I’ve been wanting to write something about my wife for the last few weeks. If what I write comes off incredibly corny and sentimental, well, I’m giving myself permission to write badly. More heart writing.
I met her at a dive bar of all places. It’s okay, because it was karaoke night. Any other night of the week, dive bars are places for loners and drunks, but on karaoke night, they transform into places where you might meet your future wife, even if the ceiling tiles are rotting and the floor is uneven.
The crowd was always the same at this place — people you hate but are glad to see after a beer or two — when I saw a different girl walk in. This is where I must switch to telling the story in present tense — because love is always happening in present tense. There can be no past to it.
I watch her walk in and across the room, talking with a group of people I kind of know. So of course, I go over to talk to those people I kind of know. After a few minutes, they see other people they kind of know and migrate away from me, leaving just her and I. She has brown hair and blue eyes and smells like mint gum. And this is where I pull out my great, infamous pick-up line that she still teases me about. I shrug and say “Okay. I guess I’ll talk to you now.”
Surprisingly, she is receptive to talking to me now. I have no idea what we talk about, but I’m pretty sure I’m doing that thing where I’m making self-deprecating jokes, followed by boldly-glorifying cockiness, mixed in with a little neurotic Woody Allen. If the girl is still laughing at these jokes — hell, still standing anywhere within your vicinity at the end of the evening — you ask for her number.
We meet up a few more times over the next couple weeks, and by the end of the month, we plan an official, real date: to see the new Ninja Turtles animated movie, TMNT. Yes, this is my idea. Her idea of the Ninja Turtles is something her “brother used to like,” but she can recall that Donatello was her favorite and that’s good enough for me. This is what I like about her. She’s open to any sort of fun idea. Afterwards, we get pizza. Since this is a first date, we mutually opt for fancy pizza at a brick oven joint. The pizza is terrible. Lesson learned: don’t get pretentious on a Ninja Turtles date. No one would have judged us for going to Pizza Hut.
It’s March when I meet her. The gray snow sludge piled up in every parking lot tells the story of a long winter, but now it’s finally beginning to melt. We hit up random street festivals, visit all of the local museums we hadn’t been to since our parents dragged us there as children, and seek out hidden Mexican restaurants—some of which were best to remain hidden. Lesson learned: The Dancing Pepper sounds fun but it might be a drug front.
Our favorite date is not exactly a date; we never even leave the house that day. It’s during one of those storms-of-the-century rains that we get every other year. With nothing to do, I suggest (mostly) sarcastically that we watch the entire Beatles Anthology, the five DVD, ten-hour Beatles saga. You literally need to be a weird music nerd or on speed to get through the entire thing in one sitting. But instead of saying “God no,” she says “okay.” Lesson learned: this is the girl I’m going to marry.
One of my favorite things about her is that she’s not materialistic, but she still appreciates nice things — just as long as it’s on sale. I’ve only see her buy an expensive item for herself once — a Coach purse — and that was with money she won on a slot machine. Even then, she didn’t gamble with her own money — it was a twenty dollar bill I’d given her. And yes, the purse was on sale, from an outlet store, and after coupons, she managed to snag the matching wallet for free.
So she’s the kind of girl that’s into purses and shoes, but she’s also the kind of the girl that will help you load up the hatchback for a weekend at the beach. And she knows exactly how and what to pack for the beach. This is important. Some people have no idea how to spend a weekend at the beach. Beach compatibility is the secret to long-lasting relationships. And she has already packed the suntan lotion, sunglasses, snacks, magazines, and her hairdryer — because apparently the hairdryers at the hotels are really sketch. Well, the hotels I pick, that is.
She has great, distinct taste in everything, from art to housewares to furniture, but she’s also totally fine if I bring something home from the flea market and display it proudly in the center of our living room (for a few days.) She balances our house and makes it feel like a home. She’s also a great cook — if you ignore the sometimes experimental vegetable sides. And don’t tell me they’re good for me — I already had a bag of Sun Chips and a single baby carrot earlier, so I’m all set on vegetable intake for the day.
She isn’t perfect. Her major flaw is road rage. Not in the sense that she will ride up on your ass and aggressively pass you, but you can be assured that she is cursing you and wishing for your car to flip over somewhere in a ditch. Her other flaw is that she does not appreciate the fine wine that is 1980s soul music. And I’m not talking like Michael Jackson or Prince — she’s fine with them. But I can’t get her into the deep stuff like the DeBarge or Atlantic Starr, and that’s a shame.
I always thought marriage was a pretty cool idea — a very nice thing to do. Maybe it was a sacred thing and maybe it was also a true love thing. I thought it was a thing with a fun party that all your family and friends come to and give you giftcards and dip bowl sets. I even thought it was a fun club to be a part of — an exclusive married people club with benefits like staying in on Saturday nights and feeling superior about it. Indeed, the first year of marriage was all of these things.
The second year of marriage has been a test from God. Actually, a test is when the basement floods and you’re both down there pulling up carpet and frantically searching for towels. This year has been an obstacle course. And now I see how much more marriage is: a foundation, a shelter, a strength, a freaking superpower. Seriously, some sort of magical superpower. I have no idea how else to explain how one gets through two weeks in the hospital and the death of their mother without it.
You’ve got to be lucky. You’ve got to very very lucky to find this person you’re going to spend the rest of your life with, because not everyone gets to. But first, you’ve got to get to the karaoke bar to begin with. First, you’ve got to get out of your crudhole apartment and even take the chance that tonight’s not going to ridiculously suck like it always does. That it won’t just be the same stupid people who get on your nerves. That it wouldn’t just be a lot safer to stay at home and watch TV.
You’ve got to get through a lot of life alone first. You’ve got to get through high school and college and jobs — all of those other life things you thought were important. Maybe you’ve got to get through some pain and some break-ups. And then — if you’re lucky — you end up at the karaoke bar. And still, you’ve got to take that chance to walk across the bar and talk to her. And take the chance that she falls for that neurotic thing, goes on that first date, and slogs through five years of dating, meeting each other’s families, and surviving food poisoning from the Dancing Pepper. You’ve got to take that chance that she’ll say yes when you ask her to marry you. Like I said, you’ve got to be lucky.