Vows not seen in the NYT

The only way to read the Sunday NYT is to dart right for the Sunday Styles section. Otherwise you are dead inside or you are illiterate, or possibly both. Maybe you take a quick scan of whether or not you know anyone in the “Vows” pages. (I never do.)(I was born in the Midwest.)(I think these parenthetical facts are related.) Maybe you snicker at the brazen journalist who capped off the profile on one couple-to-be-wed, “The groom’s previous two marriages ended in divorce.” What would the hashtag for that one be? #bestwishes #threesacharm

These little profiles are always so unapologetically namedroppy and vomitus. Yet they are also a rare celebration of union, against the wails of the thousands who have lost loved ones in the Phillippines this week, against the din of celebrity break-ups of the hour.

But what if they told the real story, gave us the real scoop. Here’s how ours would read:

Adverb and I

Kendra Stanton, the daughter of a redheaded mother and a silver-haired father, was married on Sunday to John Lee, the son of Mija and Jae. None of the parents have amassed great fortunes due to their Ivy league educations, though if filing taxes on time made one a rock star, these people would be a bunch of Mick Jaggers. In fairness, Kendra’s father is a lawyer but prefers to reference his glory days working the steampress at Schoolbells school uniform suppliers, when he was 18.

Ms. Stanton, 24, is a serial jobhopper who is not living up to her potential and is accruing credit card debt rapidly, probably because she keeps reinvesting her profits from her part-time retail job into her wardrobe since her full-time job working with at-risk youth is making her depressed about the state of humanity. It’s better than eating her feelings, because, hello, wedding dress fitting in two days! She graduated magna cum laude from a small liberal arts college on a hill that is highly obscure. She no longer remembers her major. Her parents are no longer married. They have never taken her to Europe. She doesn’t know it yet but she will not be taken off the waitlist at her top law school, so she won’t go after all.

Mr. Lee, 26, is an anomaly: a male, Canadian-born Korean social worker who likes fashion, frisbee and football and loves Jesus. He might actually be the only one. Like, on earth. He earned his MSW from a college that happens to be all-women for undergraduate, which was not as much of a problem as one would imagine. In his own undergraduate years, he was not the most stunning student. He did swim all four years and has the wristwatch to prove it. His parents own a dental lab, which is a useful thing for a variety of reasons, particularly for making free mouthguards for future daughters-in-law who develop TMJ for unknown reasons.

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Marriage is not hard.

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I must be a slow learner, because eight years have passed and I am just awakening to this truth: Marriage is not hard. Marriage, the equal yolking of two well-matched individuals for life, is not so difficult in principle and practice. You know what is difficult? Overcoming selfishness. Constantly squashing the urge to serve one’s own desires, to not eat the whole pint of Ben and Jerry’s, because, puhh, I want to. Marrying someone, and being married to someone is not the hard business. You say, I do, and then you say I do, I do, I do, over and over and over again, every day, until death do us part. But the hard part is not saying I do, also and simultaneously, to 401 other commitments that, in themselves, are not inherently wrong. However, the leading parent-teacher council and the working overtime, the agreeing to bake 3 dozen cupcakes for the party–they all steal energies and consume time and wring us out like dirty dishrags from the demands of married partnership. Marriage is not so hard. Marriage is not the enemy or the whipping girl. Marriage is good, it is so so good. Our selfish, guilt-filled, distracted parts are the ones that make marriage bad and hard and toxic and weak.

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I’ve also learned that marriage doesn’t need us to define it. And believe it or not, that’s not a political statement. Even though marriage is mired in politics, especially in this country, marriage has been doing just fine since God had the idea to pull Eve from Adam’s rib so that man would not be lonely, so that he would be in the good company of equal partnership. Marriage, as institutions go, is pretty strong. I can’t think of too many more that have been keeping on, by the same name, since their inception like marriage has. But it seems as though we’re spending a lot of our time trying to define the bounds of this marriage thing than actually living out our calling as married people.

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My role in marriage is to make mine strong, care for, and enjoy my marriage. If others ask how I feel about cohabitation before marriage, or culture clashes in marriage, oh sure. I can tell them. Truth be told, though, on any given day, I find the maintenance of my own marriage is an immense task. To see marriage as anything but hard is hard for me. Is anything worth defending that I am not already treasuring? My desire is to be good to my marriage, but the temptation is forever to be good only to myself. I can barely fathom having enough time to judge the adequacy of others’ marriages. I cannot spare the energy that defining someone else’s marriage requires when I should be busy about finding God in my own little marriage pond and keeping the distractions at bay. Marriage does not need me to define it. Marriage needs me to be in it, 100%, and eight years have taught me that task alone requires my 100% dedication.

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Eight years has also taught me that marriage is not long enough. Supposedly Loverpants and I have surpassed the “seven year itch.” Last week I told the mister that this last year has taught me the most about my husband. That’s seven years after we walked down the aisle and THIRTEEN years after we first became cookies n’ milk. This past year we have faced foreclosure, bankruptcy, the traumatic loss of an animal, major family crises, cancer in our family, and we have grown closer and become stronger through these trials. Seven years is considered a symbolically long time in the Bible. Yet it feels like a drop in the bucket to me! Matthew 22 says we will not be married to one another in Heaven, but to Christ. In this way, marriage is for eternity, but from my flawed human view, I don’t want to imagine living without my husband. I know that marriage is intended to be a foretaste of God’s total devotion and unconditional love for us. I feel as though I fall so short of that kind of love for my husband. I basically fight the urge to tell him to figure out dinner every.single.day. Occasionally I will joke and tell Loverpants that I am doing such a great job preparing him for his second marriage. And in a way, I am right. We are all, you and I, preparing each other for Heaven. Married couples are preparing one another for the ultimate marriage. Maybe that’s why marriage right now feels so hard. And yet, so important.

marriage is not hard

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Happy 13 years together
Happy 7 years married
Happy 2 years as Southerners
Happy almost anniversary, Lovey Loverpants! <3

photo credits to Steven Mastroianni, the best.

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Patterns

While visiting with the Ohio women folk in my family last week, I observed some fascinating patterns.

My grandma, my mom, and I: married, age 24.

We are all firstborn daughters, whose firstborn children have all been daughters.

I learned that when my mom was preparing to get married, my granny renovated her kitchen. My grandpa said that the style of the kitchen made him feel as though he was living in a head of lettuce. My grandma told me this story three times last week.

What’s interesting is that my mom also redid her kitchen in prep for our wedding rehearsal dinner. It does not resemble a head of lettuce, but the color scheme does include green. Funny thing, that.

If this pattern continues, I will possibly own a home by the time my firstborn daughter gets married. I am in a rush for none of these events to materialize (owning a home, daughter getting married, or living in a head of lettuce), so…Good thing I am patient.

Gigi and her loveys

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Mum

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Me.

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I suppose I could try to probe the depths of this pattern of color and kitchen and marrying choices, and how so much of our decisions feel arbitrary, but are because of some seriously systemic hard-wiring from our DNA.

But all I really want to say is how great my granny and my mum look, along with their kitchens, and if I can get a face or a kitchen that looks half as good as theirs do when I am their respective ages, I’ll be doing okay.

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