How did I go from hot, steamy, electrically charged nights, eyebrows perfectly plucked, working the silent tuck and roll to the bathroom the morning after, to fraying flannel, boxers, and morning breath? Ten years in and three kids later, I can barely manage to roll the deodorant stick up to meet my armpit. Between removing spiders from bedrooms, baking 1,700 gluten-free cupcakes for little Suzie’s birthday, and trying desperately to hang on to a coherent thought, sliding into bed in anything but my flannel nightie requires an effort equivalent to climbing Everest.
Sure, I try. I run, eat right, drink less than I really want to, and ignore the angry wrinkle sprouting from my lip line (silent mantra: I can still rock it, I can still rock it). The flame may be low, ladies, but I do what I can to keep the damn burner lit. But lets face it: the ground has shifted. I am no longer the 20-something my husband couldn’t keep his hands off of. He is no longer the charming, mysterious guy I couldn’t stop thinking about. I have many friends that weather this transition, vacillating somewhere between acceptance and homicidal tendencies. I am coming to the conclusion, one I dearly hope is not the onset of dementia, that my deodorant-lacking lifestyle may just be evidence of the real thing: true love.
Basically, my theory is that we should all be reprogramming ourselves not to hope our knight in shining armor will ride up to the castle gates with roses, but that he’ll simply walk over to feed the dog. While we may dream of romantic getaways by the sea with our man lovingly gazing into our eyes, soaking in every detail about the minutia of our day, I don’t think any of it’s, well, real.
My version of keeping love alive as a parent/wife/somewhat lucid woman comes down to three things: wine, homework, and ultra-absorbent overnight pads.
Let me explain. Any new guy can sit with you at a lovely tapas bar with some fancy cocktail and make you feel like the most glamorous woman alive. But real love occurs when the man you share your life with knows when to grab the $8.00 boxed wine the moment he sees you stomping up the driveway. If he’s mastered the “pour and duck,” in which he greets you with a drink in hand and promptly steps out of the way, he’s a keeper. So what if he really has no idea why you get so worked up over the other moms at pick-up? He’s got your boxed wine.
Now, homework, which in itself seems a harmless necessity, is actually AWFUL. It will sneak home innocuously in your child’s backpack and ruin your marriage — I’ve seen it happen. And although you will see me at my kids’ open houses with an attentive, concerned-yet-amused smile on my face, please know in my heart I do not care. I do not care about homework, how to do homework with my child, or the importance of doing said homework. I do not understand any homework past a third-grade level, nor do I want to.
Enter my husband. For years I’ve shared a bed with a man who will sit at the kitchen table while my daughter cries about fractions she will never use. So what if newlyweds finish each other’s sentences? My man is a freakin’ rock. He doesn’t cave to the tears of a 7-year-old girl. He doesn’t write excuse notes to the teacher or say inspirational lines from Rocky. Nope. He is all business. He is the Mr. T of getting it done — without needing to put money in the children’s therapy fund. Meanwhile, I get to sneak out of the room and watch Ghost Whisperer reruns. With the wine he has just poured me. To me, that’s a love worth running in front of a bus for.
Finally, it all ends with the pads. The feminine diapers. The you-don’t-sleep-well-if-you-don’t-have-at-least-17-of-them-piled-in-your-undies-at-night kind. And the ones you really need, the ones that fill up your grocery cart in one fell swoop, the ones that take up half a mile in a landfill, the ones that would be your flotation device if you ever fell over a bridge, those are the ones that you notice are all gone at 10:00 at night, when you need them most. No matter that it’s raining, snowing, or 17 degrees out. Your man just hears the yelp from the bathroom closet and he knows. He grabs his coat and is out the door without even a syllable exchanged.
Your man who is no longer new, who knows every inch of cellulite on your thighs, he has your back. He knows because of your non-new life together. He knows what awaits him. He knows he doesn’t want your bed to resemble a crime scene in the morning. He, the one you married or shacked up with or just really, really love for an extended period of time, the very same one who gives you a blank look when you try discussing your feelings, yes, the one you want to hit with a pan sometimes, gets it all. You can’t get that with new love. You can’t get that with a puppy — only the shelter dog that has been sitting with you as your tireless companion can understand.
This, my dear, dear girls, is why true love isn’t sipping a blue cocktail at sunset while he listens to your childhood dreams. It’s guts and glory. The kind you stick around for.
Remember: Wine. Homework. Pads. Let us teach it to our daughters. Let us teach it to ourselves. It’s a revolution in the making. Grab a pad and get on board.