Being Married to Me Isn’t a Walk in the Park

2 Jul

Unless you’re always writing about it and putting it online.

Individuality (or selfhood) is the state or quality of being an individual; a person separate from other persons and possessing his or her own needs or goals. Being self expressive, independent.

I’m been thinking about how much individuality one is expected to give up in marriage. Last night I read George Orwell’s essay, “Why I Write,” and was struck by this:

The great mass of human beings are not acutely selfish. After the age of about thirty they almost abandon the sense of being individuals at all — and live chiefly for others, or are simply smothered under drudgery. But there is also the minority of gifted, willful people who are determined to live their own lives to the end, and writers belong in this class.

I’m part of a family of four people and I wouldn’t change that, this isn’t about the line between marriage and divorce, but I agree with Orwell here. I’m fighting to hold onto my individuality; my fingernails are dug in; my legs are wrapped around it, but I’m up against the limits. She has her ideas of what life should be. I have mine. But where do these preferences come from?

We learn how we’re “supposed” to live from the media, the government, our parents, just about everywhere we look we’re being influenced. It’s baffling to me that these things are considered normal nowadays: television as #1 free time killer, retail therapy, eating junk food, lethargy, obesity, and materialism. Lifestyle diseases–AVOIDABLE diseases– like heart disease and diabetes are now accepted as a part of life.

So my preferred mode of living is to question everything. If I ask why THIS has to be done THAT way and you say “That’s just the way it is” or “It’s always been that way” or anything in that vein, I’m going to–I don’t know–scream real loud on the inside. I might rebel.

The big issues are where we choose to live, what we do with our time, what we do with our money, what kind of work we do. I can’t cover the biggies right now, but here’s some small stuff from recent events or conversations. And keep in mind that I’m not saying I have it all figured out and my wife is stuck in “conformity hell.” She would (and I encourage her to) write about her own life philosophy.

Food presentation. We had some family over last night. I pulled roasted asparagus from the toaster oven and grabbed a glass bowl to put it in. I was going to put in on the table. No, not the right way to do it I learned. Leave in on the baking pan in the kitchen. What’s really important about sharing a meal with family or friends? It’s the experience, the togetherness. Sure, the taste of the food fits in there somewhere, but it’s not nearly as important. And everything else? Pshaw! I think it would be neat to sit in a circle, cross-legged to eat a big meal … just for fun. I don’t care what kind of bowl the salad (or asparagus) is in. I don’t care if Uncle Barney likes to rub his food against his bald head before eating it. Husbands, if you’re “helping” in the kitchen and you feel like your wife has her eye on what you’re doing, remember, there are no “real” universal rules. Hold onto your individuality.

No playing ball in the house? She grew up hearing that, and so did I. She tells the kids the same thing maybe just because that’s what she learned growing up. It’s important to question everything you learned as a child because our parents are human and they certainly didn’t have all the answers. I “play ball” in the house with the girls all the time. Kids grow up and leave, so I need to have those moments with them now. I’m not going to squelch a game of “tackle monkey in the middle” over a rigid, inherited rule.  Husbands, are you going along with this rule? Stand up for yourself and put the issue to a democratic vote.

Landscaping. We’ve been talking about this a lot lately. Some people enjoy pulling weeds and planting flowers and digging holes and jumping on every stray leaf. That’s great, it’s good exercise and it’s a million times better than sitting in front of the television. Some see it as a neighborly competition (not good). I wanted to buy a condo where the outside was maintained by someone else. If I’d rather jog or go for a bike ride or read or write or study or learn or think or meditate, what are my obligations towards helping my wife with her idea of acceptable lawn aesthetics? I agree, if she needs help, I should be available. But should her priorities supersede mine? Should she get angry because we care about different things? If I give up my individuality to keep my wife happy, am I being “smothered under drudgery”?

Bed. We sleep in normal, American-style beds. Why? I guess because that’s what we had as children. In Japan they sleep on special futons that they roll up and put away during the day. Since before I knew about what they were doing in Japan, I rebelled against the American bed. What the hell is the box spring for? Why do I have to be up off the floor? I happily slept on the floor for years. If my individuality ends up costing me my married status, I already know that I’ll be rocking Japanese-style sleeping arrangements. During the day I’ll do yoga, push ups, jumping jacks, meditation, basket weaving, playing ball, or any number of activities IN MY BEDROOM. Space saving! (This leads to another issue: how big of a house does a family need? I definitely don’t have time to get into that now.)

Couch. I know I’ve talked about this before, but it brings me much joy. Jennifer bought a set of small couches that she tries to protect with much energy. She bought them knowing we had cats when we moved into our current house. Well, the cats have shredded the couches. If you want to put Jennifer in a bad mood, whisper “shredded couch” into her ear. Not that I do that. My wife has said (loudly) something like “Girls, don’t climb on the couch” over a hundred times in two years. I remember my mom was similarly protective of furniture.

Can you picture your childhood couch? Where is it now? If you climbed over the back of it did you add to its demise? Does anything having to do with that couch MATTER now? To me it doesn’t even matter now. If the kids are getting along and having fun, I’m good. More importantly, I don’t want them stressing over material possessions when they have their own kids. I tell them this: when you have your own kids, encourage them to play on the couch, but now, listen to you mother.

