I'm a brand-spanking newlywed whose single biggest fear about marriage was the word wife.
For me, it conjures up centuries of well-worn stereotypes: Women in bonnets bent over hot stoves, and '60s Stepford-types handing over martinis with tight smiles -- nothing resembling the thoroughly-2010 relationship I have with the guy I love.
I said "I do" to him because he's irreverent but responsible, scary-smart but socially graceful, and the person who never fails to make me guffaw. In fact, one fateful day after a bad breakup, before we were even an us, I said to him, "Adam, what if I die alone
"Don't worry," replied my future husband with a grin, "There are lots of nice people in the old folks home."
So, while I was Teflon-sure about my decision to marry him, it was society's expectations of what that meant that tied me up in knots. My fears worsened this Christmas, when after three months of marital bliss, I received no fewer than three aprons as gifts. To be fair, these weren't exactly Betty Crocker throwbacks: One was sequined and from Anthropologie, but ... still.
I started to wonder if Adam and I would be forced to submit – and by that I mean, retrofit our model of marriage into neat family-values molds. Just by virtue of having said "I do," would we slowly devolve into ... She who cleans and cooks, and He who brings home the bacon, then retreats wordlessly to his La-Z-Boy?
As it turns out, I wasn't the only one obsessing over what it meant to be a "husband" or a "wife" these days: In "Committed," Liz Gilbert's follow-up to her memoir read round the world, "Eat, Pray, Love," she devotes no less than 285 pages to exploring the labels -- and what lies within.
Finally, she concludes: "My sister and I have something we call the 'wifeless' marriage -- which is to say that nobody in our household will play or play exclusively, the role of the wife
While we're at it, I propose we do away with "husband," too. In fact, I'd argue that, for all of my wifely qualities (I can obsess over throw pillows with the best of them), I have an inner husband who tends to drive at least double the legal speed limit and leave socks on the floor, while my actual husband -- tall, handsome, manly-guy that he is -- has an inner wife who lives to make sure we both have clean underwear.
Call us Wusband and Hife?
These labels, at least, allow for a little overlap: A division of labor based on what we're each best at, not just what's assigned us by virtue of chromosome.
Of course, in some ways, we resemble happy "normal" newlyweds: I like to cook. For him.
My husband, on the other hand, is very able
to cook -- but usually he'll start the pasta sauce along with a line of questioning like: Do I add water? Should I put it in the microwave? If I add garlic, do I chop it first? Most nights I wind up manning the pan, while he happily goes back to Guitar Hero.
In the age of the metrosexual, I still wear the makeup in our relationship
, and I'm proud that I crawl into bed every night next to a man who doesn't believe in moisturizer. In fact, he's so cowed by the category of Things Women Buy To Soften Their Skin, he refers to my arsenal only as "lipids."
And when it comes to a sense of navigation, we live the punchline: Adam is a human Mapquest, who self-flagellates if he misses a turn. Meanwhile, I can get lost in our bedroom. (Though I did feel vanquished when I learned that testosterone levels play an important part in developing a sense of direction.)
Yet there are plenty of ways in which we've bent tradition to our whims:
In fact, when we wrote our own rhyming wedding vows this past September, one of Adam's verses read:
I'll change the sheets and save receipts, buy milk and toilet paper
As long as you'll pull me out of my rut with some new crazy caper.
I'll teach them Simpsons quotes before they're old enough for school
But you'll have to teach them soccer -- I don't get the offsides rule.
We literally wrote our own rules. I kept my last name. And, now, in our post-modern partnership, my neat-freak Wusband does every last dish. When the kids come, yes, of course I'll coach soccer.
But there is one thing my husband would like to ask, and it's this: Don't go adding another "s." In other words, being a wusband has nothing to do with being a wuss.
And don't get me wrong: When I say Wusband, I don't mean my husband is a girly-man in any capacity. He's bigger than me, stubblier than me, and, at 6" 1', changes light bulbs without the aid of a step stool. Sigh.
I just wish the world could see that I get just as weak-kneed when he breaks with tradition and scrubs the bathtub.
In fact, we're pretty clear on who we each are as husband and wife, it's just not always what society expects of us. But, given America's success rate with marriage so far, I see no reason why we shouldn't bust out of molds that are already broken.
Carrie Sloan is Lemondrop's Editor in Chief. That's her and her atypical husband above, on a romantic escape to Beirut.
More Good Stuff on the Web:
More Good Stuff on the Web:
Meet "The Crying Wife" -- she cries at movies, and her husband tapes it.
Just How Dumb is The Learning Channel?
Celebs with Religious Tattoos ... Pious or Tacky?
Wife Pranks Her Husband -- But Does She Go Too Far?
(Gorillamask) site NSFW
Funny Pictures of Adorable Kids in Awkward Situations
(My First Fail)