What is essential? Laughter, love, and a husband who shops and cooks.
The essay by Amanda Lauren, "Staying Hot For My Husband Is ESSENTIAL To A Successful Marriage," just slapped me upside the head — probably because it's what marriage, in my mind and my reality, is NOT.
Today is my 23rd wedding anniversary and my husband I have been through so much in in that time. I married at 31; my husband was 29. My mother clasped her hands and said, "Finally!" when we told her and my father called up friends at the Knights of Columbus (where once upon a time he was Grand Poobah).
Between them, my parents planned the wedding in an hour.
On our day I remember the beauty and power of gathering all our people together, and I remember my spouse's tears when I walked down the aisle.
I also remember when his father stepped into the aisle I was walking down with my own dad and introduced himself to me in front of the 200 seated witnesses. He hogged my spotlight in some weird way for a minute.
Maybe I was to blame for that; after all, I had urged my husband to invite the dad from whom he'd long been estranged. But it worked out OK in the end because parents don't last forever and our relationship needed to start sometime, so why not mid-aisle?
That morning my mom had said something helpful: "No matter what happens today, if your flower girls scuff up your veil, take it with grace; if someone splashes red wine on your dress, take it with grace; if the lights go off, the food runs out..."
"OK, OK," I'd said. "I get it!" I responded.
Much later on, I realized those words were a good rule for life.
On our wedding day I was overwhelmed with waves of love and emotion and forgiveness. Having lived on a diet of irony for a long time, I didn't think this would happen to me: not marriage, necessarily, but the emotion that accompanied it. Later that night, my spouse carried me over the hotel room threshold.
I asked him recently if he remembered that.
"Huh," he said. "I don't."
"Probably because you don't remember me being light enough to lift," I said.
Marriage has delivered to us so much more than we expected — weight, sure, but age as well. It's delivered us lots of love but also plenty of heartache. It's delivered us two gorgeous, wonderful, feisty girls, and everything about them has made us grow in unexpected ways.
It's delivered us a lost pregnancy and deaths — of a parent here and grandparents there, and a brother in law, too — divorces of siblings, drug addictions in the next generation of children, surgeries and depressions, and the horrific pressure and pain of a brutal teen culture that nearly destroyed our daughters and us.
But overall, I'm so happy to be alive and fairly well. I would trade any bit of health I have for the wellness of my children and the other young people I love, though no one gets to choose.
One thing is certain: through all this time, and all of this marriage, I've rarely thought about hotness — as if that mattered, as if that were a thing.
Sure, I've been hard on myself superficially some days. (But come to think of it, I've never really been hard on my husband. Quite the double standard discrepancy right there, huh? The way I've judged myself?)
I acknowledge I was pretty damn attractive at one time, and much more attractive in retrospect, even though I'm still the hottest wife on the block. (But it's a really short block. And some of the residents are over 80. And none of the pretty young people living next door in that triple-decker are married yet.)
Tonight, for our anniversary dinner, my husband made us all ratatouille and — upon request — gluten-free calamari. He's a great cook. We sat down and I groaned: I had thrown out my back this morning when I bent to load a saucer into the dishwasher.
"I hope you know, hun," I said. "There will be no athletic anniversary sex tonight because of my back," which got a laugh from him. The kids, who are no longer kids, and one boyfriend, screamed protests, ate quickly, and pretty much ran from the room. So we had a bit of a private anniversary dinner after all.
Hell, if we didn't have laughter and conversation more than hotness, what would we have?
If staying hot for your husband is ESSENTIAL to a successful marriage, then clearly, you haven't been through much in marriage ... yet.