, I told myself that things would be different in X amount of time. In five years, I’d be done with school/have steady income/be married to a good man. If I could only get through the present, the answer to my prayers was just on the horizon. This line of thinking was, quite literally, the only thing that kept me going, at times. I lived for the future, because I had no choice. It was pure survival.

Now, I’m 28-years-old. I’ve finished my master’s degree and and have a full time supervisory librarian position. I have healthcare and a hearty retirement fund. I have the money I need and even some extra I want. I met the man I’m certain I’ll marry and he’s perfect for me (not for anyone else, because he can’t keep his foot out of his mouth). I even got the black kitten I’ve yearned for, Thackery Binx. I’m living what will most certainly be some of the most exciting years of my life and it’s so ingrained in me to look forward that I’m afraid I’m missing it.

Last week, I wrote about my readiness to marry Jake. I don’t begrudge myself the eagerness to start our lives together. I think it’s healthy, at this point in our relationship and that’s truly not what I’m referencing. I just worry that I’ll look back and see myself always longing for another time, never enjoying the moment, because of a time when there were so few moments to enjoy. It’s not just me, I don’t think. We, as a society, treat life’s many stages as though half should be spent waiting, the other half reminiscing, with only a few years in between intended to be enjoyed. I was miserable for so long that I want to take the time to enjoy it all. I don’t want to marry Jake and count the days until we can pay off the debt, buy the house, have the babies, get them in school, get them out of the house, have grandbabies. I’ve been wishing my life away and for a time, it was necessary, but it’s just so good right now, that I wish I could be truly content.

Over the Fourth of July, I downed half a pitcher of margaritas and drunkenly fell on my ass while trying to get Jake to dance with me, in the park. I lit sparklers for his nieces and watched them chase their pigs. His mom and oldest niece both hugged me for the first time, before we left and I felt like one day we’ll really be family. Last week, when I drove to Wellston to enjoy a few hours with Jake, he tackled me to the couch, when I announced that his friends were going to think he was super sappy, as I tried to share Facebook’s “Friendiversary ” video from his phone. He cuddled me on his bed and let me give him Eskimo kisses. I’m terrified that I’m going to wake up one day, old and grey, devastated that I never truly appreciated these insignificantly beautiful moments and I pray for the ability to just… be.

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A Readiness to Marry

Jake lay on the bed, his back toward me. A few minutes later, he rolled over to see me quietly crying.

Jake: “What’s wrong?!?”
Me: “I’m not going to see you for three weeks!”

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Fuck all those people who told me you get more emotional as you get older. Fuck them for being right. It’s disgusting.

Jake’s job really sucks, right now, with a two weeks on and one week off schedule. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I got to see him for a few days out of the month, last month. We saw each other in the middle and then at the very end, only speaking on the phone in between. The times we have seen each other have frequently been shared with his family, such as when we went to the rodeo for Memorial Day, when Jake helped his sister brand cattle on our anniversary weekend, and when we spent the Fourth of July in Wellston helping clean up after a storm took out her barn. Jake just doesn’t have enough time to do all he needs to on his week off and would rather take me along than miss out on time together.

Of course, I would selfishly rather he skip all those non-Belle activities and spend more quality time with me. Therefore, a bit of the time we have together is wasted on me fighting with myself (and sometimes a super understanding Jake), because I can’t help being upset that we don’t get more alone time and more time in general. After a long weekend together, the moment he leaves is just… heartbreaking. I spend the whole day on the brink of tears.

I liked being single, y’all. I had so much fun having my One Tree Hill marathons, while crafting in a t-shirt and panties. That’s one of the reasons I’ve stated for why Jake won’t be living with me, before marriage. This is the last time I get to do these things, in excess. I’m trying to take advantage, too. I’ve been spending the time alone working on my photo album projects, having girls’ nights, watching Army Wives and old teen movies and… it’s just not fun anymore. I try to remind myself that five years from now, I’ll do anything for a week alone and it’s just not working.

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While Jake and I don’t live together and won’t until we share a name, there have been a few occurrences when it’s been easier for him to stay with me for a week than drive back to Wellston every night, just depending on his job location. These snapshots of married life have really shown me what it will be like, particularly when he has a rough schedule. I know that not every night will be a romantic night out, that sometimes Jake will come home from work with just enough energy to shower and go to bed. I’m aware that during these times, I’ll be the one doing most of the domestic chores, including buying him new underwear and t-shirts. He’ll criticize my Diet Coke intake and we’ll argue over how that compares to his beer intake. I’ll have to sit through more damned Ben Stiller movies than I ever anticipated. But… he’ll be with me.

