Nothing But the Truth

Maybe it’s because we didn’t put an engagement or wedding announcement in the paper, but I feel like I haven’t gotten my invitation to the Secret Married Ladies Club yet. You know, the one where they tell you to lie to all your single friends about how great singleness is and how hard marriage is. Or maybe I just haven’t been married long enough yet to understand.

Well, when the difficult time comes, single friends, I will tell you how hard it is, but both then and now, I will not lie to you. And right now, the truth is this: Marriage is awesome.

I don’t say that to make you feel bad about being single. Singleness is awesome too. Some of you have heard me say recently that if I’d known how amazing being married would be, I would have been a lot more upset about being single. This is not entirely true. “Upset” is the wrong word. I would have looked forward to marriage a lot more, but I wouldn’t have been upset. I really loved being single. When I was single, I didn’t have to juggle two families at the holidays, I could always retreat to my bedroom for alone time, I could sleep until 11:00 on my days off if I wanted, and I could stay up until 2:00 a.m. on the nights before my days off. I never had to ask for anyone else’s opinion or input, and the only mess I had to clean up was my own. I only did my own laundry, my own dishes, and my own shopping. When I was bored, I decided what I wanted to do. I didn’t have to consider what anyone else wanted to do or didn’t want to do. I could spend my money on the things I wanted to buy without having to think about how it would affect “our” budget. I was completely independent, and I loved it.

I loved it. Like, really loved it. I loved spending all my money on trips to Europe and spending lazy weeks off watching multiple TV series in their entirety on Netflix. I loved quiet nights in my apartment reading a good book. I loved having long phone conversations with friends I hadn’t talked to in a while. And I loved being able to choose when to hang out with people and when to be alone.

I loved it, but I don’t miss it.

I don’t miss it because I also love waking up to snuggle with my husband even though I don’t have to get up and go to work. And I love talking and laughing about the day with him before we fall asleep. I love spending all my money on a functional new washer and dryer. I love hanging out with my in-laws. I love bouncing ideas off of each other. I love learning how to work together, how to cooperate (literally, operate with someone else) to create order and sanity in a home of two people prone to clutter. I love learning to function as one while also learning to love each other more deeply for who we are individually. I love growing together while encouraging each other to chase individual dreams.

I know there will be hard times. I know that. And I think this really good time is a sort of training ground, where we are learning to work together in easy times and get lots of practice. That way, when hard times come, we will know how to stand hand-in-hand and face it together.

I wish this were a lesson we learned more in singleness too. Singleness doesn’t mean that you are alone. In fact, most single people I know spend almost as much time with friends as I do with Will. And many of those friendships have the potential to weather the worst of times. You just don’t feel the same kind of commitment to your friends, but why not? Why don’t we commit to our friends anywhere near as fiercely as we do our spouses? I know it won’t be exactly the same, but as it is, it’s not even close.

As single people, we long for the community and connection that we see in marriages, but why has it not occurred to us that we can have deep connection and community without being married? I don’t have any answers or lessons learned on this, so I’m tossing it out to y’all. What do you think?

  • Have you experienced this kind of depth in friendships?
  • Do you think it’s possible for people who aren’t married to be as committed to each other as married couples are?
  • Do you think that’s a realistic and/or healthy kind of friendship?
  • How can we cultivate non-marriage relationships wherein both parties feel loved, supported, protected and connected on a level not entirely like but somewhat comparable to the feelings associated with marriage?

Good-bye, Claire

After WEEKS of agonizing over it and asking a million people’s opinions about it (and getting a million different answers), I finally filled in the box on the form.

I took it to the Social Security office, and I became Elizabeth Parent McMillian. And just like that, all my anxiety about it went away. It is sad to let go of a name I love, a name I’ve never used, but a name that is special to me because it belonged to my grandmother. But legally or not, I will always be Elizabeth Claire. My name changed, but I didn’t. And while it’s weird right now because it’s new, I know that a year from now, it will just be my normal name, and I won’t think anything of it. And ten years from now, we might have a little Claire to carry the name on (maybe by then, Whitney will be ready for us to have children, and she’ll acknowledge little Claire’s existence – What say you, buddy?).

