Raise A Spouse in 30 Years or More
How to be married for 30 years or possibly even longer…
How to be married for 30 years or possibly even longer…
I’m always wary of people who say, “you can’t change your spouse…” How preposterous. Why of course you can change your spouse! In fact, If you’ve played house with the same person for 20 years or more and haven’t managed to change them – you might not be doing it right. You might even be considered a slacker.
Take a look at my marriage for example. My family-of-origin is very LOUD. Simply put, we love the sound of ourselves. So naturally (per the the time honored principle of pairing with opposites) I married a quiet man. But over the course of 30+ years, I’ve unintentionally converted him into a veritable noise-machine.
Recently I was watching a home video with our kids from way back when they were babies (circa 1996). About 45 minutes into the video, the younger version of my hubby deigns to utter a brief comment and the camera quickly pans over to him. But he was done. That quiet remark was all he had. Shocked, my children inquired if their dad had been in the room the entire time…
…The chance of being in the vacinity of my spouse these days for more than a minute and not be fully aware of him is highly unlikely. He is the force that we reckon with.
It’s really apparent if he gets a song stuck in his head. When that happens, it’s going to be YOUR song for the entire day, as well. I’m not talking about a subtle Vulcan Mind-Meld, like from Star Trek. I’m talking about something far more insidious, a full-on bombardment of the senses.
Yesterday’s song du jour was Bruce Springsteen’s, “Born To Run.” That tune and it’s metaphorical message of desperation, rebellion and youthful empowerment assaulted my psyche for the better part of 24 hours.
He. sang. it. all. day. long.
He claims he’s only “into” the instrumental part of the music and I’m way too caught up in the meaning behind lyrics. But that didn’t cut down on the number of times throughout the day that I was cordially invited to strap myself round his engines. Maybe he’s right, and I am overly-invested in lyrics, but by mid-day I had my fill of analyzing my husband’s runaway American dreams.
When he wasn’t singing it, he was whistling it. Piercingly proud. Whistling is his jam – he could win a Grammy for it. This particular song inspires a truly ferocious whistle riff – it’s low, it’s high, it dips and crescendos. It’s the ideal melody for showcasing one’s remarkably vast whistling range.
And then, just to keep things flex, he switches over to the “neer-neer-neer.” This is the savage sound a male human-being makes when he’s amping up his air guitar.
NEER…. (pause) neer,neer,neer,neer (pause) NEER, NEER!
Truthfully, it didn’t really annoy me all that much yesterday. After all, when one’s spouse is singing, whistling or neer-neer-neering, they’re happy right? And who doesn’t want their very own spouse to be happy?
But early this morning, he entered the room to ask me if I needed anything from Lowes – when I said, “No thanks!” he belted out “tramps like us!” Like it was our official Couple Anthem. It was just so overwhelmingly yesterday.
I know it’s entirely my fault that my husband is so in-your-facey now. Obviously, I rubbed off on him through the years and have no one but myself to blame. But still…this tramp was thinking, ‘different day – different song. ‘ I’m even willing to return to last weekend when, for an unrelenting 24 hours, he wore me out by latching on to a twangy rendition of a Marshall Tucker Band favorite.
“I ain’t never been with a woman long enough for my songs to get old…” You’re almost there Big Guy. You are almost there.
It’s always a little tricky when you go to buyin’ someone else a present with their money. The “dicey-ness” of the situation can be further compounded when that individual is a “frugal” person. Yeah, I’m talking about the annual challenge of purchasing my husband’s Father’s Day gift. The struggle is real…
I was thinking it would be a fabulous idea to get him a grill this year. After all, we’ve been talking about getting a new one for about 5 or 10 years now, so I thought I’d surprise him by spontaneously taking action. Fortunately for me, I had not yet executed the purchase when we chanced to discuss our plans for the upcoming Father’s Day weekend. Imagine my surprise when he threw me this curve ball:
Husband – “Whatever you do, don’t buy any food for grilling, it’s going to be way too hot this weekend to grill out!”
‘Uh-oh, I thought to myself, if he doesn’t want to grill out this weekend, that’s going to take a bit of the zing out of presenting him with a brand-spanking-new-grill.’
