This is Marriage.
About two years ago, I stepped into a small mound of cow shit. It’s a memory I just can’t shake, mostly because I was barefoot at the time. And wearing a really long white dress.
I stepped barefoot into a meadow muffin on my wedding day. That has to be good luck, right?
None of the magazines prepared me for that. They tell you to bring hairspray and lip gloss and bobby pins, but no one ever warns you that choosing an offbeat wedding location like a farm or a field might mean stepping into something other than rose petals on your special-special day.
My groom, ever the gentleman, sprinted to our reception tent and grabbed some wet paper towels from the bar area. I held up the hem of my dress as I waited, then he ran back, got down on one knee and gently but thoroughly removed the poo from between my toes.
I felt just like Cinderella.
We both became pretty violently sick on the second half of our honeymoon. He was headfirst in a bucket during an afternoon at sea, and I spent several days hacking up a lung after catching some historic plague from the most toxic airplane restroom in all of the Hawaiian islands.
My coughing fits were so constant and uncontrollable that they rendered me fairly useless. We tried to make the most of it, but one night I just had to stay in and cough my brains out. We put on a movie and ordered $10 popcorn from room service, then he spent about 45 minutes quietly combing the tangles out of my hair. It’s possible he doesn’t remember doing that, but I’ll never forget it. We stared down a dozen mind-numbingly beautiful sunsets on that trip, but that’s my favorite snapshot.
I remember having a conversation with another woman about movies once, and I was asked to choose the most romantic scene of all time. She had never seen the film I referenced—Babel--and when I described the scene to her, she looked at me like I didn’t understand her question. I think I actually grossed her out.
Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett are a married couple traveling in Morocco. She gets shot, and they’re lying together on the crumbling floor of a
concrete room in the middle of the desert. After several hours of holding it in, Cate says she really has to pee. I can’t remember exactly, but Brad holds a bowl or something between her legs. And while she lays on her side relieving herself, he holds her and kisses her softly. I don’t remember anything else from that movie, but the intimacy of that scene has always stayed with me.
Marriage is not exactly a glossy production. It’s what happens behind your locked door, in a space kept very separate from the rest of your everyday world. It’s taking your contacts out at the end of the day and switching into a pair of old scratched glasses. Marriage is 9 pm, in pajama pants, with ruddy skin and no mascara. It’s dirty socks inches from the hamper and sticky floors that neither of you is rushing to clean. Marriage is an accidental fart under the covers and having a really good laugh about it.
Marriage is trusting another person enough to let them see the best and the worst of you, and not really worrying about the latter discrediting the former. It’s an unrestrained mix of laughter and tears, often at the same time, or at least in the same afternoon. It’s being the person you are when no one else is watching, when you can fully embrace whatever mood you woke up in because your mercurial tides are so familiar that you both know how to avoid the swells.
Marriage is hearing bad news at the same time. It’s holding onto what matters and letting go of what doesn’t and being comfortable with occasionally running out of things to say. It’s making mistakes, and learning more about yourself on those days than on the ones when you did everything good and right. It’s making peace with the silly ways in which you are different, and finding more appreciation for the really important ways in which you are almost exactly the same.
It’s sometimes being so sick you can barely scrape yourself off the floor and knowing there is someone to run out and buy you saltine crackers. It’s feeling like hell and saying so, because there is no need to sugarcoat your feelings. Marriage is understanding that home is not a place but a person, that warm spot in the crook of an arm where you burrow yourself and think: “I belong here.” It’s you, stripped down to your pure, authentically flawed soul and inviting one person to witness what no one else has the privilege to see.
Love is bliss when the days are easy.
It is a balm when things get rough.
And it really, really comes in handy when shit hits the fan. Or your foot.