In the end, I decided that four names would just be too much, so I had to choose which one to let go of and which one to keep. Since everyone knows me as BethParent (yes, all one word run together like that), and most people didn’t even know my middle name, I decided to keep the one I felt was more strongly tied to my identity. I probably could have gone either way and been happy with my choice, but I just felt more comfortable keeping Parent, so that’s what I did.

Now I just have to get used to a new signature. That’s extra weird.

10 Things That DON’T Change When You Get Married

Last month, I told you about 10 things that change when you get married. As a bit of a follow-up to that, here are 10 things thatdon’t change when you get married:

  1. You still have bed-head – Will affectionately refers to mine as “Mozart hair.” And you still don’t care. I think there was a part of me that thought I would worry about my first-thing-in-the-morning appearance when there was someone seeing me first thing in the morning, but make-up or none, glorious 2nd-day hair or Mozart hair, morning breath and all, he still says I’m the most beautiful girl in the world.
  2. You continue in your own individual growth and learning. Just because the “two become one,” that doesn’t mean that you stop being an individual. It just means that you now have a built-in discussion partner for life, who will also be pushed to grow as you tell him what you’re learning, and who will also push you to grow as he tells you what he’s learning.
  3. There are still things you don’t like about yourself. As many times as Will tells me I’m beautiful, there are still things about my body I think he must not have noticed yet. I’ve pointed them out to him, but he doesn’t care. He just doesn’t see me as critically as I see myself. And the reverse is also true. I don’t see him as critically as he sees himself. Being completely accepted by someone else doesn’t automatically make you completely content with yourself. But it does make you completely loved, and that is more than enough.
  4. You still want the same things. I still want to go to Europe on vacation. I still want to buy everything in The Container Store. I still want ALL THE THROW PILLOWS. I still want to sleep for 9 hours a night. I still want to eat chocolate cereal for breakfast. I still want to help immigrants learn English. I still want to tell women that they are valuable, worthy of dignity, completely loved, and absolutely necessary in the world. I still want to dance with somebody (with somebody who loves me).
  5. You work the same job. The only difference is that your boss now has a plan somewhere in the back of her mind for what she will do when you have a baby. (Disclaimer: I have no idea if the boss-baby thing is true. My boss will have to chime in here to clarify.)
  6. Your spouse doesn’t change (not that you’d want him to). This is why it’s important to marry someone you already love and respect completely. And of course, over time, all people change. I just mean that marriage itself doesn’t cause people to change drastically. They are who they are before and after the wedding, so you just have to make sure you know them really well and love them a whole lot before you get married. I suggest being friends for six years first.
  7. You still don’t have all the answers. Your wedding vows don’t automatically endow you with knowledge on how to be married, but hopefully, you’ve been learning how to communicate well and work as a team all through your dating and engagement time, so you just keep doing that.
  8. You have good days and bad days, individually and together. You get tired and cranky, you get stressed out, you get over-peopled if you are an introvert, you get under-peopled if you are an extrovert, you get stuck in traffic, you get sick, you get promotions, you win radio contests, you find $20 in your winter coat from last year, you check off everything on your to-do list and feel like a rock star, you connect really well and feel all gushy and in love, you can’t seem to get it together, you feel disconnected and confused. Being married doesn’t get rid of the feeling of relational disconnection any more than it gets rid of heavy traffic. Before and after the wedding, when you feel that way, you talk about it and work it out.
  9. You don’t stop dating. At least you shouldn’t. My husband still brings me flowers (and I still kill them within a few days). Then he takes me out to dinner and picks up the check, and we sit there holding hands across the table and grossing out the rest of the diners and the waitstaff with our googly eyes. And at the end of the month, when we don’t have the money to go out to eat, we still cook dinner together, then cuddle up on the couch and watch a movie.
  10. You still hate whatever chores you hated before you got married. It’s amazing. You don’t become some kind of super-wife who can magically now clean the toilet without gagging. You cross your fingers and hope that your spouse will do whatever it is that you hate doing, but if they hate it equally, then you make the choice to suck it up and do it (or pay someone else to do it)…just like you did when you were single. I think laundry and toilet-cleaning are the only things Will really hates doing, but I don’t mind either. And taking out the trash is the one thing I really hate doing, but he usually does it, so that works out very well for us.

