Thursday, September 29, 2011

Cooking with dog, cooking with spider

Somewhere around six months ago, I decided to learn how to cook. Not to sound too old-fashioned, but it was shortly after Brian proposed that I realized I wanted to do this. Was it my June Cleaver concept of wifedom rearing its hot-rollered head again? Not exactly. Okay, maybe a little. But I think it basically just finally hit me that if I didn’t want to keep thinking up excuses to drive to my parents’ in Barrhaven around dinner time, something was going to have to be done.

For many people, I recognize that this is not a big decision. Upon committing to the concept, many people would simply buy a cookbook and try out a recipe; if it didn’t work out, they’d just try it again. Easy, right? Alas, not for yours truly.

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with food since my teens. Upon developing thighs at the same speed as breasts, I became hyper-aware of the role that food played in my life and how it could be manipulated to produce physical results. My grade school BFF and I would talk about how we’d never let ourselves get fat and even made pacts to stop each other from ‘turning into a fatso’. This was grade five. Through my teens and twenties, I have dieted, binged, purged, dieted, abstained, and overeaten. I have ranged from a size 14 to a size 4. And I honestly have hated my physical self equally at both ends of the clothing rack. There’s a larger discussion to be had about body image, and it’s one that will no doubt come up as we tackle our P:P—NEST goal of '`Improving ourselves'. The important point here is that food has been my friend and foe for years—but mostly foe. Learning to cook means, in a way, learning to embrace food…fats, oils, salt, spices, sugars, carbs, and proteins. It’s a big journey, and at 29 years of age, I feel way behind the class.

Adding to the roadblocks of learning to cook are two unalterable facts: I have a sensitive stomach; and I am OCD about meat. Perhaps the two grew from each other. Whatever the case may be, there is a laundry list of ingredients that hurt my little tummy (most notably, because Brian has the same problem: lactose), and I’m afraid to cook meat because I’m absolutely convinced I will poison everyone.

With these challenges identified, I started around Christmas by learning about tofu. A few hours of internet research later, I was pretty sure I could handle the stuff. (And yes, because someone will write to tell me: I know you can poison yourself with soy protein, but it’s easier to cook through and frankly, it’s just less intimidating.) I watched one particular video on YouTube that convinced me I could do this: it was called ‘Cooking with Dog’ and it appeared to be a clip from an Asian cooking show where—I’m not joking—a woman cooks a meal while her big grey poodle sits on the counter. He doesn’t get involved, he doesn’t eat her efforts, he just sits there. For some reason, the absolute absurdity of this clip convinced me: if the lunatic on the video can cook a noodle soup, with that unhygienic dog sitting up there on the counter, surely whatever minor germs I had in my kitchen were not that big a deal. And so I spent a couple of months shopping at the T&T Asian grocery store, learning to improvise Asian soup recipes. I’ll give you a walk-through of one of my soups another time, but the great thing that came out of making soup was that I got the confidence to try cooking tofu other ways.

Recently a friend of mine named Alison, who writes a foodblog based out of Newfoundland, started including some tofu recipes…perhaps because I kept harassing her about it on facebook. Alison knows what words like ‘sautee’ and ‘braise’ mean, so I usually don’t try to follow her recipes…but this recent one was just too easy not to try. It’s called Corn and Tofu Au Gratin, and she credits it to another recipe site, with some modifications she made. I suggest you give it a read on her blog.

The first time I made the dish, I faced the typical challenges of a new chef: my timing was off, I left things to the last minute, and if Brian hadn’t open cans for me while I stirred, I would have burned the whole thing. Here’s a little video we took:

As you can see, unlike Ali, I forgot to crumble my tofu and instead just stabbed at the cubes I’d cut with my spatula ‘til the broke apart.

