The Paper Trail
By Lori Welch Brown
As XXL and I approach our one-year anniversary (where does the time go?!), a mutual friend pointed out that it’s our paper anniversary to which XXL responded, “huh?” After a quick lesson in wedding anniversary tradition, XXL’s response morphed from “huh” to “hmmm.” I believe it was manner maven, Emily Post, who came up with the anniversary categories—probably around the time our grandparents were celebrating their first year so who are we to judge? For me, paper is very symbolic and fitting for any couple with one year under their respective belts. Important moments of our courtship were captured on paper via cards and notes. Our scrap book is full of movie and concert ticket stubs—mementos of nights out on the town and airline ticket stubs commemorating our travels. Our marriage license is printed on a very official looking paper. Paper is strong enough to hold the weight of our most important thoughts and feelings, yet soft enough to wipe away our tears of which there have been a few.
Friends and family members were quick to ask me after the nuptials if being married felt different. I wasn’t sure it would as we had been co-habiting for well over a year before we walked down the aisle. I was surprised to learn, however, that married life did indeed feel different. Maybe it was because XXL kept reminding me over coffee every morning that we were ‘hitched.’ For the first month or two, I felt a bit like Sybil juggling my 18 different personalities as I struggled with my newfound identity as Mrs. Who was I in this new role? One minute I was giddy with excitement as I dried myself with one of our new Pottery Barn monogrammed bath sheets. The next I was paralyzed with fear as I slipped into my usual morning coffee ritual as part of a duo—breaking my long run as a solo act. Did I fall and hit my head? Who is this camo-wearing man sitting across from me in the robe? Did he just call me his ‘wife’? Are those children I see playing in a quiet, tree lined cul-de-sac I see out that front window? Who is this middle-aged married woman in my chair and what the BEEGEEZUS is that on my left ring finger? WTH?
Once the fog cleared, I realized that XXL and I have created many awesome memories during this year of paper. We’ve traveled to more places, done more things and laughed more times than I could begin to count. I’d be lying, however, if I painted a paper trail full of nothing but unicorns, rainbows and Facebook moments. Our first year together as man and wife has also had its share of life’s more fragile moments—it is the paper year after all. We’ve had our share of disagreements, stubborn, bull-headed moments, and out and out fights—not of the War of the Roses variety, more like the Cold War. They say the first year of marriage is the hardest, and while I don’t have anything to compare it to, I would agree that it wasn’t always domestic bliss. Not only are you trying to do the Venus/Mars dance (challenging), but you are realizing that you better figure the dance out soon because you’ve got an eternity with this dude/chick, and unless you’re a masochist, you probably don’t want to spend it arguing about how to load the dishwasher or the proper way to wipe crumbs off the counter (dry rag or wet sponge?). The real kicker is that being in a relationship—especially when you’re married—is a great way to draw attention to your own warts. When you’re single, you can either convince yourself that there’s something wrong with you or you can convince yourself that you’re perfect and everyone else is flawed. I’d say most of us veer towards the latter because we have to sleep at night…alone. Once you get hitched up, you have to own your stuff…not only own it, but drag it out and put it on display for someone else to inspect and analyze on a daily basis. You test drive that notion a bit when you’re dating, but you’re so intoxicated by the new car smell that you don’t really notice anything else—which is a beautiful thing. Once married life sets in, you begin to realize that the car parked out front is yours—muffler noise, balding tires and all. Hopefully, like me, you took your time, kicked the tires a bit, and made an informed decision. You picked something suited for the long haul—something that doesn’t just look good sitting in the driveway. It’s got to be able to maneuver the curves, handle the rough terrain, and perform well under varying conditions. Sure it can be fun to drive, but it also has to be comfortable and safe. You’re going to be putting a lot of miles on that baby, and it can’t break down on you. A long, beautiful journey awaits…you just have to make it past the paper trail.