It should be noted that we’ve only been married for 2.5 months. I know my self-esteem, my desires, my job, my knowledge, and even my husband will change over time. Most things do. But marriage isn’t the cause of the changes; life is. And I will welcome those changes when they come because I hope they mean that I’m growing and changing too.

To Hyphenate or Not to Hyphenate

This is the question, friends. What do I do with my name now that I am married? I want to keep my whole maiden name and just add my new married last name, but do I hyphenate it or not? If I don’t hyphenate, what becomes of my maiden name? Do I then have two middle names or two last names? Do I get to choose? How does one make such decisions? And most importantly, when we still live in Cary in ten years and I’m a soccer mom, WHICH SWIRLY PINK LETTERS WILL I HAVE MONOGRAMMED ON MY MINIVAN NEXT TO MY STICK-FIGURE FAMILY?!?!

My friend Dre got married a week after I did, and she was chomping at the bit to change her name because her married name is so much easier to deal with than her maiden name (too many confusing superfluous letters). But I’m BethParent. It’s just one of those names. I don’t know when it started, but people seem to like using both my first and last names, and I’ve gotten used to it. Also, it’s easy to explain. I say, “Parent. P-A-R-E-N-T, like your mother or your father.” This never worked for the Wilkesboro Pizza Hut (apparently they refer to their moms and dads as “parrot”), but for most folks, it’s pretty clear.

I recognize that I’m in the middle of a very common identity crisis, and that in three years, no matter what I change it to, I’ll be used to it, but right now it feels like a very big deal, so I bring it to you.

I’d like to hear from women who:

  • hyphenated
  • kept their middle and maiden names as middle names
  • kept their middle and maiden names and added their married name (un-hyphenated) to make two last names
  • dropped their middle (or first) names
  • dropped their maiden names
  • changed their names completely (Princess Consuela Bananahammock, anyone?)

What was this time in your life like? How did you come to your decision? What factored into it for you? How long did it take you to get used to being “someone else”? If you could do it again, would you do anything differently?

Addendum OR Getting a Taste of My Own Medicine

My husband and I are both writers. He writes fiction; I write non-fiction. We would both love to be able to make enough money with our writing to just do that all the time. I mean, who wouldn’t want to work from home in their jabambas, saving money on gas and car maintenance, and saving sanity by not having to drive on I-40 every day? Currently, however, neither of us is makingany money on writing projects, so we both have “real” jobs. To be fair to our “real” jobs, it’s important to note that we both like them. I actually love mine and would probably miss it if I quit entirely, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

My point is this…

After months and months of saying he wanted to finally write his freaking novel already, and after many conversations wherein I told him it would be hard, but he just needed to suck it up and make it happen if that was what he wanted, he is making progress. Since we got back from our honeymoon, the dude has been getting up at 6:30 every morning to write. I don’t know how he does that, but I couldn’t be prouder. Even on mornings when his brain can’t wake up enough to write anything before his writing time is up, he’s still doing more than I am.

So last night, when I was saying I also wanted to do more writing, I don’t know why I was surprised to hear my own advice coming back at me.

  • You just have to make time for it and stick to your schedule. No procrastinating.
  • A little bit at a time is ok. Every little bit counts.
  • So if your book needs to be 60,000 words, you break it up into, say, 20 chapters, and then you just write 2,000-4,000-word chapters.

Friends, I’m here today to tell you the eleventh thing that changes after you get married: Your spouse picks things up from you and uses them. It’s like a mirror. You give advice, and you get it back. You give encouragement, and you get it back. You say a certain word or phrase all the time, and you’ll start hearing it come out of his mouth. This is potentially dangerous, but it’s also potentially amazing, and y’all are smart enough to understand what I mean by that, so I won’t explain it any further. I’m just going to go ahead and count this instance as amazing.