When you’re single, there’s not much need for secrets. You live on your own, pay your own bills and make your own decisions because you don’t have to answer to anyone but yourself. If you want that pair of $250 jeans but have no money, who says you can’t charge them? It’s you and only you that will suffer the consequences, so who the heck cares? Marriage, in many ways, means the end of this autonomy. That $250 pair of jeans? Someone else will likely see that you spent that much on them or recognize their presence, if not the Neiman Marcus bag they came in. And, odds are, he or she won’t be too pleased.
Before I got married, I engaged in all sorts of behaviors that I knew were dumb, but I chose to do anyway because I was my own boss. I knew my habitual enjoyment of Marlboro Ultra Lights and shopping extravaganzas completely incongruous with my paychecks were idiotic (The aforementioned jeans story? That was me. Every week.), but I didn’t care enough to stop. Once R. and I got hitched however, I realized I had to. We were living together now – sharing everything, and I knew I couldn’t be self-centered Chelsea anymore.
After receiving a sit-down explanation of our finances, I knew I had to cut down on my trips to Saks, so I did. Quitting smoking, however, was a much greater struggle. I knew smoking was gross, unhealthy, blah blah blah – who doesn’t? But, I loooooved it, and didn’t want to let go. . To me, the act of smoking was Heaven. The glamour of stopping life for a while to pull a slim cigarette from a crunchy box, lighting a smoky-smelling match and then inhaling deeply was a pleasure (albeit a cancer-causing one) I relished. I wasn’t a full-on addict — really, I was more of a social smoker, but I smoked, and R. wanted me to stop. He was disgusted by it, and as I loved R. and, of course, my health, more than cigarettes, I knew I had to quit.
Though I told R. I would, I didn’t exactly give it my all.
Eventually, I did quit smoking, but all the while I resented R. for making me. Why did I have to do what he wanted me to do instead of what I did? Since when did I follow the requests of someone else? Looking back, I realize that the smoking struggle, for me, really had nothing to do with a love of smoking. Instead, it was my bristling against the realization that once married, my life and choices were no longer completely my own. In many ways, I found that excruciating, and holding onto my old single-girl habits, stupid as they were, was my last-ditch attempt to preserve some of what I saw as my dwindling independence.
I’ve since realized that sharing your life with others can be an amazing thing. There’s a certain security to enduring life’s ups and downs with others, not to mention having people there for you when you need support. On the flip side, however, it can be tough. Living through someone else’s “downs” and making choices you wouldn’t otherwise make, all of the sake of someone else’s well being can be frustrating. Because you love your spouse and kids, you do it, but anyone who tells you it’s easy is lying.
Though my smoking days have long since passed (and, of course, I realize that my health is better for it), I admit that occasionally, I long for those metaphorical cigarettes. I love being part of a family, but I do miss that freedom to make choices that only affect me. When I get nostalgic for those days of credit card debt and stinky hair, I go and buy a pair of ridiculously expensive jeans. R. never questions my purchase, probably because he knows they’re better for me than Marlboros.