The recipe calls for chevre, which is a type of cheese I have never used before, and I think was actually completely new to me. We bought a little tub of pre-crumbled cheese and sprinkled it over top as the recipe calls for. Even if the tofu itself had turned out disgusting, I have to say the recipe would have been worth the effort, simply for introducing me to this lovely cheese. If you’re out there and as clueless as I am, chevre is a goat milk cheese that has the consistency of a really gooey cheese curd when bought crumbled; and as I learned when we bought some more, it can also be straight-up spreadable like a super-soft cream cheese. What makes it awesome is that it tastes like fresh cheese curds. (And because someone will wonder: lactose intolerance isn't a black-and-white thing, and this cheese has been good to us thus far.)

Brian and I both LOVED this dish. Yes, it’s so good that it calls for all-caps. I admit I didn’t follow the recipe in regards to the spices, so it may have tasted nothing like the original, but I’m certain the chipotle is the star of show and that really shone through. We loved this dish so much, in fact, that yesterday I went to my parents’ and made it for them.

I brought my spices—at least, the ones I remembered using—my tofu, my chevre, and my broth and corn. It was weird, using a different skillet, and a different stove. Every little thing in cooking seems to cause such disproportionate effects on your efforts. For other newbie cooks out there, remember this advice (and remind me of it, too): you may not be the reason why things aren’t working. If you want to see what I mean, fry an egg over-easy at your own house in your favourite pan…then go to a friend’s place and try it again with their margarine, pan, and flipper.

Regardless of pans and spatulas, I ‘browned’ my tofu, added my corn, and seasoned the whole thing like a consummate expert. I toss and stirred the mix with a deft hand, and everything was looking very pro…until a spider ran out from behind the stove. Have I mentioned that spiders scare me almost more than sharks and aliens? It took me about twenty-five years to master my fear enough to kill them myself instead of just leaving my house ‘til someone could come do it for me. The creepy little bugger skittered across the wall beside the stove, running full-bore at me like an eight-legged suicide bomber. I shrieked. Actually, I kind of wailed. It was, in fact, a wailing shriek, and it just kept going. You remember Beaker on the Muppet Show, when he’d be upset and make that long high-pitched screamy sound? That was what came out of me. It continued as I realized that my only weapon was a wooden spatula thing I’d been stirring the tofu with. It increased as I realized what I was about to do. It intensified in pitch and paused with every thwap of my flipper against the wall—eeeeeeTHWAP…eeeeeeTHWAP…eeeeeTHWAP…eeee—as I tried, in vain, to smash the thing to oblivion. Tofu and juices splattered across the wall, staining the white paint. I didn’t care, flinging it harder and faster, creating more of a mess. He ducked and dodged under every smack, and, I kid you not, ran up my spatula. As I tried hysterically smashing the flipper against the edge of the wall, he continued his mission up the handle of my weapon, and just as my Beaker sound became a non-stop squeal, Brian came to the rescue. Unthinkingly, I handed him the spatula, spider and all, and ran out of the kitchen in my prancey old-lady run. From a safe distance, I turned to watch Brian as he finished squashing the bug with his heel, but he remained bent in half, staring down at the floor. I was confused for a moment, until I saw his face: his eyes were streaming with tears and he was laughing so hard he’d gone silent. I gave him an incredulous, outraged look  for about four seconds, before I burst into laughter myself. We stood, bent over with sore sides, laughing ‘til our faces hurt. Then Brian triple-promised me that the spider was dead, I held him in absolutely adoration for a moment, and then I went back to cooking.

Our finished dish!
I’m learning lots about food and about cooking, practically every day. I’ve learned that there are countless variables when you’re cooking, ranging from the freshness of your spices, to the speed, distance, and velocity of a spider running at you. I know I’m going to have to cook meat at some point, but after this, I think tofu is plenty exciting enough for now.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Dissolving Floor, Neighbourhood Swap, and a Sofa

Should I stay or should I go?

