The Right Way to be a Wife

A few days ago I ran into my ex-fiance’s former best friend. We exchanged hello’s and a brief update on our lives before walking away. He was the same as I remembered him from our teenage years, full of anger and incredibly sarcastic seemingly displeased with his life. He reminded me of a time in my own life I had long since forgotten. Where the road I was taking was straight, narrow and predictable.
My ex-fiance and I met our sophomore year in high school when we were both still semi-innocent and sweet. We went from friends to in a relationship quickly and then on his 17th birthday I took his virginity. Eventually we stopped being separate people and our names became synonymous with the others. One day after work he asked me to meet him downstairs on the front porch and there he was on one knee holding a black velour box open. I don’t remember what he said but I do remember feeling reserved. Though I never dreamt of getting married or anything that follows, I imagined when your best friend proposed to you it was supposed to be magical. I felt nothing when I said yes and wondered if I only said yes because we lived together and I had no where to go.
Growing up I never had anyone to model a healthy marriage. My biological parents never married and though my foster parents were, he owned her. She often told stories of when they first met when it was a cute teenage relationship. But then they married, had kids and he turned into a raging alcoholic who beat her and the kids. By the time their 4th daughter was born he had found religion and stopped drinking. But at this point it was too late and he didn’t know how to be a husband, or a father. In his mind he financially supported his family, and that was his sole role as a father. He was controlling, mean and manipulative. He showed no affection to anyone let alone his wife. Very rarely you would overhear her talking about her unhappiness but she had no where to go. She hadn’t worked since before her first daughter was born, barely spoke English and had no money of her own, she knew leaving was never an option.
Everything I lacked in my childhood molded me into an anti. I was anti-kids, anti-marriage. I never thought about a wedding or finding the right dress and every part of me believed I could never be a good parent and so I buried those possibilities deep into my core until they disappeared. I would focus on my education and rising above the life I came from. After three years of an engagement and no wedding planning, we parted ways. Even as an engaged woman I never once thought about planning a wedding.
By my late 20’s, friends around me started buying houses, getting married and having children but at this point I was set against sharing my life at all. I struggled with feeling as though I brought shame to women around me. I couldn’t understand my friends happiness when they spoke of their proposals, or showers or wedding plans. I was happy for them, but couldn’t picture that happiness for myself. I was content in my single life, bringing men in and out as I pleased. I enjoyed living for myself. Every woman at least once in their life should be a selfish woman.
The more time I spent with myself, the more I learned to love myself and all my imagined inadequacies. I feel as though this time period marked the beginning of my life. I was hungry for knowledge, for experience. I enjoyed meeting new people who could enhance my life. I began to live. I stopped worrying about the way others would view me or my lifestyle and I let fear guide my adventures and thus far it has been beautiful and I am fulfilled for 30.
I don’t take change well, it terrifies me. But I am learning that there are phases within our lifespan. They come and go and add to who you are, preparing you for the next phase. I now view marriage and kids as one of these phases (although I guess normal people would call them a milestone).
Though late in life, it was my best friends who taught me what unconditional love feels like. As someone who never believed they were worthy of such a feeling, I never allowed myself to be receptive to it. But over the years I have met the most incredible people who know my soul and found ways to speak love into existence in my life without me knowing. This change I am most grateful for. Fear was quickly bypassed and instead of dwelling on hesitations by the time I realized I was surrounded by love it was like a drug that I couldn’t get enough of. I reflected back on all the pain I had been through. The darkest days where I wanted it all to end. The days I couldn’t get out of bed or cried myself to sleep and imagined I would feel that way forever. I would go through those days all over again if it meant that I would feel love, even if only for a few minutes because love is that beautiful, that powerful.
I imagine that you marry to feel this unconditional love everyday. At your worst, at your best. I imagine that marriage isn’t a milestone or an achievement but the ultimate surrender to love. When you realize the love you have for that person you could never have for another. I imagine you marry the person you want by your side during every phase of your life. Part sibling, someone you can be silly and argue with, but would spend your lifetime protecting. Part confidant, someone you can tell anything to, who knows you inside and out but never judges you. Part best friend, someone you want to share all aspects of life with. Part parent, someone who pushes you to be the best version of yourself, who grows with you, guides you and teaches you as they walk beside you. Part lover, someone who romances you to remind you of your worth. I imagine that marriage involves wearing many hats depending on the day or the situation. I also imagine that somedays this may be exhausting and hard. As cliche as it sounds I imagine that when you find the right one, marriage makes sense.
I don’t know if I’ll ever get married. I also don’t know if having dreamt of marriage in your childhood is a right of passage for women. I do know that according to the 1955 “Good House wife’s Guide,” I wouldn’t have cut it as a wife. But maybe much like being a woman, there is no right way to be a wife. It is simply who you are.

