When we were dating, I would often spend time at my future husband’s house, where his mom would fold piles of laundry on their old wooden farm table.
She would keep up a stream of chatter as she disappeared behind towers of T-shirts and jeans and I would respond awkwardly, talking to my future father in-law’s long johns.
Later, I would recount the conversation to my husband: “I can’t believe your mom folds your dad’s underwear!” I would exclaim, shaking my head. “I mean, it’s underwear! Why would you fold it?”
In my mind, a wife folding her husband’s underwear represented the ultimate in female oppression. Could there be any bigger waste of life than folding some garments meant to adorn the genitals?
“Sorry, but I will never, ever fold your underwear,” I told my boyfriend.
Fast forward 12 years later and can you guess what I was doing this very morning?
Yup. That’s right. I was folding my own stacks and stacks of laundry (although instead of at the kitchen table, I fold clothes on our bed), including a special pile devoted solely to my husband’s underwear.
I have been folding my husband’s underwear for seven years now and like everything that I thought about marriage before I was actually married, it turns out I had no clue what I was talking about.
Where I once thought that marriage meant digging in my heels and drawing a firm line in the sand between “his” and “hers,” I now know that in relationships, the lines are blurry.
While I once thought that the domestic chores that keep life chugging along would never be recognized by any man, I now feel the appreciation of a husband who takes the time to thank me for those very same clean and (haplessly) folded underwear.
While I once thought that having a modern marriage meant waving my feminist flag and demanding chores be split 50/50, I now see that when you keep score, no one wins. My husband can clean the bathroom better than I can some days, even when I’m not exactly rushing to the mow the lawn.
While I once thought that marriage was made of the “big” moments — the first dance to a song neither of us can now remember, the honeymoon we spent eating PB & J’s because we couldn’t afford anything else, the weekend getaways that never seem to happen — I now know that although the highlights are an important part of the journey, they aren’t the whole story.
Marriage, it seems, is built on the smaller moments. The moments when you stop keeping score, when you drag the garbage cans outside to the curb before the other one can, when you program the coffee maker so he wakes up the fresh smell of coffee brewing in the morning.
Marriage, it would appear, is when you lay down your stubborn side every now and then and realize that there is absolutely nothing wrong with doing something for your spouse without any fanfare, recognition, or reward.
Marriage, I have discovered, can be as simple as folding your husband’s underwear on a simple Saturday morning as the rain falls softly outside your window and realizing that you are not oppressed, repressed, or possessed —
But maybe, just maybe, a little bit blessed.More On