Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Marriage and the importance of fending for yourself

"Do you ever have those moments when you think, 'Oh, so this is what marriage is like...'?"

My dad had asked while we were in the car, on our way to I-forget-where. I knew that he meant it in terms of discovering things about my husband M that I never knew before, where you substitute "marriage" to "he" so that the statement becomes "Oh, so this is what he's like, really." But I guess the thing about being together for almost nine years before you get hitched is that it's pretty hard to hide your true colors from each other for almost a decade.

No, the thing you discover about marriage is not so much about your partner, but about yourself.

And I have discovered a very important thing: I'm a 32-year-old with no life skills.

I say this after almost three weeks of living in our own place. I mean, I knew this about myself, of course, but just knowing I don't know how to cook becomes an entirely different deal when you're alone in the condo, hungry, and staring at a can of corned beef and not knowing what to do with it.

And it's not just the cooking. I don't know how to iron clothes. I don't know how to do the groceries. I don't know how to prepare a marinade, much less marinate the meat. I don't know how to clean the bathroom. It has become appalling to me how I've reached this age without knowing all these things.

I know it makes me look like some sort of sheltered, pampered princess. And I know that I probably should have made an effort to learn while I was still at home, before I got married. But there was something in me that just refused the idea of learning at home. I didn't want it to be some afternoon of "Oh, I'm not so busy today, I think I'll go learn how to iron a shirt" then I would go back to my "regular" life. And the truth is, I guess I just took it for granted that I had clean shirts and good food.

So right now, what I'm discovering about marriage is that it's a very humbling experience. Now I have to accept that I'm a beginner at everything. I learned to use our washing machine during our first week, so I've been able to do the laundry for us. My first attempt at ironing was a failure (meaning, the shirts were just slightly less wrinkled than when they got out of the dryer), but I figured out where I went wrong and tried again today. I did a much better job today.

I also learned how to cook hotdogs. M laughed when I told him I just followed the instructions on the packet, and his exact words were, "I never even knew there were instructions on the pack! You just put them there and cook them!" My first attempt was okay, but I think I undercooked them the second time I tried because they tasted slightly like paper (still edible, but weird enough for me to think that it didn't taste quite right). M told me, "Don't be afraid of overcooking or burning it. Be afraid of undercooking it." So then I learned to not be afraid of the sizzling, frying sounds and instead trust them as signs that I'm doing it right.

Marriage is a humbling experience because knowing that there's just the two of us now, we have to be able to take care of each other. And the reality is, M has been taking care of me for the past three weeks, largely by making sure I don't starve. But even if I wasn't around, he would survive. That wouldn't be true if the tables were turned. It's humbling to realize how much I need him, and how much I need to work so that we are on equal footing in this relationship, capable of both giving and receiving care.

It's also very humbling to realize that if you don't do it --whether it's cleaning the toilet, taking out the trash, or other equally icky jobs-- no one else will do it for you. So I can't just pick what I want to learn; I have to learn everything. More than once, I have thought to myself that this is probably what I would advise the young-and-single: either live by yourself or help out around the house more. Either way, you really do need to learn to be self-sufficient. I may be a little late in the game, but at least I'm learning now. Google has been especially helpful in this journey.

And so I celebrate the littlest achievements, the ones that people would probably roll their eyes at. Like buying a nice set of sheets at a bargain. Or cooking a cheese omelette successfully. Or figuring out just the right settings in our washing machine and the right ratio of liquid detergent to fabric softener. Because I know that each little achievement is a step to the bigger things. And someday soon, I'll get to the point where I can cook without reading a recipe and I'll be able to do more than just wash the dishes and vacuum the floor.

Someday soon, I'll be a 32-year-old that has the life skills needed not just to survive, but to thrive.

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