Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Home Ec


I'm 31. I am about to get married to a guy who has a son who is 13. I have been with the man who is my fiance for 6 years (7? I can't even keep track now.)

I was having dinner recently with my friend Tracy and she asked, innocently, if I got along with the kid. (Yes.) She asked if that was always the case (yes and no).

I took that as my opening to do what I do, which is spread the gospel of realism as it relates to 30-something relationships.

It was never easy. I met someone who already had a life, had already had a wife. Someone who already had a kid.

I supposed not really wanting a child of my own (so far) helped in some way. At least there wasn't that weird jealousy like "let have our OWN family" which can, I find, be both a genuine want for some people entering into a blended family, and also, at times, a desperate strategy for laying down some kind of territorialism in the new relationship. At any rate, it's not a dynamic we had to fight.

But we had other battles.

The most sitcom-like part is that he was still best friends with the twin sister of his ex-wife (did you catch that?) and her husband. So when it started to get serious, I had not only the pleasure of meeting his really beautiful blond, gregarious, smart, high-achieving ex-wife, I got to become friends with her IDENTICAL TWIN. Yes, twin. Staring at the ex. Even when she's not there. Totally awesome.

The worst part about that kind of situation is that is that you anticipate the natural order of adversity guiding your emotions, actions, biases. You think you get to have an enemy. But then, in my case, you realize: the enemy is not so bad. You don't learn this in school; it's not the chapter after "hemming pants" in Home Ec, although maybe it should be.

Let me tell you: that really fucks with how you think you're going to function in a step-world.

There were bumps. No need to go into that here. But the amazing part is how not bumpy it is now.

We have his son half the time. The ex-wife lives just about 5 blocks away. The twin sister of the ex-wife lives 2 blocks away. All the cousins are friends. I love all the kids. I love the adults, too. We host the kids for movie nights. I like to laugh with the ex-wife about my soon-to-be husband. We share inside jokes about him. I was desperate for paint thinner one night and she was the second call I made (after her twin). It didn't really hit me until the next morning that it's all so normal now that she's become the neighbor I will borrow a cup of sugar from.

I never wanted this. There were a good 3 years where I actively told friends, "Don't get involved with someone who has been married before." I meant it. I look back at my 27 year old self and I know I meant it. But you don't give that kind of advice once you have folded the weirdness of family into your own experience. These years are what I know now, and they are good. We just cleared the table from a dinner where I got to enjoy the company of this kid who isn't even mine. That's a gift. A true gift.

Love conquers biology, I think is what I am trying to tell you. It's funny the people who become part of your tribe, if you are around them enough. I don't just love the fiance and the kid. I love the ex-wife and her husband (even though he wears socks with Tevas). I love the ex-wife's twin sister and her husband, our good friends. I love their children and the sarcasm they inherited. I love the fiance's kid - his kindness and his deep sensitivity and his now-ripened sense of irony and adult reactions to the world around him. And I love the man, this man who gave me this fucked up sitcom-worthy family, because he waited around long enough for me to figure out that it was all going to be ok.


Photo by Ethan Hill.

36 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is what the Republicans and the Christian right will never, ever get: That some of the best families out there break all the rules.

Suzy said...

Yep, you said it anonymous. Sometimes life just doesn't go down the path you think it will (or should..) but that doesn't make it any less great.

JJ said...

um, wow. wow.

Leah said...

Wow -- that was deep. I mean it.

Leah

Sucker For Marketing said...

What a great way to start out my morning today. Thanks!

Isn't it interesting how our view of our own families changes as we go from child to adult? I'd love to hear your take on that sometime too!

Wanderluster said...

This is a post you ONLY could have written in your 30's. Bravo. You should show it to the man, the kid, the ex-wife, and the ex-wife's twin. Time is the greatest teacher and it sounds like you've all learned your lessons exceedingly well. Not many could do that.

Anonymous said...

Anon - something you seem to not get is that not all Republicans and Christians can be pigeon holed into a single box. Many of us break the "rules" too. You should broaden your perspective.

Meanwhile, excellent post, great writing. I love the tag - not decor... deal with it!

Anonymous said...

This is what its ALL about!!! Bravo!

Joslyn said...

awesome...love the decor posts, love the non-decor posts...love all of it. beautiful.

Anonymous said...

You're right; I should have said "idiot Republicans and the idiot Christian right."

Anonymous said...

Anonymous #1: how wise you are! I have absolutely no doubt that you are completely correct in your assertion that no Republican or conservative who is also a (*gasp*, *gag* *refrain from hurling*) Christian would do anything but spit upon Decorno's happy and supportive family situation.

Of course, more than 50% of your country falls into one or more of those categories, but heck, I'm thrilled that you can paint more than 100 million individuals with the, They "will never, ever get" it brush.

Anonymous #2: you sound defensive. When someone puts forth offensive stereotypes about a group of individuals (eg. All blacks have low IQs; Women will never, ever be decent drivers; Feminists are homely), there is no need to defend yourself or state, "many of us are not like that." The ugliness of their ignorance speaks for itself.

Note to everyone else: I not from the U.S. and am not a Republican or a member of the "Christian right."

However, it's amusing how many of us "foreigners" have developed sympathy and even affection for those groups because the American media we encounter overflows with smug Democrats besmirching them.

Lisa Wilson (& Alfie!) at The Pickled Hutch said...

