How are we FINALLY happy?!?

This time last week, 15-year-old Gail was banned from all of my future youth group field trips, after our duet of Tim McGraw and Faith Hill’s “Let’s Make Love” in the middle of Six Flags.

Six days ago we were sophomores, sitting in the back of my pickup truck, eating Fourth Meal, before it was cool. A couple pulled up, realized their make out spot had been claimed by chubby girls eating chicken in sweats and overalls, and quickly drove away, as Gail and I laughed.

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Five days ago, Gail and I huddled together to keep her infant daughter Grace warm, when I locked us out of her apartment’s gym in 20 degree weather.

Three days ago, I sat next to Gail in the children’s ward, as we both accepted the fact that Grace would never wake up.

Two days ago, we took turns moving each other out after our divorces were finalized.

Just yesterday, we were trolling for dick at the cowboy bar and Gail was begging me to stop calling it that.

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Yet, somehow, today, we’re both 30 (or almost for Gail) and remarried. Just four months after standing by my side on my wedding day, Gail has finally married Terry, after five years of living together. That’s right, folks. Some people do buy the cow.

In all seriousness, I’m unbelievably happy for my best friend… for us. I just don’t know how it happened. Some moments, the happy ones, feel like they weren’t that long ago. I mean, hasn’t it only been three or four years since 9th grade yearbook class, where Gail and I first bonded over deadpan sarcasm and the WB’s Everwood? 

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The tougher stuff, though… zetus lapetus it often feels like it all happened to someone else. It can’t have been just 10 years ago that I called Gail to reconnect after that first year out of high school…

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… after my ex burned down our house and killed all of our pets, but before my miscarriage and Grace’s death, before both of our divorces. It wasn’t just seven or eight years ago that Gaily and I sat at a table in an Arby’s, eating free sandwich toppings and drinking refills from the .99 kiddie cup, because we didn’t want to go home, was it? That can’t have been us.

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For so long, our lives deeply sucked and we were each other’s sanctuary from the storm. I thought our lives would never get better, but I blinked and now we’re both 30 with husbands and careers. Didn’t I just call Gail after being stood up, crying because I was never going to get a full time job or meet a good guy and my life was never going to start?!?!

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Truthfully, I found myself more emotional about Gail’s wedding than my own, despite all of my “Who da real MOH?!?” jokes, the title of Matron of Honor having primarily officially gone to her sister. Watching Gail take pictures with a bridesmaid’s daughter had me crying in secret, because it should have been Grace. She should’ve been by her mother’s side, but had she been, everything would’ve been different. Twenty-four year old Gail would have been far more self-preserving, with a three-year-old at home. She’d never have even met Terry, after finding his profile on Craigslist. I might have been less inclined to date, myself, had Gail not been in a serious relationship, prompting over-dramatic rants about how she was going to leave me behind for her couples cruises. Our whole lives would’ve been different. I suppose this was just how it was all supposed to be.

It’s just so good to see my best girl happy… to see us happy and I was reminded of that even more so, when Gail and I had a moment alone, while the rest of the wedding party chatted about how much she was freaking out.

Gail: “You know what this reminds me of?”
Me: “What?”
Gail: “When we were at the hospital with Grace and you and I were walking around, talking and laughing and everyone was whispering about how I shouldn’t be okay right now, but I was, because you were there. I love you.”
Me: “I love you, too. It was so awful and I couldn’t do it all again, but I’m so glad I did it all with you… who da real MOH?”

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We’re both happily and healthily married now and it’s a little bittersweet, because that means Terry and Jake undoubtedly know more about us than we do each other. As much as I’ve always hated when women assign the title of “sister” to every friend they have, Gail and I will always share a history no one else can claim, because the foundations of our adult lives were built on the rocks that we were for one another. So, here’s hoping that our strangely, bizarrely parallel lives that have had us claiming for years that only one of us is real and has imagined the other person up, while rocking in a mental institution, will continue to be so; because all the highs and lows considered, I cannot imagine living my life without my sister, Gail.

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In Honor of Two Years Together: #JakeQuotes

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On my second date with Jake, I’d have sworn I was on my best behavior. We met at the mall, to see Jurassic World and I was cute and polite and I am certain that, on at least one occasion, I bit my tongue so hard it bled. Apparently, it was one time too few. Months later, Jake reminded me what I’d said, when I came upon him, flustered and yelling at the fancy soda machine.

Jake: “HI-C!!”
Me: “It’s not voice activated.

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What can I say? I’ve never been what you might call “sweet.” Fortunately for me, neither has Jake, which has led to my collection of #JakeQuotes, loved by my friends and his alike. So, in honor of two years of saying the wrong thing to each other, meet my husband. Meet us.

Me: “Ugh. I put my eyeliner on too thick. I look like a panda bear.”
Jake: “It looks fine.”
Me: “I look like Johnny Depp from Pirates of the Caribbean.”
Jake: “I like that movie.”

Me: “That one sweater makes me look bigger than I am.”
Jake: “The pink one?”
Me: “No. Not the pink one. If you don’t know, don’t guess.”

Jake: “Did you just send me a text message?”
Me: “What? No. I mean… yes. I just sent it while we were on the phone. It’s very important.”
Jake: “Did you schedule an automatic birthday countdown to message me every day?”

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“Why are you eating a sucker at 10:00 in the morning?”
“Why do you wanna buy a Christmas ornament? It’s September.”
“There’s a test to find out which Hogwart’s House you’re in?”
:: to the cat :: “Why are you sitting in a box?”

… ridiculous questions my husband asked one weekend… my RAVENCLAW husband…

Me: “My brakes are squeaking. I’m going to die.”
Jake: ::continues talking about Lord of the Rings::
Me: “You don’t even care that I’m going to die.”
Jake: “I’m pretty sure I hear that every day.”


Jake: “I can’t hear you.”
Me: “I work in a libra
ry.”
Jake: “What? I can’t hear you!”
Me: “I can’t talk louder. I work in a library.”
Jake: “What?

… when Jake calls me at work, annoyed that he can’t hear me. #librarianproblems

Me: “He’s a brilliant hunting dog.”
Jake: “Sure he is.”
Me: “You’ve never seen him tear the insides out of a squirrel and show them to its mother!”
Jake: “… neither have you.”

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Me: “This is why you don’t use my decorative towels. I washed it and now it’s a different color and I can’t use it anymore.”
Jake: “Why does that mean you can’t you use it anymore?”
Me: “Because it’s decorative.”
Jake: “Why did you wash it?”
Me: “Because you used it.”
Jake: “…. and why can’t you use it anymore?”

Me: :screaming:
Jake: “WHAT?!”
Me: “There was a spider!”
Jake: “Geez! I was going for the pistol!”
Me: “That would probably take care of the spider!”

Me: “We had cows when I was little.”
Jake: “What kind?”
Me: “I dunno. They were brown.”
Jake: “That’s… not a color used to describe cattle.”
Me: “Yuh huh. There’s a children’s book called ‘How Now, Brown Cow?’“.