So I effortlessly moved on to plan B and bought him a brand new bottle of tequila* instead.
So, now imagine my further surprise when he said these words to me this morning:
Husband – “I’ve put in an offer on a grill and I’m waiting to hear back!”
Wife -“You’ve put in an offer on a grill? And you are waiting to hear back?”
(Ginger Snapping: I thought it was too hot to grill out? That’s why I bought tequila** instead of bratwurst. What’s more, my guy has some pretty lofty ideas regarding grills. I was thinking $400-$500 max. I’m not saying he isn’t a great Dad and all, but for Pete’s sake, it’s a grill. I know when it comes to men and their meat, it’s serious business, but we have kids to put through college. My husband is pursuing the purchase of a grill that requires the tendering of an offer? Like when one buys a car?)
Wife – “How much did you offer them for it ? These Grill-Scheisters?”
Husband -“$100 – but it has some scratches, a rather large dent and a broken wheel. I told them I’d be doing them a favor just hauling it away.”
Wife- “It really sounds like you would be doing them a serious solid. Not to be a kill-joy on your special weekend, but I kind’ve hope they turn us down.”
Like everything else in life, it resulted in a Bad News/Good News outcome…
Bad news: They said yes.
Good news: They said yes.
We stuck it to The Home Depot, but good!
We were there within the hour to load up our brand new scratched, dented, 3-wheeled Father’s Day Grill. After a brigade of overly-supervised Orange-Aproned Ones carefully loaded it (because we didn’t want any additional dents we didn’t pay for) into the truck, my triumphant husband pulled around to the front of the store.
Wife- “For crying out loud, what are you doing now?”
Husband- “We get a free bottle of propane with purchase! I told you I really stuck it to those M-effers. I took em deep!”
In retrospect, I’m so glad I didn’t rob him of the joy of buying his own gift with his own money.
Clearly, It was the thrill of the kill, more than the thrill of the grill…
*There wasn’t a scratch on that bottle of tequila. It was in pristine condition.
**In case you’re wondering, I decided not to return the tequila. Color me selfish, but I’m keeping it to make myself Margaritas. It promises to be a long, hot summer.
Vow renewals are so en vogue these days that I began mulling the concept over, ultimately concluding that I’m not really in to it. My original vows seem to be holding up just fine. What I really deserve is a do-over on the actual marriage proposal…
I met my future/current/only husband, Jimmy, at my part-time job at Sizzler Family Steakhouse in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The year was 1980. What started out as any average day at a job waiting tables in the mall, turned out to be life-changing. My friend, a flaky blonde named Kirsten, came bouncing (and I do mean bouncing) up to me during our shift and said, “There’s a new guy on ‘Hot Side’ walk by casually and look at him, but don’t be obvious – come back and tell me if you think he’s cute.” (Kirsten was one of those girls that was only interested in dating guys that other females found attractive. You know the type.)
Perhaps feeling safe because I had a steady boyfriend, or perhaps my looming unforeseen destiny emboldened me – I looked the boy square in the eye, paused for dramatic effect, and said, “Yes, he’s super good-looking!” She squealed in mock despair. I’d like to say something prophetic like, “The rest is history…” But it really wasn’t like that at all. There was a long and winding road to the alter. (The long and winding road you’ve heard tell of.) My future/current/only husband proceeded to date every girl who worked in that restaurant, starting with Her Bounciness, before he ever took a notion to ask me out. I try to tell myself it was because I already had a boyfriend, but I guess it’s moot now.
I spent a good portion of the following year intermittently providing complimentary counseling services to all of the discouraged and downtrodden girls who tried their luck at dating him. I took notes along the way and by the time my golden opportunity arrived, I had garnered plenty of wisdom and insight to draw upon. Add to that a splash of gumption and a dash of intestinal fortitude and the rest truly was history.
Jimmy’s “timing” proved providential in that he asked me out on a night I just happened to be mad at my current boyfriend. We had our first date, if you could call it that, on a rainy Friday night in July of 1981. Michael Jackson was performing his “Thriller” tour downtown at the Centroplex. Jimmy and I were probably the only two teenagers in Baton Rouge without tickets to that concert. Instead, we bought a bottle of Andre Cold Duck at 7-11 and drove out to the lakes at LSU to talk a little and make-out a lot*.
