At some point last year I divided us into two camps. You who were hitting the adult milestones, and me, the developmentally delayed. You with the fun, noteworthy life events to celebrate; me with the conversation-ending responses to small talk.
I went to the bridal showers, the bachelorette parties and invested my time and energy into your marriage because I’m invested in you. I did a lot of things that I didn’t particularly enjoy because I knew they meant a lot to you. I didn’t love the Boomerangs and the novelty pool floaties. I still kind of resent you for getting that brand new KitchenAid when you don’t even like to cook. And while I bought you lingerie that you would wear while having sex with your husband, and cooked the two of you meals in an effort to get to know him better, I’m still not sure he would know how to start a conversation if you were ever gone and it was just him and I in a room together.
Meanwhile, I spent afternoons walking through eucalyptus groves and rocky coastline and no one knew where I was. I came home and masturbated in underwear I bought for myself. I went on road trips and talked to strangers, reveling in the anonymity. I was given a family of friends and spent birthdays and holidays at long tables with people in all different seasons of life. I cut bangs and finally grew out my baby hairs and can do a headstand thanks to having a lot of time to commit to my yoga practice but I can’t exactly tell people that during cocktail hour at your wedding when they ask “What’s new?”
So, I’m sorry for envying you for your answer to that question. I want to reach across the aisle and unite with you, married friends, but more than that I don’t want there to be an aisle. And in order for that to happen I need to stop viewing you as the favored one and myself as the victim.
But you also need to stop perpetuating the lie that you are living a beautiful, conflict-free life and that your only needs and interests pertain to your marriage or your spouse. You don’t have to compulsively check the boxes: joining the married couples Bible studies, over-schedule your time and people that newly married life is so great when you just left your hometown, your job, your friends and everything you know to start a life with your husband. It’s okay to say that it’s been hard.
Friends, I want to get to know your husband separately from you and ask him how he’s doing (even if it’s awkward at first). If you have kids I want to know them, and I want to hear about your triumphs and your failures as an individual. I recognize that you want to celebrate maintaining your mental and emotional health as well as your anniversaries. Let’s talk about setting boundaries with our families. Let’s talk about loving our neighbors and falling in and out of love with the church.
I’m sorry for creating these categories. I’m sorry for my bitterness, because women, we really need each other. In a time when violence towards us is a tool used by men to maintain positions of power, we need each other. When we must put up physical and emotional defenses just to move about our day safely, we need each other. Many of us grew up watching the dream of the suburb fail our parents. It turned our fathers into workaholics, alcoholics, or otherwise. It isolated our mothers and cast the full burden of relational fulfillment on the nuclear family. Now we have an opportunity to do the same or to create a new model for family and community life, one in which we are interconnected and interdependent. I’m not asking you to go full-scale April and Andy from “Parks and Recreation” where you eat off of frisbees for fear of becoming a boring adult, but I would love to still have a seat at your table and want you to have a seat at mine.
So let me try again.
Let’s demand better for ourselves and for everyone else. Let’s ask better questions and do justice to the ups and downs of our stories. Let’s look one another in the eyes and follow up about that thing we mentioned the last time we saw one another. Let’s not just comment on our appearances or our Instagram posts. Next Thanksgiving, when Aunt Judy asks why I’m still single or your Uncle Bill asks when you’re going to start popping out babies, let’s not be afraid to be assertive and speak to the richness of being exactly where we are.
Life is turning out to be long . It moves in seasons. For those who are in a season of harvest, it is a privilege to celebrate with you. And though my current season is one of labor, I trust that I will sow fruit in time. Until then, let’s be honest about our feelings and our experiences. Let’s tell better stories and steward each others’ stories well.