I was raised with a long list of conservative Dos and Don’ts of life. I abided by most. The ones that made sense, like “Don’t let your lips touch the spigot when drinking from a public water fountain,” were easy to follow. The questionable ones, “Stay away from that mentally unstable girl/boy that always gets into trouble,” were harder to follow, because those kind of ballstothewall beings are my favorite flavor in people.
Then there was the no negotiating if you want to remain recognized by this family don't-ism, ”DO NOT LIVE WITH SOMEONE IF YOU’RE NOT MARRIED!" Loud enough for me to hear, even if it was whispered to me by my mother.
I never did live with anybody, not that I wasn’t asked *brushes imaginary lint off shoulders.*
The fear of being dead to my family kept me from co-signing any co-lease for cohabitating in a co-op. However, as there always is a however with most insights, I am now of a different mindset due to the emotional and psychological duress that could have been avoided, *nice non-cohabitating girl or not*, had I lived with my husband first.
It was our first married night at home together. As I dumped out the laundry basket full of our first shared comingled his and hers clothing, there was a sudden shock of a view, fleeting, but enough of a sight that I prayed I'd been mistaken.
“Did you forget to empty out tissues from your pants pocket before throwing them in the laundry?” I asked my husband of ten days. "Because I just dumped this out and saw what looked like shreds of tissue that had gone through the dryer."
“Nope,” his answer came back quickly. He didn't even look up from ESPN.
And just like that, what could have been an arms entwined google eyed experience of what a metaphor of our coupling this laundry was; turned out, instead, to be a whispered shameful conversation at lunch with my girlfriend the next day.
“Oh my God,” I checked over both shoulders to make sure no one else was listening. “I need to tell you something. His underwear…” I stuttered. “It looked like a lace doily. Like the first ones ever made. I swear, the Smithsonian called asking for it.”
“Get.out.,” my friend mouthed back, disgusted, “like, how old do you think it was? ‘Cuz that’s just gross.”
“I know, I know,” my confession continued. “I just couldn’t get the holey Swiss cheese memory of the backside of his boxers out of my mind, not even, you know, later…”
“You gotta tell him it’s just not right, and that it turns you off. He’ll listen to that.”
“But what can I do? When I brought it up… he…he… he was almost proud of how old his boxers were. He bragged, ‘yup, had those babies since my fraternity days. No one milks a buck like me.’ ”
My single friend echoed my thought, “Ewwwwwwwwww…”
With her reaction, I decided to keep what happened next, to myself.
My husband lovingly double folded the threadbare overused tissue he called underwear, and as though delivering the golden tablets to Joseph Smith himself, placed them in our shared dresser drawer, right next to my honeymoon trousseau of days old satin underthings.
20 years later of lace doily as underwear, and my spouse hasn't changed (forgive the pun). His backside still looks as if I'm watching Doris Day through those gauzy filters she began asking for in the 1970s. His reasoning, God love him, is clear. "You call it air conditioning, I call it private school for the kids."
Frugal or saintly, I can't decide. Either way, my children, Cohabitation. No matter what I tell you in my parenting feverishness, consider the option.
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