Monday, September 27, 2010

A Woman in her Thirties Reflects on Marriage

Today is my 2nd wedding anniversary. 'Well whoop-dee-do,' I can hear some of you out there saying. 'Two WHOLE years? I have shampoo in my shower older than that.' Fine-- I am hardly an authority on making marriage work. But a woman in her thirties knows a thing or two about a thing or two, so here's my thing. Or two.

In my twenties I worked at a bank to get my butt through college, and met a wonderful customer named Mr. T. (Many readers of this blog will remember him.) Mr. T was pretty much the kindest, most patient man in the world. Even after decades of marriage, he spoke about his wife as though they were teenagers who just met at the high school prom.

One day we tellers asked him the secret to a happy marriage. I was particularly interested in his response, as I was watching my own unhealthy relationship at the time crash and burn around me.

'People say marriage is 50/50,' he began. 'But that's not true. Marriage isn't 50/50. It's 100/100. Each person needs to give 100% all the time, otherwise you're in trouble.'

My first decade on this planet I don't think I knew of a single divorced couple. The only blended family I knew was The Brady Bunch. I thought marriage was one of those things that happened naturally for women, like growing boobs. Then my teens came, then my twenties, and with those two decades a realization that the Beaver Cleaver idea of marriage that I had in my youth was far from reality. I could wish it and hope for it, and I could judge the hell out of other people for the decisions they made in their relationships, but in the end no one owed me the life I saw on Growing Pains.

Damn you, Jason and Maggie Seaver.

While L and I have only been married two years, we've been together for almost eight. (Yes, I can still hear some of you groaning and moaning. 'Eight? I have jeans older than...') Regardless, I still think Mr. T's advice is the best I've heard. Marriage is 100% effort, on both people's part. Sometimes, some days, that's been easy to do. Sleeping-in-on-Saturday easy. But sometimes, and I'm sure I can speak for L when I say this, too, it's been hard. Really hard. Root-canal-while-watching-Jersey-Shore hard.

My point is that a woman in her thirties celebrates anniversaries. Not with gifts (though those are nice), and sometimes not even with physical presence (L is currently out of town on business). She celebrates them because she knows how wonderful and how difficult marriage can be. She celebrates them because, once a year, she and her partner can look at each other, and say, 'Phew. We made it one more year. Let's kiss real quick before we get to talking about replacing the water heater.'

Anniversaries are achievements, and we've achieved one more year. MP, L. Now about that honeymoon...

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Woman in her Thirties Sends In the Clowns

I think my husband's best quality, aside from his striking resemblance to Brad Pitt, is his sense of humor. L and I share the same dry sarcasm, but he is much quicker with his wit than I am. Let's just say we have gotten through many, many challenging situations spanning several continents by making each other laugh.

When I signed up for childbirth prep classes, I knew that L would be taking this sense of humor with him. He would need it, because while I see this whole pushing-a-baby-through-my-vagina thing as very fascinating, he sees it through more... squeamish lenses. L can't even watch CSI without turning his head during the autopsy scenes. How, I have thought many times during the last 31 weeks, is he going to make it through this with me?

I got my answer this morning, during Part I of the childbirth prep series. The first part of the class included a video on basic anatomy-- namely my anatomy. It wasn't anything you wouldn't find in a 7th grade science book, but I still squeezed L's hand afterward to make sure he was okay.

'I like how she said vagina 10 times. Awesome,' he whispered in my ear.

Next, we got a lesson on the mucus plug. 'Mucus plug' is definitely not the most euphonious of phrases, but the accompanying descriptions had L's face scrunched in pain. I was starting to wonder who was going to be the support for whom during this whole childbirth process, when the teacher brought up the subject of feces. 'It isn't uncommon,' the teacher said, 'for a woman to have a bowel movement as she is pushing.'

'What if I have a bowel movement while you're pushing? I might,' L whispered to me.

L was starting to get pretty tired by the time we got to the end of class. The only problem was that the teacher had saved the best for last-- we spent the last 30 minutes on breathing exercises. I am only a recent convert to the hippie-yoga movement, but this is new territory for L. The teacher said, 'Where else to people store tension, besides their neck and shoulders?'

