April 4, 2011 by Leah
We’ve been a legally-recognized twosome for a year and a day, now. I seem to recall reading that that was the traditional length of time a couple would agree to be “handfast” in early Celtic cultures, after which they could decide to continue on with their union or go their separate ways. (A quick bit of internet research tells me that there is controversy over this story and that it may have been a misunderstanding of the Scottish law where a widow or widower could only inherit the deceased spouse’s property if they had been married for a year and a day or had a child together. It seems like everything I remember reading in books when I was little is now subject to some kind of controversy.)
If Aaron and I had been handfast last April 3rd, we would definitely be deciding to keep going together today. I remember reading somewhere that you basically decide to be married every day, and I like that idea, because I like being married and because I do think it should be an active state, not a passive one. It’s a state that works for us. I knew it would, too. I swung from nervous to petulant and ungrateful when faced with the idea of having a wedding, but I was always thrilled about the idea of being married.
At points during the last few months, I’ve been a little nostalgic for the freedom and control I had during my single years: of being able to head out on the town on a whim, or spend the evening with vodka and chicken nuggets and several episodes of Monarch of the Glen; of knowing exactly where and when all the money is coming in and how it’s going out again; of having the perfect economy of space in my one-bedroom apartment and responsibility for no one other than myself.
The thing is, I could still have all that, but it seems my priorities have shifted. I don’t really have “out-on-the-town” friends where I live now, which is fine, since Southern California’s not like living in downtown Anchorage with all the good shows, restaurants, and bars in stumbling distance anyway. I consider myself lucky to have friends at all after less than a year in a new place, and my tastes run more to roast chicken, Two-Buck Chuck, and Mad Men these days. (Funnily enough, Aaron enjoys all those things, too.)
We tried putting strict spending limits on ourselves during November’s budget experiment, but it made Aaron miserable and me hyper-vigilant and unable to relax. Instead of pushing for a system we obviously won’t be able to maintain, I’ve become reconciled to the fact that I don’t have access to half the information about our expenditures or any of the information about our income (until it shows up in our bank account, anyway). My latest financial strategy is just to use the debit card for everything so at least we can tell what things are and where they’re going. I’m also supposed to be keeping grocery spending within $100 a week but I haven’t yet tabulated results from any of the receipts that are jammed into various kitchen drawers.
It’s not like I did so well, financially, on my own. I’d just cleared up a lingering credit-card debt problem about the time I met Aaron (a little under two years ago – and, in my defense, it was mostly from paying the thousands of dollars of copays on a hospital stay four years before THAT). My biggest financial contribution will probably end up being cultivating the ability to grow and preserve a lot of our own food.
As much as we thought our three-bedroom house was too big for us when we moved in, we’ve grown to fill it, as always happens. We speak with horror of the day when we have a kid and will have to combine the guest room/my office with the den (where we keep the projector and DVD player). Our guest room has been occupied on many occasions, which gives me that cozy, satisfied feeling you get from having a full house. The boys aren’t any messier than I am, and having Duke makes me feel like we are a proper family. Adopting a dog was actually a really good idea for us – we’ve had many discussions about things like discipline and familial roles and relationships that we wouldn’t have had otherwise, we’ve seen each other deal well with stressful and patience-testing situations, and all three of us have grown and improved our behavior.
I traded the stress of a job where I didn’t feel valued for the stress of looking for work and learning a new place and a bunch of traditional skills on the side. (I’m even talking about looking for a sewing machine, when historically all I know how to do with the things is break them.) Having Aaron around has been extremely helpful during these transitions. He’s good at defusing me when I freak out, or talking things out if I want to do that, or giving me space and time to be depressed or think things through. As my mother told Aaron when we were surrounded by invitations and amid an impassioned debate about the wedding guest list last March: “She’s your problem now.” And he’s done extremely well by me. I can’t wait to see what the next year brings.