When I was twenty-three I wasn’t sure I wanted to get married.
I know, a lot of young women say they don’t want to get married; they don’t want to be tied down or put their careers on the back burner or be someone’s wife. But the difference between me and all those other young women is I was already engaged.
I mean, I loved Joe. I happily accepted the ring and called all my friends and squealed I’m engaged! and started buying up magazines with pictures of beaming brides on them, but every time I thought about actually being married for the rest of my life, I got a pit in my stomach.
I was confused. I was nervous. I was twenty-three. And from the vantage point of my two decades plus three years, till death do you part seemed excruciatingly long and far away.
I remember sitting on the bed in our first apartment one Saturday afternoon while Joe made tacos in the kitchen, trying to decide if this was cold feet or I was making a mistake. I thought if I could arrive at some sort answer in that moment, I would get up, walk into the kitchen and tell him I couldn’t do this, that I wasn’t ready, that marriage for the rest of our lives was too scary. I couldn’t really figure out the difference, so instead I got up, walked into the kitchen, and ate a taco with extra sour cream.
The whole thing was already set in motion, so I just went head and faked it. I went to David’s Bridal and picked out a dress for $250 and chose pale peach napkins for the reception and green gowns for the bridesmaids.
Because maybe I wasn’t sure I wanted to get married, but I was sure I wanted a wedding.
The first two years of our marriage were anything but fake. I faked nothing, from the loud screaming matches to the quiet standoffs that followed. It seemed like we fought over everything: how to budget our money and who should cook dinner and whether towels should be hung on a hook or folded over a bar. We fought about where to go for Christmas and what color to paint the bedroom and who took longer to get ready for work.We especially fought over who ate the last cookie.
But then I learned how to fake stuff. And things got better.
I’m not talking about, you know, faking it. Because although Joe is very generous and lets me share just about anything I want on this blog, he has drawn the line at sex. Sex is off-limits. It is a line in the sand, if you will. And because I respect boundaries, I will not discuss it. Besides, I have to leave something to write about in my next book.
But I will say this: I think faking it can be a bad idea.
But there are all sorts of things I do fake. Take Joe’s RV idea, for example. Every once in a while he’ll start raving about how our family should rent an RV and travel across the country, going on and on until his dialogue starts to resemble Charlie’s dream sequence; “And we could see the sun set over the Grand Canyon and there will be a flying dragon and purple cherries and…. uh…let’s see…Grand Canyon! And we’ll drive!”
Fake Wife nods her head in agreement, “Yes! Canyons! Sunsets and shiny silver vests!” And then she suggests, “Why don’t you go check the mail? I hear Sofia Vergara is on the cover of this month’s Sports Illustrated and it’s probably here by now.”
And off he goes, running down the driveway as fast as his poor frayed sciatic nerve will allow.
(No, we do not have a subscription to Sports Illustrated. But the man spent a good ten minutes rifling through my Athleta catalogue trying to find his favorite Modern Family star. I know, Fake Wife is shameless.)
I faked wanting to move to New Hampshire. We were visiting Joe’s brother for Thanksgiving one year, and after an afternoon of feasting Joe suggested we take a ride and “See some of the cute towns in the area!” I agreed, mostly because I was tired of chasing three-year old Joey and two-year old Jack and one-year old Charlie away from the shrimp cocktail. Plus I was pregnant and figured I’d nap in the car.
We drove through one small town after another, past one horse farm after another. Joe ooohed and aaahed at the adorableness of it all, saying things like we could really build a life here and there’s a great dental practice I want to buy.
I wanted to tell him there was no way I was moving, that I loved Buffalo and the idea of both of us quitting our jobs and selling our house and buying another house and packing up all the little Thomas the Tank engines and snowsuits and cribs was more than mildly absurd, but Fake Wife stepped in and added her two cents, “Wow! Look at all those pretty farms! I could definitely picture us living here!”
Guess where I live now? In New Hampshire. Across from a horse farm. (This is a strong argument for why faking can be a bad idea.)
I fake not getting mad when Joe uses my expensive shampoo on his curly dark Pantene-would-work-just-fine hair.
I fake interest in bulk-food stores. What is it with men and the bulk food? And the bulk hair gel? And bulk diapers and CD’s and everything else under the sun? Personally, I don’t think things are meant to come in such quantities. Giant tubs of yellow Goldfish crackers gross me out, and I’d rather make a dozen trips a year to Walgreens for a new box of Tampons than look at a crate of them that can barely fit in my attic. It’s creepy. I could hit menopause before I use them all and that’s just beyond depressing.
But whenever Joe starts talking about joining BJ’s or Sam’s Club, Fake Wife wholeheartedly agrees. The savings! The convenience! When he walked in the door last summer and proudly plunked down a huge barrel of pickles, she smiled serenely and said, “Let’s plan some barbecues!”
But the pickles soured before we could eat them all, and after six pairs of hands fished around in the barrel, the juice was all cloudy so we had to throw the whole thing out. (That’s right. Six pairs of hands. You didn’t think I was touching those pickles, did you?)
I remember giggling to myself as I dumped out the pickles and rinsed the container in the sink, thinking how over the course of sixteen years, I’ve finally started to learn how to let some things go, how to fake it.
Maybe it’s not being fake exactly, but keeping every disagreement from turning into a war, even if towels really do look cuter hanging on a hook than taking up half the wall folded over a rod. It’s the give and take that we desperately needed as bickering newlyweds.
Because the wedding is a hazy memory; the dress from David’s Bridal packed and yellowing on a shelf in our basement and the pale peach napkins long forgotten, but this marriage is very real. It is full of surprise and disappointment and confusion and joy. And if my twenty-three year old self was right about anything, I was right about how long marriage is. I just didn’t realize that longevity was an advantage; that year by year Joe and I would understand each other more and more.
So I guess faking things isn’t always such a bad idea–in fact, it’s part of building a life together. Who knows, maybe someday I’ll actually fake myself all the way to a shiny sunset over the Grand Canyon.
But no way am I going in some RV. I’ll fly.