In February, I told Jake that I imagined I’d say yes after a year of dating, based on our progress at the time. I was right. If he asked me tomorrow, or more likely after his job settles a bit, I’d pull out my calendar and choose a date right then. I hate weddings. I’m sure you’ll read all about how and why in the next year, but I am not a wedding gal. I just want Jake. I’ll sign his prenup, stating that I’m not after the family ranch. I’ll argue with his mother over cake toppers and flowers. I’ll do the drama where I tell my mom she can’t come. I don’t care. I just want to get to the part where I get to see him every day, sign his name with mine, and spend our lives together.

A few years ago, I tried to explain to Gail why living together before marriage just wouldn’t work for me. I theorized that cohabitating for a marriage bound couple might deprive them of experiencing a true readiness to marry. By going halfsies on commitment, by taking on some of the duties and most of the perks, the remaining benefits could become muted and vague and wouldn’t necessarily outweigh the added responsibility of forever. When I have a bad day and long to curl up with Jake on the couch, while he plays with my hair and doesn’t ask a single question; when I wake up alone and wish he were there to roll over and kiss me on the forehead; when I eat dinner in front of the TV and would prefer to be at the table with him; I know I was right. If I experienced these little luxuries every day, I wouldn’t yearn for them as a part of marriage. As much as it aches right now, I’m really quite grateful that I’ve gotten the chance to truly recognize the readiness for marriage… and I wish the day would hurry up and get here.

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Getting My Tattoo Removed

At 24 years old, I sat in a Sonic drive-through with Gail.

Gail: “What do you wanna do?”
Me: “Let’s get tattoos!”

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Now, perhaps, if I’d actually had a tattoo in mind, this wouldn’t have been such an inevitably regrettable decision. I am not anti-tattoo. My first was not my last. I also have my Gramma’s signature of her first name, which is my middle name and hopefully one day my daughter’s middle name, on my left foot. I will genuinely cherish that tattoo for all time, particularly when she’s gone, though she still insists that she’ll live forever. At 24, though, I had just divorced my ex-husband, lost 90 pounds, was dating again, nearing graduation for my master’s degree, and felt like I’d gotten my whole life back. I wanted to commemorate that, so when put on the spot, I chose something that spoke of life to me. The fact that it was a Logan’s Run reference was just an added bonus.

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Today, I look at this tattoo and you know what I see? I see a girl who needed to start her life over and all the reasons why. I see a 260 pound 22-year-old fantasizing that her psychotic husband will kill himself. I see two part-time jobs substitute teaching and cleaning gym equipment with a bachelor’s degree. I see myself driving around with all of my valuables in my trunk, because the man I live with will pawn them. I see a 24-year-old who desperately wants to distance herself from the most terrifying years of her life, by getting a tattoo that symbolizes their end.

You know what, though? I did get my whole life back. I got to be young and reasonably fit. I got to go to bars with my friends and giggle through bad date stories. I finished my master’s degree and built a career. I fell in love. I’m going to get married and have babies and buy a home and it’s just going to be… my life. I don’t need a reminder that I ever had another one. I’d love to say that I came to this conclusion, gradually, over the last four years, and in a way, I did. However, I also went home from the tattoo parlor, looked at my cliché white girl ankh, and Googled how much it would cost to remove it. Maybe a part of me knew, even then, that this symbol wouldn’t be relevant for the rest of my life. Knowing removal would be costly and painful, of course, I tried to rationalize. This was my Gail tattoo. This was something crazy and impulsive we did together. Had I just gotten something silly and fun, like an elephant or a flower, then sure, it would be. But, as Jake and I have become more serious, I can’t deny that this is a reminder of a time in my life that it hurts to remember. Those years still cause me nightmares and I think about them every time I look at this tattoo. I just… don’t want it anymore. I also know that, when it comes to removal, it’s now or never. If I still have this tattoo when I get married or especially when I have kids, it’s not going to be a financial priority. So, a couple of months ago, I bit the bullet and scheduled my first consultation.

Speaking of time and finances, do you have any idea how long it takes to get a tattoo removed or how much it costs? Perhaps I shouldn’t have built my expectations for this procedure on a season of How I Met Your Mother, but I felt like it was a two to three month process, of 10 sessions. No. In fact, there must be eight weeks between each laser removal session and patients are advised to expect 10 sessions. So, in a year and a half, I can hope to see a mostly clear-skinned foot. That’s right. Results cannot be guaranteed, so the decision must be made to pay the price and hope for the best. That price, at the only clinic in the city, is $35 per square inch, with a $50 minimum. Because my tattoo is thankfully small, that makes it $50 per session. I’m no mathematician, but even I can figure that it’s going to cost more than $500 to  get this tiny little ankh off my foot. So, how much does it hurt?

