Everybody's an onion. And I don't mean we all make other people cry (although, that actually might be true). I mean, none of us is just one thing. My brother's not just a software engineer. My dad isn't just my dad. I'm not just a writer. We all have a multi-layered personality that is filled with everything from past experiences to the way we perceive the world to the jobs we've had to the skills we've developed to the other people we have built relationships with.
I think it's easy, especially when you don't know someone very well, to identify them by one characteristic. For example, "oh yeah, that lady is super friendly." But that's really all you know about her. And you might even refer to her as "The Friendly Lady." Or someone else might be really passionate about politics or a cause or religion. And you might say, "Oh yeah, the Christian guy," or "the guy that makes sandwiches for the homeless," and that's all you know about him. There are tons of labels: occupation, sex, race, sexual orientation, ethnicity, citizenship, gender, wealth, weight, and a hundred other things. Sometimes these labels are used out of ignorance, laziness, or mean-spiritedness, and sometimes they are intended as kind, encouraging, or a way to simplify a relationship.
But we all have dozens of these labels. Some labels we were born with, some we chose, and some we earned. Each of us has gotten to where we are over time, and the path we've taken has been convoluted, confusing, and often times upside down and sideways. I want to explore this idea, and so I will be interviewing a variety of writers in my life over the next several months, and asking them: what exactly makes you, you? Besides the fact that you're a writer, that is.
And it's only fair that I start with myself.
I have a lot of layers. Daughter is probably the first one, if you want to go chronologically. Also sister. Friend. Child. Chicken catcher. Adult. Painter. Drawer. Musician. Writer. Dancer. Someone that likes to be outdoors. That likes plants. That likes work. That likes cats. That dated. That went to public school. That went to college. That worked in the corporate world. That has a cat. That started my own business. That got married.
Anyway, out of all those, I picked wife. I am a writer; but I am also a wife. This is one of the newest parts of my identity that I have been grappling with for the last year. Josh and I eloped in December, 2015, and since then, honestly, everything has changed. Literally everything. Josh is working for a different company, we're living in a different state, my workload has shifted considerably, and oh by the way we're married.
Being married isn't a piece of cake. Sometimes we argue.
"You didn't do the laundry," one of us says to the other.
"I thought you were going to do it," the other one says. We have this same conversation over dishes. And vacuuming. And doing the kitty litter. Cleaning the bathroom. Trash. Watering the plants. Etc.
Being married can also be a lot of fun.
"Let's get a dog in April," I suggest.
"Tomorrow," Josh says.
Sometimes we exercise. Sometimes we eat chips and dip for dinner. Sometimes we hang out with other humans. Sometimes we ignore each other in the same or different rooms of the house. Sometimes we talk. Sometimes we don't. Sometimes we take 10-mile long strolls around town. Sometimes we don't get out of bed until dinnertime and binge watch an entire season of Doctor Who (or two) in one day.
But honestly, getting married didn't really make me feel any different. It didn't change the essence of who I was. I am still me. I didn't change my name. I just signed a piece of paper. He was on board with my career goals and I was on board with his. We both wanted the same kind of family (lots of dogs and some cats--maybe a rabbit or an alpaca). We both felt the same way about cleaning the kitty litter (we'd rather not) and we both liked each other. As humans.
I was serving a meal one day, several weeks after the reception, and the priest at the church smiled up at me and asked, "So how's married life?"
I responded, "About the same as being engaged. Not much is different."
"Well," he said, his smile growing. "We all see you differently."
I thought about that for a long time. I'm still thinking about it in fact, months and months later. It reminds me of a quote from the song, "The Piano Lesson," in the musical The Music Man:
"But, darlin'--when a woman has a husband
And you've got none
Why should she take advice from you?"
Seems like a stupid question. Being married doesn't make you smarter, or make you suddenly have all the answers to life's questions. It doesn't make you wiser or more clever. It just gives you a different set of experiences than someone who's not married. Just like they have different experiences than you in other areas. And being married doesn't make you not you anymore. it just makes you a different version of yourself.
Society really does see married people differently than unmarried people. And that's okay.
But I'm still me. The essential part of me that makes me, me is still there. All the layers that were there before are still there. The part of me that ran barefoot through the woods in the middle of the country as a child is still there. The part of me that listened to my dad's stories growing up is still there. The part of me that decided she absolutely hated pink more than anything else in the world is still there. The part of me that painted the faces of small children for the library is still there. The part of me that learned how to buy my own groceries while at community college is still there. The part of me that moved 600 miles away from home to get my Bachelor's degree is still there. The part of me that was an electrician and loved hanging high over the heads of actors on a stage is still there. The part of me that worked 5 jobs to make ends meet and cried every other day is still there. The part of me that loves hanging out with my brothers is still there. The part of me that sliced my finger almost to the bone when I was the maid of honor in my best friend's wedding is still there. The part of me that loves wearing the scifi costumes my mom makes is still there. The part of me that published a book is still there. The part of me that quit my job to pursue a full time job in writing is still there.
It's just that Josh is there too, now. That brings along a whole new set of onion layers: daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, spouse, not to mention just general in-law. Outlaw. Josh's wife.
And the onion just keeps growing. Eventually I'll be a full sized onion. But I'll still be me.
“Marriage is not a ritual or an end. It is a long, intricate, intimate dance together and nothing matters more than your own sense of balance and your choice of partner.” ― Amy Bloom