So, our floor is melting. Some of you may have seen that on facebook, but for those who didn’t, here’s the shot:

Turns out, that water damage under the tiles I told the landlord about two years ago? Yeah, I wasn’t crazy. It was there, it was ongoing, and it seems to have eaten the floor. For the next week, we will have to avoid falling into that giant hole, made by the exploratory digging of my landlord. Then, for a week after that, we will be immersed in reconstruction—if our landlord can find a contractor who is available that soon. Turns out that there are so many people renovating their homes in Ottawa right now, we’ve got ridiculously long waitlists for services. Just an idea, but maybe if the landlord had believed me two years ago, we could have had this dealt with—perhaps before the water managed to consume three levels of subfloor, leaving us staring down at the soggy joists.

Sigh. Well anyway, we’re in major debate now: do we stay or do we move? On the plus side, once this floor is fixed, we’ll know it’s kosher; and that is more than most tenants can be certain of. On the other hand, there are mold problems that keep sprouting up in the building, the heaters blitz out a couple times a winter, and most frustrating of all, three noisy tenants now have moved in…and there’s only six apartments. And yes, neighbours often move along, but two of these tenants still have over a year on their lease.

Westboro vs. Wellington

Condos under construction. photo:
The reality is, too, that we’re feeling a bit like we’ve grown apart from our neighbourhood. Westboro is one of the most sought-after areas to live in, and no wonder: it’s pretty, there’s great local services like the Soloway Jewish Community Centre (open to all), and Dovercourt Recreation Centre. And for years, the portion of Richmond Road that runs from Starbucks to Loblaws has been a little main street of cool shops. This neighbourhood, that I knew so well from my years at the local public school, always felt a bit like cottage country. Something about the houses told you that they’d be decorated inside with celestial-themed batiks, wooden cat statues, and windchimes…and they were. But sometime in the last five-ten years, things started to change in subtle ways. The little independent shops along the strip went out of business as rent prices started to soar. Rising in their places are, indeed, some indie stores, but the really expensive kind where $300.00 for a sundress is average…and the chains, like American Apparel, are working their way in, too. People who work in the stores can’t afford to live in the neighbourhood, and that problem gets worse as condos are built up and down the strip, ironically taking up the space where shops could be opened (which is the whole reason to live here in the first place). Fewer and fewer family-operated establishments survive.
A traditional Westboro home. photo:

As the local economy shifts—and I include condos as part of the economy because it’s big industry here—the residents change, too. The loveable war-era ‘shotgun homes’ that this area is known for are being torn down for modern, angular new constructions. Rent for a two bedroom apartment jumped from $1000 to $1500 in a year. I know, because I watch for these things, every time the heat goes off in January or the neighbours keep me up ‘til 3am with their screeching. Worst part is, these apartments are usually not worth the price, with a new term—‘Westboro Ghetto’—springing up amongst those who try to rent here: the rent is steep for the neighbourhood value, but the landlords aren’t taking care of the properties, so we end up spending the value of a mortgage on places that, say, flood every April. Even the idea that Westboro is a safe neighbourhood is starting to be doubtful; this past year at Westfest, the local street festival, rowdy local teenagers had to be pepper sprayed because they refused to peacefully let Starbucks close up its patio at 11:00. I had friends working there who were scared witless. Understand me well: I`ve loved Westboro for most of my life, and I miss what it used to be; and I do what I can to support the cool indie shops that do managed to carve a niche out here (holla to Lilac, Quicha Market, Moe's, etc etc). I worry that the trend of over-development will continue, and those remaining unique businesses will disappear like so many others...

Brian at Taste of Wellington West

Over the past couple years, though, I’ve noticed a migration occurring: a huge number of the local Mom n’ Pop shops that were closing down would have signs in the windows saying, “Moving to ____ Wellington.” Wellington is actually the same street as Richmond Rd, except that the name changes as you move into the next borough over: Wellington Village (also known as ‘Hintonburg’). Wellington Village used to be associated heavily with Mechanicsville, a beaten-down old neighbourhood that it does, indeed, rub up against. Less than a decade ago, I lived in Mechanicsville, in my very first solo apartment; the neighbourhood was sort of the ‘white ghetto’ of the city, with drug busts every week, and where it was always wise to have someone on the phone with you while you walked home from the bus stop. My personal opinion is that Mechanicsville hasn’t changed much yet…but Wellington Village has separated herself from that geographic sibling, and has evolved on her own to become a fantastic little area, recognized for her own character and merits.