He maintains to this very day that he didn’t even realize we were “boyfriend and girlfriend” for at least another 6-9 months. We didn’t have Facebook statuses back then, so it was admittedly hard to know. Nonetheless, it still hurts my feelings, because I broke up with my boyfriend the very next day and married Jimmy in my heart.
Two years later, when we were both 20, we were strolling casually through the same mall where we met. I can’t remember what we were there to buy originally, but when we walked by a jewelry counter filled with diamond engagement rings, Jimmy stopped walking, jerked his impeccably feathered head over in the direction of the jewelry case and said, “You want one of those?” Understandably overcome by the romance and sheer epic-ness of the moment, my memory is somewhat hazy, but I know I set a world record in diamond selection. We were officially engaged within 3 minutes.
The beautiful, oh-so-poignant moral of this story is that the quality of the proposal does not define nor determine the substance and enduring nature of the commitment.
But still, given the length of this marriage, the least he could’ve done was gotten down on one knee. I’m clearly within my rights to insist upon a “re-do,” but since I barely survived his last knee surgery, we place quite a premium on our joints these days. So I’ve graciously decided to let it go.
Today’s modern marriage is challenging enough without the added stress of a complete and total clash in musical tastes, and yet that’s exactly what Jimmy and I have managed to endure in our union for over 32 years.
Jimmy is and has been a Die Hard Rock Fan since long before I met him. He thrills to the musical stylings of AC/DC, Ted Nugent and Judas Priest, just to name a few. He favors music that is banned on entire continents and revered by devil worshippers the world over. Music that has hurt my feelings and assaulted my soul for years. I gravitate to more serene sounds – The Barry Essentials of Music – Barry White, Barry Gibb and Barry Manilow.
Given this inhospitable musical climate, I think my initial reaction was quite understandable when Jimmy emailed me the other day to inform me he had purchased Barry Manilow tickets for my birthday. I was instantly touched, immediately ecstatic and entirely suspicious. It was one thing for him to purchase the tickets incognito online, but quite another for him to suggest he accompany me to the concert, where he risked being seen by any other live human being.
Not wanting to seem ungrateful, I thanked him sincerely for the tickets, but added that if I caught so much as a whiff of him mocking me or Mr. Manilow during the concert, I would uber myself home, so fervent was my devotion to Barry, the soundtrack of my youth, and, if you want to get right down to it, the entire decade of the 70s.
Before we left that night, as I gussied up for the event, Jimmy informed me that, contrary to whatever lies I tell myself, I don’t “own the 70s.” He, too, was raised during that decade, was weaned on Manilow and knew EVERY word to EVERY song.
To prove his point and perhaps to set the overall mood of the evening, he chose to demonstrate this fact as we drove down the interstate, headed for the concert.
Jimmy: (at the top of his lungs)
“Now it’s a disco, but not for Copa!”
Me: “It’s – Now it’s a disco, but not for LOLA! Copa is the name of the club…”
Every married person in the world knows that it’s a slippery slope and a double-edged sword to correct your spouse when they sing the lyrics to a song incorrectly. On the one hand – your spouse is singing… they’re happy and that’s a good thing, right? On the other hand, it’s super irritating when they’re butchering YOUR music. Other than an occasional reference to knocking others out with american thighs, you don’t hear me going around trilling AC/DC. So, what was I supposed to do? Correct him or just let it go?
Jimmy: (even louder – really going for it now)
“But that was 20 years ago when they used to have a show!”
It was 30 years ago. They used to have a show 30 years ago. And that was 40 years ago, so it’s actually been 70 years now. He’s off by almost 3/4 of a century. And – Copacabana isn’t even one of my favorite Barry Manilow songs. I have to stop him before he gets to “Mandy.”
Me: “I thought you said you knew all the words?”
Jimmy: “I do! But I like to sing the songs exactly the way I sang them when I was a little kid!”
I reached over and discreetly turned on the radio.
