TGIF: The Good-ish Wife

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On poodles, nose-bleeds and real love.

Getting married is a mind-bending experience. None of my copious note-taking from rom-coms prepared me for the emotional crazytown that was my wedding day.

Exactly 33 days ago, I promised my love, commitment and spare kidneys to my sweetie, Kupa.

It was an eclectic wedding, given that I’m Indian and Kupa is Zambian.  Picture ‘Monsoon Wedding’ against the backdrop of Mother Nature’s very own bouncers frigid Canadian mountains with frosted tips, standing guard–sans headset and tight t-shirt.

From the pictures, the day might appear to mirror the pageantry of prom. Fancy frock, clean cuticles, personal paparazzi, hairspray helmet, blinding bling–and at the end of the day, you get to go home with the quarterback.

But what happens after the Prom Wedding?

Back in the quiet of our room, Kupa assisted me in somber solidarity as I unwrapped my sari, removed bangles, peeled off fake eyelashes and unclipped my  22″ hair extensions.

After the long, demystifying process was over, I felt naked. Like a freshly shaved poodle.

I wondered if Kup was more unnerved by my drag-queenesque un-transformation or the pile of human hair laying neatly on the bed.

I looked at him in silence, straight-faced and unblinking.”You’re my husband,” I said, as if it had just occurred to me.

“You’re my wife,” he responded before pulling me in for a hug. Not the euphoric, kissing in the rain, “Notebook” hug, but an older sibling hug. He held my quivering, naked poodle self with a steady and full embrace.

I was Alice, free-falling down a rabbit hole called “Marriage”. I knew I had officially crossed the threshold from girlfriend to wife; but what did the term “wife” really mean? For months leading up to the wedding I had quizzed my married girlfriends about what marriage looked like. “You’ll be fine,” they assured me. Little did I know that in less than 48 hours I’d face the first major test of my vows.

As Kupa and I swayed in silence, in a small, ridiculous corner of my brain, an imaginary gospel choir sang a soulful rendition of Britney Spears, “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman”.

T’was the Night Before Christmas

Two days into our honeymoon, Kup and I were in bed, rocking our PJ’s, eating leftover pizza and watching ‘When Harry Met Sally’ on my Macbook.  Billy Crystal, roomy cotton pants and carbs at a 135 ° angle. This slothful state was my happy place.

“Is it pathetic that I’m ready for bed?” I asked, staring at the empty pizza box.

“Thank God!” he laughed. “I’m exhausted too.”

“It’s only 8:45!” I said, reclining further into a 160° angle. “Wow. We suck!”

“It’s our honeymoon,” he chuckled. “We can do what we want!”

Heart and stomach-happy, I assumed the position of the big spoon, snuggling up to Kupa before drifting off into a food-laced coma.

“Good night, husband,”  I said, still tickled by the gravitas of the ‘H’-word.

“Good night, wife,” he said, giving my arms a little squeeze.

In Sickness and in Health…

A few hours later, his voice croaked into the darkness. “I don’t feel so good.”

“Oh no!” I muttered lazily, deep in sleep purgatory.

“Babe, I really don’t feel well,” he whispered softly, fifteen minutes later.

I made a valiant effort to pry open my eyes when I eventually heard a groan. It was Kupa shaking: eyes closed, teeth chattering.

My eyes shot open. “Sweetie, are you okay?” I checked his temperature with my henna covered hands.

“Throat hurts,” he rasped.

He was burning up and shivering at the same time. I jumped out of bed and started pacing. This was “go” time. I needed to woman up! I called the concierge to see if housekeeping had any medication. He apologized, informing me that they didn’t; but he said he could send a bellman upstairs to buy something at the drugstore if I had cash.

“Yes please!” I said emphatically, grateful for some leftover petty cash that Kupa had given me the previous day. “Oh! And could you also send up some salt?”

I was rubbing Kupa’s back when there was a knock at the door. I cinched my bathrobe, took a deep breath and opened it. It was a 6′ 4″ giant bellman holding a tiny tray with a bowl of salt. “Alexander” his badge read. He had the face of a nine-year-old and the body of a footballer. He must’ve seen the anguish on my face because the moment I handed him the money, he sprinted in the direction of the elevator like his life depended on it.  “Run Alex! Run!” I wanted to yell.