The Hintonburger, mmmmmmm.
Pups at the new Sit n' Stay Dog Cafe, opening soon.
The shops are almost entirely independent, for one. The main strip is also about four times as long as Westboro’s, allowing for less steep competition for space (which, I’d hazard, helps keep the rent down a bit for the shopkeeps). The houses are still funky little war homes for the most part, though there are telltale signs of the same gentrification sneaking in around the edges…but I’m hopeful that Wellington will learn from the mistakes of Westboro and slow that growth ‘til it can be integrated in a respectful fashion. There are theatre companies and tons of local artists, open mic nights at the (indie) book store Collected Works, and enough bakeries to make me into a fat, happy woman. I can actually afford to shop in this neighbourhood…not everywhere, but certainly more than I can a mile up the street. I don’t know if you’ll understand what I mean when I say this, but: the women walking around almost all have short pixie-cut hair, many wear boots with little non-brand-name dresses, and there are very few pairs of Lululemon yoga pants being worn as street clothes. I guess what I’m saying is, I fit in here.

We attended a sort of street sale-slash-festival called Taste of Wellington West about a week ago, and that’s when Brian and I realized we might be living in the wrong borough. Wandering around, eating incredible food samples from the local restaurants and seeing the cool little shops that line the district, we felt at home right away. This seems like a neighbourhood where we could live and shop; where we can get bread and cheese and go home for a special meal; where we can listen to music and meet other cool people who also have offbeat lives. So for those of you with connections to Wellington West, we are looking for an apartment in your neighbourhood. We’ll be good neighbours, we promise. Let us know if you know of a place!

Goal 1: building the nest—the sofa switch-up

So, yes: we are contemplating moving.

The bleak irony of the timing isn’t lost on us. Of course we would come to this crossroads just as we begin our Nest project, with a goal to fix up our apartment into a kick-ass living space. Just as we photographed our entire place, preparing the ‘before’ shots to compare with the eventual ‘after’ shots, this problem springs up. It would be pointless, then, to document the specifics of our apartment if we aren’t staying; rather, until we get this settled, we’ll just focus on the individual details we are working on: mostly furniture rejuvenation, colour and theme choices, etc. These things are portable and will be relevant if we end up in a new place, too, regardless of layout, size, or location. Like our couch, the first step in our reclamation of our home after the wedding.

Behold our old couch. This couch, with its super sexy dusty rose velvet, came from Brian’s apartment when he moved in with me. I had helped him start gathering Victorian-esque furniture for his living room with a plan to make the place really steampunk. (If you want to better understand the steampunk aesthetic, google it or click here.) However, much as we attempted to continue with that theme when Brian moved in, we keep getting distracted and ending up with more eclectic items, or simply more Victoriana. Thus, our new theme for the living room is ‘Rock n’ Roll Tea Party’. This allows for a lot of flexibility in how we decorate, but is still pretty restrictive in a positive sense. I won’t, for example, hang a macramé owl in there.

So the couch was pretty good, and would have worked despite its hideous colour…but we hated it. It was too worn out and needed to be re-stuffed. Also, Mr Darcy (our pug) had had an accident on it during the wild last months of wedding planning, and while I cleaned it and no one else seems to be able to smell anything, like Lady MacBeth I felt haunted by the spot. I swear it still smelled and I couldn’t stand having people sit on it; I would writhe in despair when guests went near it. It was time for it to go.

Sticking to our Project: Priceless principles (COMMUNITY – DIY – ECO-ECONOMY), we decided to look for a used couch, saving yet another piece of furniture from the landfill while watching our budget. We are big fans of, not just because I work with them now, but because they’ve got a strong focus on being hyper-local and are Canadian (versus Kijiji, which is owned by eBay and is American). We searched and searched, as anyone who has ever looked for a couch is familiar with. Finally, we narrowed it down to about five, sent emails with offers to the owners, and waited. To our utter surpise, a woman selling a spiffy old couch for $500.00 came down to our bargain-basement offer of $100.00. Amazing. We borrowed a friend’s van and procured the lovely thing immediately.

