“Nobody said it was easy / No one ever said it would be this hard” croons Chris Martin in the Coldplay ballad “The Scientist.” In it, who effing knows what Chris Martin was really singing about . . . he could’ve been talking about changing baby daughter “Apple’s” crappy diaper for all we know. But I like to think he was talking about the blessed institution of marriage. The tabloids right now are buzzing about his separation from Gwyneth Paltrow, which Paltrow has decided to define as a “conscious uncoupling,” so we can guess that their celebrity marriage was every bit as challenging as marriage is for the rest of us. Comforting.
I myself never had any delusions that marriage would be easy. My parents were divorced before I could talk, and they both got remarried to complete assholes when I was in elementary school. Luckily, by the time I’d finished high school, they’d divorced said assholes. (Before someone gets their feelings hurt and comes to hunt me down with an ice pick, I will note here that my step-parents were assholes THEN. I am told by my half-siblings that they are very charming people now). Anywho. Not even the older generation in my family provided much of a prototype for wedded bliss. One set of grandparents were divorced, and the other set had a marriage that I would label “cantankerous.” I didn’t see how a healthy, loving marriage functioned when I was growing up, and so I wasn’t convinced that it was even achievable. I knew from watching all the adults in my life that marriage was tough, but there was no one to give me sage advice about how to make a marriage last.
Having been married almost ten years now, I know for a fact that marriage is hard, and I don’t fault my parents and grandparents for not knowing how to make it work. Most days, I barely know myself. One thing I do know, though, is that if you’re able to laugh, to make fun of yourselves (but not of each other–I will pile-drive my husband if he makes fun of me), or cling to any scrap of comic-relief that you can scrounge up, married life will be a whole helluva lot easier. That being said, there are some days when my husband is being an OCD pain-in-the-ass and I am being a bitchy Ice Queen, and the kids are being little jerks, and there is just not a DAMN THING to laugh about.
It’s for days like those that I’m happy I’ve found my own Bible for flawed (and hopelessly funny) relationships. It’s called I Just Want to Be Alone, written by Jen Mann of the hilarious blog, People I Want to Punch in the Throat, as well as a slew of other female bloggers/Moms/wives/comic geniuses. You know the annoyingly overused acronym, LOL? Well, I don’t laugh out loud very often. I am a smiler, a grunter, a chortler, but not a laugh-out-louder. However, when I stayed up late every night reading these stories on my iPad while my husband snored away, I was shaking the bed, and not in the way that my husband wants me to. I honestly, seriously, gut-giggled my way through it because these women were strumming my pain with their fingers, singing my life with their words. Without giving too much away, I’m gonna do just like they do at the Oscars when they give you enticing, frustrating little snippets of all the movies you haven’t seen yet. These are some of my favorite hysterical (or poignant) excerpts from the book, of which there are many:
The story begins with my husband and his “selective” taste in foods. He’s a picky eater whose favorite foods are on par with that of a toddler . . . / When I met my husband, he advised me he didn’t like beans, so he couldn’t eat [my favorite] taco soup. . . . / I decided to make it for him anyway. Because my husband is not only picky but also observant, I knew I couldn’t just dump the beans into the soup undetected. For that, I implored the use of the food processor, who was happy to accommodate after sitting in the cabinet untouched for years…. ‘Whatever this is, it’s amazing,’ [my husband] responded, quickly devouring each bite. At that moment I wanted nothing more than to slap the spoon out of his hand and yell “That’s beans, bitch!” (Lisa Newlin, “That’s Beans, Bitch!”)