I was starting to get an inkling that he wasn’t taking this concert seriously; not according it the proper reverence. But, still, we did have dinner reservations before the concert and we do get more tolerable and tolerant after our blood sugar is leveled out, so I soldiered on.
After dinner, we walked across the street to the arena, found our seats right up front, popped our glow sticks and waited for Barry. When he took the stage, I took to my feet and that’s right where I stayed for the next 2 hours, without taking a single solitary break. I don’t know why Barry Manilow even pays back-up singers. I helped him sing every song, while tears of the purest form of unadulterated, post-adolescent, peri-menopausal joy streamed down my face.
I do feel a little sorry for the gentleman seated to my right, who probably thought he was purchasing expensive tickets right up front to actually hear Barry Manilow sing, SOLO, without the assistance of some random redhead over-dubbing the songs. But, I do not feel sorry for the gentleman seated to my left, who gazed up indulgently, lovingly and adoringly at me throughout the evening…
…a man so inspired by love for his woman, that he continued to belt out the full catalog of hits as we drove home. That’s when the righting was on the wall. I knew that, at least in this relationship, I did actually own the 70s.
I right the wrongs, I right the wrongs. It’s MY music, and I right the wrongs.
“Do we own a net?”
“Yes! A Net!”
“No, but put it on the list and I’ll be sure and pick one up next time I’m at Walmart,” I said dismissively, with my characteristic lack of urgency, (most pronounced in all matters of household maintenance, of which I’ve grown decidedly weary and largely unmotivated.)
“Get out, of the tub! I need your help! We have birds in the house!”
I wasn’t sure at first that I heard him correctly. We have had NERDS in the house. We have, on occasion, even had TURDS in the house, but I think he just said we have BIRDS in the house. Which, I supposed, would explain why he’s asking for a net. Sometimes, I just need a minute to process things.
And, then I really put it all together – I realized that we had literally jinxed ourselves with a conversation we had earlier today…
Jimmy and I had Emilie and Mollie in our early 20s. At the time that we had these little girls, we were friends with several couples, approximately the same age as us, that also had two children. The difference being, these couples stopped reproducing themselves after two children. About 6 years after we had our first two, we caught what is often referred to as a “second wind” and had 3 more children. Suffice it to say, our second wind blew harder and more powerful than our first wind. The irony, however, is that many of our closest friends are now, “Empty Nesters,” while we are still deep in the throes of childrearing.
We see these Empty Nesters everywhere. We can not seem to escape them. They mock us on social media with their newfound freedom. Still young, beautiful and full-of-spunk, they frolic about, flaunting their utter lack of responsibility. They wander about Europe, attend wine tastings in Napa and dine in hoity-toity restaurants. We can’t verify this, but we are pretty convinced, with all that privacy, they make love right smack in the middle of the day, while they still have the energy…
Jimmy and I were sharing our morning coffee today, wistfully gazing at pictures of our college friends, Mike and Kay, prancing all over Facebook. There were pictures of them smiling merrily in a Gondola in Venice (clearly laughing at us) and shooting Limoncello in Rome (probably toasting their Reproductive Wisdom and Foresight.) Naturally, our conversation turned to wondering if we, too, might one day become actual “ENs.”
And, that’s when I’m pretty sure we jinxed ourselves. Instead of getting birds out of our nest, we actually let a few more in today!
Back to the bird situation: In the absence of a household net, Jimmy asked me to grab two towels. I was further instructed to hold one towel up vertically, “Like a Bullfighter in Spain!” I made an on-the-spot decision that this might not be the ideal time to mention to my Beloved that I’ve never seen a Bullfight, never been to Spain, and at the rate we are going, probably never will. (This is also probably not the time to bring this up, but Mike and Kay went last year…They invited us to join them, but we had a basketball tournament.)
Jimmy then impressed me with his proficient use of Towel #2. He tossed it over the first bird and released her tenderly into The Great Outdoors. The remaining bird, he pointed out, was the male. “This is going to be trickier,” Jimmy explained, as if he were a card-carrying member of The Audubon Society, adding that, “The male bird’s lack of focus and direction is probably what got them into this situation to begin with!” (It seriously took this man a full 32 years to admit the obvious?)
