I’m convinced my husband hates me.
We talk about it late at night, me with my knees pulled into my chest, leaning against the pillows. He is there, sprawled across the foot of the bed on his stomach, his chin resting on his folded forearms.
I use my hands when I talk, wide and sweeping, and my fingers spread apart as I speak. “But you can’t, I know you can’t love me when I’m a mess like this.”
We wrestle it for two hours, no voices raised here, only passionate words flying to the top of the room with its high ceilings.
I tell him – the man who rocks the baby in the wee hours while I doze under my down comforter – that I don’t feel he understands.
I tell him – the man who wakes before dawn, making sandwiches for the elementary school lunches – that I don’t feel he appreciates it.
I tell him – the man who fills the checking account, pays the bills, keeps everything in order – that I don’t feel like he cares about everything I’m juggling each day.
It’s always tension, I wail (my hands are pulling apart, fingers interlocking in the air), between what I should be doing with my days, what he wants me to do, and what I actually seem able to accomplish.
He asks me then, just what is it? What is it I think he’s expecting?
So many things, too many to name. He wants me to be a coupon-er, a frugal goddess, the one who snags a deal and buys 50 rolls of toilet paper. A fitness guru, a runner, a health aficionado. Early to bed, early to rise, one who makes hot breakfast every morning and has supper on the table at 5:30 PM on the dot. Practical, minimalist, spartan. The furniture in my home squared to each corner, efficiency winning over style. Cargo capris from REI and no makeup on my face.
But I’m not a coupon-er, and I don’t exercise enough. I worship the night hours, I spend my late evenings writing and reading and knitting. I wear lace and mascara and skinny jeans. Dressers and chairs are set at angles in every room of my house.
I’m clearly the antithesis of everything he wants in a wife.
He laughs there at the end of the bed, propped on his elbows now. He rolls into a guffaw, his eyes wrinkled at each corner as he looks at my eyes. Then he crawls to my feet, sits himself upright.
“You realize you’ve just described me, right?
Who would want to marry himself?”
I’m forced to laugh a half sigh, and he tips his head toward mine, because this is the way we make it through this era we’ve dubbed “the messy years,” the way we sort out the unrealistic ideas about marriage I can’t seem to unravel.
He tells me, then, how he loves my scattered brain and head-in-the-clouds ways. He loves the way I play with words and my sporadic yoga and my endless ball of yarn. He tells me I’m beautiful without makeup and reminds me how he laughs and rolls his eyes when I put it on anyway. He loves me even though I keep him up late and groan when he wakes me early. He loves what it means that half of our furniture is set at an angle.
It dawns upon me, over and over like the cycle of each morning sun, that he hasn’t said or shown disdain for any of part of my being, the soul-depths or the no-longer-17 outer shell.
Perhaps the only person not wanting me is… me?