You know what’s really not fun? Moving an antique sofa up three flights of antique stairs. You know what’s even less fun? Moving an antique sofa out before bringing another antique sofa in. About thirty minutes of bruised thumbs, torn nails, and angry backs later, the pink velvet monster was on the street corner, with a sign reading “FREE: No bugs, but needs a cleaning.” Not very classy, I admit, but it was gone before we woke up the next day. In its place resides our new sofa…ironically, still striped with a dusty rose colour, but inifinitely superior in look and styling. And anyway, we have some clever ideas on integrating pinks into the room…stay tuned.

Eufemia Bella pillow...pretty!
We plan to sew a bunch of throw cushions, but to start us off we splurged on a throw pillow by local artisan Eufemia Bella. While pricey for a single pillow at 35.00, we gave in as it still fit the DIY principle of Project: Priceless, and it was a post-wedding gift to ourselves…I’ve wanted one of her pillows for about a year now! It highlights how the eventual apple green and pink can work together in the room, and definitely has that Telecaster-meets-crumpet look we’re going for. 

The next entry we do about the 'Build A Nest' goal, I think we'll chat about our very, very cool coffee table upcycle. But the couch was an important detail to share, because it's such a focal point in the living room. Now that we have the sofa figured out, the rest will come together either because, or in spite, of it. 
And what is the difference between a couch and a sofa?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Welcome to the Nest: Groundrules and an Introduction

Brian and Jordan with their pug and their parents' dogs.
Welcome to the Nest, everyone! Welcome to the new chapter in our lives, where Brian and I, newly married, learn what being legally and spiritually bound together really means. Sounds daunting? Sister, you ain’t lyin’. As we talked about in the prologue, we are gearing up to tackle marriage in all its messy glory, learning what it means to build a life, home, and family (puppies, not babies) together.We've got a pretty good idea of what it takes to be a good team--if you aren't yet familiar with Project: Priceless, we invite you to scope out our wedding project, where we borrowed, traded, and received gifted items to put together our entire wedding. But we're not naive: we know this next step in our journey--being married to each other--is a whole new kettle of fish.

We plan to chronicle on The Nest all the various aspects of this journey. We’ve narrowed down our goals for the first year.


Build a Nest: Make our ramshackle apartment, made up of two very different lives, develop into something new and cohesive. Most importantly, do it in P:P style: with little cost and lots of collaborative creativity, encouraging barter, trade, and freecycling.

Cohabitate: Looking at this word literally, our goal is to learn to live together…everything from decisions to dishes.

Feed Each Other: Learn to cook food that has at least one part of it that doesn’t come premade. We'll be looking for help on this one. Lots.

Stay Acquainted: Find things to do in the city together so we don’t end up fermenting on the couch, eventually melding together into one big mossy couch lump.

Feed the Fire: Keep things spicy. You know what we mean.

Improve Thyself: Taking steps to keep healthy, smart, sexy, and worldly. We never want to run out of things to say or ways to impress each other.


We also plan to maintain the principles that made Project: Priceless—the Wedding Experiment so wonderful:

COMMUNITY: Be involved with our community, local businesses, and local people as much as possible. Utilizing, as always, social media tools to do so. Maintain a focus on finding ways to trade with, and promote, indie talent.

DIY: As much as possible, try to do things ourselves--and/or foster the DIY skills of others. DIY means learning new skills, saving money, and fostering creativity. Also, it means that, perfect or not, things will be unique…and that’s one of our favourite things.

ECO-ECONOMY: This is a newer term, used typically to label the concept of an economy that respects the earth. We’d like to take this one step further: our goal is to find ways to be ecologically friendly while also being economical. The trouble is that, while there are some kick-butt eco-friendly concepts out there, many of them are just way out of reach of people with lower-to-middle-class incomes. Our goal is to find ways to spare the earth and our budget.


