Sometimes I think I hate my husband. Sometimes I even say it aloud, under my breath, after I’ve tripped over his shoes in the hallway, or while I’m trying to fall asleep to the sound of his snoring. Does his breathing have to be so irregular? I feel like I could fall asleep to his snoring if he would just be more consistent about it.
At dinner, I watch him from across the table and wonder how on earth, while we were dating, I never noticed all those smacking sounds he makes when he eats. Did he used to try a lot harder to impress me? Can’t he hear himself?
Sometimes, when a bickering match turns into actual arguing, when I know I’m right, when I know he’s the one being unreasonable, not me, I imagine what it would be like to be alone. What it would be like to live a life in which my opinion is the only one that matters. To not find his receipts lying around the house, to not have to turn the car around because he forgot his wallet, again. I imagine a life in which I would not have to consider him, compromise with him, wait for him, cook for him, do anything for him.
I wonder: Might I have been better suited for a different type of man? Someone who is aware of the sounds they make, someone who thinks about picking up after themselves, someone who notices when there’s a mess on the counter? There was that one boyfriend from college who was such a neat freak — I wonder if I’d have been better off with him. Instead of me nagging him, it’d probably be the other way around. I visualize that parallel universe, and try to picture what marriage would be like if I’d ended up with someone who found these many small things as important as I do. My house would be immaculate. My ears, gratified.
But I’m here, in this universe, with my husband. The one I chose. Sometimes I look over and catch him staring. I roll my eyes, indignant. “What? Why are you looking at me?” “You’re beautiful,” he says, and I shrug my shoulders and turn away, pretend it doesn’t feel good to hear him say it.
Getting ready for bed, I sneer at my reflection in the mirror. I step on the scale and groan. He says around his toothbrush, “Stop it, you’re perfect just the way you are.” He’s splattering toothpaste spittle on the counter.
I have this thing I do when I eat pistachios. I suck all the salt off, then crack open the shell with my teeth, and then suck them some more. It’s a disgusting, awful, slimy way to consume a food. I belch, loudly, as loudly as possible, because I like to rate my burps on a 1-to-10 scale, taking into account both volume and duration. I stink up the bathroom, leave my period underwear soaking in the bathroom sink, sometimes go three days without a shower. My hair gets stringy with grease. I hate bras, so I never wear one at home. My boobs are used up, deflated and sad. They swing like pendulums everywhere I go.
My husband comments on my body a lot; he tells me it’s perfect. He says I’m a great mom, an awesome cook, and that I have an eye for interior decorating (I don’t). He marvels at my writing. “I could never write a book,” he says. “That’s just insane.” He makes me feel unique and special, like my little existence somehow stands out among all the billions of others. He sees all the good in me, and is seemingly blind to all the bad. Why can’t he see my imperfections?
There are husbands who pick at their wives, who suggest they could stand to lose a few pounds or put on a little makeup or keep the house picked up better. Not mine. Wholly and unconditionally accepting of my entire being, everything about me, everything I do, he can’t stay mad for more than a few minutes. I don’t think he even knows how to hold a grudge.
I could find someone who chews with his mouth closed. I could find someone who remembers to pick up his socks, who squeezes the toothpaste tube the right way (from the bottom, not the middle, for the love of god). I could maybe find someone who snores pleasantly or (even better) not at all.
But I could search for a million years and never find anyone capable of such pure, selfless love as my husband. Or I could, but it wouldn’t be me they would love. I’m not deserving of it, as easily annoyed as I am, as riddled with imperfection. I am not an easy person to love, but he loves me anyway.
My husband tells me he’s lucky to have me, that he can’t imagine what he did to deserve me. He’s got it so, colossally, backwards. He could have loved anyone this much — someone more worthy and appreciative, someone not bothered by wet chewing sounds. But for some reason, he chose me, and continues to do so every day, as quietly and casually as if it were reflex — as if, to him, loving unconditionally comes as naturally as breathing.
He is not the lucky one.