'Butthole?' L whispered in my ear. L's hands were on my belly at the time, and Chewy gave him a swift kick for that one.

It's hard not to go to a class like that and compare your life with the people's around you. I think a woman in her thirties does that quite a bit, probably more often than she cares to admit. I compared L and me to the serious couple next to us, the ones who had obviously been doing their homework. I compared us to the couple behind us, who kept interjecting with what I thought were pretty silly questions. And I'm sure everyone else was comparing themselves to us-- we were the couple that couldn't stop shaking with laughter all morning.

You read that right-- we. I am scared of giving birth, anxious about taking time away from my career to stay at home, and terrified that I'm not going to be any good at my new role as mother. But one thing I do not ever have to be afraid of is that my husband won't be there to make me laugh during the process. A woman in her thirties, at least this woman in her thirties, is grateful for her class clown.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Woman in her Thirties Pees her Pants

I read it might happen. I was told it would happen. And it did. Friends, family, be warned: the title of this post is not ironic.

Today I peed my pants.

Thankfully, I don't need to be a doctor to explain the physiology of this. Today I am thirty weeks pregnant. I have gained 23 pounds in the last seven and a half months, three of which belonging to the baby that dances upon my pancake-shaped bladder all day and all night. I have to pee all the time. And while it is annoying, I thought I had pretty decent control over this bodily function.

Apparently not.

L and I were leaving Target when the urge came upon me to sneeze. Not pee. SNEEZE. I covered my mouth like a good woman in her thirties, and sneezed once. Nothing unusual, nothing out of the ordinary. I sneezed again, as I am wont to do, and this time it happened. I peed. Not Niagra Falls pee, but still. It was enough.

I gasped and looked at L, thinking maybe I could make something up. I saw a rat. I forgot toothpaste. I need a bean burrito. But I was so horrified by what had just happened that I was frozen in the truth.

L did not know what to do with the information. 'Um... gross,' he said. To his credit, he left it at that and allowed me my shame.

But here's the thing: a woman in her thirties doesn't have much time for shame. I certainly don't. I spent a couple of seconds wondering if I should run back into Target for some Depends, and then L said, 'maybe you should start bringing some clean underwear to school with you. And pants.'

That was it. I burst out laughing. The kind that sends tears down your face. The kind when you can't catch your breath and your whole body is convulsing. That kind of laughing. The thought of explaining to a classroom full of Seniors that I might have to leave the room in case I pee my pants is quite possibly the funniest thing I've ever thought of in my life.

So a woman in her thirties is an enigma. This morning, I correctly answered a trivia question involving the artist Edward Hopper. This afternoon, I compared car seats for side impact safety features. And this evening, I peed my pants. I guess, for a woman in her thirties, that's just kinda how it goes.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Woman in her Thirties Loves her Girls

I’ve taken a lot of things for granted in my life, but the most flagrant of these fouls has been when it comes to my girlfriends. I’ve spent most of my twenties and early thirties surrounded by girls I’ve known since grade school and high school, some of the most thoughtful, funny, and caring women (!) in the world. No matter where my travels have taken me, what boy has broken my heart, or what bone-headed decisions I may have made, these girls have been my constant cheerleaders and keepers of secrets.

I came to a realization a few years ago that startled me—not all women in their thirties have these types of friendships. In fact, many women in their thirties don’t have these types of friendships. They’re lucky if they have one or two people to go to in a crisis, let alone a group of girls who have their back, no matter what. How is that possible? Is there a handbook for finding wonderful girlfriends? And how do I get a copy to my daughter?

Chewy was welcomed into this group of women over the weekend. My jie jie and BFF did the ‘honors’, and by that I mean to say they chose to put up with me for the last few months while I gave them orders about what I did (and more specifically did NOT) want. Yet they did it happily, because that's just how lucky I am.

I thought about it this weekend as I sat surrounded by many of my favorite women. We aren’t all that much alike—in fact, I would argue that there are more dissimilarities between us than there are similarities. But I think that’s what makes us good for each other. We are the missing pieces to each other’s puzzles. The candy in each other's candy shop, if you will.

A woman in her thirties loves how her baby's closet looks after being showered with pink, she loves how her stomach still hurts from laughing all weekend, and she loves loves loves her girls.