Thiiiiiiis much.

The first picture is of the scorch marks from the laser. The second is of the blistering that happened later. I did a little bit of research online, about how much the procedure hurts, trying to get an idea of whether or not it would even be bearable, before investing money. The comparisons ranged from “popping like a rubber band” to “small droplets of hot grease hitting your skin.” In my personal experience, the latter was dead on. Fortunately, I have a great technician, who will stop and let me take a break. The first session took me three goes, the second only two.

Does it hurt more than getting the tattoo? Yes, but it’s a much quicker process. Because my tattoo was so small, it would’ve taken, literally, about 30 seconds to do the whole thing, had I not needed breaks. Getting the tattoo took about five minutes and was also quite painful. Personally, I’d rather the extreme pain of removal for 30 seconds than the substantial pain of application for 10 times that. That being said, were this tattoo any bigger, I’m not sure I’d bother, partly for the price and partly for the pain.

As it stands, now, I’ve been through two tattoo removal sessions and I deem it bearable… but only just. I’m cheap, though, so even if it did get more painful, I’d be completing the process, because I’ve already invested $100. Fortunately, it’s supposed to get less painful, but pretty much always be awful. I keep having nightmares that I have larger and uglier tattoos to remove. Will this one be worth the time, pain, and expense? For me, yes. My advice overall, is simply not to accompany a divorce with at tattoo.

The One Promise I CAN Make to My Future Children

Dear Future Children,

I have six or seven unopened pregnancy tests under my bathroom counter, right now… and not out of hope, but paranoia. I’m not ready for you yet. You’re really more of a concept, an eventuality, and as such, I can’t make a lot of promises. I can’t promise I’ll never yell at you. I can’t promise that I’ll put my phone away every time you have a story to tell. I can’t promise that I’ll never send you to school sick, because I was certain you were bluffing. I can’t promise that I won’t look away for a second, missing the moment you climbed too high and fell and broke your arm. I certainly can’t promise to never embarrass you.

When you’re 11 and just starting to notice that other people judge you, and you forget to tell me that you need a cover for the report that’s due the next morning, I’m wearing my Star Trek pants to the store, or we’re not going. In 2035, when I catch you having a hologram chat with that boy you’ve been crushing on, I’ll interrupt to explain that it’s late and you’re now grounded. If you’re a cute redheaded girl, then I genuinely apologize for how much worse your dad will be on your first date.

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It’d probably be more accurate to just go ahead and promise that I will embarrass you. I’ll sing and dance to 50’s music, when I clean. I’ll use outdated words and phrases, like hogswoggle and hokum. I’ll wear t-shirts that say things like “Having fun isn’t hard, when you have a library card.” I’ll do these things even more when you complain. The one promise that I absolutely can make to you, though, is that I will never embarrass you online.

When you get stuck in the doggy door, I’ll text a photo to your grandma… but I won’t put it on Instagram. When you throw a tantrum at the mall, long after the acceptable age to do so, I’ll record it and send it to your father… but I won’t live stream it. When you have your first wet dream or your first period, I’ll update your Aunt Gail… but I won’t update Facebook. When you’re caught cheating on a test, I’ll make you tearfully tell your dad… but not Youtube.

The people who love you will know all of your embarrassing stories, just as those who love me know mine. That’s the cost of having family and you should never take that for granted. That photo of you, proudly wearing nothing but underwear and a princess crown, will make the annual family album. However, when you have a falling out with your best friend in the 7th grade, she won’t be able to tag everyone you know in it, along with the one where you smeared your diaper all over the crib.

I know that I’ll make mistakes as a parent. There will be times when I forget to sign your permission slip and keep you from watching that video in class. Maybe I’ll forget that your friend is allergic to melon. I’m sure I’ll yell at you for something, only to realize later that your father is to blame. In response, I’ll atone privately, not while wearing a sign around my neck on Facebook. In turn, I vow that you’ll receive the same courtesy. You’ll be lectured and punished, but it will happen behind closed doors. I’ll receive validation from your dad and Gail, not that woman I graduated high school with 25 years earlier.

When your first boss Googles your name, anything scandalous to be found will be your poor decision making, not mine. Large scale shame and humiliation will never be part of your punishment. When I’m angry with you for being a disrespectful brat, I’ll tell your grandpa, not all 157 of my closest social networking pals… only for you to read all about it four years later. I don’t know anything about being a parent. I can’t promise that I’ll be any good at it. I can, however, promise that I will not ruin your online reputation, before you even get the chance.