This scene in American Beauty sums it up for me. IT’S JUST A COUCH!

9 Responses to “Being Married to Me Isn’t a Walk in the Park”

  1. Lunar Euphoria July 2, 2012 at 8:57 am #

    I sympathize with your wife over the couch and landscaping…and hell, for that matter the food presentation. It’s a woman thing. Your art is your writing…hers is likely her home. It’s like someone coming in to your blog or journal and rearranging your words or throwing words in your sentences that you’d never use.

    And in fact, I can indeed picture my childhood couches. I helped my mom pick them out. Decorating is a form of expression — and couches aren’t cheap. I was (and still am) similarly protective of them — not to the point I cover them with plastic, but my fangs will come out if one of our pets approaches them without reverence. I tell my young nephew to go the park or outside for his somersaulting antics – not my couch!

    Ha, and I just watched the video….”Just a couch” I think not.

    • christy July 2, 2012 at 12:12 pm #

      You tell him Lunar :))

      • fightn4it July 2, 2012 at 2:45 pm #

        Hey now!
        I’ve seen your throw pillow collection burying a couch. Does Lee have an opinion on that? I have a major problem with “show” pillows. LoL. 😉

    • fightn4it July 2, 2012 at 2:42 pm #

      Yeah, a woman thing, I see. That’s fine, express yourself all over the place, but don’t bend me into a shape that suits you, that’s my thing with the landscaping. If she goes into the yard to express herself, she can’t expect me to run out there dig holes. When I decide to work on a project, I have no expectations of her. Complete independence. ”

      The couches from my childhood are in a landfill somewhere. Our current couches will be in a landfill someday. When I’m on my deathbed looking back on my life, “I wish I would’ve taken better care of that couch” will not be on my lips. I can bet it won’t be on hers either.

      Just different philosophies. Both Perfect.

  2. Spiral July 3, 2012 at 5:16 am #

    I’m very interested in this post and it seems to me that this topic is more about having a bitch, arguing and wanting things done your way, than making a stand for individualism. I also think it’s fine to do so in your blog (and I know this post is only a part picture of you/your life).

    I want to share that I believe making decisions for the greatest good of all concerned should be a higher priority when more than one person is involved. If it’s just you, you can do whatever you want. However, you can also be assertive and cooperative while still being an individual. Where an Alligator suit to dinner or talk in code or negotiate problem areas. There are many ways to express your uniqueness. Your appearance, speech, mannerisms, work, history, experiences, choices, desires etc. are shaping you. But if it makes other people unhappy, embarrassed, angry, resentful etc. then is it worth it?

    (As a complete stranger who doesn’t know you or your situation – except for former blog posts – but is just responding to this post as I read it) I’m suggesting that you and your wife communicate lovingly, looking to give to each other and to your kids. That you think of the lessons you want them to remember. Being allowed to play ball in the house isn’t going to necessarily add to their lives and being told to stay off the couch may have them remember being scolded for playing. What really matters?

    And *ahem* while you may feel non-comformist, there are still things you indulge in, such as blogging and Starbucks… hey, nobody’s perfect… so, y’know, be tolerant and thankful for having family who accept you and love you.

    (Stepping off pedestal now…)


    Spiral 🙂

    • fightn4it July 3, 2012 at 6:21 am #

      A non-conformist, whether I am that, still brushes his teeth and puts his pants on one leg at a time and any eccentric can drink coffee and write. There are degrees of conformity. I’m not that extreme and we get along as a family better than most. The blog post may have made me look like an asshole, I don’t know.
      I like to think and write about the difficulties of marriage and the requirement to give up part of yourself for the greater good, which I have and pointed out yesterday. I enjoy talking about this topic; her, not so much. She stresses about those couches. Does anyone think that’s a good thing? I smiled and did what she asked with the asparagus. I make sure the kids bow to the couch when J is home. Yesterday, I worked in the yard in 100 degree heat and enjoyed it. She pretty much makes all the household decisions and that’s fine. in such a situation, though, one has to draw the line somewhere and carve out a niche for oneself. Thanks for your contribution!!!

  3. Snailquake July 4, 2012 at 4:26 pm #

    Thanks for writing this entry. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. I’ve just returned from three weeks of travelling around the UK staying with various couples. Something that struck me profoundly was that in most cases, the women called all the shots regarding household arrangements and social behaviours. It seemed to me that these women don’t trust their men, and the men all respond by doing whatever it takes to please the women. The upshot is that the women feel as though they are looking after an extra child.

    One woman on my trip was not like that. One of my female friends treats her partner’s opinions and behaviours as valid as her own. Their relationship does not fall back on compromise, because none is needed. I want to be like her, please. I like to trust my man. It feels good.

    I came across this recently, too:

    • fightn4it July 5, 2012 at 7:35 am #

      I watched that video. Good advice I think. Thanks for sharing.

  4. CrystalSpins July 11, 2012 at 1:57 pm #

    I’m with you on most of this. Although as a bit of a designer I am a fan of presentation and I can’t sleep on the floor. A futon, maybe, but not the floor. I tried it (for a boyfriend, in fact) and I can’t do it.

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