Tuesday, September 9, 2014

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Stop Saying That You Married Up


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Mel and I were picking up our kids from a play date. Both of us were trying to round up Tristan and Norah, while chatting with the couple who watched our kids. David was a medical student, and Susan was a stay at home mom. We knew them from church.

I was in their living room helping Norah with her shoes, while Mel chatted with Susan.

Susan mentioned that she enjoyed reading my blog, and I thanked her.

Then she looked at Mel and said, “Does it bother you to have your life…” she paused for a moment tying to find the right words, “out there?” Mel was pregnant at the time, and I’d just published a post about how she was sleeping on an air mattress in the living room because our bed hurt her back. “I mean, I know that you’re sleeping in the living room.”

Mel shrugged and said, “Some of what he says bothers me. But most of that gets edited out.” She mentioned one post in particular that pissed her off. It was about the sexual codes we use around our kids. “I didn’t really want everyone to know about that,” she said. “And sometimes I don’t think he gets things all the way true.”

“The truth is subjective,” I said.

Mel rolled her eyes.

Then Susan said, “Well… he does a good job of making you come across as amazing.”

Mel smiled.

 “She is amazing,” I said. “100% amazing. I married up. No doubt about.”

I often tell people that I married up. I must have said it a million times since we got married ten years ago. And I mean it, too. When Mel and I first met, I didn’t know how to type and I’d never read a novel. I was working at a hardware store and trying to get a job at the local prison. She was this sweet, soft-spoken, and beautiful woman. I feel like she took a real gamble on me.

When I look back at the person I was before we meant, frankly I’m ashamed. I honestly don’t know what she could’ve seen in me. I didn’t dress well, my hygiene was below par, and I had a foul mouth and an even fouler disposition. I was depressed and medicated. Short and stocky. I was no champion. Far from tall, dark and handsome.

Sometimes when I look at my former self, I don’t see anything admirable or attractive, and I can’t understand why Mel was the one who asked me out. And when I look back at Mel, I see her as way out of my league.

I know all this makes me sound very insecure, but, frankly, I was back then. I felt lacking in both social and mental capital. My father had recently died from his drug addiction, and my mother and I weren’t speaking. No one in my family had finished college. Most hadn’t even attempted. I couldn’t think of doing much more than managing a hardware store garden center, or working at a prison.

Mel and I loaded the kids into the car, and as we drove home Mel said, “I wish you’d stop saying that.”

“Saying what?” I asked.

“That you married up?”

I was confused, and a little offended.

“I mean it as a compliment,” I said.

“I know you do. But you marrying up, means that I married down, and I don’t feel that way. You are a really great husband and father. I really love you. I think you’re hot. And I don’t think that I settled for you at all.”

I reminded her of who I was when we met. How little I knew, and my limited aspirations. How much I’d changed since meeting her.

“I didn’t have much going on, either,” she said. “When we met, I was in my 20s and living in my boyfriend’s crappy attic. We both worked at that hardware store. I thought it was going to be my career. I was no better than you. When we met, you looked familiar... for some reason. I think I recognized you from heaven. You’d tell me about the stuff you did for your girlfriend, and it sounded so sweet.  You always made me laugh. I don’t think that you married up. And I don’t think that I married up. No one married down. We just… married each other.”

We sat in silence for a while. I thought about what she said. I thought about the way I saw myself then, and how I see myself now. Then I thought about Mel, and how she’d grown as a person, a mother, and a wife. She’d gotten more attractive with age. She’d gone to college while trying to care for our family.

We’d grown together.

“So what you’re saying is, we got married because we were right for each other. Plain and simple.”

“Yup,” she said.

We were almost home when Mel reached across the front seat and gripped my hand.

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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress, and an angry baby girl. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His work has been featured in Good Morning America, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, The Good Men Project, Fast Company, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter