Last week, the New York Times published a list of the thirteen questions to ask before getting married. I scanned the article and nowhere did I find the one question I asked:
What do you mean the condom broke?
Instead, there’s a bunch about finances and child rearing and negotiating conflict, like this one:
Did your family throw plates, calmly discuss issues or silently shut down when disagreements arose?
It’s a good question and, if I had thought to ask, I would have liked to know my husband’s answer. But I didn’t think to ask because my brain was muddled (more on that later).
While I would have liked to know my husband’s answer to how his family handled conflict, I’m absolutely sure I would never have wanted him to know mine.
Let’s see. Throw plates, calmly discuss issues or silently shut down? Are those the only choices? Are you sure there isn’t an option for my father slapping my mother, calling her a dirty whore, and then threatening her with a baseball bat while my sister and I run down to the pay phone on the corner and frantically dial 911? Is that one of the choices? No? Well, I guess I’ll answer none of the above, then.
If you click on the link to the NY Times story and read the rest of the questions, you might start to feel that this has little to do with love or romance or attraction and instead seems an awful lot like a job interview. Like most job hunters, applicants for the position of spouse probably become adept at stretching and spinning the truth so that it casts them in the most favorable light.
I just interviewed for a position (wish me luck!) so this job application metaphor comes easily to my mind. I left that interview thinking I’d hit every question out of the park, and there was no curve ball they could have thrown at me that I could not handle, not even if they had asked me how my family managed disagreements.
Could you repeat the question? Ok, throw plates, calmly discuss issues or silently shut down. All right. I’ll say that we were definitely a plate-throwing family, only because we cared so much about one another, and if a plate needed to be thrown to show how much we cared, we threw it. That’s the type of people I come from. We recognize what needs to be done and we do it. Do you know the saying, ‘You can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs’? So, yes, sure, we broke some eggs in my family. And a lot of plates.
Now let’s return to that bit I mentioned earlier about my brain being muddled back when I dated my future husband: there’s a real problem with the New York Times list of questions because it assumes we are thinking clearly as we assess the qualities of our prospective spouse.
Foolish, foolish New York Times. We are not thinking clearly.
We are not thinking about consolidating debt, or how much money we’re comfortable spending, or the (potential) in-laws.
We’re thinking about how he laughs at my jokes, and how he can do all the voices of the characters on The Simpsons, and how he does that thing with his tongue that I like, that thing that I did not even know I liked until I met him.
In the end–or at least at the end of a dozen or so years of marriage–I do wish I’d thought to ask all the questions before we got married.
Unfortunately, I don’t think I asked any questions, other than what kind of music he liked.
Now that we’re married and we have kids, I really, really, really want my daughters to consider everyone of these thirteen questions when they head out on their own romantic adventures.
It’s amazing how your perspective on all this changes when you remove yourself from the equation and add in your adolescent daughters.
As a parent who frets endlessly over everything, I hope my daughters rank their future partners’ ability to negotiate conflict higher than his ability to do that thing with his tongue.
As a woman who fell hopelessly in love too many times, I suspect they won’t.
Anyway, here’s the list of thirteen–thirteen? Really, NY Times? Are you trying to jinx all the married people?–let’s make it FIVE questions you should ask before getting married, according to Do Not Get Sick in the Sink, Please.
Five Questions You Should Ask Before Getting Married
- How long are you going to leave your dirty laundry on the bedroom floor before I get to throw it onto the front lawn?
- Should we move the arm chair by the window or leave it next to the lamp?
- If I make dinner from a recipe I find on the internet after searching “What to make when you have only a packet of active dry yeast, a mostly brown half of an avocado, and an old jar of Herbs de Provence that I bought back when I tried to cook French food that week in 2007?” will you:
- Eat the dinner I so lovingly prepared without complaint.
- Tell me you love me and you had a really big lunch.
- Ask me, “How could you forget it’s pizza night?”
- Fake an illness so severe that I’ll have to drive you to the emergency room where you can eat hospital food instead.
- Paper or plastic?
- You didn’t learn to do that thing with your tongue that I like from a hooker, did you?
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