It is always fun when someone that is not familiar with me or my past hears me say how old Gabby is. They take a minute where they look at me, taking it all in. You can see them try to place my age. Then, their brow furrows a bit and you can see them trying to do the math. Most of the time, at this point, they just ask me how old I am. Then they try to do the subtraction again. Most people don't say much at this point. A few though, soldier on bravely and get me to admit that I, yes, had my daughter at 16, and yes, she lives with me, and no, I'm not addicted to anything harder than Diet Coke.
Such was the case a few weeks ago when a coworker of mine finally put it all together. We ended up having a nice chat about kids, college, and life stuff. She was complimentary of me and my daughter, and we were kind of finishing up--I was about to go run some copies, she about to go do whatever she needed to do. Then all of a sudden she says, "The only mistake you made, the way I see it, is in getting married. You shouldn't have done that."
Because obviously marrying the man you've been in love with since you were 15 years old and has sired your two pre-marriage children was pretty dumb.
You know, I shouldn't say it that way, I guess, because that kind of simplifies the whole thing. If this comment had existed in a vacuum, I probably wouldn't pay it a lot of mind. But it doesn't. In my office, of the women I frequently eat and converse with, I am the only one who is currently married. Everyone else is divorced and remains unmarried. Two have long-term boyfriends who, most of the time, seem to be hated/barely tolerated because of domestic needs. A frequent lunch time conversation topic is how horrible men are and what this particular one did to me, remember him? This explains why I've been more likely lately to eat my lunch at my desk with jezebel.com or Facebook as my lunch mate. And the thing is, these are all lovely ladies, who I like to spend time with. It's just that as women, one thing we think we all have in common is how much we dislike the other.
It is also worth noting that this kind of talk/behavior doesn't exist in a vacuum either. Women everywhere share the same kinds of conversations about men. I was talking about this to Matt the other day and he reported similar situations at every workplace he's ever had--and he said he was amazed at what women brought up in front of him, so he could only imagine what they said when he was not around. Hell, watch commercials once in a while. Men make messes! (Women have to clean it up!) Men will not commit! Men prefer beer and yardwork to just about anything else! It seems that companies think that the only way they can appeal to women is by denigrating men.
Perhaps it is just my background of having found someone I really, really like when I was young and then not having to fuss around the whole institution of dating later on, but I find this all troublesome. I like men. Just like I like women. I like PEOPLE. If you are funny and nice and intelligent and have correct opinions on things like abortion, healthcare and The Rolling Stones, then I want to hang out with you. Hell, even if you don't have those opinions, as long as you don't start screaming about Glenn Beck the second you see me, then you are probably pretty cool. Let's hang out. We can be friends. I don't care what kind of sexual equipment you are carrying around. You're a person, I'm a person. Let's talk. Even more importantly, I don't think any thing negative about you because you are a man. I don't imagine that you make messes, I don't think you are frightened by Zales stores in the mall. Just as I hope you don't imagine that I enjoy the color pink and having my nails done. Because ohmygod I hate fingernails and anyone touching my fingernails or anyone saying the word "fingernail." I am not even kidding--shivers are running down my spine right now. ICKIE ICKIE OO OO.
As I type this, I can hear the counter-argument swirling in my ears: "But I don't hate all men! Just the ones who did this to me! He was horrible! Have I told you what he did! ACK!" And my answer is this--SO WHAT. Get over it. Discussing it for the rest of your life is not going to help. There are better things to complain about. Do you even watch TV? There is some seriously fucked up shit out there, masquerading as entertainment. Complain about that.
But let's get back to me, because it is all about me, amirite? When I think of this phenomenon, it makes me look at my relationship with Matt in a new light. Not only is he my husband, but he's my best friend as well. I can't imagine a day without him in my life. And I'm mature enough to say that we have both hurt each other more times than we can count. You do things in a marriage, in any relationship, and you knowingly or unknowingly hurt the other person. That's just what you do. But then you fix it. Or you try. And you think about what you love about the other person and you live for the moments when you see that. I'm not downplaying anyone's divorce because people (men AND women) do really messed up things to other people and divorce is there for that. But a relationship is work. Hard work. And no divorce was ever caused by one person alone, male or female.
Even beyond that, though, I look at Matt and I know that even if we got divorced for some reason that I can't foresee now, I would want to talk to him every day. I would want his opinion on things. He knows me better than anyone else, he knows what I'm thinking when I'm lying through my teeth, he knows the tone I get in my voice when I'm saying something really passive aggressive about someone else and am trying to hide it. For better or worse, he's a big part of who I am, both as a person and as a mother. And I want that in my life, no matter what comes my way in the future.
Yesterday, we took the kids to an Easter egg hunt and then came back home and laid in bed and drank milkshakes and ate waffle fries. We were just laying there in the bright and sunny room, the bed messy and the floor piled with stuff I needed to clean up. There was a silence there, and a comfort, and a love and I couldn't help but think that because of that moment and so many more we have had, I could never say an ill word about the guy. When my coworker said that, I should have replied, "No, marrying him was one of the precious few good decisions I've ever made." I should have stood up for him in all those lunch time coversations about men. But I didn't.
I hope that next time, I remember the nubby feeling of the sheets on my legs, the warmth of his breath, the funny conversation about his friend Roy that made me laugh so hard I snorted, and I do.