Me: “I love the guy with the lantern!”
Jake: “Because he’s cute and helpful?”
Me: “Yeah, just like real bears.”
Jake: “I… don’t think that’s true.”

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Me: “Just so you know, if you add any more deer mounts to Buzz, I’m going to name all of them after Toy Story characters, too.”
Jake: “Great. I’ll have little name plates put on the mounts.”
Me: “Yes! I’ll hold you to that!”
Jake: “I immediately rescind that offer.”

– boarding the plane home –
Me: “Stop singing that!”
Jake: “What?!?”
Me: “”You keep choosing the most obnoxious song you can and you sing it for FOUR DAYS and I’m going to murder you!” ::to airport security:: “I mean… I didn’t say that.”
Jake: “You are REALLY bad at getting on a plane.”

– all night at the rodeo –
Jake: “This is my wife, Belle. We got married two weeks ago. We met three weeks ago on farmersonly.com.”
Me: “Stop telling people that!”

Jake: “I’m pretty sure we’re both too big for that.”
Me: “Excuse me?”
Jake: “I’m just saying we’re both stocky people.”
Me: “I’m STOCKY? Like a linebacker?”
Jake: “It was a compliment!”
Me: “Call every woman in your phone and ask if ‘stocky’ is a compliment.”
>> later that day
Jake: ::taps the small of my back:: “Take that, small part of your back.”
Me: “There is no small part of my back, because I’m so STOCKY.”
>> even later that day
Jake: “I’m sorry you don’t understand me when I say things.”
Me: “Okay, Google. Define ‘stocky’.”
Google: “Stocky (of a person) broad and sturdily built.”
Jake: ::cackles:: “Google doesn’t know what it’s talking about.”

Jake: “Yeah! How ’bout you Facechat THAT to all your friends!”

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When a millennial marries a Gen Xer.

Me: “I’m sorry I’m irritable… and I’m sorry you think the best response to that is to play ‘I’m not touching you, I’m not touching you, I’m not touching you.'”
Jake: “I didn’t do that… but I’m going to NOW!”

Jake: “This picture looks like it’s from a magazine.”
Me: “Is that a compliment?”
Jake: “It’s just that nobody’s that happy to put on earrings.”
Me: “Well, thank you for telling me I look fake in our wedding pictures.”
Jake: “That’s not what I… I’m making this worse, aren’t I?”
Me: “Yup.”

Jake: “‘The Dog Easter Egg Hunt.’ That sounds…”
Me: “… like so much fun! Where is that?!?!”
Jake: “… like the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.”

Jake: “You’ve never used an electric filet knife?”
Me: “How do you see that ending? Do I have all my fingers?”
Jake: “They’re really good for fileting fish, if you catch a lot of fish.”
Me: “Oh, yeah. I catch a TON of fish.”

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… every time I have to explain to him that I’m an indoor girl.

Me: “I’m being serious!”
Jake: “I’m trying to lighten the mood!”
Me: “I don’t want to lighten the mood. It’s a serious mood!”
Jake: ::growls at me like I’m an angry kitten::

Jake: “Going to the doctor is not a waste of money. Cat costumes are a waste of money.”
Me: “They looked ADORABLE in those costumes!”

Me: “I’m sorry I ate your strawberries. I mean, I’m sorry you didn’t eat your strawberries.”
Jake: ::to the dog:: “I hope YOU’RE still here, when I get back.”
Me: “DID YOU JUST SUGGEST THAT THERE’S A RISK I MIGHT EAT MY DOG, BECAUSE I’M THAT FAT?!?!”

Jake: “They’re the same age.”
Me: “Ew. I can barely handle 32-year-old Jake. I don’t want to date 29-year-old Jake.”
Jake: “I wasn’t that bad at 29!”
Me: “What was the name of the last woman you had sex with, before me?”
Jake: “I… don’t remember… but she was from Louisiana!”
Me: “Okay, Google. What’s the population of Louisiana?”

Good news. He narrowed it down to 4.671 million.

womens-march-in-chicago-imgurReal footage of Jake’s sexual conquests. 

I had a dream wedding.

Just as there has never been a wife more certain of her choice in husband, there has never been a bride less certain of her choice to have a wedding… because I knew what planning a wedding entailed… and I was not wrong. Folks, I spent at least a month straight running errands during every spare moment. I got off work and hit the mall for ties or underwear or wedding makeup. I woke up on the weekends and ran to grab supplies to make boot bracelets for my bridesmaids or to buy a dress for the rehearsal dinner or to pick up gifts for the groomsmen. I worked the day of my own bachelorette party, running home on my lunch break to take care of the dog, so I could have ample time to make some fucking memories. I ran errands before and after my own bridal shower. I did all of this right after relocating to a new city and in the middle of developing my massive Free Comic Book Day program at work, solo, knowing I couldn’t be there, because it was on my wedding day. Planning my wedding was somehow more exhausting than I always knew it would be, and that is saying something.

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I’m not even going to pretend that I handled the whole thing with grace and poise, y’all. In fact, Jake had never seen Angry Belle until Easter Sunday. 

::cue musical score from Jaws::

You see, Mrs. Granger is a really sweet woman, who just doesn’t fully consider what other people are going through… particularly when planning a wedding, because she was married in Vegas a thousand years ago. Like her son, she has an opinion on everything and isn’t afraid to voice it, as she did four months ago when she told us that she didn’t like weddings and didn’t even understand why we were having one. Alrighty. I actually agreed with that and took no offense. Still, I figured she’d want to see the groomsmen’s vests and Jake’s jacket over Easter Sunday, so I had him bring them along to make her feel included.

Now, in hindsight, I think Mrs. Granger is just stubborn like her son and made a “my way or the highway” claim, when she realized we weren’t getting married in a church, without thinking it through. If we weren’t going to do things the way she wanted, she just wasn’t getting involved. Then she realized, three weeks out, that her baby was getting married and she’d had little part in the planning. Sooooo, upon seeing the $40 jacket we’d chosen, she figured she would offer to buy Jake a nicer jacket for his wedding, as a caring gesture and a way to make her mark on the ceremony, not realizing that this would throw a wrench in the wardrobe of the entire wedding party. Fair enough, because apparently Jake didn’t realize it either and didn’t immediately shut the idea down, nineteen days before our wedding. I understand… in hindsight. 

