My husband is always the hero, in every story. He can’t help himself.
Genuinely likable, a storyteller, jovial & fun. He likes a drink, is easy going & doesn’t concern himself with bullshit. He’s handsome, has an easy smile & very blue eyes. He adores his children, feeds them tons of junk food & always comes home from trips with gifts for everyone.
He’s occasionally handy around the house, keeps our flower beds from overflowing with weeds & never complains about spending his weekends on the soccer fields.
One time he took a personality test that told him his worst trait was his ability to be so darn good at everything he tried to do.
He’s adored by old people, kids & animals alike.
He’s loyal to a fault, midwestern, counts his family among his best friends & is painfully traditional. When I suggested I might not take his last name upon our wedding, he honestly thought I’d made this idea up. He still brings up our wedding vows because apparently at one point, he said he’d always give me a foot rub if I asked. Or maybe it was a back rub? I don’t recall this but I’m sure it’s immortalized somewhere on a dusty VHS tape. In my vows I said I promised to be imperfect & sometimes to go to bed mad. I know I’ve held up my end of the bargain.
We remember our wedding day differently. For me, it wasn’t great. First off, because I didn’t eat. Being 23, I apparently thought any intake of food that day might create a situation in which I would balloon & my wedding gown suddenly wouldn’t fit. Secondly, because my mother had been such a nightmare leading up to the wedding & including that day. I was jittery, exhausted & over it all before it even began.
My mother & I had actually had a huge fight leading up to the wedding where I’d told her she could take all the shit back because I wasn’t having a wedding at all. I don’t remember the context of the argument, not that it mattered anyway.
A few weeks before the wedding she passive aggressively called me a ‘Bridezilla’ in front of the innocent bystander helping me choose my wedding makeup.
What’s the word… is it, Bridezila?
My eyes widened. The makeup women kept her head low, avoiding both our eyes. My mother looking to her for knowing confirmation I must be a bitch. Of course it must be true, otherwise, why say it?
The church where we held our wedding didn’t have a traditional pew set up. There was no groom’s side or bride’s side. Instead, the pews were arranged in a sort of semi circle around the front of the chapel. During our wedding rehearsal my mother was incensed that my father & step-mother would be sitting in the pew behind her & my step-dad, of all places. She let everyone know how furious she was with no regard to the fact that it really didn’t matter where people sat, as the wedding wasn’t really about her & I had clearly chosen to have both my father & step-father walk me down the aisle.
She was on some sort of mood stabilizers & kept offering them to my bridesmaids while they did their best to keep her away from me. They placated her with enthusiastic nods & nervous laughs.
When it came time to finally put on my wedding gown, my step-mother offered to come into the Bridal Suite & take pictures for us.
Why don’t you let me take pictures of your mom getting you dressed, she offered.
What I didn’t know then, was that my mother had been calling my step-mom for several months during the wedding planning. After 20 years of being at olds, my mother had held out an olive branch. They had formed some sort of sudden & surprising… friendship? She called my step-mom & confided in her. Weddings were stressful. How lovely to have someone to talk to about the complexities of party preparations.
But on the day, the gloves were off. My mother was absolutely indignant that my step-mom dare come into the Bridal Suite while I was getting dressed. She’d always made it clear & wanted everyone to know - this woman was not my mother & this day was not about her. I think at one point.. she may have even said this but my memory is not very clear. Her fury radiated white hot throughout the chapel while my bridesmaids feverishly tried to button up the back of my dress.
Here, why don’t you… finish closing the buttons, one said as she stepped aside for my mother.
I had decided to forego the father/daughter dance. Jesus Christ. There was no planet on earth I would have chosen to commit to something like that. During my first dance with my new husband, the song we’d chosen felt like it might never end. Both of us kind of bored of hearing the same chorus repeated over & over & slightly embarrassed at being stared at for so long, decided to trail off in different directions, inviting others to join us on the dance floor.
Do you need someone to dance with, sister? my dad asked. It was the first time I’d seen him in a tuxedo. I knew he felt awkward but he was trying. I was the first of his girls to get married. He likely felt like a footnote to the end of this whole celebration. He later told my step-mom he thought the reason I’d cried as I walked down the aisle because he’d stepped on the bottom of my dress.
Sure, I said. And we danced for a few minutes until I found a convenient distraction to pull my attention away.
Years & years & years later, at my sister’s wedding, I watched as he danced the father/daughter dance with my middle sister. They embraced each other bravely. Wept. Kissed. He’d had a lot to drink but the sincerity was there. At one point, her live band took a break & I asked them to play Lynyrd Skynyrd’s, Simple Man, his favorite song. When the opening guitar riff floated out over the sound system, he was exhilarated!
This is my favorite song!
I rushed to find him. I requested this for you! I shouted over the deafening level of the hi-fi system. He hugged me & held me tight. Maybe more to keep him from falling over than anything else after all the drinking he’d been doing. He’s always known how to celebrate.
He held me close. I’m sorry, Trish. I’m so sorry. I love you. I love you so much…
Something has changed with my husband recently. For the past several years we’ve been living in these self assumed roles. Fallen victim to routine & stereotype.
Me, the ever nagging, withdrawn, always pissed off wife, who does everything.
Him, the husband, who works hard & comes home to eat dinner, play with the kids & relax.
But something changed. After I came back from Maine he was different. Involved. He’s been doing a load of laundry every day. He makes sure the sink is empty, dishes clean. He asks the kids to vacuum the floor daily. He texts me to see if someone needs a ride to or from practice. He makes school lunches & sits down to sign reading logs.
Why don’t you sleep in tomorrow, he suggests on a Thursday night. I don’t have to go in till later. You can sleep in. I’ll make breakfast, get the kids ready. Then maybe we can get coffee? Or go out to breakfast? Whatever you want.
I am wary. Guarded. Why? I ask. Why are you being so nice? My eyes search him.
He says he simply realized he wasn’t doing enough. He wanted to do more. He felt he’d fallen into a routine & wanted to be more involved, more helpful.
Like a junk yard dog, covered in motor oil & cowering under a rusted out car, I am cautious. But why?
Aren’t you… happy? My best friend asks. I mean, isn’t this what you wanted?
On paper it is. An equal partnership. Two people who are both so involved they work like a well oiled machine. Marriage isn’t 50/50. It’s an ever shifting tug of rope. But why can’t I accept this help without feeling unsettled?
As great as he is, honestly, he’s made it easy to be upset with him. To say I’m unhappy because I do the bulk of the work with our household & schedule makes sense. It’s something people could nod their head’s & agree with. But what happens when he suddenly turns 180 & starts pulling his share of the weight. More than his share even. Shouldn’t I automatically be happy? And what if I’m not?
If I let him into my space, to be an active participant in our daily schedule & household, does that mean I have to make space for him inside my emotions too?
My mother once told me I was hard to love. And like a self fulfilling prophecy I see this truth laid out before me.
I feel guilty because I’m a mess. And it’s not fair to him. He once said to me, You have so many emotions. And that’s true. In a world of primary colors, my emotions span a full kaleidoscope of hues. Each one breaking off into another unidentified, blindingly deep shade.
He is simple in the best way possible. He loves. He is committed. He would stand by my side in any situation. Tell him a problem & he finds a solution.
But I find myself unable to open up. How can I go through the pain of trying to make him understand me when I am just really beginning to understand myself. It’s too much for me right now & my haunting propensity for self sabotage keeps knocking at my door.
Let me in, it says to me. He’s too good. You’re too broken. And in this world, he deserves more.