I’m sitting in my (“our” he keeps reminding me) living room right now, with our “kids” (two dogs, two cats, nice and round) sleeping all around me. The first Christmas tree I’ve had in over a decade, complete with those favorite ornaments from my childhood and a star topper I made myself, glows colorfully in the dim light of midnight.
There are numerous stockings hung out: the ones my great-grandmother made for me and my mom, and those I just scripted names on for him and the dogs and cats (okay, so I went a little overboard with the Xmas spirit crap).
He knows what kind of cream I like in my coffee; I know what kind of toothbrush to stock his cabinet with. My family adores him, and while my first visit to his home of Australia is still six months away, I already feel like his family is my own.
If this is the first blog entry of mine that you’ve read, this might all seem perfectly normal and mundane to you. But if you’ve read some of the others, mostly rants about the decline of monogamy and my own personal failures at such, you know what a surreal world I’m occupying at the moment.
A year ago I bought my own house, intending to create a lovely little haven for the three dozen cats I planned to adopt and will all of my worldly possessions to. A mere two weeks later I placed a personal ad with a friend, as a way to get out of the rut of hanging out with A) lesbians and B) chronically single or asexual women (I love you all, my dears, but I need a nice hairy chest and some rattling snores to cuddle up with at night).
After correcting some factual mistakes in his profile and not getting completely shot out of the water, I met him for coffee, which he doesn’t drink (long story). Discovered a mutual love of Malcolm Reynolds and John Crichton, and their associated crews, and it was all over at that point.
So how did I get here, a year later, with my stepmother repeatedly using the hated word “domestic” to refer to me? It’s like getting fat. It didn’t happen overnight. You don’t go to bed 150 pounds and wake up the next day at 750, unable to move. No, it happens gradually, in the immortal words of a very silly pastor who presided over a wedding we recently attended, “all the little tiny decisions finally adding up to a BIG one.”
A few months ago I picked up a book called The Legacy of Divorce, a 25-year study that followed and analyzed the lives of children from their parents’ divorce into their adult relationships. I read about a third of it before the stories and case studies were too much for me to handle, even the most extreme cases resonating with me so deeply that I slowly began to lose the emotional stability I have gained through years of hormone regulation. Why am I so reluctant to enter into marriage? Why am I so adamant I don’t want kids (completely aside from my medical issues)? It was striking to realize I hadn’t reached these attitudes on my own merit, as it were, but like most other children of divorce was shoved into them by age 9, when my folks split,. Even the most amicable divorces, as my parents’ was, lead to children who harbor fear of commitment, fear of abandonment, and who have no real idea of what a marriage should be.
So when this guy popped up, smart, funny, sexy (the kilt gets me every time), and free of the hang-ups that have haunted so many of my past relationships, my brain utterly dispersed. It didn’t melt, didn’t freeze up, just dispersed. I pick up teensy itsy bitsy pieces of it here and there. I flip out, and he just says “okay, let’s talk about that…” I spend an hour crying over crumbs on the countertops (thanks, Dad and Grandma, for the OCD), and he resolves to never leave a dirty kitchen – and keeps his word. He introduced me to all his friends right away, calls me just to say hello more often in one week than my exes ever did in our entire relationships. And slowly, I find my brain knitting back together, my emotional core shoring up all the sinkholes and tears I’ve been tossing a rug over all this time.
What else could I do? I scheduled a discussion meeting, drew up a “living together contract” (you laugh at my anal retentiveness, but I say fie on you), and moved in. Not without some difficulty (the twice a month housecleaners don’t quite keep up with him). But the glorious, wondrous, beautiful part of it is that when I go completely mad as pants, he doesn’t walk away, threaten to walk away, or so much as think about it.
What brings a steadfast singleton, independent “a duplex is the best living arrangement, me on one side, you on the other” type girl to this point? Where I am devising sickeningly romantic ways to propose to him, already conducting research on adopting kids, and making sure there are writer jobs in the areas he’s contemplating moving to for work or school? Is it hormones, like everyone said would kick in around the late 20s? Is it seeing my friends married off, paired off and actually breeding, and feeling that spinsterhood status crawl across my forehead?
Or is it just him? I feel safe with him. I sleep better next to him, even with the occasional drunken snores and the ever-present CPAP machine that keeps him breathing when he sleeps.
I often wonder if I have become a different person, and then I conclude rather rapidly that I really haven’t. I remember in high school, I ranted day and night about how stupid the end of the year formal dance was. And yet, when all my friends went together, and never once thought about including me in their plans because of all my acidic attitudes, I recall being hurt, devastated, and lonely. The person I project to almost everyone is hardly ever what I am. The things I say I want are usually the opposite, a pathetic attempt to cover insecurities I’m not willing to share. I’ve been reliving that self-fulfilling prophecy on a much larger scale in the past five years, focusing on people who were migrating through my life, setting up camp for a season or two then drifting out again to better weather.
Fundamentally, I’m the same person. I always hated those women who insisted I would instantly want babies as soon as I turned 27/met “The One.” Despite hitting the “baby landmark” and meeting a guy I plan to spend a great deal of the future with, I don’t care to bear, thank you very much. I still have no desire to grow another human being in my groin, and thankfully both my doctor and P have backed me up on my need to remain uterus-challenged.
As my mother always taught me, I can be single tomorrow with no financial or social repercussions. I am still focused on my goals, just finished two novel drafts that hopefully don’t suck as bad as I feel they do at this moment. I have a career, I have friends, I’m in a book club (for whatever that’s worth).
I haven’t lost sight of my beliefs, haven’t converted or hidden my minority views. I don’t believe in a god, and am not convinced by his or my mother’s theories on a higher being.
I haven’t become Holly Homemaker. I don’t clean, I hire people. I still can’t cook, and don’t care to. I haven’t set foot in a grocery store in six months – that’s his area.
We both have identities, we both have our juggernauts that often come head to head. Luckily, we’ve managed to form a neutral place in our relationship where it’s okay to be human, and still feel the same as we did on our first date. That dread in the pit of my stomach when I’m unhappy about something and know I have to share, that gagging feeling I always got when someone uttered the words “we need to talk,” those are gone. I can stomp around and yell and cry out my feelings, and know that in the end we’ll find a way to get through or around it, and we’ll both still be there in the morning.
Instead of thinking “this is fun for now,” I have the luxury of thinking “this is home for as long as we can keep it together,” and hoping that that is quite a while. Do I still have those fears? Yes. Do I still worry that one day I will come home to find his drawers cleaned out? In a small way. Am I scared pantsless at the thought of marriage, of children, of moving to a different country? Heck yes.
But I’ve been searching for a home for so long now, for a place to belong, for a place where my multitude of neuroses, idiosyncrasies, and faults in general can be out in the open and just absolutely not a big deal. It’s a trade off: he has to deal with the mood swings and bearish mornings, and I have to deal with the hour-long wait every time he goes to the bathroom.
As to how I got here, P would be very glad to hear me say it was through a lot of little decisions that led to this BIG day. As for where I’m going…I hear Australia is nice this time of year.