We had quite a battle on our hands with that male. Eventually, Jimmy managed to capture him and carried him flapping like crazy to our backdoor. Trying to be of assistance, I said frantically, “I’ll crack open the door, you thrust him high up in the air, with some force, and then when he starts flapping, jump back in the house and we’ll slam the door quickly behind you, before he has a chance to change his mind!”
It was infinitely harder to rid our home of the male-of-the-species, which we sincerely hoped wasn’t some kind of FORESHADOWING of our future…That little guy dug in and resisted his own emancipation. But, no matter! We now feel confident that we have a pretty merciless exit strategy planned for when the time comes to show James and Tommy the door.
It’s immensely flattering when people are impressed with me, so I never hesitate to share my cache of SKILLS, TIPS and HOW-TO’s with my friends and admirers.
“You just toast some pumpkin seeds on a low heat…”
“Just sit your kid down and tell him…”
“Just point your glue gun right at your husband and say…”
So, yesterday, when several friends asked me, incredulously, how I managed to crash BOTH of my cars on the same day, I was as eager as ever to explain…
“It was a cinch! You just jump in the first car, throw it into reverse, and barrel out of the garage like a bat flying out of Hell!”
To ensure absolute success, you’ll want to check to make sure the second car is perfectly aligned behind the first car. Although I skipped this step yesterday, the second car was indeed back there, and the entire incident went off without a hitch.
It’s certainly an added bonus if your husband is wheeling the trash cans out to the street at the exact moment this unfolds, so he can see it with his own eyes. While all my girlfriends nod their heads in complete understanding, it proves much too difficult to explain something like this to a man. It’s more instructive if he’s actually able to witness it in motion. (Allegedly, I performed this exact same maneuver years ago in Phoenix; Jimmy wasn’t present at the time, and claims the logistics of it baffled him for years.)
Since he was standing right there and didn’t need to ask me HOW I did this, he went with,
Jimmy – “Why?”
Jimmy – “Why?”
Jimmy – “Why?”
It’s just so like him to complicate things with a difficult 4-part series of questions…
Leslie-“I can’t tell you Why…”
My cell phone rang, just as You-Blow-It-We-Tow-It Wrecker Service was pulling off with my car (which I managed to hit with enough velocity so as to render it un-driveable). It was the Body Shop calling to inform me that they were looking at the work order and “There must be some mistake.” It seems there are two cars coming to them from the same owner, same address. Bev, at Collision Decision (“We Fix Your Bad Choices”) wanted to inform me that they’ve “Never had this happen before.” That’s absurd and caused me to seriously question the credibility of this particular body shop. I know for a fact that people are out there hitting their own cars in their own driveways left and right. I’ve personally done it twice in a single lifetime, and 2 out of 3 of my daughters have done it once each.
As with everything in our marriage, I see the Donut and Jimmy sees the hole. While he continues to cite reasons that this episode was ill-timed, I keep reminding him that it was actually well-timed. He was complaining just the other day that all the wedding paraphernalia and DIY was “cluttering the garage, making it hard to get the cars in and out!” Now – one car is gone for a few weeks- Presto! Problem Solved!! Also, I’m pretty sure this qualifies as a legitimate wedding expense. I plan to bury this invoice right into the wedding budget, where I can assure you it won’t even make a dent…
Most of you know that Jimmy and I are Catholic. It’s wonderfully convenient to share my life with someone who shares the faith in which I was raised. I’d love to say, that at the tender age of 21, marrying a Catholic was high on my list of priorities, but that would be a lie. I’m not sure exactly what qualities I thought the ideal mate required, but hair that “feathered” perfectly, and above-average intelligence must’ve been #s 1 and 2. I don’t remember any other requirements, but surely there were some…The good news is that, I went to high school and college in Baton Rouge Louisiana, (French Canadian Country), where you couldn’t throw a rock and not hit a Catholic, so that part worked out without a sliver of wisdom on my part.