Me: “Are you fucking kidding me?!? I had you show your jacket and the vests to her, so she could feel included, because I wanted to be nice, and her response was to veto them?!?!”
Jake: “I don’t think it’s that she doesn’t like the jacket. She just wanted to do something nice.”
Me: “Then how about she shut the fuck up?!? Literally every single comment anyone in your family has made has been negative! They don’t like that we aren’t getting married in a church, that we’re taking the pictures beforehand, that we’re paying for it ourselves, that it’s the day of the Kentucky Derby even though they blacked out every other weekend, and now your mother wants to change the wardrobe three weeks out and you said you’d think about it?!?!?” 
Jake: “I didn’t think it was that big of a deal.”
Me: “OF COURSE YOU DIDN’TI HAVE DONE EVERY BIT OF WEDDING PLANNING ALONE! Do you have any idea how hard it is, how much it hurts, to do this without a mom to help me and then listen to everyone tell me how much it all sucks?!? You had to have your Pretty Pretty Princess Party and you have done jack shit to make it happen and all I’ve gotten is criticism! YOUR FAMILY HATES ME!”
Jake: “They don’t hate you. That’s just… how they are. They have an opinion on everything. I’ll tell my mom the wardrobe has been decided and that’s it.”
Me: “Then she’ll know told you to say that! FUCK IT! You can wear a fucking clown suit for all I care, because I’m not going! I hope you and your mother have a beautiful ceremony for two! Just let me know how many kids we’re having!!!!”

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I kid you not, I cried in the floor of my closet, tearing a layer of tulle out of my wedding dress, with a seam ripper, because I just did not have time to have a mental breakdown, without continuing to be productive. I cried for two hours, because I was so physically and mentally exhausted by planning a wedding I didn’t even want. As little as he actually did for this wedding, though, I have to give Jake some credit. He let me have my inevitable breakdown, despite how out of character such utter rage might have been. When he knocked on the closet door to see if I was okay and I screamed at him to leave me alone, he left. When I came out and lay on the bed and cried, he lay beside me and held me.

Jake: “If I’d known this would be so hard on you, I never would’ve done it.”
Me: “How could you not? The wedding is three weeks away and I just spent every night this week getting vests and ties and shirts for your groomsmen, to match the jacket we chose together. I would’ve let her dress all of the guys four months ago. It would’ve been nice to have some help, but it’s too late now.”
Jake: “I didn’t mean that. I meant the wedding in general.”
Me: “If only I’d said verbatim that I hate weddings, because they’re expensive and exhausting and miserable for the bride, who doesn’t even get to enjoy the day… oh, wait… I said that on our first date.” 

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I’m not going to say this was my proudest moment, but I’m also going to forgive myself for it. I had one genuine breakdown as a direct result of planning this wedding in six months, without help (and I’m still the one who suggested the compromise of letting Mrs. Granger buy Jake dress boots). Those six months included Jake’s unemployment and frequent work in another state, my hour long commute to my new job, a move to a new city, and major structural changes within said job. While I’m not one to excuse the stereotypical bridezilla, I am willing to concede to the idea that everybody gets one. In my case, I directed that one at exactly the right person for a limited and precise amount of time and then I moved down the ever-lengthening to-do list, up until one day before the rehearsal dinner… and it was all worth it.

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You know, if you marry a man from a rodeo family, this really should be mandatory.

Okay, okay. “Worth it” might be a weighty phrase, so soon after The Great Jacket Debacle of 2017, but I can say, without a doubt, that Jake and I had the perfect wedding. Thursday night, when I got home from another trip to the mall, after work, I was lost. I had nothing left to do. I’d already picked up my dress, done the iron-ons for the bridesmaids shirts, finished their boot bracelets, packed my bag for Saturday, ordered Gail’s vegan cupcakes so she could eat cake with us, cleaned the house so it would look nice when my bridesmaids slept over the next evening and, I was… done. How was I done?!?! For the previous month, I hadn’t had a moment to spare and now I was free?!? Could it be that all that racing around and my growing resentment toward Jake for being unable to help with anything beyond writing checks had actually paid off?!?! Could I enjoy getting married?!?!

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The next morning, Jake and I woke early to get our marriage license before the 9:00 a.m. rehearsal. I made us late and for a moment, I thought I’d thrown a wrench into all of my plans for the day, because when we got to the Court Clerk’s office, there were three couples ahead of us. After fifteen minutes, we realized there was just no way to get the license and make it back to Jackson in time, so we left and hoped there wouldn’t be too long of a wait when we returned.

After speeding through our rehearsal, we made it back just in time. Only fifteen minutes later, we left with our marriage license, as literally 10 people walked through the door. I was free to take my bridesmaids to brunch, hit the mall to see the new nerd-themed store and get my ring cleaned, followed by group manicures and pedicures and even a trip to the liquor store. When Jake’s parents insisted we open our thousand dollar grill together (told you I was marrying a Windsor), I didn’t have to rush to get dressed for the rehearsal dinner afterward. My bridesmaids and I were even the first to arrive, after my dad and step-mom, Lena (who paid for and coordinated the whole thing out of kindness and not stupid obligatory traditions). I am pretty sure we found some kind of wormhole, y’all, because nothing went wrong or had to be dropped from the list. We even had time, after the rehearsal dinner, to watch the episode of Black Mirror, where the maid-of-honor goes crazy: my dream ending.

The next day went just as smoothly. While we were running a bit late from coffee and donuts, since the Jackson venue was only 15 minutes from my house in Cherokee, we had few worries. We arrived in plenty of time to put together centerpieces with the decor from the venue closet, since the tables, padded folding chairs, and linens were already set up by staff. We ran to the city to pick up Gail’s cupcakes and grabbed lunch to-go from the food court at the mall. Still, we had plenty of time to giggle as we squeezed into our spanks and Laura did my makeup. We chugged (but in a delicate, ladylike way) our free mimosas, while my cousin did my hair.

Finally, it was time for Jake and I to do our first look photos. It was a perfect, cloudless, still day, just a touch too warm when we first got started. Jake and I giggled through our photos, with no objection from the photographer I found through work. As we headed toward our families, his 7-year-old niece, Lucy, came barreling up to us.

Lucy: “UNCLE JAKE!!! You know how you talked about me being a flower girl!?!?”
Jake: “You mean when you said you didn’t want to, because you were a tomboy?”
Lucy: “Yeah. I want to now.”
Jake: “Well, did ya bring any flowers?”
Lucy: “No.”
Me: “Don’t worry, Lucy. We’ll find you some flowers. You find one of my friends in a pretty bright dress and they’ll get you some flowers. You can’t throw them, but you can walk in front of us and show everyone how pretty you look, okay?”
Lucy: “Okay. Where are your friends?”

I’m pretty sure my impromptu flower girl was carrying faux flowers from a vase inside the venue owner’s home, but she sure was happy to do it. The pictures went quickly and before I knew it, I found myself hiding in the bridal suite, taking a shot from my cousin to calm my nerves. We all gathered in the groom’s suite, half of us in one room being coached by our wonderful drill sergeant coordinator/venue operator, the other half of us taking shots behind a closed door. As my dad passed around some kind of mentholated liquor, my step-mom Lena stuck her head inside and snapped:

Lena: “Seriously? Give me a drink of that!”

Before I knew it, my dad was walking me out.

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Dad: “You did good this time. You picked a good one.”
Me: “I really did. It means a lot for you to say that.”
Dad: “I like him even more now that he’s got a job.”