Wow, imagine intentionally anticipating the worst and ending up with the best in spite of ourselves. Sometimes we just get lucky don't we? The important part is just realizing it in time. Congrats!
Lisa & Alfie

Richie Designs said...

my parents have been divorced for 30 years and are still friends. When I come to town for a visit, my dad and step-mom come over for dinner and hang out at my mom's house. Holidays are blended as well.

and yes my stepmom & mom get along swell and have their inside jokes about my dad as well...poor guy the girls gang up on him sometimes.

I'm glad that the family is kind to one another and I can definitely appreciate it even more as an adult.

katherine. said...

beautiful. absolutely.

beachbungalow8 said...

beautiful post. families don't always look the way we thought they were going to look. sending this on to nick.

pve design said...

Sounds like they are all very fortunate to have someone like you in their lives. It really does take a village.

Anonymous said...

Thank you.

my little apartment said...

awe :)

Kassy said...

awesome post!!!

Robin said...

You are so fortunate that your relationship has evolved like this and is advancing to a wonderful union. I lived with a man with two teenage sons and they became the sons I never realized I had wanted. When it ended I was heartbroken. I don't miss him anymore, but I miss his sons, parents and siblings, and my heart aches when I see young men who remind me of what those two boys have likely become.

So Haute said...

Wow. You need to write a book. Seriously. I'd buy it! Even though my family situation is vastly different I can relate to yours in a weird way. I think your style of writing really connects with people. Thanks for giving us all another amazing post to read!

Christine said...

Great post--granted, I came here for some decorno, but this was good too. It'll make me think twice when my own 31-year-old self thinks the same thing your 27-year-old self thought! I knew a woman whose sister's ex-husband joined them on vacation (with the new husband, etc). It was one big happy family!

e. love said...

wow... you gave me goosebumps and made my eyes tear up. you are truly one of those people that we all strive to be. loving, caring and very VERY real. I absolutely envy your ability to adapt. I wish I could have in my situ....of course when you are with someone WORTHY, all the superfluous crap just... falls wayside. I wasn't so fortunate. you are amazing.

Red River Interiors said...

Lovely and sensitive post...I recently read that most of life never goes as we plan..it's how we handle what comes to us quickly that makes greatness in people... Daily, I'm learning to give people an opportunity to rise to the good God put in all of us. When I do I realize it's me that was given the opportunity.... Fay

Vie Chaotique said...

You go. Someone here said that this post could only be written by someone in their 30's. I don't know if that is exactly true...but you had to have lived alot to come up with this. I applaud you. I married a guy that for 7 years I told myself would never be "the one". Even most of my friends repeatedly told me he could not be "the one". Why because he's an artist and everyone expected me to marry a doctor or a lawyer with a picket fence and the 2.5 kids. I got none of that, it turns out I did not want it. Guess what - I have been married 13 years and have the best relationship I know. Bottom line does he support your dreams and make you laugh? Yes - then go for it. You will have a fantastic life together.

adesignaffair said...

Wonderful reading this from you. I'm glad I stumbled into your postings today. Have a great weekend.

Turquoise said...

Wonderful post to read this morning.

Incredibly inspiring, thank you for sharing.

You rock girl!

alis said...

wow, look how civilized you all are. this probably wouldn't have worked if even 1 of the ppl involved had anything other than good intentions. i wish you all the best, you deserve it!

Sandy said...

I love the way you "unfolded" your story. "We" are surely not the same people we were 5 years or even two months ago and sometimes the loveliest lessons come from the strangest places. Thank you for sharing!

Alkemie said...

I totally agree with So haute that you should write a book. You have this great talent for writing in a way so that others can see it from your view. The punches of humor absolutely make it better. I had to laugh when you made the side comment the socks and Tevas LOL. Thank you for sharing your great story with us. I'd be the first in line to buy your book. Let us know ^_^

Karen

karey m. said...

excellent writing. all the damn time.

{and i love how even your loveliest posts never fail to incite mini-brawls between anons!}

Joanna Goddard said...

i love this post, thank you for sharing what you've learning. i loved reading this xoxo

Annao said...

wonderful post - wonderful topic, wonderful writing. thank you for sharing your thoughtful insight.

nyla said...

holy crap, that made me cry. i'm pms-ing, but still. write the book. it will get optioned for a movie and become the stuff of dramedy legend.

Vicki said...

Now in my fifties, I will add that even though we have lost the child we had in common, my husband's ex-wife and I are still friends. We email. My girls spend time with her, especially around the anniversary of their brother's death. They call her their step-mother and her new husband their step-father which some people find confusing but probably explains the relationship as well as anything. Yes, it is something that some people will never get: families do not fit into one narrow definition.

Penelope Bianchi said...

I love, love love this post! Happened on it!
Almost 32 years ago, I married a man with two daughters who were 13 and 14; and I had a daughter who was 7.
The older girls came to stay for a month...(they called me "IT" behind my back. As in: "It says I have to stay home because I have a fever!")..Well, their mother stayed in Europe......so they never left!
There were bumps; (they didn't understand rear-view mirrors......I could SEE them making faces at me. I just kept my sense of humor. Dressed up on Halloween in a witch costume....and said I was a "wicked stepmother"! (I thought I was funny, anyway!)

They both wrote their applications to college about their blended family.

I can tell you one thing for sure! When your stepchildren love you; it means so much! My psychologist said that it usually works out if the stepparent really wants it to! (MANY say they do; but they don't and it doesn't.)

We are a very happy blended family.....with 7 grandchildren...and the older girls are also very close to their mother!
My own daughter thought I was "very smart to marry and get me those sisters!"

Tribe is a great word!!