The Longer I’m Married, The Dumber I Get.
We were riding the train back from Denver.
Storm clouds were rolling in fast, and every so often a bright streak of lightning left me wondering if inside a metal box with metal wheels on metal tracks was the safest place to be sitting.
My mom fretted over the fact that we’d left Lexie outside, while Ed reassured her that the huge porch roof and open sun room left plenty of places for the small pup to take shelter.
Get there get there get there, I thought.
Justin squeezed my leg.
Outside, the rail yards looked gloomy and foreboding. Like the set of a scary movie. I heard warning bells and saw an intersection quickly approaching — protective red-and-white striped arms lowering to block passage. My heart raced as we didn’t slow down — we’re going to zoom right through!
We are the train.
Of course we wouldn’t stop for the train warning.
I laughed out loud, and the other three looked at me quizzically.
“It’s nothing –” I stammered. “I just panicked for a second when I thought we weren’t stopping for the train.”
“But then I realized… you know… that we’re on the train.”
I heard the lady who’d been sitting with her husband and young child across the aisle snicker.
They laughed. Banter ensued. Somehow, as seems to be usual for conversations with my mother these days, the talk turned to kids. When are you having some? I want to be a grandmother. You’re not getting any younger, you know.
Yes. I know.
“I just don’t know if I can handle it! Especially while Justin’s in the military. Having kids takes work. And brains. And I’m sorry, but it just seems like the longer I’m married, the dumber I get.”
“It’s true!” I said. “I don’t need to think as much, now that I’m married. Stuff just gets done. Why would I want to screw all that up with a kid?”
The woman across the aisle actually gave me a knowing nod and a wink.
And yes, while the whole idea seems ludicrous to say out loud, there’s some merit here.
You see, it has been over 85 hours since Justin has vacated the premises, and already I’ve had to get my man on no less than 3 times.
No, that’s not as inappropriate as it sounds.
What I mean is that I’ve had to do tasks that are deemed “man territory” in most heterosexual relationships — tasks that men (and single and/or apparently more self-sufficient women) manage to handle with the ease that comes with long-term established expertise but that I, through some glitchy wire that has progressively made me less self-sufficient since the moment I said, “I do,” never bothered to learn.
Take, for example, the vacuum cleaner.
While the task of vacuuming has usually befallen to me via some unspoken marital code, (the same code that keeps Justin up to his elbows in soggy gutter leaves, moldy refrigerator leftovers, and drain hair goo), Justin is usually the one who cleans the vacuum itself. Dog dander, carpet fuzz, and dead skin cells just aren’t my thang, so I never bothered with it.
That is, after all, why we get married, isn’t it?
So we can legally bind ourselves to someone who will do the tasks we like the least?
Okay, and maybe for love and commitment and stanky morning breath and all that jazz too.
But an unspoken bonus is the division of labor. And while a couple may never actually sit down to discuss how said labor gets divided, it is my understanding that the roles generally evolve over time. Which is how I’ve become the vacuumer, but Justin is the vacuumer of the vacuum.
So when I set about my task of vacuuming yesterday, I reached an impasse upon completion. I could, as usual, put the vacuum back in the closet where it magically gets emptied and cleaned before its next use, or I could clean it myself. I was pretty sure the more desirable of the 2 options — the one where I do no work at all — wouldn’t be effective this time since the vacuum fairy is currently wielding military camouflage in some far off land, so I was stuck with Option 2. Figure it out myself.
I emptied the bin with no trouble at all (I already knew how to do that — I just didn’t have to do that since it fell on the other side of the Division of Labor line). But then I noticed an unhealthy buildup of lint and who-knows-what-else around this grid suction thingie inside the bin.
And I couldn’t get to it.
So I tried this latch thing, and that didn’t work.
Then I tried this other latch thing, and that didn’t work.
Then I tried a combination of latch things and, you guessed it, I still could not penetrate the plastic force field of frustration.
I thought about pulling out the screwdriver set or just banging it on the ground, but then I remembered how well that solution didn’t work out when I used it on my printer, so I dusted off the one tool I haven’t had to use in the past 6 years — the reason I’ve gotten progressively dumber since my nuptials — which is the other half of my noggin.
And a bottle of beer. (I may or may not have had to use a jar-opening tool to unscrew the cap.)
And all of the modern-day research tools I have at my disposal to solve a problem.
And there was my solution. It was painfully simple. I should have felt incredibly stupid. But I didn’t. Instead, I felt a bit of that swelling pride that comes when you figure something out on your own. When you get your hands dirty. When you can’t just call for the vacuum fairy to come do it for you.
I will be the first to admit that marriage, in a way, has made me lazy. It’s made it far too easy for me to whine for help when I can’t figure something out in less than 12 seconds. Which, it turns out, is an excellent way to regress.
And that’s not really what this whole living thing is all about.
It’s easy to become dependent on another person — especially when you happen to live with that person, and especially when you happen to sleep with that person. And, while it’s always nice to have a crutch on-hand if you really need one, isn’t it better to strengthen your legs and learn how to walk on your own?
In the clarity that comes when calling your significant other is no longer an option — that, aside from helpful friends and neighbors who love you but not enough to come over and remove the spider from your bathroom at 3 a.m. — I’m learning that eliminating the need in a relationship does not eliminate romance. In fact, clearing away all that mucky dependency leaves room for something much more interesting — true intimacy. Encouragement. Maybe even admiration.
Maybe you’re the type who already does everything on your own, and now you have a headache from rolling your eyes throughout the duration of reading this post.
But maybe you’re not.
Maybe you’re like me. You have a short attention span. You ask for help before even thinking about whether the task at hand is something you can achieve on your own.
If so, I want you to try something. Try not asking for help. At least not until you really need it.
It’s a little scary.
It’s a lot frustrating.
But, in the end, it’s how we grow.