Project: Priceless—The Wedding Experiment was a success because a community—an international community of people connected through the ‘net—helped us build that success. Read along with The Nest, and communicate with us! Share ideas to help us with this project. We want to hear your suggestions on new projects, activities, and ideas. And if you’re a local artisan or indie business, you know we love to hear from you; if your craft fits in with the P:P Nest goals, we want to visit with you and talk about what you do! So don’t be strangers, everyone. Tweet, comment, and email; we continue to welcome you along on our journey.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Prologue: the Modern Marriage

We got married on a Monday, then spent two days of bliss curled up in a hotel room before returning home. And so it was that Wednesday, when the dust settled, was the day that I began to feel weird.

I found myself staring at Brian and saying in my head, “Husband”. I would then look down at myself and think, “Wife”. I would look back at Brian, saying it again: husband…and back at me: wife. Brian was of course eating his oatmeal, or picking at his toenails, or doing the dishes, oblivious to the turmoil going on inside me, as I would sit there, sizing him up, feeling queasy. It wasn’t long before I broke and told him it felt weird, this husband-wife thing. He agreed, though I suspect for simpler reasons: the fact that we’d done something considered very ‘grown-up’, or the fact that it was (our intention, anyway) a permanent arrangement.

My concerns were deeper, more philosophical…and therefore, I’ll admit, less vital. But for me, they were crucial. Unsure of exactly what was worrying me, I tried to find a simple solution that would staunch the flow of nausea: I proposed we not use the words ‘husband’ and ‘wife’. Brian, looking confused but catching on to the wild look in my eyes, agreed. Then I said, wait: I like husband, so I’ll call you that, but you can’t call me wife. This was a little more perplexing, and Brian wanted to know what he could call me. We threw words around and ended up with ‘wench’; which was funny and cute when we were with intimates but turns out, some strangers don’t think that’s a very funny name at all.

Through this process of talking about these labels, I figured out why I was so reluctant to use them. There are words in our lives that, when we hear them, immediately conjure up certain images. ‘Cheese’, for example: you may picture a red wax round, or a skinny orange brick, or a pie-piece wedge of bubbly swiss. ‘German shepherd’ is another good one: you can picture a police dog, a guard dog, or the Littlest Hobo. Now, what do you think of when you hear ‘husband’? How about ‘wife’? I pictured:

-coming home in a three-piece suit
-a brief case and a pipe
-sweater vests
-an armchair
-lawn mowing
-partner in a law firm
-carving a turkey
…and on the less idealized side…
-dirty undershirt
-beer cans everywhere
-yelling and insulting
-pickup trucks
-cheating, strippers, prostitutes
-a hound dog with fleas as his BFF.

-baker and cook
-oven mitts
-always smiling, submissive
-pinch-waisted circle dress
-arts & crafts
-childrearing (eep)
…and less ideally…
-working woman who loses all connection to her spouse
-smoking, drinking, and botox.

I think it’s pretty obvious that my paradigms have been constructed through decades of pop culture exposure, so please believe me when I say that, as I read through these lists, I know they are insane. But emotions are irrational, and these images are strong, ingrained into (many of us, I daresay) over a lifetime. Like most young adults, I cannot look to the previous generation for role modelling of spousal archetypes, though my own parents are still together after thirty years—but I’ve made no secret of the fact that I think they’re both insane and have no idea how they put up with each other, let alone do I think they have a sure-fire marital model worthy of emulating. My parents, two of the strongest Alpha personalities I’ve ever met, have managed to stay together (without homicide attempts), but it’s a mystery to me how they haven’t taken each other out in a Spy Vs Spy-style assassination scheme. More power to them, of course; I’m glad they’ve survived and thrived in each other’s care. But they are not television's embodiment of an idyllic husband/wife archetype.