The (un)realistic Guide to Being a Woman

I couldn’t have been more perfect as a child. I was quiet and kept to myself. I never spoke unless spoken to and certainly never to strangers unlike my brother who befriended every Tom, Dick and Harry he met. My favorite past time was sleeping.I was a model student, always on the honor roll, I was even student of the year in 5th grade! I went to church Monday, Wednesdays AND Fridays, taught Sunday School for a minute, sang in the church choir and wholeheartedly honored my father and mother. I rarely questioned or talked back to them but only because I was easily replaceable. I was the only girl they ever fostered and made very clear they never wanted after raising four of their own. After all, girls were the devil. Once they got their periods, started having sex and thinking for themselves they were loose canons. I was no different. I was destined for failure solely based on the gender I had no control over. I failed their family, I failed myself and ultimately would be a failure to women everywhere.

Religion was deeply routed into our home. In the earlier years I remember having daily Bible readings around the kitchen table. We weren’t allowed to watch or listen to secular entertainment. It was ingrained in our child mind’s that anything the Foster’s did not approve of, anything that could be considered even remotely bad was a gateway for the devil. Life was serious. We would often get in trouble just for laughing.  There was no being a child, you were a servant of God preparing for the day the rapture came. Boys did boy things, girls did girl things and there was absolutely no intermingling otherwise sexuality was questioned. No question there, homosexuality was automatic eternal damnation into hell. No passing go, no collecting $200, homosexuality was immoral, disgusting and against the word of God. Laughing and homosexuality aside the list grew daily. Tattoos, kissing, premarital sex, anything aside from the missionary position within a marriage, porn, Sci-Fi books, looking in the mirror too long, playing with baby toes?! It’s no surprise the day I got my first period in the Burger King bathroom I was terrified to say anything. My heart dropped to the floor and tears collected in my eyes the minute I saw blood; I was now impure.

I was no longer a little girl but also couldn’t qualify as a woman just yet so in the interim I would learn just that. Being a 12 year old and school would be put on the back burner as I learned how to keep house and my appearance (although I often rebelled by wearing pajamas and slippers in public). Learning to cook was a must since I would never keep a man with sex alone (although how could you not keep a man with missionary?!). I would also learn how to tend to a man. Set his plate and serve him food only when he was ready and seated at the table. Have any medication readily available next to his meal with his beverage of choice that should constantly be topped off. Bringing him his shoes or jacket or keys or anything else he needed. If I was raised correctly, I would do nothing short of wipe the man’s ass for him because that was my role as a woman. Somehow Eve being from Adam’s rib meant that woman for the entirety of history would have to be a slave to their husbands. That’s how God intended it.

When I turned 16 it was time for me to decide what I was going to do with the rest of my life. The Foster man decided if I chose to get a job supporting myself would be my responsibility. But if I decided to be barefoot and pregnant, praising the Lordt I would have their full support and blessing. One of the most memorable lines of this time in my life was “There really is no place for women in education, where is school really going to take you?”

School would take me to the mountains of Vermont where I would work as a stripper to pay for college or so the family rumor went. It took me around the country doing volunteer work, it introduced me to the most influential people in my life and gave me the opportunity to learn, grow and reprogram a lifetime of discriminating beliefs. It would take me to the state house to receive an award given by the Secretary of State. It would add my name to stories in the college newspaper, Dean’s and President’s lists, on plaques scattered around campus listing award recipients throughout the years. I owned being a student however as I would learn after receiving a Master’s, no amount of education would make up for me not being married, with children, tending to my husband. 

Thus begins my journey of being my own woman. 

One

I live for moments of serenity.

Where I am one with the universe;

one with myself.

When breath flows freely through me

Planting my feet firmly into the earth,

And I am awake, alive.

The thought of you fills my heart

Like the whirl of the wind.

A gentle summer breeze across my face,

Providing even the slightest bit of relief.

I wonder if you are here in this moment

As I look up at the moon,

and wonder

Are you looking too?

Do you hear the deafening silence of the winter,

As She screams loudly

the harsh bitter air filling my lungs,

Making me want to seek refuge.

Seek Warmth.

Never do you stay

for more than just these brief moments

yet always are you with me.

When nature binds us together

and we are one.

Time ceases, distance fades

and I am yours.

I am always yours.