Sunday, June 19, 2005

Being Someone's Wife

I was not particularly good at being someone's wife. As I told a friend recently, given the opportunity to be Batman or Robin -- I'd be Batman every time. Not keen on being someone's sidekick.

As for being someone's wife, I don't know why it turned out the way it did. I guess I don't mind the idea of being married to a partner ... but within a few minutes, days, weeks, months, there is this burden of expectation of what "someone's wife" does and is and says and how they act that is very hard to dodge. It's like an oncoming car heading for you, bearing down on you, hard to avoid.

When I got married the first time, and had a child, I found I was becoming NOT me, but someone's wife and I didn't like it at all. I think my ex would have said too that he was becoming someone's husband. And he didn't like it either. Perhaps it's all about having kids, I'm not sure.

I still can't imagine his experience of being a husband was as difficult as mine of being a wife. What your wife does for you as a man and what your husband does for you as a woman, well, the two sets of expectations seem unequal. I felt like the "being someone's wife" part had much to do with helping the husband become himself and less to do with me becoming myself. Seemed the wife's needs and life and career were often as not a secondary consideration, especially once we had a son.

Do women do this to themselves? Do we yield to the majority rule of husband and kid? Do we give up on ourselves too willingly?

When I see marriages with kids, I rarely see the man compromising as much as the woman. It's like watching a free democratic nation (pair before kids) becoming a third-world nation under an unpredictable tyrant (pair after kids).

Oh, you say, WAIT! You disagree, you see lots of happy marriages where the man is pulling his weight at home in terms of laundry, cooking, childcare. Fine, sure, right. And don't give me the old argument that he does the big work of the world and earns all the money so it only makes sense that he shouldn't have to do any work at home. Talk about b.s. The day a fancy business lunch in an expensive suit with your esteemed colleagues is the SAME PSYCHOLOGICAL EXPERIENCE as cleaning up a poopy diaper and fixing a clogged toilet -- call me. In fact, don't call me, offer to switch places with your wife if it's the same. That's equality. Go for it.

I'm just not the kind of person who can wake up one morning and notice I've been losing track of who I am and what I want and it's okay. That didn't work well.

I expect I will get married again, but I don't think it will be the same as the first time. I won't go around using the word "wife" so casually for one thing. In fact, if I get married again, I don't plan to use the word "wife" at all. I can't stand the word.

I like the word "partner" despite the non-heterosexual overtones. Maybe gay marriage will teach us all a thing or two. It may be the best thing that ever happened to heterosexual marriage. It's a union based on some sense of equal partners. Radical.