I asked myself, would these silly Donna Reid-era gender roles play through my head if Brian was a woman? Did these roles worry me when I was in my previous long-term relationship, that happened to be same-sex? My internal TV screen went snowy as I tried to picture Brian as ‘Brianna’; no, there was simply no examples, good or evil, to conjure up of same-sex matrimony. Well, with one exception: two female friends of ours got married a few years back, and their twitter accounts read like Martha Stewart magazine headlines: “Baked the most delectable risotto tonight, paired it with perfect Chardonnay, and cuddled with my wife in a giant duvet made of sustainably-plucked organic goose feathers.” Blech. No, this couple does only two things for me:
a) reaffirms that I am too neurotic to ever have a life that serene,
b) reaffirms that my McCain pizza with one of those bottles of cat-shaped wine, followed by arguing over who’s got whose pillow…is not tweet-worthy.

I don’t think I’m the only one struggling to picture what exactly modern-day marriage is supposed to be. Immersed as we are in baby boomers, who caught the tail-end of that idyllic Leave it to Beaver world, matrimony indeed seems to be rife with gender stereotypes, sex-specific jobs, and dirty socks and nagging. No wonder so many divorces happen these days: the 80s developed the female power-executive, who crushed out any hopes of daily homemade casseroles; the failing economy and changing technology made it unlikely that men would be able to maintain their simple 9-to-5’s, with enough money coming in to support 3-5 humans and a mortgage. Our poor parents were left with an image of family life that they simply couldn’t fulfill…or didn’t want to. Now, the new generation has the dirty job of figuring out what exactly husbands and wives are and do, when both people work, men are allowed to like cooking, and women are allowed to use power tools. In fact, we live in a time when we couldn’t return to the Cleavers-esque lifestyle, even if we really really wanted to; yet those old-school stereotypes still linger in the air, with those of us unable to fulfill them feeling almost apologetic about it.

After our week of honeymoon-staycation, I sent Brian off to work on the Tuesday morning with hugs and kisses. I was actually pondering my new title of ‘wife’ when I got a text from him that he was coming home again, less than an hour after he’d left. When he got in the door and told me he no longer had a job, I was floored. I’ve been laid off and unemployed many times, and I know that a job search in this market is never fast. My brain, master coordinator and planner that it is, started strategizing about how to spread my income out over the expenses of two people and an apartment. After we held each other for a while, letting the waves of financial worry wash over us, Brian swore he’d be super useful around the house, doing all sorts of chores and odd jobs. My head swirled as I realized: I had suddenly become the 1950s husband, and Brian the 50s wife. Sure, it would be temporary, but there it was: an image in my head of myself, coming home, dressed in a tie and carrying a briefcase, to find my sweetie making mac & cheese casserole.

I knew then a valuable truth about the modern spousal model: that our strength would come from the fact that we can be flexible now, with our gender roles and our familial duties. That, while we have no easy blueprints for wifedom nor husbandhood to follow, we are well-versed on all the duties inherent in a relationship: practicalities like cleaning, cooking, working, and providing…and the intimacies like listening, holding, supporting, and loving. Yes, we were going to have to carve out exactly what our roles were; but most importantly, I think I knew then that our roles would need to be forever fluid. Being married to each other wasn’t about filling out a dress or suit; it was about this moment, on the couch, holding each other as our world fell apart. And, doing it again when the world got better.

I’m letting Brian call me ‘wife’ now. I like the way he says it, with the reverence reserved for words like  ‘goddess’ and ‘empress’ and ‘tiger’ and ‘ninja’. I call him husband, and to me it means everything from teddy bear to Spartan. Yes, there are people who throw the titles—especially ‘wife’—at us like it’s a swear word, but I’ve remembered that I’ve never been a good conformist, so if these nasty people think that ‘wife’ is a bad word, I plan to show them what an awesome one it can be. Our ceremony pronounced us ‘partners in life’, and that’s what we’ll be, gender roles aside and with a flexible job description. And anyway, Brian is the one with the apron collection. No joke.