When done correctly, I admit gentle snuggling can be nice…for a maximum of 2.3 seconds. Because after that amount of time my own arms and legs often go numb, the circulation cut off from the weight of those hairy man limbs haphazardly placed on my own. It then becomes much less about cuddling and more about basic survival. If your bedmate simply can’t take a hint—and by “hint,” I mean shouting, “GET OFF ME YOU HEATHEN!” or “accidentally” placing a pillow gently over his face —that “embrace” can feel like a bear trap that captures your comfort, your hopes and (literally) your dreams. (Abby Heugel, “I Just Want to Sleep Alone”)
All day long, every day, you will have to forgive the little things so that when the need to forgive the big things comes along, the forgiveness flows faster. Major Acts of Stupid require patience like no other and you cannot find that level of forgiveness if you are still harboring anger over dirty underwear and dishes. (Christine Burke, “Open Letter to My Son Or Your Mother’s Top Ten List of Ways Not to Be a Douchebag Husband”)
He was wearing awkwardly-tapered tan pants, and there was an enormous, unpopped pimple nestled in the stubble on his chin…. / And I sat next to him through a very enjoyable showing of Iron Man, occasionally stealing frantic glances at the Mount St. Helens of facial acne because that is how I am—I am obsessive. You can be thirty feet away from me, but I promise you I am looking directly at your ingrown hairs and wishing I were pulling them out of your neck with a tweezer. (Raquel D’Apice, “Project Runaway”)
“But he wants me,” I whined. “I’m his mother.”
“And I’m his father. We’ll be fine. Go take a nap.”
But what the hell is happening out there? I know our baby isn’t hungry. He just drained my milk bags dry. He should be settling in for a nap, but instead he sounds like a bag of cats – angry, feral cats, sent to drive me over the edge. I’ll bet that son of a bitch is sitting down. He knows the baby settles more easily when we stand, but he stubbornly refuses to get up. Please, Lord, give my boy his father’s intelligence and tenacity, but not his willfulness…. / Those women who are married to the type of man who doesn’t engage with his kids are so lucky. I’d give my right nut for a douche asshole who spends more time golfing than at home, and when he is home, he isn’t helping or engaging his family. (Amy Flory, “The Problem With the Hands-On Father”)
“I wanted potato chips, not tortilla chips, honey,” I said, trying to sound reasonable and keep the rising panic out of my voice.
“What’s the difference?” he responded. And with that—that simple, short phrase—I lost it.
“WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE? . . . . / Two different genera of chips. Two different species. One is made out of potatoes, the other is made out of corn. One is salty and crunchy and exactly what I was craving in my exhausted I-spend-too-much-time-with-a-toddler state, the other is not. One is great just as is, the other needs to be smothered in salsa to be edible. And WE DON’T HAVE ANY SALSA!!” (Deva Dalporto, “The Incompetent Husband”)
These days hot and heavy can mean him emptying the dishwasher or bringing home a bottle of wine after a long day. It can mean sleeping together, actually sleeping, without a toddler in the middle of the bed and a small foot in your clavicle for the majority of the night…. / Or it can mean making the most of those three minutes and twenty four seconds alone before the kids realize you are missing. You know … bow chicka bow … ”MOMMY, where are you?” (Katie Manley, “Keeping it Hot and Heavy”)
Sure, he’s a cheap bastard who can be a tad anti-social and a bit of a know-it-all, but he treats me like gold, so he’s my lobster. We might not be the most traditionally romantic couple, but our relationship works for us. We’ve built the foundation of our marriage on relentless teasing of one another, constant griping, and the knowledge that no one else could possibly stand us, so we’d better make this work. (Jen Mann, “Romance is Overrated”)
And so, now you know why I’ve chosen “I Just Want to Be Alone” as my new Marriage Bible. Now, on my darkest days, when I have a primal urge to push my husband down the stairs, I’m going to take a deep breath, and calmly scan these hallowed pages. Similarly, when I am in the midst of some marital sweet spot, giving out know-it-all marriage advice, and sitting too high on my husband horse, I’ll pick up this book and bring my sweet ass right back down to reality. No man within these pages is the husband that your obnoxious Facebook friend brags about like he is the Second Coming of Christ (if Christ were allowed to marry, which I don’t think He is). Alternatively, no man within these pages is exactly the Angel of Death. These are just normal men, and these are just normal marriages, which sometimes suck, and sometimes score, but with a little room for laughter, ultimately last.