Because that, too, fell into place just in time. A month ago, I found a listing for a wastewater treatment worker position for the city of Cherokee. Jake wants to build a career in his major, hydrology, and was excited to start from the bottom, especially considering they agreed to let him off for the wedding and honeymoon.

As my friends walked down the aisle one by one, I couldn’t believe this was happening. I thanked God for bringing me here. I was once so miserable in my life. How could it be that I got everything I ever wanted? My dad’s arm in mine, I walked down an aisle of people excited for me. No one passed bets on how long it would last. No hidden feuds were being quelled for my sake. My friends, Jake’s, and both our families were just happy for us and I thought:

This is exactly as it’s supposed to be. It was all worth it.

My dad gave me away and it was less gross and antiquated than I thought, knowing he approved. Jake and I took hands as one of his best friends, a youth minister, started the ceremony, which included just the right amount of humor, with such gems as:

Jason: “Now, Jake… he’s smarter than he looks.”

Jason read Ephesians 22-33, as I requested. I felt a bit apprehensive for a moment, knowing all my liberal library pals were in the crowd, but finally decided it was my party and I could be archaic if I wanted. I held Jake’s hands and looked into his blue eyes and thought he looked so handsome, even though I once swore I’d never date a redhead/anyone shorter than 5’10″/an oil man. He’s absolutely perfect for me.

We didn’t read our own vows, but Jason had asked us to list three reasons we fell in love with the other. He read Jake’s, cleaning up the language to say I countered his smart aleck attitude, that I had a deeply rooted faith, and that I made him a better man. He chose to read mine verbatim, which I did not realize he’d do when I wrote it.

“I was asked for reasons I fell in love with Jake, but those all seem too generic, like his work ethic and his patience and his intellect. I didn’t just fall in love the one time, but multiple times. I fell in love with him the first time I was truly upset with him and he apologized and kept his promise not to make the same mistake. I fell in love the day I thought the dog was choking, but it was really just Jake cuddling him and cooing at him like a baby. I fell in love when he introduced me to his friends and I realized that I wasn’t alone in my affection for him. I fell in love when I hit my head skiing and he held me while I cried.

I guess I can’t give a handful of reasons why I fell in love with him, because I keep doing it. I even love that his answer to this question is going to be lame and vague, because he’s bad with words.”

We spoke the traditional vows and traded rings and I was married to my best friend and the love of my life. We walked down the aisle to Stevie Wonder’s Signed, Sealed, Delivered, because we had the best DJ, who took liberties when I told him I did not care what music he played during the ceremony.

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We took pictures with our wedding party and I had another cliche screaming girl moment with Jane, even though we’d done the same thing when we’d run into each other at the mall. Jake and I had our first dance and it was the worst thing that has ever happened to me. 

I was pleasantly surprised to see that Jake was such a great dancer… because he refused to practice with me and I am not a great dancer. This was especially difficult to hide when Jake elbowed me in the head trying to spin me.

Me: “No one told me this was going to involve sports!”

My mortification only increased when I danced with my father, who kept telling me when to step and then loudly instructing me to quit leading when I did as told, as Lena stood to the side giving me looks of pity. My first dances were easily the worst part of the day. In fact, I’m pretty sure purgatory for me is dancing at my own wedding.

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Pictured: Jake and some other, more graceful woman.

Jake danced with his mother and I let her believe that he chose the song. We ate and poor Gail gave a brief, but sweet speech, about how she’s loved me for many years; that she’s loved Jake ever since she realized how much he cared for me and that he can match and counter me when I name and dress up the stuffed deer head on his all. Aaron, Jake’s best friend, gave a speech of all the reasons Jake is his worst best friend. Of course this means my family now knows that my new husband vomited all over his best friend’s honeymoon suite the night before his wedding and then cleaned it up with the shirt he was supposed to wear the next day. Jason shared an equally disgusting, yet far more endearing story about Jake wearing a dead snake in his hat during a camping trip, until it started to smell. When Jason kindly mentioned this, Jake responded in true Jake fashion “It’ll be a’right.”

Jason: “So Belle, whenever times get tough, just remember ‘it’ll be a’right.'”

The rest of the night was spent laughing with family and friends, eating our beautiful lemon naked cake, made by my aunt and occasionally dancing. We drank from the cash bar and made s’mores by the fire, while our guests played horseshoes, jumbo Jenga, and cornhole and filled up on tacos and cake. While we do have enough leftover meat in our freezer to eat for a month, our to-go dessert boxes were genius, because we only left with the top tier of our cake and a few cupcakes.

As the night wound down and only our closest friends and family remained, everyone danced, with my dad and Lena stealing the show. I suffered a brief respite, throwing up in the bathroom, after realizing I’d had too much and that if I didn’t make it happen, my body would. Lena and I had a sweet, drunken heart to heart where she declared she thought of me as one of her own and if I ever needed her, I just needed to let her know. This had been proven throughout the night when she, quite soberly, introduced herself as my mother. As the venue closed, our friends gathered our things into their cars and Jake and I rode separately to our house in Cherokee. Fortunately this meant Jake missed his chance to watch me drunkenly lick and dig into the top of our cake with my bare hands, because I am a dainty little lady.

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Our friends brought our things into the garage and Laura fed our pets. We helped each other out of our wedding clothes and into our own bed, where we spent an inebriated and chaste first night as husband and wife.

I never expected to enjoy my wedding day. I assumed it would pass in a blur of stress and frustration and drama. Instead, we had the best day. Now that it’s all behind me, I can say that I’m thrilled to have celebrated my real marriage with a real wedding.  I’d live it over and over again… just not if I had to relive the prep.

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Click here for a throwback to my first dates with Jake.

Please, congratulate me on my engagement!

I got everything I ever wanted this past week. On Sunday, Jake and I went hiking. He found a pretty waterfall and hugged me from behind. He pretended he was trying to point to something in the water and asked if I saw it. When I couldn’t see anything, he wrapped his other arm around me to show me the ring and asked if I could see it now. Ignoring the ring, I turned to hug him.

Jake: “Will you marry me?”
Me: “Yes. I will. I love you.”
Jake: “I love you, too… more than anything, not just the normal amount.”

He didn’t get down on one knee. I wasn’t entirely surprised, having known that he wanted to make it official before Thanksgiving. After I said yes, he called into the woods for “Steve” to come out, asking if he got the pictures, because he knows how much I hate the falsehood of staged proposals and he can’t even take a marriage proposal too seriously. It wasn’t Disney, but it was still perfect, because he’s perfect for me.

I called my Gramma to ask if I could bring my fiancé to Thanksgiving breakfast. She completely missed the change in title and went straight to fretting about not having enough time for breakfast and dinner, until I interrupted her to ask that she repeat what I’d just said. She started to congratulate me, then abruptly stopped, saying that you’re not supposed to congratulate the bride.

Me: “Why not?”
Gramma: “I don’t know. They just tell you not to.”
Me: “Who?”
Gramma: “People. They say you’re not supposed to congratulate the bride.”