Reassured and humbled by his sense of urgency, I rushed back to Kupa. He looked pretty fragile huddled under the covers. I helped him to his feet carefully, hoping that a warm shower might stop the uncontrollable shivering. We made our way across the room, one haggard, quivering step at a time.

Given that it had been less than 24 hours since I’d been “deflowered”, I was quite anxious about disrobing him! I dug deep and faked the panache of a veteran nurse as I gently ushered him into the shower, pacing like a nervous squirrel as I watched the water wash over his quaking body.

The plot thickened. “Babe, uh… my nose is bleeding.”

WHAT THE WHAT. Okay. Now I was ready to panic. I didn’t know anything about nose bleeds! Are you supposed to put your head between your knees or tilt your head back? Does that make the blood flood your brain and come out of your eyes?

After we got the nose bleed under control I stirred salt into a cup of hot water so that Kupa could gargle after his shower. I wiped him down, wrapped him up in a bathrobe and handed him the cup. He gave me the “please-don’t-make-me” face. I hovered in silence until he emptied the cup.

I had just tucked him back into bed when Alex knocked on the door. There he was, red-nosed, panting with paper-bag and change.

“Keep the change,” I said.

“Are you sure?” he asked. “You gave me a twenty dollar bill.”

I insisted, thanked him and shut the door. I would’ve happily handed over my wedding ring in return for the favour.

I placed a couple pills in Kupa’s hands and lifted his head so that he could take a sip of water to swallow them. I noticed the ice bucket that we’d used to chill wine and realized it would be perfect to give Kupa an ice bath. I dipped a wash cloth into it and wrung it dry. He winced as I placed the cold, damp cloth on his forehead. The teeth chattering grew louder.

In that moment, I imagined the Christmas story in a way I never have. I saw Mary and Joseph on the eve of Jesus’ birth: newly weds, broke, clueless and shunned. Joseph desperate to help his wife; and Mary in tremendous pain on a donkey. The image resonated with me. Sure, Kupa and I were in a boutique hotel in the heart of an urban city; but I understood feeling helpless, unqualified and lost. I suddenly understood my responsibility as a wife and the weightiness of my vows.

My eyes pricked with tears as I placed a freshly-wrung ice-cloth on Kupa’s head and started to pray:

Dear Jesus, I’m a mess. Show me how to take care of my baby. Please help me be a good wife.

Just as the floodgates were about to open, I heard a small voice.

“Thank you for taking care of me,” Kupa said, his eyes still closed. And then, somehow, magically, he fell asleep.
____________

Taking care of Kupa that night was a terrifying and a gratifying exercise. I’m learning that if push comes to shove, beneath my seemingly clueless exterior, I do have some ninja-nurturing Lady Nightingale abilities.

One of my biggest insecurities before getting married was my ability to be domestic and nurturing. It’s one thing to talk about love in abstract terms, with a latte in one hand. It’s another thing to live it out tangibly in your day-to-day life. Marriage is “love” in practice.

But it’s scary.

It’s scary to watch someone you love suffer.
It’s scary to share finances, bed sheets and closet space.
It’s scary to wake up with morning breath, looking like a hot mess.
It’s scary to step up to the plate when you feel incompetent and helpless.

But scary is good.

My first month of marriage has been heart-wrenching, hysterical and healing. I’ve never been this vulnerable, exposed or fully seen before. To quote Coldplay, “Nobody said it was easy.” Nobody said “it” i.e. a good marriage (life/career/story) was going to be easy.

Real love is gritty, raw and bloody.
Real love drops the towel of perfection, stands buck-naked, quivering like a freshly-shaved poodle, and stares fear in the eyes.
Real love shows up: imperfect, stumbling, awkward and squirrel-like.
Real love acknowledges weakness, celebrates strength and realizes that anything “easy” is a sham.
Real love allows light and grace to wring out raging fevers within.

I think a good wife models this kind of love.

I’m a good-ish wife. 😉

______________________________________________________

So, my adorable Egg McMuffins, (if you are still there) tell me:

  1. What makes you feel naked like a freshly-shaved poodle?
  2. What do you think qualifies as a “good” life, wife or story?
  3. Any advice for this “good-ish” wife?

Love you more than Baked Crispy Yam-Fries with Chipotle Aioli,

xoxo,
Teen

To read more TGIFs from Tina: Click here.

 Photo Credit: Nirav
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