Sunday, November 23, 2014

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What I learned about women after marriage

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I married Mel in 2004. I was 22. I thought I was grown up and mature and understood a lot about the world, but when I look back on my former self, I realize that I knew little. In 10 years I’ve learned a lot about women. Or at least, I’ve learned a lot about my wife, and she is a woman, so I assume that a lot of this relates to other women. Although nothing is universal, this I understand. Anyway, my wife is complicated, no doubt, so this is not an exhaustive list. And honestly, I am sure I’ve gotten most of it wrong. But please stick with me. I’m trying to understand.

Boobs serve a beautiful and practical purpose: I am the youngest in my family. I didn’t know much about taking care of a baby until I had one. Thanks to the sexualization of women, I never put much thought into breasts and their true intended purpose. My adolescent dream was for a beautiful woman to hang around my house with her boobs out. With breastfeeding, that dream was real, yet it was much more practical than I expected. Those boobs were not out for me; they were out for the baby. Which is their intended purpose. I understand. However, I must say that there is something surprisingly beautiful and magical about watching my wife feed our baby. I don’t find breastfeeding arousing, but rather loving, compassionate, and attractive on a level that is both wonderful and difficult to explain.

My wife does some gross things: Although I knew of a woman’s period, I didn’t know much outside of the time I saw an undergraduate production of the Vagina Monologues. I also didn’t think much about a woman pooping and peeing and passing gas, either. I assumed that Mel did all of these things, but it wasn’t talked about much, and she had yet to send me to the store for tampons. Once we moved in together, I realized that my wife could clear a room. I realized that a period could make her unreasonable, tired, and crampy. I discovered that her body is a mess of emotions and fluid, and although a lot of it is gross, it is also humanizing and real. Before marriage, I placed Mel on a pedestal of flawless beauty, and after living together for ten years, I have realized that she is actually a very real, complex, and wonderfully gross person, and knowing that makes her character all the more fascinating.

My wife often thinks in rewards: Mel was eating a large doughnut when my seven-year-old asked if he could have a bite. “No,” she said. “The baby just crapped all over me. I’ve earned this. I’m eating the whole thing!” This was not the first time I’d heard Mel think in rewards when it comes to food… particularly chocolate. Sometimes she will bring home a small pie from the bakery and say, “I bought this because I’ve been really stressed and busy and I earned it.” She always says this to me like she’s trying to justify her eating sweets, and it took me a long time to understand why she feels compelled to do this. As a man, I think in hunger. I think in desires and wants. I am hungry. I will eat cake. It is good. Never once have I thought that I earned cake. I have to assume that Mel’s need to justify her sweets comes down to social pressures on women to look thin. I have told her that she doesn’t need to justify sweets to me. I tell her that I love her, regardless. I don’t think it has sunken in yet.

Childbirth is amazing and terrifying and showed me that my wife is the strongest person I know: Three times Mel has had her stomach stretched. She has struggled with swollen ankles and misshapen emotions. She has been hot and sleepless and uncomfortable for months. I have never had a major surgery, so I don’t know what it feels like to have a 6-pound something ripped from a gaping hole in my stomach (C-sections). I made the mistake of looking with our first child. I won’t go into too much detail, but I nearly passed out. She has managed the long recovery and body changes that happen after a birth. Every time we have a baby, I feel like a cheerleader encouraging an endurance athlete. Watching my wife carry, birth, and care for a child has shown me that she is the strongest, most resilient, and loving person I have ever met.

The sexiest thing I can do is wash the dishes: When Mel and I first met, she was really into my personality. She thought I was funny and sweet. She told me that mountain biking and snowboarding were sexy. She said I was a little rebellious, and that was exciting. But now that we have children and she is a stay-at-home mom, I don’t know how much of that really matters anymore. What she seems to want is help. She wants a break. She wants me to pitch in. What she found sexy about me went from funny and dangerous to practical. As a man, I can see this, but I don’t really get it. But what I can say is that I used to find Mel sexy because of her body. I liked the way she smiled, and her laugh was wonderful. Now, after having kids, I’m attracted to her wisdom. I like her level head. I think it’s beautiful the way she loves our kids. I admire her for supporting me as I finished my education. I suppose what I’m trying to say here is that what we were attracted to in the beginning has changed dramatically. And what I know is that I find her more attractive now than I did when we met, and I hope she feels the same.

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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