Naturally, the librarian in me was curious about the origins of this old wives tale and had to do some research. It didn’t take long to find a pretentious wedding site, adorned in classic floral, detailing the long forgotten edict stating that congratulations are indeed considered tacky, when directed at the bride, for they suggest she’s “won” something. While it’s completely acceptable to share this sentiment with the groom, verbatim, even the Emily Post Institute emphasizes the risk of implying that a bride is to be congratulated on “catching” a husband if one forgets the more proper sentiment of “best wishes.” Alright… aaaaand? Why is it appropriate to congratulate Jake on his prize, but not me on mine?

As this blog will attest, I spent years wading through the sea of crap that is the modern dating world and I sure as heck didn’t do it for the joy of being stood up, having my career insulted, my faith mocked, and being solicited weight loss pills. No. I was searching for a husband. I was praying for someone kind, funny, hardworking, intelligent, opinionated, affectionate, strong, and moral and I found him. My whole life, I’ve never felt like the most important person to anyone, and little did I know that that had all begun to change a year and a half ago, when I sat across from a complete stranger I’d met on a free online dating site that was primarily utilized in procrastinating and assuaging my own boredom. Now, I get to spend the rest of my life with the most important person to me and my very best friend. I’ve gotta say, I absolutely hope all of my friends, family, and blog readers will stumble when it comes to this etiquette – which is particularly strange, since it stems from a time when a woman’s primary purpose was to bake and breed – and congratulate me, because Jake is absolutely a prize worth celebrating.

I’ll never be his #WCW.

The first time I told Jake I loved him, it went a little something like this:

Me: “You make me really happy.”
Jake: ::silence::
Me: “Does it freak you out, when I say stuff like that?”
Jake: “What? No.”
Me: “Would it freak you out, if I told you I loved you?”
Jake: ::laughing:: “No.”
Me: “I love you.”
Jake: “I love you, too.”

In the beginning, neither of us was particularly eloquent when it came to sharing our feelings. Jake told me he loved me, in the simplest of ways, with no flowery language. For a few months, that left me feeling pretty insecure and I tried my hardest not to demand clarification, cuz you know, we all hide our crazy.

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The one time I did ask if he really meant it, it didn’t go over so well when Jake got defensive and stuck his foot in his mouth.

Me: “It’s just… I always say it first. You only say it back.”
Jake: “You never give me the chance! Every eighth word is ‘I love you.'”

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For realz yo, Jake is at the top of the list of people who are not allowed to speak at our wedding.

Over time, however, I came to realize that Jake truly meant what he said, despite how simply he said it. I didn’t have this epiphany because of the right frequency or combination of words, either. Instead, I concentrated on looking for other evidence of his feelings … and it became blatantly obvious that he loved me.

The night I called Jake crying, because being an adult is hard and he abandoned his hunting trip to be there the next day was probably the earliest proof. When he told me he couldn’t wait to spend the weekend together in another state so he could introduce me to all of his friends was further confirmation. Of course, when he scheduled a ski trip to celebrate the end of my Gardasil shot regimen, which meant we could finally have sex… coupled with the very fact that he waited eight months to get laid, I was convinced. I knew without a doubt, that Jake loved me, even though he’d never shared it via cute text messages, a “no, you hang up first” back and forth, or through the most modern and ubiquitous medium: social networking.

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That’s right, y’all. In the year and a half that Jake and I have spent together, the most public validation of his feelings he’s given has been by letting me change his relationship status after three months. Now, as an active Facebook user, I’ve posted  many a status and photo with the world, about the fun we have and jokes we share, while managing to keep the emotions light. Jake has never protested, and has made it clear he doesn’t mind… but he’s also never returned the favor. In fact, unlike my high school friends who share little “this song describes our love” links on each other’s wall, Jake saves all of his appreciation for what we have for me and me alone.. and you know what? It feels far more genuine.

When I see that girl from high school tell her husband how wonderful he is, assuming it’s not a birthday or anniversary, my first instinct is always to wonder why I’m reading something so personal. When those sweet, misspelled text message screenshots show up in my feed, I cringe at being included in such intimacy. That feeling increases tenfold when I look at photos of the actual engagement or a video of a pregnancy announcement. It’s like public affection is the sixth love language and the sentiment doesn’t really mean anything unless it’s seen by 236 people from high school, that summer working at the water park, and the sorority you rushed but ultimately decided not to join. After all, if he says he loves you and your family in North Dakota who you haven’t seen since you were nine didn’t read it, did he really even say it?

On the contrary, Jake’s private little Eskimo kisses, his hand on my lower back when we’re in public, his hugs from behind while I’m cooking, the way he grabs me for a last cuddle before I go to work, are solely for me. He’s not showing off for the aforementioned 236 people when he insists I stay in the car while he gets gas. He’s simply showing me that he loves and cares for me. None of my friends or family will ever know, until they see it for themselves… and that’s okay. I will never be Jake’s #WCW, but I will never wonder if the only reason he expresses his love, in his way, is because everyone is watching. There are still times when I ask, point blank, if he loves me more than anything. He gives me the assurance that of course he does and because no one else can hear it, it means that much more.

 

Reigning in My Crazy

If you haven’t been following me since I was a graduate student, you might not be familiar with the fact that I can be a little high strung. Okay, so maybe that was also apparent when I started dating Jake… and then when I started sleeping with Jake… or when I got my new job… or when I realized how much I hate my new job. Know what? Not that big of a mystery. As much as I’d love to be able to, I simply cannot describe myself as a laid back person.

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I want to, at least occasionally, be the girl who’s up for anything, who just goes with the flow when plans change… and I have been at times. I was that girl when I talked Gail into getting tattoos on a whim. I was that girl when Gail called in the middle of the night to tell me Terry was stuck in a ditch two hours away and I went along for the ride, entertaining her by reading aloud from satirical reviews of Fifty Shades of Grey. I was that girl on all those impromptu nights out with Catherine. I was even that girl when Jake wanted to go on a weekend ski trip in February, with little notice and having never skied. Lately, though… lately I just haven’t been able to muster up the gumption to be that girl, at all.

You see, I wouldn’t say that 2016 has been bad. It’s just been in a constant state of change. When I was 21 years old, I moved for the 10th time in two years. Every time someone knocked on the door, my heart leapt out of my chest, because I was certain my ex-husband had gotten us evicted again. After I left, things settled down a bit, but life wasn’t exactly what I’d call “steady” as I worked two jobs and attended graduate school. When I graduated, I was promoted to half time librarian and my pay at the library nearly doubled, but I was still dependent on my substitute teaching check. The harrowing world of dating wasn’t exactly a balm to my nerves, but I was no longer a student, so it was still an improvement. Then, I met Jake and was promoted to full time Supervisory Librarian. Finally, I would have the chance to settle in and get comfortable… except that’s not what’s happened at all.

Jake is wonderful and everything I’ve ever wanted, but his work schedule and the distance have been an endless battle. I thought his quitting the oil field might free up some time, but until he gets a job in the city, he spends his weekdays in another state working on the Granger Ranch. As for me, $50,000 a year in one of the cheapest states in the country sure has been nice, especially with all that health insurance, but… I hate being a manager. Here I am, almost one year from the announcement that I’d been promoted and everything was falling into place and I’m back to my “please let me get the job” prayer mantra.

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Life certainly isn’t as stressful as the days of packing up all of my belongings in four hours, before the landlord calls the police. It’s not even as stressful as working two jobs and relying on the Almighty for health insurance. A surprise middle management position, major relationship milestones, months of illness, a year and a half of schedule conflicts with the love of my life, Jake’s unemployment, and now both of us applying for new jobs, however, does not a laid back Belle make… and I’ve gotta admit, my crazy’s becoming harder and harder to hide.

A few weeks ago, I lay on Jake’s bed, distraught:

Me: “Everything’s in flux and it has been for so long. I just feel like there are no constants anymore.”
Jake: “I’m a constant.”

The only reason he gets away with putting his foot in his mouth so often, is because when he does say the right thing, he nails it.

The next weekend, Jake walked through the door as I announced:

Me: “I’m getting an elective C-section.”
Jake: “Please stop reading those articles.”

After a weekend of arguing about C-sections versus natural birth, I ended up in tears and Jake finally asked the obvious question.

Jake: “Why are you so upset about something that’s not even happening for at least two years?!?”
Me: “Because you told me just last week that you’re absolutely opposed to elective C-sections and I agreed with you. Then Catherine and Laura both told me that natural childbirth will rip you in half and to definitely get a C-section. You have such a big personality and you’re so opinionated that I figured if I started arguing about it now, I’d have a better chance of winning!”

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Jake: “Okay, I promise you that when the time comes, I will consider all of the options, if you’ll promise me that you’ll stop reading those articles.”

He also has the patience of a saint.

My irrational fear of eventual childbirth all started when my (former) OBGYN brushed off my birth control side effect concerns, despite my months of pain. Fortunately, though, I had better luck with my new chiropractor… after my hip popped out of place the morning of Jake’s birthday… because I bent over to pick up a pair of shorts.

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One of the things no one ever really talks about, when they’re busy glorifying living alone, is how much it sucks to be hurt or sick and not even have the luxury of company. Maybe it’s just me, but there’s something about being alone that amplifies any and all ailments… though apparently not nearly as much as finding out that I didn’t get that job I wanted.

I admit, the day I found out that I didn’t get the Cherokee job, I hit a breaking point and had something of a meltdown. While Jake is great at being supportive in person, he’s simply at a loss when his verbal skills are the only arrows in his quiver. Through a haze of pain, I babbled incoherently into the phone about hating my life, which I’ll admit was needless melodrama, but days earlier my hipbone was tucked behind my tailbone while I grimaced through a fishing trip. I’ve been under a lot of stress y’all.

Here I am, though, with an empty uterus and realigned spine, declaring that I will take the rest of 2016 in stride!

I will stop working myself up over Future Belle’s problems!

I will do my best to accept that the ever changing landscape that is my life these days, will ultimately lead to something good!

I will stop taking advantage of the fact that Jake is experienced in the management of high strung, over-achieving women!

I will reign in my crazy and I will force myself to enjoy my favorite time of year, because I will be that girl who goes with the flow!

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How Alcohol Poisoning Reminded Me How Good I Have It

Jake and I had a great day on Saturday. We went to a festival in Springfield, ate fried food and candied nuts, watched Netflix, and then walked around the park to make up for the calories we’d consumed. We had a pretty low key night ahead of us, when I checked my phone to see that Catherine, Laura, and Gail were calling me out for a night on Catherine’s patio. I’d promised I’d come, even last minute, if they sent me the invite and Jake, in all his good ol’ boy charm, was game, especially since Gail’s Terry would be there, so he wouldn’t be the only cock in the hen house. Conveniently enough, we’d just been to the liquor store and were more than prepared for this BYOB with whiskey and coke and the small bottle of Strawberry Smirnoff I’d bought to mix with Fresca… only I’d forgotten the Fresca.

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I remember a great deal of the night. I remember Jake arguing politics with Catherine. I remember sitting in the grass with Laura, talking about her marriage. I remember making fish sticks when we got hungry drunk and walking around the block. I remember teasing Gail about her newfound veganism and Terry about their five year engagement. I remember playing on Catherine’s daughter’s swing set. I’m so glad I remember all of that, because I had a great time… until I didn’t.

You see, I also remember judging my shots without a glass and drinking straight from the bottle. I remember wondering why I wasn’t feeling it more. I remember feeling good and drunk and then thinking I really didn’t want to be any more drunk, but that I didn’t have to worry, because the bottle was empty anyway. I remember Laura realizing this and making me stick my finger down my throat… Jake trying to carry me inside, after Laura’s failed attempts to rouse me… and throwing up. I remember that last one the most. The rest of the night was just a blur of pain and humiliation… and apologies, because y’all, I am a grown ass woman. I have no idea what I was thinking. I haven’t even been close to that drunk since the summer of 2011, when Gail, Malik, and I decided to mix shrimp and peach vodka to celebrate my new apartment. Even then, I had an excuse in the fact that I’d lost about 60 pounds and had no concept of my new tolerance. I’m 29, not 19. I don’t even get drunk enough to be hungover anymore, let alone lose the ability to stand or speak. I’m not that girl. I chase chick beers with water and ibuprofen, not vodka with vodka… and thank goodness Jake and my friends know that…

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… because through all the misery and mortification, what I remember most clearly was Jake and Laura working to get me inside and clean up any mess in Catherine’s house, all while assuring me that I didn’t have to apologize and it was okay, that I’d be okay, because losing that kind of control is terrifying. Ashamed, I begged them not to laugh at me or tease me. Laura spoke in motherly tones while cleaning up vomit. As I dry-heaved, Jake held my hair, rubbed my back, and told me over and over again that I didn’t have to be sorry or embarrassed, because he’d done far worse. The two of them sat in the kitchen sharing their own cringe-worthy drinking tales as I fell asleep on Catherine’s couch.

I woke a few hours later to find Jake in the kitchen and told him I wanted to go home. After 30 minutes of gathering my stuff, we headed out, before Catherine, Gail, or Terry woke to witness my shame. Jake helped me up the stairs and onto the couch, where he was once again unbearably sweet to me as I recovered from just that short trek.

Me: “I’m so sorry. Thank you for being so nice to me.”
Jake: “You don’t have to be sorry.”
Me: “Will you be nice to me tomorrow, when I don’t feel good?”
Jake: “I will always be nice to you.”

Still drunk, I showered and changed as sunlight filtered through the window.

Me: “I’m so sorry. Are you going to break up with me?”
Jake: “I wouldn’t dream of breaking up with you.”

