I’ve told myself a hundred times that I would never write these things down. The ugly things I feel when disappointment settles upon me in waves. A dismissive grunt here, a passing comment on the greater importance of your existence in comparison to mine. That your income is more important to our family than mine, that your needs are greater than mine, that your suffering is greater than mine, that your pain is more poignant, more pressing than any other point of focus in our lives.
Is it any wonder that women are the most unhappy of people in any country, in any time throughout history? That the very touch of man destroys? And yet, I don’t hate you. Do I love you? What the fuck is love, anyway? Is it enough to have sworn fealty to our joint purpose in conquering the trappings of society and capitalism together? Is it enough to have weathered countless storms, to have known the depth of rock bottom and the heights of middle-class mediocrity in all its sacred, American-dreaming glory?
It’s a friendship we have? Or, that I know the depths of you more acutely than anyone else ever has and that you know me only so much as I allow? Because if you knew me, truly took the time to acknowledge the world of dreams and optimism, the secrets buried in my soul, you couldn’t bear that I keep it aside in hopes that one day I might have it alongside or, even, without you. Is that a harsh condemnation on the life we share, the “love” we have?
I grew up in a world where girl meets boy, girl marries boy and hopes for the best, I suppose. I don’t even know what I was thinking back then, it feels so long ago. Surely, in your most inner ruminations you must also wonder how does it come to this? Surely, there is more to love than some agreement that we’re in it together, slogging through the shit of expectation and work and society and money together. That we succeed and fail together, but that’s just a bird’s eye view of reality.
In reality, girl meets boy. If boy goes on to be successful, girl becomes slave to boy’s career and needs. I find myself carrying a degree and the shreds of a career that never was, dreams that never will be. I find myself, instead, in the same role as my mother who didn’t incur massive debt to live a life of service to men. Cleaning clothes, cleaning dishes, cleaning surfaces and floors and raising children and also a grown man who ought to, and does, know how to do all these things as well but doesn’t because no one expects it of him. Not his own mother, not the world he lives in, any of his peers and certainly not me. How could I?
Your career is so much more important, has so much more fiscal potential that mine could ever dream to accomplish. Your work is so much more demanding, with more pressures than I could ever hope to understand, I’m sure. What with all these people relying on you and all. It’s almost as if their world would crumble should you disappear tomorrow. I’m sure I know nothing of what that must feel like, except I am quite certain that if I left tomorrow yours would certainly implode, would it not?
“I need you to keep things at home solid so that I can be effective.”
Well, I need you to respect that I am a person with needs of my own. Worries of my own. Troubles and fears and hopes and doubts, all of my own. That I should dedicate every waking moment in your presence in service to your whims is not the life I envisioned for myself. You feel I take for granted the things you deal with, the stress you feel, your anxiety and depression. I am not your fucking therapist. I am not your fucking crutch. I’m a fucking person too, and maybe I am more independent than you, more capable of burden. All women must be, if they find themselves in the company of men, because men do not look out for or care for women more than it takes to fuck them. Use them. Drain them of their spirit and their zest for life and beauty.
I’m sure it would break your heart to know that these feelings sweep over me at times. Me, your dedicated wife. The lodestone of this house, cracking beneath the strain of an ego you can’t bear to acknowledge. If not for me, you would be nothing. Who made you finish your degree? Whose loss paid for this house? Who fed you and worked for you and managed our affairs so that you might succeed? Who “helped” you with your classes those last couple years after I finished my degree? Who supports you still? Who manages your business and your life?
It isn’t you.
You can’t even be bothered to take out the garbage, a standard husband protocol. You don’t even clear your own fucking dishes from the bedside table. Can’t manage to keep the wrappers off the floor when you’re less than a foot away from a trash can, or toss your clothes in a hamper two feet from where you strip. You do not give a thought to all the ways you make my job – MY FUCKING, GOD AWFUL THANKLESS FUCKING JOB – harder. You’re thoughtless about all these small things, things that could make this shit show easier, no. Bearable. Make it bearable for me, at the very least, for fuck’s sake. It isn’t like I have anything else.
Except your dry itchy feet that need lotion. Or your back that needs popping. Your aching shoulders that need rubbing. You wonder why I am so reluctant, so put off. No one person could stand to be needed so. To be used up in this way. Always being asked of, and yet never met halfway, but in piece meal instead. And you’re sorry, I know you’re sorry. So fucking sorry, and you feel so bad. And then I feel bad, because there’s nothing like depression and your traumatic past to yank on the old guilt chain. And, oh, you’ll do better. You’ll do better for as long as it takes for my anger to settle. For our routine to normalize once more. It’s a vicious cycle we have here, is it not?
Sometimes I wonder what you’d do if I broke the chain. If I told you I wanted more than complacency. If I wanted more than what my mother got. More than you dictating every aspect of our life, edicts dressed up as compromise and just reasoning. So that your dreams are now my dreams. Your hobbies are now the things I should learn to love. That my wants should always take a backseat to your own, except very occasionally when you show your benevolence. When you pretend that giving me what I desire is something you’re always on board to deliver. Do you buy that, truly? I wonder, I wonder, I wonder.
And it isn’t that I want to be gone 40 hours a week. Our daughter needs me to be present for her and, to that, I at least agree. Our daughter is the crowning achievement of my life, the only thing sometimes that makes it all make sense. All of it: You, disappointment, doubt, resentment, even. All worth it to see her become her own person, a good person that will hopefully one day, never marry into an existence less than she deserves.
But those days are numbered. I wonder…do our days together number alongside it? When my purpose leaves to find her own, what then?
What. Fucking. Then.
You sit in your chair, on your phone. Oblivious to the route of my thoughts. Set off by something as stupid as your reluctance to watch a show with me. Isn’t that fucked up? The fuck do you know anyway? I love you, and yet. Sometimes, I wonder.
I fucking wonder. What the fuck are we even doing anymore.
NOTE: I preface this by saying that yes, I love my husband. Yes, my life is good and I do not take it for granted. Our relationship is probably healthier than most and we have been married for over 13 years. I am more often happy than not, but it seems I hold onto things. Old habits die hard. I grew up being told that I am “too sensitive” because I used to allow myself to acknowledge and experience my emotions. Crying when others hurt my feelings. And now it seems I am incapable of comfortably expressing myself, and nearly incapable of verbalizing my feelings in a way that makes sense. And so, is it any wonder that I took to writing? That I would spend hours journaling? This is therapeutic for me in a way talking has never been. And so, after having read this, please don’t assign assumptions about my life or happiness. This is the unwinding of a ball of yarn, kicked from the pile haphazardly. These word are written from a place of anger and do no fully represent the context of our lives. But they do…in a way…reflect the frustration of a married woman in America. I am lucky in that my husband tries. The day he stops trying, that is the day our love dies.