After we were married, we were transferred around in an area that is commonly referred to as The Bible Belt. When we moved to Oklahoma, (arguably the very buckle of said belt) I wanted to socialize with my neighbors – “The Protestants”.
Now – “The Protestants” all supplemented their Sunday morning Sabbath obligations with something called Weekly Bible Study. I was confused as to why anyone would voluntarily pursue church-related activities on a weekday, but all my new friends attended, they served Coffee, Banana Bread and they offered a Nursery. They had me at “refreshments” and “child-care”.
One of the very first Bible Studies I enrolled in, was a study on Marriage. At this point, Jimmy and I had been married about 7 years. We were groovin along pretty well, yet, this was the very first time I had ever been exposed to some of the basic biblical principles, of all Christian faiths, regarding marriage. As an Old-School Cradle Catholic, Jimmy was somewhat dubious about, what he referred to as, “the whole bible study thing,” but, when I began to share with him what I was learning, he couldn’t jump aboard fast enough! They had Jimmy at “Submission”…
My, how he supported this new chapter in my spiritual development! His personal favorite, was when I studied The Proverbs 31 Woman. Proverbs 31 is the part of Scripture that describes the PERFECT WOMAN in the Eyes of God (and also Jimmy) If you haven’t had a chance to do a bible study on Proverbs 31, at least peruse this chapter, on your own, for inspiration. This woman is nothing short of amazing. She is described as, “working vigorously” to “feed and clothe her family and servants.” She is “respected at the city gates” and her “lamp does not go out at night”. Her “worth is greater than rubies and pearls” and she, “does her husband good all the days of his life!”
Who wouldn’t love this woman? According to The Word, she “eats not of the bread of idleness.” (Banana Bread = okay) She is awake weaving cloth, long after her servants, husband and kids are fast asleep, and then awakens before the entire household at dawn. She is organized, industrious and capable; definitely setting the bar high for the rest of us gals. If you couldn’t actually BE this woman, it would be great to at least be her next-door neighbor…
As it so happened, the very period of my life that I was learning about these biblical principles, coincided with the years that I was home with my first two small children. This is when another thought simultaneously started creeping across the horizon of my awareness. I started to observe that, from pregnancy, all the way through the late toddler years, Mothers seemed to receive a “Get Out Of Jail Free Card” on just about everything!! I remember the phrase, “bless your heart” was directed towards me on a daily basis during those years. And I kinda liked it! It was as though people simply expected me to be overwhelmed, tardy, disheveled and disorganized. It was as though the bar was so low, I could trip on it. I started to conclude, that, while I had been habitually screwing-up any manner of things my entire life, people were suddenly indulgent and sympathetic, because they assumed small children had derailed my better efforts.
That’s when a plan started to emerge – It was imperative that I prolong this undeserved mercy for as long as humanly possible; I needed to drag out the baby/toddler years.
And – the only way I could imagine to do this, was to keep having children! It’s probably time to admit, that somewhere deep, deep, deep in my subconscious, having 3 more children, actually seemed less daunting to me, than striving to be a better person.
It goes without saying that, after a while, my biological clock was destined to catch up with my plan, as my eggs and children got older. Lamentably, some of my kids have done really grown-up, self-sufficient things – like sleeping through the night, driving cars and going to college, making it harder and harder to get a hall pass these days. It’s time to emulate the Proverbs 31 woman.
As the dutiful spouse, Jimmy certainly does his part to help and encourage my personal evolvement, by constantly pointing out that I could play less tennis, do more laundry, make dinner more often and concentrate more effort into doing him well all the days of his life. The only problem, is that, with the exception of the part where she weaves cloth for her husband’s clothing (he doesn’t seem keen on me doing that), Jimmy favors a pretty literal interpretation of this particular scripture – while my feeling, is that this scripture was written over 2000 years ago and is meant as more of a “General Guideline,” for today’s modern wives and mothers.
With that said, however, I might be persuaded to meet Jimmy half-way to a more literal interpretation, were he to agree to provide me with the SERVANTS that are mentioned in this Proverb.
I’m just now realizing that lack of servants has, more than likely, been my problem all these years..I really could have amazed and astonished, if only I’d had even a couple of servants.
Bless My Heart!