That afternoon, Jake came into the living room to find me with a throw-up bowl in my lap, texting Laura a thank you.

Jake: “How are you feeling?”
Me: “Bad.”
Jake: “Well, the good news is, you don’t have to worry about how many calories you ate, yesterday.”
Me: “I’m embarrassed.”
Jake: “Oh, I’ve been much more embarrassed. Do you remember what you drank to make you so sick?”
Me: “All of the vodka.”
Jake: “Were you just drinking straight from the bottle? Did you think you were a saloon owner in an old western?”

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There is no way I would’ve had more than a fourth shot, had I been using a shot glass, let alone a sixteenth.

Gail texted to ask what time I’d left that morning and I realized that Laura hadn’t told anyone about the events of the previous night. She’d kept my humiliation private. Jake spent the rest of the day watching Harry Potter with me and taking brief breaks to check on the Cowboys game, as I failed to keep down pretzel sticks and water… and wondered how I got so lucky to have such amazing people in my life. Those two are both getting homemade peanut brittle this weekend.

Being Single is Hard

I’m not single and I haven’t been for quite some time. I met Jake last June and I wouldn’t have called myself single past August or so. As Jake and I move closer and closer to marriage, shopping for rings and spending more and more nights together, though, I’m starting to realize how much harder it was when it was always just me.

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I’ve shared, previously, the number of blogs, articles, and comments I’ve come across on the difficulty of marriage, which are usually followed by new parents telling me I ain’t seen nothin’ yet. I have a lot of friends who have been sharing this article on the difficulty of parenting on Facebook and I applaud the author for choosing not to discuss how easy everyone else has it… because that’s all I ever hear about being young and on your own. I don’t know if everyone is simply looking at their past through rose colored glasses or if young, single people feel pressured to insist that their lives are fulfilling in every way, but I don’t think I’ve ever actually heard or read a discussion on how truly difficult it can be to be alone.

Now, I’m certainly not pitying those enjoying the single life and the freedom that comes with it. I had a great time going to movies alone and enjoyed many all night Vampire Diaries marathons over the sound of a whirring sewing machine, when I was single. When Jake visits his parents or goes to Wellston for a few days, I even try to remind myself to enjoy the last chances I’m going to get to be, well… a little bit single. It’s a great time… but it’s also a tough one and no one ever gives anyone credit for the strength it can take…

… to be the sole earner.

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As a single woman with an advanced degree, my entire adult life has been something of a financial struggle. In college, I was married to a man who refused to work, so perhaps I had a skewed view, but everyone remembers those years as the Age of Ramen. After I received my bachelor’s degree, however, that stage had already ended for most of my classmates and not because they got jobs, but because they got married.

As I entered graduate school, more and more of my high school acquaintances were choosing to stay home with their babies. These women posted funny YouTube videos about how their friends without children knew nothing of responsibility as I worked 13 hour days and came home to finish a research paper while eating off brand spaghetti rings, because who am I, the Queen? I still don’t buy the name brand. I paid for everything on my own, from my rent, electric bill, and groceries, to the rare nights out with Gail. Student loan payments, car trouble, chiropractor visits, that time my phone was stolen, my $70 asthma inhaler, trips to the vet… they all fell to me, while my peers showed off their new houses and $300 highchairs and longed for my stress free life.

As a successful young woman, I can’t discuss money when sharing my desire for marriage and family, without giving people the impression that I just want a man to take care of me. The women I’ve mentioned above had their own financial hardships. I understand that, I do, but they weren’t solely their burden or responsibility either. When you’re on your own, you’re the only one available to talk yourself out of that designer purse or that second drink, because you’re the only one funding the inevitable emergency. At the end of the month, it’s just you and whatever remains in your bank account. While this is a really great learning opportunity, it’s also really scary. It’s almost as scary…

… to be the sole everything else.

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American culture has grown strangely proud of poor time management skills, with everyone from stay-at-home-moms to childless professionals competing to see who can claim the least amount of free time. Never was this more apparent than when I rushed home from a substitute teaching job to take my dog outside, before heading to the library, where I worked circulation until 9:00. When I’d get home at 9:30, it was often to an apartment that looked like an F1 tornado had hit it.

When you’re living with another person, it’s easy to take for granted the things that get done with little to no effort on your part. When Jake and I are married, whoever gets home first will start dinner. If one of us has more free time in the week, we’ll help the other out by doing the laundry, vacuuming, or mowing the lawn. If the Internet goes wonky, there will be two people who could potentially take the morning off to wait for the service call, and two people to compensate for any lack of income that might cause.

When it was just me, every day, working two jobs, I was lucky if I had the energy to microwave dinner, let alone clean up the kitchen or do the laundry. Thank God I didn’t have a lawn. Two years ago, a day off of work to wait for a service call could ultimately have been the difference between being able to afford that Internet or not. Even something as simple as company has become a given, now that I’m in a relationship. It’s easy to forget all those times I ran to the drug store sick or went home after a bad day to an empty and lonely house, now that someone’s available to pick up the prescriptions and cuddle up to during bad Netflix movies. It’s almost as easy to forget how hard it is…

… to have to face the unknown solo, with a smile on your face.
Zetus lapetus, dating sucks. If there is one aspect of being a single twenty-something that none of us feel compelled to talk up, it’s dating and that’s because no one looks back on it fondly… unless they just didn’t do it for very long. I remember getting ready for what was unsurprisingly another dead end date, with Gail’s help, a few years ago. She told me how, although she loves Terry, she sometimes misses that feeling of anticipation and excitement. In hindsight, I’ll admit, there were times when it really was exciting. Toward the end, however, it was just… emotionally exhausting.

The entire time I dated, I felt like I wasn’t allowed to admit that the one thing I wanted more than anything was a loving husband and children. I didn’t want them immediately or solely, but it was a goal of mine to be well on my way by the time I was 30. For some reason, I was supposed to leave something so important up to “fate” or “timing,” while being told my career goals were only subject to effort… even though the former was dependent on how one random person felt about me and the latter hung on how several very specific people felt about me. As a result, not only was I terrified that I may never attain what mattered so much to me, but I felt like I wasn’t even allowed to discuss it, for the sake of all womankind.

Not every woman shares my priorities. Some focus more on career or travel or general life experiences, but most people want to eventually find someone to love and care for and with whom to make all the big life decisions. There was a time when making all of those decisions by myself was freeing. Eventually, however, what I yearned for was a little less uncertainty in the world, some assurance that I would eventually put down the roots I wanted with someone I wanted. In your twenties, there are a thousand unknowns in your existence and when finding someone is no longer one of them, you feel a little more grounded, because you’re not facing the other 999 alone.

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I look fondly on the time I spent single, because I made a genuine effort to enjoy it while I could. I had a great time thinking only about me and bettering myself and my career. My Gramma once commented on how exciting it must be to have my whole life ahead of me with all that freedom and all those decisions yet to be made. She was right. It was and still is very exciting. It’s also a lot to take on alone, because no matter how many amazing friends and family members you have, it’s not the same as being in a committed relationship. I don’t doubt that being newly married, having young children, or raising teenagers is stressful. I imagine every stage has its battles and tears. I just get really tired of hearing about how the post college, pre-marriage stage isn’t one of them… because going it alone is, quite often, really very hard. I hope I never forget that.

Why we aren’t looking at porn…

Jake and I engage in a lot of good natured bickering and teasing on any given day.

Me: “It’ll work! We’ll tie the rings to his collar and point a laser down the aisle!”
Jake: “There is no way I’m tying expensive jewelry to a cat!”

Occasionally, Jake sticks his foot in his mouth and genuinely offends me.

:: watching American Horror Story – Jessica Lang sprays perfume under her dress::
Me: “What did she just spray on her vagina?”
Jake: “Probably Binaca. You should try it, sometime.”
Me: “Excuse me?!?! Did you just say ‘It smells like fish in here’?!?”
Jake: “NO! That’s not what I meant! I meant because it will burn!”
Me: “So you want me to burn my vagina?!?! That’s your defense?!?!”
Jake: “I was kidding! It was a joke!”

It’s rare that we have anything resembling a fight. He gets annoyed with me when I take one of his games out of the XBOX One and set the disc aside. I get annoyed that he’ll lecture me on this, while leaving his headset in the floor, where I can step on it or the cat can chew it up. He stands behind me when I cook, making what he thinks are helpful (read: patronizing) comments until I tell him he can cook it himself and he apologizes… then continues to instruct me on how to cut an onion. I hate folding laundry and Jake hates searching through the basket for underwear. I refuse to spend money on new linens, when I know we’ll be able to register for them in a few months and he’s tired of drying off with ten-year-old threadbare beach towels. We may not fight, but we are two adults who’ve lived alone for several years, so I’m anticipating a dozen more small annoyances and probably three or four genuine arguments in our first year of marriage…

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… but pornography will not be one of them.

– cue societal head pat ::here:: –

I know, I know. Aren’t we adorably naïve? Everyone watches porn. It’s healthy to watch porn. It’s healthy for couples to watch porn together. One Google search will bring numerous articles about how entirely harmless pornography is and how it can actually benefit your relationship. HuffPost even attempted to write an article defending the trend, without looking like they were actually defending the trend.* Well… I call shenanigans, because I also found articles on the health benefits of gummy bears and donuts. If someone wants to justify their choices, they will and the determined ones will find citations.

Before Jake and I started having sex, I clarified that I understood that an adult needs an outlet. Since he wasn’t getting that from me, I required neither denial nor confirmation that he was looking at pornography. Once we were sleeping together, however, I wanted to be the only one sharing that kind of intimacy with him. I wanted to be the only woman he saw naked. In turn, though it was only on rare occasion I watched porn myself, I promised to give it up as well. Jake agreed.

I do have a moral objection to pornography, but humans are both curious and sinful creatures, so I admit, I’ve watched it. Even then, however, I would go through phases, and not by chance. The cycles always ended, because I would begin to recognize how pornography could be addictive… how people could spend more and more time viewing to get the same response… how imagination could stop being enough. Furthermore, after Jake and I started dating, I understood that if I regularly watched porn, there might come a time when reality couldn’t hold up to the fantasy. Unlike my cheesy romance novels, these clips held no other appeal or purpose. There were no relatable characters in a story of boy saves girl, building up to a few raunchy scenes in the midst of their unrealistic, yet compelling, drama. It was just one quick high after another, with no fantasy world present to remind me that this isn’t what sex looks like.

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This is.

Just a few weeks ago, there was a news story about a teenage boy arrested in Shetland for distributing child pornography. I’ve likely substituted this child’s class and now he’s a sexual predator, because while sexual curiosity is still a healthy and natural part of human development, the ubiquity of the Internet has tainted it. This is true for teens in a shocking and disturbing way, as quoted here from PsychCentral:

“In the absence of any context, and without having learned about or known healthy sexuality, children may experience depictions of sex as confusing and take the images they see to be representative models of adult behavior. They are thereby introduced to sex before they are ready through images they do not understand, which often involve sexual deviations, and sex detached from relationship or meaning, responsibility, and intimacy.”*

Fortunately for Jake and I, we came of age when finding porn online meant exposing your curiosity to your parents, because the computer burst into flames from all the viruses you inadvertently downloaded. When we were teenagers, getting a hold of porn was tough, probably more so for Jake, being three years older. In fact, just the other day, he was telling me about the VHS tape that circulated his high school. One VHS tape was Jake’s first exposure to pornography… and I’m quite comfortable with that, because we agree that as recently as 15 years ago, porn was probably more or less psychologically, if not spiritually, healthy.

While I’m certain that I would never be comfortable knowing Jake sought sexual stimulation from women other than myself, that’s not the reason we’ve recently reaffirmed our decision not to look at porn. I’m just not convinced that any kind of healthy relationship with pornography is sustainable in the year 2016. Sure, some people use it to enhance creativity in bed, but there are other ways to get ideas: friends, romance novels, sexual health literature, blogs… none of which risk developing an addiction that can cause either of us feelings of rejection, betrayal, depression, abandonment, isolation, loneliness, or humiliation.*

A police chief in New York first exposed himself to child pornography while preparing for a sexual abuse awareness program he taught to children. Over time, he developed a genuine curiosity and interest, because that’s how the human brain works.* I know, I know, we’re not talking about child porn… but who seeks out radical and disturbing porn from the start? No one. Exactly no one Googles “gang bang” the first time they ever look at porn. They start the same way everyone does, with a clip here or there… only to realize that the same old vanilla stuff has gotten old. Pretty soon, they find themselves on RedTube watching what they’re pretty sure is not an actual gang rape, because porn addiction works the same way drug addiction does, according to this peer reviewed study.

“Neural differences in the processing of sexual-cue reactivity were identified in CSB subjects in regions previously implicated in drug-cue reactivity studies.”

I’m not denying that there are individuals and couples who currently have a psychologically healthy relationship with pornography. I’m simply saying that they’re putting themselves and their relationship at risk, in a world where porn is so readily available. I’m saying, why court trouble? As I mentioned in my last post, I hear about how hard marriage is all the time. We have a lifetime of ridiculous and legitimate disagreements ahead of us. I’ll piss him off and he’ll make me cry. I’ll be passive aggressive and he’ll be a stubborn asshole, because neither of us is perfect. We don’t need the battle that is pornography, so we’re making the decision to abstain from the beginning, to choose only each other for our sexual needs. Now… if only I could cut an onion in peace…

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He’s only crying, because someone’s criticizing him.

Citations

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sandra-lamorgese-phd/is-porn-healthy-or-harmful_b_8515402.html

http://psychcentral.com/lib/teens-and-internet-pornography/

http://www.psychguides.com/guides/porn-addiction/

http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/23/justice/new-york-police-chief-arrested/

http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0102419

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.